Coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 68.9 million people and claimed at least 1.5 million lives globally. Here are updates for December 9:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, front, and Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott look at freezers ahead of Covid-19 vaccine distribution in Toronto, December 8, 2020.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, front, and Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott look at freezers ahead of Covid-19 vaccine distribution in Toronto, December 8, 2020. (AP)

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Canada approves Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine

Health Canada announced that it has approved the use of the Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine.

Canada is the second country in the world to OK the vaccine. Doses are already being given to residents of the United Kingdom.

About 249,000 doses of the two-dose vaccine is expected to arrive by December 31 and the first inoculations will be to residents and staff in long-term nursing homes.

Of Canada’s deaths from the virus, about 77% were in nursing and seniors’ homes as of mid-November.

The death rate for Canada as of December 9 is 12,932, with about 435,000 cases. The approval came after two months of review of the Pfizer clinical trials.

Turkey reports over 31,000 new infections

Turkey reported 31,712 more coronavirus infections, including 6,213 symptomatic patients, over the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data released Wednesday.

As many as 5,846 patients recovered in the past day, bringing the tally to 447,361, while the death toll rose to 15,531 with 217 additions.

Across the country, 204,411 more Covid-19 tests were administered, pushing the total to over 20.29 million.

The number of patients in critical condition now stands at 5,901, though the rate of increase in severe cases is declining.

Speaking after the meeting of Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said: "There is over 5-fold rise in daily number of Covid-19 cases and 55% increase in deaths compared to the previous peak in April."

Turkey is going to receive 50 million Covid-19 vaccines in phases starting from next few days, Koca added.

Italy reports lower deaths, infections

Italy reported a fall in both daily coronavirus infections and new deaths on Wednesday, confirming that the contagion curve is slowing down.

According to latest Health Ministry data, daily fatalities stood at 499, down from 634 a day before, raising the nationwide death toll to 61,739 – still the highest in Europe after the UK.

While the daily figure is far from the peak of almost 1,000 last week, experts explained that it still reflects the rise in infections seen over the past month.

Italy also reported 12,756 new cases, down from 14,842 on Tuesday, over a lower number of swab tests performed.

Number of new French cases rises again

The number of new coronavirus infections over 24 hours in France rose again to 14,595, from 13,713 on Tuesday, further crushing government hopes for a fall towards 5,000 per day, which the government has said is one of the requirements to end a nationwide lockdown on December 15.

The seven-day moving average of new cases - which reached a high of 54,440 on November 7 - increased for the fifth day in a row and now stands at 11,369.

The health ministry also reported the number of people who died of Covid-19 in hospitals fell to 296 from 377 on Tuesday.

Israel to start virus vaccination December 27

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government will begin administering vaccines against the coronavirus to the general public on December 27.

In a televised news conference, Netanyahu said Israel is prepared to vaccinate some 60,000 people a day. He called it a “great number” for a country of 9 million people.

He spoke hours after the first shipment of Pfizer vaccines arrived in the country. Hundreds of thousands of doses are expected to arrive in the coming days.

Netanyahu also said he would be the first person in the country to get the vaccine, saying he wanted to set an example for the public.

US sanctions making it difficult for Iran to buy medicine

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has said that US sanctions are making it difficult for Iran to purchase medicine and health supplies from abroad, including vaccines needed to contain the worst outbreak in the Middle East.

"Our people should know that for any action we plan to carry out for importing medicine, vaccines and equipment, we should curse Trump a hundred times," Rouhani was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

US has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran's banking sector and its vital oil and gas industry since unilaterally withdrawing the US from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.

While the United States insists that medicines and humanitarian goods are exempt from sanctions, restrictions on trade have made many banks and companies across the world hesitant to do business with Iran, fearing punitive measures from Washington.

The country is also cut off from the international banking system, making it difficult to transfer payments.

Last week, Iran said it is working on its own vaccine, with testing on human patients expected to begin next month. It plans to buy 20 million vaccine doses from abroad, for a population of more than 80 million people.

Coronavirus 'zeroed in on fissures and fragilities' in society

The UN human rights chief has warned that the coronavirus crisis had "zeroed in on the fissures and fragilities in our societies," including a failure to respect basic rights.

"Covid-19 has shone a stark spotlight on our failure to uphold those rights to the best of our ability, not just because we couldn't, but because we neglected to, or chose not to," UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet told reporters in Geneva.

Indonesia records highest daily death toll of 171

Indonesia reported 171 more deaths from Covid-19, marking the Southeast Asian country's highest daily rise in fatalities and taking the total number of deaths to 18,171, data from its Covid-19 taskforce has shown.

The data also showed 6,058 new cases, taking the total number of infections to 592,900.

Indonesia has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Southeast Asia. 

Israel sees spike in poverty during pandemic

The number of Israeli households living under the poverty line has grown by nearly 50 percent during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an anti-poverty organisation’s report published. 

Israel has seen unemployment surge to over 20 percent since the country first imposed a nationwide lockdown at the start of the outbreak in March. 

The country’s vital tourism industry has shrunk to virtual nil and thousands of businesses have closed. To make matters worse, the Israeli government has been at loggerheads over passing a national budget, resulting in major cutbacks to social services.

According to Latet's report, the number of Israeli households living in poverty rose from 20.1 percent to 29.3 percent in 2020. 

It said an estimated total of 850,000 households in Israel lack essential housing, education, healthcare, and food, with 268,000 falling into poverty since the start of the pandemic.

