The global coronavirus pandemic has infected at least 71 million people around the world and claimed more than 1.6 million lives. Here are updates for December 12:

A woman wearing a protective mask walks past statues wearing masks amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, December 11, 2020
A woman wearing a protective mask walks past statues wearing masks amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, December 11, 2020 (Reuters)

Saturday, December 12, 2020

US says Pfizer vaccine to start arriving in states on Monday

Americans will start receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, the official in charge of the distribution operation said.

General Gus Perna told reporters the first doses will be shipped Sunday and that starting Monday morning, "We are operationally 100 percent confident that we will get the vaccines to the American people."

"Expect 145 sites across all the states to receive vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday. And the final 66 sites on Wednesday, which will complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine," he said.

The first push will vaccinate about three million people.

Turkey registers 29,136 fresh cases

Turkey has confirmed 29,136 more Covid-19 infections, including 5,203 symptomatic patients, over the past 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry data.

The total number of cases hit 1,809,809 with the latest additions, the data showed.

A total of 20,191 patients recuperated from the diseases over the past day, bringing the tally to 1,581,565 while total fatalities rose to 16,199 with 222 additions.

Across the country, more than 189,000 Covid-19 tests were conducted, pushing the total to over 20.89 million.

The number of seriously ill people now stands at 5,961, though the rate of increase in severe cases is falling.

UK records 21,502 new cases

Britain has recorded 21,502 new infections and 519 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for the virus, according to official data.

Friday's data had shown 21,672 new cases and 424 deaths

Japan surpasses 3,000 daily cases for first time 

Japan has seen more than 3,000 new infections of the novel coronavirus for the first time in one day, public broadcaster NHK reported.

A total of 3,041 people were newly infected, NHK said. Tokyo, Japan's capital and largest city, confirmed 621 new cases.

While Japan has not seen anywhere near the kind of massive outbreaks that have hit the United States and parts of Europe, infections have worsened as winter has set in, particularly in regions such as the northern island of Hokkaido.

So far, some 2,588 people have died in Japan from the coronavirus. 

Dutch Covid-19 cases rise at fastest pace since October

The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands has jumped by more than 9,000 in 24 hours, the biggest daily increase since October, data released by the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) showed.

The latest confirmed cases took the total number during the pandemic to more than 600,000, with more than 10,000 deaths in the country.

Members of the Dutch government will meet on Sunday to review tougher lockdown measures ahead of Christmas.

Peru suspends Sinopharm vaccine trial after "adverse event"

Peru has suspended trials for China's Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine due to a "serious adverse event" that occurred with one of the volunteers for the study, the Peruvian government said in a statement.

The health ministry said the event is "under investigation to determine if it is related to the vaccine or if there is another explanation."

Sinopharm Group Co Ltd, which is conducting its trials in Peru with some 12,000 volunteers, was about to complete the first stage of the trials in the next few days. Some 36,544 people have died so far in Peru from the coronavirus pandemic.

Chile says preparing to start Pfizer Covid-19 immunisation campaign

Chile is getting ready to start an immunisation campaign with Pfizer Inc's vaccine against the virus, if it wins approval, Health Minister Enrique Paris said.

Next week, the state Institute of Public Health will review data on the performance of the vaccine, which is also expected to be used in the United States. Chilean authorities will make an official decision based on the review of that data.

"I cannot give you any dates, but we will make every effort ... to start the coronavirus vaccination program as soon as possible," Paris said in televised remarks.

Poland sees vaccination capacity at 3.4 mln doses a month

Poland should be able to administer 3.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine a month, the prime minister's top aide said on Saturday, as the country's health service gears up for what is likely to be its biggest logistical challenge ever.

The number of daily cases in emerging Europe's largest economy has fallen after a surge in October and early November, but the number of deaths has remained stubbornly high, regularly exceeding 500.

"3.4 million vaccinations per month, 3.4 million doses of the vaccine can be administered in accordance with the applications that we received," Michal Dworczyk told a news conference, adding that 8,319 vaccination teams had applied to take part in the programme.

Merkel to discuss tighter lockdown with German states 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to discuss a tightening of lockdown restrictions with state leaders as coronavirus infections rise and amid growing calls for action, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Germany has been in partial lockdown for six weeks, with bars and restaurants closed but shops and schools open. Some regions have already imposed tougher measures.

The discussions on Sunday will include whether shops should be closed before the Christmas holiday and the timing of such a move, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the RND newspaper group that hospital intensive care units were beginning to be stretched to their limits and that Germany couldn't wait until after Christmas to react.

"We have to clarify how things will continue now," he said. "Otherwise the pandemic will get completely out of control."

Russia reports 28,137 new virus cases

Russia confirmed 28,137 new virus cases in the last 24 hours, including 6,622 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 2,625,848 since the pandemic began.

Authorities said 560 people had died overnight, taking the official death toll to 46,453.

China's Chengdu reports 10 confirmed virus cases

Free nucleic acid testing and strict quarantine measures have begun for residents in Chengdu, capital city of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, after 10 confirmed cases and two asymptomatic cases were detected.

Residents in Pidu District, where the latest case was reported, have undergone district-wide virus testing to prevent a further outbreak.

On the other hand, the locally-transmitted Covid-19 patients have been under quarantine and medical treatment at the Chengdu Public Health Clinic Care Center.

Three of the newly confirmed cases are from the Taiping Village in Pidu District, which has already been quarantined after most of the cases were found there. The compound has also been upgraded as Chengdu's fourth medium-level of risk area.

Tokyo cases hit record amid government criticism

Tokyo reported 621 new virus cases, setting a new record in the capital where a lack of government measures triggered concerns about a surge during the holiday season.

Nationwide, Japan reported a total of 174,000 cases, with about 2,500 deaths since the pandemic began.

Experts on a Tokyo metropolitan task force say serious cases are on the rise, putting burdens on hospitals and forcing many of them to scale back on care for other patients.

Japan issued a non-binding state of emergency in the spring and has survived earlier infection peaks without a lockdown.

Indonesian cleric turns himself in for virus violations

A firebrand Indonesian cleric turned himself in to authorities after he was accused of inciting people to breach pandemic restrictions by holding events with large crowds.

Rizieq Shihab, leader of the Islamic Defenders Front, arrived at Jakarta police headquarters a day after police warned they would arrest him after he ignored several summonses.

Wearing a white robe, turban and face mask, Shihab told reporters that he never ran away or hid from police.

Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus told a news conference Friday that Shihab is accused of ignoring measures to curb the spread of the virus by holding an event to commemorate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and the wedding of his daughter last month that pulled in thousands of his supporters.

Italy's staggering virus toll poses uncomfortable questions

Italy could soon reclaim a record that nobody wants — the most coronavirus deaths in Europe — after the health care system again failed to protect the elderly and the government delayed imposing new restrictions.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Italy was the first country in the West to be slammed by the virus and, after suffering a huge wave of death in spring, brought infections under control.

Italy then had the benefit of time and experience heading into the fall resurgence because it trailed Spain, France and Germany in recording big new clusters of infections. Yet the virus spread fast and wide, and Italy has added 28,000 dead since September 1.

Peru suspends clinical trials of Chinese Covid vaccine

Peru has temporarily suspended clinical trials of a Covid vaccine made by Chinese drug giant Sinopharm after detecting neurological problems in one of its test volunteers.

The National Institute of Health said that it had decided to interrupt the trial after a volunteer had difficulty moving their arms, according to local media.

"Several days ago we signalled, as we are required, to the regulatory authorities that one of our participants (in trials) presented neurological symptoms which could correspond to a condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome," said chief researcher German Malaga in comments to the press.  

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare and non-contagious disorder which affects the movement of the arms and legs. Peru declared a temporary health emergency in five regions in June last year following multiple cases. 

Italian boy infected with virus a month before China's first case in Wuhan

A new study conducted by research fellows from the University of Milan has found evidence of Covid-19 in a boy from the Milan area as early as the end of November 2019, months before the first identified coronavirus disease case in Italy and also earlier than the outbreak in Wuhan city, central China.

Local media said that the testing can detect the virus RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) genome, which means the result is more accurate than that from other testings.

The finding that was done in September this year analysed 39 throat swabs collected from last September to February this year, with one testing positive.

This specimen came from a four-year-old boy living in Milan, and he had had no history of traveling abroad.

He began to develop symptoms of coughing and rhinitis since November 21, 2019 and was sent to emergency on November 30 for shortness of breath and emesis. Later he was denied to have suffered from measles by his doctors.

Mario C. Raviglione, one of the paper authors for the finding, also a professor at the university, said the boy's symptoms match with those of the Covid-19, which means he had been infected with the virus one month earlier than the case first reported in China's Wuhan.

Hong Kong hosts culinary contest to boost catering industry hit by virus

Cooks from across the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) recently participated in a culinary competition in an effort to raise public attention to the city’s catering industry and better promote its cooking culture.

The pandemic has greatly affected many industries around the world, including Hong Kong’s catering industry as it faces a transformation to survive. 

With the HKSAR government tightening pandemic measures, the catering industry is now actively integrating into the Greater Bay Area through skills training, transformation and upgrading, and seeking new development opportunities.

To survive the blow caused by the pandemic and industry shrinkage, Hong Kong's catering industry is eying the huge market of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area for sustainable development.

China coronavirus cases on Russia border spark lockdowns, tests

China has put one northern city in lockdown and launched citywide coronavirus testing in another, after two local infections involving workers at a port and trade zone respectively, authorities have said.

There was one new case each in Dongning and Suifenhe, which both sit on the country's border with Russia.

In Dongning, a 40-year-old maintenance worker at a port tested positive on Thursday, triggering the latest measures.

Officials there said it would enter "wartime mode" – temporarily suspending public bus services and road transport, while requiring anyone leaving the city to produce a negative Covid-19 test from the preceding 24 hours.

Schools will suspend classes and dine-in will be banned at restaurants, while in higher-risk areas only one member of each household will be allowed to leave the home once every two days to buy daily necessities – for no longer than two hours each time.

Germany's confirmed virus cases rise by 28,438 

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 28,438 to 1,300,516, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 496 to 21,466, the tally showed. 

Queensland welcomes first NZ travellers

The Australian state of Queensland welcomed travellers from New Zealand, who for the first time in 10 months were supposed to enter without having to quarantine. 

But the first flight didn’t go according to the plan. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk reopened the state to New Zealand from 1 am Saturday, saying residents would no longer need to abide by Covid-19 travel restrictions. 

When the flight touched down in Brisbane, passengers were whisked away in busses to begin a mandatory 14 days in hotel quarantine.

Canada, US border to stay closed until January 21

The longest international border in the world, between Canada and the United States, will remain closed until January 21 due to the pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced.

"Canada and the United States agreed today to keep our shared border closed until January 21," Trudeau told a news conference.

The border was initially closed in March to slow the spread of the virus.

The closure has been renewed monthly since then. Only trade in goods and merchandise and essential travel are allowed. 

At one Brazil hospital, the ICU is full of Covid-19 patients

The intensive care unit in the public Oceanico hospital in the Brazilian city of Niteroi is full of Covid-19 patients, and medical workers are constantly on the move.

A dozen doctors, covered from head to toe in protective clothing and equipment, divide up the tasks. In front of a bed, a doctor checks the vital signs of an elderly man and covers him with a blanket. Another uploads patient information to a computer.

“You will get out of this,” a doctor said to a sick, elderly man as workers prepared to connect him to a ventilator. “When you wake up, everything will be over and then you will go home.”

Most ICU patients were connected to ventilators. The hospital, which has 140 ICU beds, was inaugurated in April by city officials and treats only Covid-19 patients.

New Zealand creates its first 'travel bubble' with Cook Islands

New Zealand and the Cook Islands will let people travel between the countries without quarantine, in what would be New Zealand's first reciprocal "travel bubble" since the new coronavirus prompted border closures around the world.

Leaders of the South Pacific countries said they had ordered officials to start making arrangements to resume free travel between them from the first quarter of 2021, citing low infection rates and their "special ties". The Cook Islands is one of the only countries to remain Covid-free.

New Zealand joined countries around the world in shutting its borders in March to stop the coronavirus spreading. 

Neighbouring Australia wants to have a similar travel bubble with New Zealand and has opened its borders, but New Zealand has so far declined.

US FDA authorises Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use

The US Food and Drug Administration authorised the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine, with the first inoculations expected in under 24 hours, marking a turning point in the United States where the pandemic has killed more than 292,000 people.

The FDA granted an emergency use authorisation for the vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, which was shown to be 95% effective in preventing the disease in a late-stage trial.

US President Donald Trump said that the first shot would be administered in the US in less than 24 hours.

The FDA said the vaccine can be given to people aged 16 and older.

Healthcare workers and elderly people in long-term care facilities are expected to be the main recipients of a first round of 2.9 million doses.

Mexico approves emergency use of Pfizer's vaccine 

Mexican health regulator Cofepris has approved the emergency use of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said.

Mexico has registered 12,253 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 693 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 1,229,379 cases and 113,019 deaths.

China reports 13 new cases

China has reported 13 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for December 11, down from 15 cases a day earlier, the health commission said.

All of the new cases were imported infections originating from abroad, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 17 compared to seven a day earlier.

As of Friday, mainland China had 86,701 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The Covid-19 death toll remained at 4,634. 

US secures access to 100M more doses of Moderna's vaccine

Moderna Inc has said that the US government will get an additional 100 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, expected to be delivered in the second quarter of 2021 if authorised.

Shares of the company were up 2.8 percent at $161.30 after the bell.

The government has ordered a total of 200 million doses to date, the vaccine developer said, adding that of the first order lot, about 20 million doses will be delivered by December end and the remaining in the first quarter of 2021.

The United States in August entered an agreement with Moderna to acquire 100 million doses of its potential Covid-19 vaccine for around $1.5 billion, with an option to secure an additional 400 million doses.

A panel of outside advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to hold a meeting on December 17 to discuss Moderna's request for emergency use authorisation (EUA) for its vaccine.

Meanwhile, the FDA is expected to issue an EUA for Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE's two-dose Covid-19 vaccine as soon as Friday, according to the New York Times.

South Korea reports 950 new cases, highest daily rise

South Korea has reported a record daily increase in novel coronavirus cases since the country's first case was confirmed in January, with 950 new infections, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Of the new cases, 928 were locally transmitted, which bring the total tally to 41,736 infections, with 578 deaths.

Brazil's death toll tops 180,000

Brazil has reported 53,030 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 646 deaths from Covid-19, according to the Health Ministry.

The South American country has now registered 6,834,829 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 180,411, according to ministry data. Brazil has the world's second-highest death toll behind the United States and the third highest case count behind the United States and India. 

Cuomo reinstates NYC indoor dining ban

Indoor dining at New York City restaurants will be banned again in an effort to halt the coronavirus resurgence, Gov Andrew Cuomo said in an announcement that could foretell a grim winter for one of the city's most important industries.

As of Monday, only takeout orders and outdoor dining will be allowed in the city, one of the world's great cuisine capitals, the governor said at a news conference in Albany.

Cuomo, a Democrat, had been hinting at a clampdown on indoor dining for a week, saying he was waiting to see if hospitalisation rates stabilised. They have not.

Nearly 1,700 patients are now hospitalised in the city with Covid-19 infections, triple the number a month ago.

Cuomo said that despite the economic pain to the city's roughly 24,000 restaurants and their legions of workers, he needed to act.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he supported Cuomo's decision.

France sees Covid-19 curve flattening

After the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic followed by a fresh lockdown, the French are looking ahead for better days, starting with easing restrictions from Tuesday.

The pandemic curve fell flat on Friday, as a drop was reported in new cases.

Addressing a press conference, Prime Minister Jean Castex put the French at ease saying that restrictions would be lifted from Tuesday. But he said that the night curfew, from 8 pm to 6 am, would remain in force.

France has been under its second lockdown since October 30.

Infections dropped on Friday to 13,406 from an earlier 13,750, a dip of 344 cases. The country has so far reported 2.3 million infections since record-keeping began in March, according to France's Health Ministry.

The country also reported 306 deaths, taking the total of Covid-19 related official deaths to 57,567.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies