Novel coronavirus has infected over 82 million people globally and has claimed nearly 1.8 million lives. Here're the updates for December 30:

A test tube labelled with the Vaccine is seen in front of AstraZeneca logo. File photo: September 9, 2020.
A test tube labelled with the Vaccine is seen in front of AstraZeneca logo. File photo: September 9, 2020. (Reuters)

Wednesday, December 30

Study suggests Italy's Covid-19 death toll is higher than reported

Italy's coronavirus death toll is probably considerably higher than reported, statistics bureau ISTAT said in an analysis pointing to thousands of fatalities that have not been officially attributed to Covid-19.

In its second report on the epidemic's impact on Italy's mortality rate, ISTAT said that from February to the end of November there were almost 84,000 more deaths compared with the average of the previous five years.

Of these "excess deaths", 57,647 - or 69 percent - were officially registered by the health ministry and civil protection unit as being attributed to the new coronavirus.

Italy has continued to register hundreds of Covid-19 deaths per day since the study was concluded, with the updated official tally reaching 73,604 on Wednesday, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.

Turkey's virus death toll rises by 254 

Turkey's virus death toll rose by 254 in the last 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed, bringing the total number of deaths to 20,642.

The number of new cases stood at 15,692 in the same period, bringing total cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 2,194,272. 

Ankara has imposed full weekend lockdowns and weekday curfews to curb infections. Turks will also be on lockdown from 9 pm on December 31 to 5 am on January 4 as part of the measures. 

Doses of Russian Sputnik V arrive i Serbia

An initial shipment of 2,400 Russian Sputnik V vaccines has arrived in Serbia and officials say it should get green light for use in early January.

The Russian vaccines were transported to the Torlak Institute for Virology, Vaccines and Sera in the Serbian capital of Belgrade.

The Balkan country has already started inoculation with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines that are being used across the European Union. Officials have said Serbia will import Chinese vaccines and enable the citizens to choose.

AstraZeneca aims for swift approval of vaccine in Brazil

AstraZeneca said it is working to offer its Covid-19 vaccine to Brazilians as soon as possible, seeking regulatory approval in Brazil after authorisation in the UK.

Britain became the first country in the world to approve the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. The UK approval offers hope to Brazil, which has made the cheap and sturdy British vaccine the cornerstone of its widely criticised vaccine plan.

President Jair Bolsonaro, a prominent coronavirus skeptic who has said he will not take any vaccine, is under pressure to speed up Brazil's rollout, as regional peers Mexico and Chile have already begun immunisations.

Italy reports 575 deaths

Italy reported 575 virus-related deaths against 659 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 16,202 from 11,212.

There were 169,045 swab tests carried out in the past day, the ministry said, up from a previous 128,740.

Italy has seen an official total of 73,604 deaths since its outbreak came to light on February 21, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.

UK records 50,023 cases

The UK recorded 981 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, the highest number since April 24. 

The number of new cases was 50,023, slightly down on Tuesday's 53,135, according to government data.

Russia to distribute over 1M Sputnik V shots at home by year-end 

Russia will have supplied more than 1 million doses of its vaccine Sputnik V to its own national inoculation programme by the end of this year, a government minister said.

Russia, which began rolling out the vaccine in early December, has so far produced over 2 million doses in total, Industry Minister Denis Manturov told state television.

The Sputnik V vaccine is administered in two doses, which use different components, 21 days apart.

China wants travel limits during Lunar holiday

China is encouraging tens of millions of migrant workers not to travel home during February’s Lunar New Year holiday to prevent spread of the virus.

The call issued by the National Health Commission is extraordinary because the Lunar New Year is China’s most important traditional holiday. It’s the only time of the year when many workers can travel home to see their families.

China has limited local transmission of the virus, but authorities remain on high alert about a possible resurgence. Already, schools are scheduled to begin the Lunar New Year vacation a week early and tourists have been told not to visit Beijing during the holiday.

UK imposes further lockdowns as variant spreads

The British government said more areas of England would be placed under the strictest virus restrictions as a highly infectious variant of the virus is spreading across the country.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Midlands, the north east, parts of the north west and parts of the south west would be moved into Tier 4 from 00.01 GMT on Thursday. Hospitality venues and non-essential shops are closed in tier four and households cannot mix.

Ukraine signs contract for supply of China's Sinovac vaccine

Ukraine's health minister has signed contract to buy 1.8 million doses of China's Sinovac vaccine, Ukraine's presidential office said.

The office said in a statement the vaccine was expected to arrive in Ukraine in "the shortest possible time".

Sweden registers 8,846 cases

Sweden registered 8,846 new virus cases, health agency statistics showed.

The country registered 243 new deaths, taking the total to 8,727. The deaths registered have typically occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.

The health agency has said statistics over the Christmas period are less reliable than usual due to less testing and delays in reporting of deaths.

Sweden's death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours' but lower than in several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

Swiss government sticks to current restrictions

The Swiss government decided against imposing further restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus amid faster-spreading variants which recently entered the country.

"The Federal Council has conducted a detailed analysis of the current epidemiological situation. This remains worrying due to the high level of infection and the appearance of two new virus variants in Switzerland," the government said in a statement. "However, the Federal Council has come to the conclusion that the measures taken on December 18...are appropriate and do not need to be tightened."

Thai tourist city of Pattaya placed under lockdown

The Thai tourist city of Pattaya and the surrounding district were placed under lockdown as the country continues to grapple with an intensifying outbreak of the virus.

Health workers sprayed restaurants and other establishments as part of preventative measures.

The governor ordered the closing of non-essential shops in Banglamung district in Chonburi province, which includes Pattaya, southeast of Bangkok. Restaurants are allowed to serve only takeaway food. 

Sweden to require negative virus test for travellers from UK

People travelling from Britain to Sweden will need to show a negative test result for the new virus before entering the country, the Swedish government said.

The requirement will come into force on January 1 and will not apply to Swedish citizens, Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg told a news conference.

Last week, Sweden shut its borders to travellers from Britain and Denmark with some exceptions.

Latvia to police New Year curfew amid rising infections

Latvian police and border guards will patrol the streets to enforce a New Year's night curfew aimed at preventing large crowds gathering as infections rise.

The curfew will last through the weekend and also cover the Orthodox Christmas holidays a week later, widely celebrated in the nation of 1.9 million.

More than 2,000 police, reinforced by border guards and the National Guard, will patrol streets during the curfew hours, when leaving home will only be permitted for medical emergencies or for work.

Britain first to approve AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine

Britain has become the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca as it battles a major winter surge driven by a new, highly contagious variant of the virus.

Britain has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, and the government said it had accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to grant emergency authorisation.

The approval is a vindication for a shot seen as essential for mass immunisations in the developing world as well as in Britain, but one that has been dogged by questions about its trial data that make it unlikely to be approved very soon in the European Union or the United States.

Germany's daily death toll hits 1,000

Germany recorded more than 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths in one day for the first time, days after it started vaccinating people and as an extension of a lockdown looms.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country rose by 22,459 to 1,687,185, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll increased by 1,129 to 32,107.

The RKI said the data was not fully comparable as some health authorities reported fewer results during the holidays and some reports included late claims.

Daily infection numbers have not come down significantly since the 16 federal states in early December agreed that schools, most shops, bars and restaurants remain closed until January 10.

Taiwan reports first case of new variant found in Britain

Taiwan reported its first case of a new coronavirus variant discovered in Britain, in a person who returned to the island on Sunday and whose infection had previously been confirmed. 

Norway extends flight ban from Britain to January 2

The ban on flights from Britain to Norway will be extended until 1600 GMT on January 2 because of ongoing concerns over a mutated strain of the coronavirus, the Norwegian health ministry said late.

"It is still possible that the ban is extended further," the ministry said in a statement.

Following the lead of other European nations, Norway on December 21 halted travel from Britain after news that the new virus strain was rapidly spreading. 

Indonesia says agreements signed for 100 mln doses of vaccine

Indonesia has signed an agreement with two drugmakers AstraZeneca and Novavax , for 100 million doses of vaccines, the country's foreign minister said.

"We've secured supplies of vaccines, from AstraZeneca and Novavax, each 50 million doses," said Retno Marsudi.

Speaking alongside the foreign minister, Indonesia's new health minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, said the two vaccines would give the Southeast Asian nation more options.

"Now we can think about phase two, how to distribute the vaccines," he said. 

Russia records 26,513 new infections

Russia reported 26,513 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 5,105 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 3,131,550.

Authorities said 599 people had died overnight, taking the official death toll to 56,426.

California nurse tests positive over a week after receiving Pfizer vaccine- ABC

A 45-year-old nurse in California tested positive more than a week after receiving Pfizer Inc's coronavirus vaccine, an ABC News affiliate reported.

Matthew W., a nurse at two different local hospitals, said in a Facebook post on December 18 that he had received the Pfizer vaccine, telling the ABC News affiliate that his arm was sore for a day but that he had suffered no other side-effects.

Six days later on Christmas Eve, he became sick after working a shift in the Covid-19 unit, the report added.

Christian Ramers, an infectious disease specialist with Family Health Centers of San Diego, told the ABC News affiliate that this scenario was not unexpected.

"We know from the vaccine clinical trials that it's going to take about 10 to 14 days for you to start to develop protection from the vaccine," Ramers said.

"That first dose we think gives you somewhere around 50 percent, and you need that second dose to get up to 95 percent," Ramers added.

China Sinopharm's vaccine has 79 percent protection rate

Phase 3 trials of a Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine found it was 79 percent effective, the Chinese pharma giant has said, which lower than rival jabs developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna but a potential breakthrough in the battle to stem the pandemic in Asia.

China has been racing against the West to develop its own Covid-19 vaccines, with five already in large-scale Phase 3 clinical trials.

"The protective effect of the (Sinopharm CNBG Beijing) vaccine against Covid-19 is 79.34 percent," said the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a Sinopharm subsidiary.

Sinopharm has applied to China's drug regulator for approval of the inactivated coronavirus vaccine, the statement said, a type of inoculation using particles of the pathogen. But China has struggled to gain international trust for its vaccine candidates, hindered by a lack of transparency on test results.

It has also been slow to complete Phase 3 trials, which had to be conducted abroad due to China's success at curbing the spread of Covid-19 within its own borders.

The United Arab Emirates approved a Sinopharm vaccine earlier this month, becoming the first foreign country to approve a China-developed Covid-19 vaccine. It said the vaccine was 86 percent effective, accord ing to interim results of a Phase 3 trial.

Turkey receives first shipment of Sinovac's vaccine

Turkey received its first shipment of vaccines from China's Sinovac, almost a week after Ankara said the vaccine was safe and effective, based on interim Phase III trial results.

The shipment of three million doses, part of a pact for a total of 50 million, was initially set to arrive on December 11 but faced delays after a Covid-19 outbreak at Beijing customs.

The first batch of vaccines was loaded from airplanes on to trucks at the capital's Esenboga Airport before being taken to the storage facilities of the health ministry.

On Twitter, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said authorities would begin inoculations after testing the vaccines, a process that will take 14 days.

Singapore begins rollout of Pfizer's vaccine

A 46-year-old nurse has become the first person in Singapore to receive Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, making the city-state among the first Asian countries to begin an inoculation campaign against the coronavirus.

In recorded remarks provided by the health ministry, she said she hoped to encourage others to get vaccinated.

Singapore is the first country in Asia to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It has also signed advance purchase agreements and made early down payments on several other vaccine candidates, including those being developed by Moderna and Sinovac.

It expects to have enough vaccine doses for all 5.7 million people by the third quarter of 2021.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 22,459 - RKI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 22,459 to 1,687,185, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 1,129 to 32,107, the tally showed. 

Tokyo governor warns of possible 'explosion' in cases

The coronavirus situation in Tokyo is quite severe and the Japanese capital could potentially face an "explosion" of cases, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has said ahead of the New Year's holiday.

"Please emphasise life over fun," she told a news conference, calling on people to stay at home as much as possible over the holiday, one of Japan's longest, in which people hold parties, gather in their homes and return to their hometowns from the capital.

The number of new coronavirus patients in Tokyo was 856 on Tuesday. 

Mexico reports 12,099 new coronavirus cases, 990 more deaths

Mexico has registered 12,099 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 990 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 1,401,529 cases and 123,845 deaths.

The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Brazil sees 1,111 new deaths

Brazil has recorded 58,718 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 1,111 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

It was the worst daily death toll reported by the ministry since September 15, adding to concerns of a growing second wave of infections in Latin America's largest country. 

Brazil has registered nearly 7.6 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 192,681, according to ministry data.

First reported US case of Covid-19 variant found in Colorado

The first reported US case of the Covid-19 variant that’s been seen in the United Kingdom has been discovered in Colorado, Governor Jared Polis has announced, adding urgency to efforts to vaccinate Americans.

The variant was found in a man in his 20s who is in isolation southeast of Denver in Elbert County and has no travel history, state health officials said.

Elbert County is a mainly rural area of rolling plains at the far edge of the Denver metro area that includes a portion of Interstate 70, the state’s main east-west highway.

Colorado Politics reported there is a second suspected case of the variant in the state according to Dwayne Smith, director of public health for Elbert County. Both of the people were working in the Elbert County community of Simla. 

Jobless to get weekly aid despite Trump's last-minute approval

Jobless Americans who risked not receiving unemployment aid this week due to President Donald Trump's delay in signing off on it will indeed receive the money, the Labor Department has said.

Congress in March expanded the US unemployment safety net as the coronavirus pandemic struck, creating the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for freelancers and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) for the long-term unemployed but only funding them until the end of the year.

After months of stuttering negotiations, Congress agreed to reauthorise those programmes in a $900 billion spending package passed only days before their December 26 expiration, but Trump objected to its contents before eventually signing it on Sunday – one day after those programs lapsed.

Sydney tightens Covid-19 curbs ahead of New Year's Eve

Australian authorities have restricted movement and tightened curbs on gatherings in Sydney, hoping to avoid a coronavirus "super spreader" event during the city's New Year's Eve celebrations, after detecting a new cluster of cases.

Household gatherings were limited to just five people while the maximum number of people allowed to gather in public was capped at 30. Residential care facilities were closed to visitors.

"We don't want New Year's Eve to be the cause of a super-spreader," New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said as she announced the restrictions would take effect from midnight on Wednesday "until further notice".

Berejiklian reported 18 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, the biggest daily increase in a week, with just half part of an outbreak in the city's northern beaches that has grown to more than 100 people over the past week.

Regeneron says antibody therapy showed promise in hospitalised patients

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said initial data from an ongoing study of its experimental antibody cocktail for use in some hospitalised Covid-19 patients show the therapy was sufficiently effective to warrant continuing the trial.

The company is testing the therapy, a combination of two antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab, in hospitalised patients requiring low-flow oxygen.

The drugmaker said in September the cocktail reduced viral levels and improved symptoms in non-hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

Study participants included those who produced an effective immune response on their own (seropositive), and those whose immune response was not yet adequate (seronegative).

Source: TRTWorld and agencies