The report by Israel's largest anti-poverty NGO was based on the findings of a series of surveys and studies conducted by Latet from July to October 2020.

Israel, which has a population of approximately 9.25 million, has recorded over 348,000 cases of the coronavirus and at least 2,932 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

Russia reports 26,190 new cases, 559 deaths

Russia has reported 26,190 new cases in the last 24 hours, including 5,145 in Moscow, taking the national total to 2,541,199 since the pandemic began.

Authorities said 559 had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 44,718. 

Abu Dhabi to resume economic, tourist and entertainment activity within 2 weeks

The Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Committee is working with local authorities in the UAE capital to resume all economic, cultural, tourist, and entertainment activities within two weeks, local media have said.

The decision comes after the success of precautionary measures against the virus and a low number of confirmed cases, a tweet by Abu Dhabi Media said.

China's Sinopharm vaccine 86 percent efficient – UAE

An experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinopharm has 86 percent efficacy against the virus, the United Arab Emirates Health Ministry said, citing an interim analysis of a human trial underway there.

The Gulf Arab state has been conducting Phase 3 clinical trials of the vaccine since July and in September approved its emergency use for certain groups.

The analysis also shows a "99 percent seroconversion rate of neutralising antibody and 100 percent effectiveness in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease", the ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency.

It also said it had registered the vaccine, without elaborating.

The vaccine, which uses an inactivated virus, unable to replicate human cells, to trigger immune responses, requires two doses, past trial data has shown.

Ukraine reports record daily coronavirus-related deaths

The number of daily coronavirus deaths in Ukraine has jumped to 276 from the previous record of 257 fatalities registered in November, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said.

He also said 12,585 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 845,343 cases with 14,204 deaths.

Biden vows 100M vaccinations in first 100 days

President-elect Joe Biden laid out his plan to fight the virus pandemic during his first 100 days in office, saying his administration would vaccinate 100 million Americans, push to reopen schools and strengthen mask mandates.

"In 100 days, we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better," said Biden, who takes office on January 20. "Whatever your politics or point of view, mask up for 100 days."

South Korea reports second-highest new cases amid new wave

South Korea has reported 686 new cases as it battles the third wave of infection that is threatening to overwhelm its medical system.

The daily tally was the second-highest since the start of the pandemic, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). 

New cases have been consistently around 600 over the past week.

Tougher social distancing rules took effect on Tuesday, including unprecedented curfews on restaurants and most other businesses.

The government has also introduced a new testing method to cater to surging demand and eased rules to release some recovered patients faster to free up hospital beds.

The government has signed deals with four global drugmakers to procure Covid-19 vaccines for 44 million people. South Korea's total infections stand at 39,432, with 556 deaths..

Record hunger in the Philippines as restrictions bite

Charities are struggling to meet the ever-growing demand for food as millions of families go hungry across the Philippines.

Covid-19 restrictions have crippled the economy and thrown many out of work.

"I've never seen hunger at this level before," said Jomar Fleras, executive director of Rise Against Hunger in the Philippines, which works with more than 40 partners to feed the poor.

Germany reports 20,815 cases - RKI

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 20,815 to 1,218,524, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. The reported death toll rose by 590 to 19,932, the tally showed. 

Cruise cut short as passenger tests positive

A passenger onboard a Royal Caribbean “cruise to nowhere" has been diagnosed with the virus, prompting the vessel to return early to Singapore.

Royal Caribbean said in a statement that a guest on the Quantum of the Seas ship “tested positive for the virus after checking in with our medical team."

“We identified and isolated all guests and crew who had close contact with this guest, and each of those individuals has subsequently tested negative for the virus," it said.

Hong Kong reimposes ban on restaurant dining 

Hong Kong is reimposing a ban on in-restaurant dining after 6 pm (10:00 GMT) and closing gyms, beauty parlors, and other businesses and public venues as it tries to get a grip on the latest surge of infections in the territory.

Restaurants may only provide takeout between 6 pm (10:00 GMT) and 5 am (21:00 GMT Wednesday) and while open, must limit numbers of patrons to 50 percent of capacity. 

Enforcement of the new measures will begin Thursday and remain in effect for two weeks. Hong Kong has already limited public gatherings to just two people and closed bars and other entertainment venues. 

Hong Kong reported an additional 100 cases, bringing its two-week total to 1,274. Most are cases of local transmission and the origins of 303 remain unknown, according to the government’s Center for Health Protection.

China reports 15 new cases

Mainland China has reported 15 new Covid-19 cases for December 8, up from 12 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

The National Health Commission said 11 of the new cases were imported infections originating overseas. It also reported four new local infections in Sichuan province.

New asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to one from five cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in China now stands at 86,661. The death toll remains unchanged at 4,634.

Surge in Mexico continues

Mexico's health ministry has reported 11,006 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 800 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 1,193,255 cases and 110,874 deaths.

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

Canadian province ups restrictions amid surge

Canada's Alberta is restricting restaurants and bars to delivery or takeout and closing casinos and gyms in an effort to fight the highest rate of new coronavirus infection of any province in the country.

Alberta was the only province without a province-wide mask requirement. Conservative Premier Jason Kenney is now imposing a province-wide mask mandate in indoor public spaces, including workplaces, and is banning social gatherings of any size indoors or out.

Kenney is also ordering the closure of recreation centres, libraries, theatres and personal service providers such as hair salons, barbers and nail bars.

Infection numbers have also been over 1,000 since Nov. 24 and more than 1,600 a day for almost a week.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies