The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 55 million people and killed over 1.3 million. Here are the updates for November 18:

A man works in a laboratory of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020.
A man works in a laboratory of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020. (Reuters)

November 18, 2020:

Vaccinating 20 percent of Latin America and Caribbean to cost over $2B: WHO

Vaccinating 20 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean against Covid-19 will cost more than $2 billion but low income countries will be helped by the COVAX Facility led by the World Health Organization, its regional branch said.

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), COVAX aims to deploy at least two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.

Self-financing countries in the Americas participating in COVAX will have the option to purchase the vaccines through PAHO's Revolving Fund, which will speed up their access.

PAHO and UNICEF last week started the purchasing process by inviting Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers around the world to become suppliers for the 186 countries that have joined COVAX.

Portugal set to extend virus emergency

Portugal's government acknowledged that it is struggling to withstand a second wave of the coronavirus, preparing to extend infection control measures and a state of emergency for two more weeks.

The country's most-affected regions will see emergency regulations prolonged beyond Monday, including an overnight and weekend curfew.

Parliament is expected to approve the extension on Friday.

Health ministry data showed that 2,619 of Portugal's 3,159 beds reserved for Covid-19 were occupied on Wednesday.

On top of those, 432 coronavirus patients were in intensive care.

Greece makes vaccination plans

Greece plans to set up more than 1,000 vaccination centres as it awaits a successful vaccine, its health minister said.

Announcements over the last two weeks that two vaccines were effective in trials have raised hope that Covid-19, which has infected 54 million people worldwide and killed 1.3 million, will be largely defeated over the coming year.

Greece has seen an aggressive spike in novel coronavirus cases since early October that forced it to impose a nationwide lockdown, the second since the pandemic broke out. 

Pfizer/BioNTech say results show vaccine 95 percent effective

Pfizer and BioNTech said a completed analysis of their experimental Covid-19 vaccine found it protected 95 percent of people against the disease and announced they were applying for US emergency approval "within days."

The US pharmaceutical company and its German partner brought further hope to a world upended by the coronavirus pandemic with the announcement, which follows one last week when they said a preliminary analysis showed the product was 90 percent effective.

Adding to the encouraging data was that the efficacy was found to be consistent across all age-groups, a primary concern for a disease that hits the elderly the hardest, as well as genders and ethnicities.

Wednesday's news came after 170 people fell sick in an ongoing clinical trial of almost 44,000 people, 162 of whom were in a placebo group and eight of whom received the two-dose medicine.

Out of the 170 patients who became sick, 10 developed severe Covid-19, nine in the placebo group and one in the vaccine group.

The new data showed the vaccine was generally well tolerated, with most side-effects short-lived and either mild or moderate.

UK reports 529 new deaths, 19,609 cases

Britain recorded a further 529 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, down from 598 a day earlier, government figures showed.

There were 19,609 people who tested positive in the latest daily figures, against 20,051 on Tuesday.

Italy reports 34,283 new cases, 753 deaths

Italy has registered 34,283 new infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, up from 32,191 the day before.

The ministry also reported 753 deaths, up from 731 on Tuesday and the highest daily tally since April 3, when the country was in full national lockdown.

There were 234,834 coronavirus swabs carried out in the past day, the ministry said, against a previous 208,458.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 47,217 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain's, and 1.27 million cases.

The northern region of Lombardy, centred on Italy's financial capital Milan, remained the hardest hit area on Tuesday, reporting 7,633 new cases, down from 8,448 on Tuesday. 

Turkey reports 4,215 more patients

Turkey registered 4,215 more patients over the past 24 hours, according to figures released by the Health Ministry.

The country's overall infection count now stands at 425,628 patients.

As many as 2,592 patients also recovered in the last day, pushing the tally to 361,655, while the death toll rose by 116 to hit 11,820.

A total of 158 ,811 more tests were conducted across the country, taking the total to over 16.62 million.

Some 3,742 patients are in critical condition across Turkey, with the weekly hospital bed occupancy rate at 54.7 percent, according to the ministry’s figures.

World sees record 10,500 daily deaths from coronavirus

The global coronavirus deaths have risen by 10,502 in the last 24 hours, which is a record number of deaths in a single day since the pandemic began.

The virus has so far claimed more than 1.3 million lives worldwide and infected over 55.9 million people, according to Worldometers.info.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

Iran registers 13,421 new cases to past 801,894 

Iran has registered 13,421 new infections in the past 24 hours, a new daily record, the health ministry said, bringing the country's overall tally to 801,894.

Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that the death toll had risen by 480 to 42,941 in the Middle East's worst-affected country.

Swiss report 6,114 new cases

Swiss infections have risen by 6,114 in a day, data from Swiss health authorities showed.

The total number of confirmed cases in Switzerland and neighbouring principality Liechtenstein increased to 280,648 and the death toll rose by 85 to 3,385, while 261 new hospitalisations added to the strain on the health care system.

Poland reports daily record 603 deaths

Poland has reported a record 603 daily new deaths, the health ministry said.

The country also reported 19,883 new cases, lower than the one-day record of 27,875 reported on November 7. 

Malaysia in deal with China for vaccine development

Malaysia has said that it has signed an agreement with China to cooperate on the development of a safe and efficacious vaccine, as part of efforts to combat the pandemic.

Under the agreement, in force for an initial period of five years, the Southeast Asian nation will be given priority access to Covid-19 vaccines developed by China. 

Both will share knowledge and expertise and facilitate scientific and technological capabilities to advance vaccine development in their countries, Malaysia said in a joint ministerial statement.

Russia reports record high of 456 deaths

Russia has reported a record high of456 deaths related to the novel coronavirus, bringing the official death toll to 34,387.

Authorities also reported 20,985 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, including 4,174 in the capital Moscow, bringing the national tally to 1,991,998.

Total deaths in Ukraine exceed 10,000

Ukraine has registered a record 256 new related deaths in the past 24 hours and the total toll reached 10,112, the health minister said.

Maksym Stepanov also said that 12,496 new confirmed infections had been registered and it had taken the total cases to 570,153.

Tokyo cases hit record 493, may raise alert level

Infections in Tokyo have hit a record daily high of 493 cases, as local media reported the Japanese capital was preparing to raise its alert level for infections to the highest of four stages.

As part of the move, the metropolitan government is considering asking some businesses to shorten their hours again, the Nikkei business daily said, citing multiple unnamed sources. The announcement will be made on Thursday, it said.

Tokyo authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

Tokyo had lowered the alert level to the second-highest rank on Sept. 10 after the daily number of infections had come down from a summer peak of 300-400 cases.

Since the beginning of this month, however, daily infections have trended upward, reaching a three-month high of 393 cases last week. The record to date was 472, hit on August 1.

Germany's cases rise by 17,561 to 833,307

The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 17,561 to 833,307, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 305 to 13,119, the tally showed.

US FDA authorises first test for self-testing at home

The US Food and Drug Administration has said it had authorised the first Covid-19 test for self-testing at home and that provides rapid results.

The test, manufactured by Lucira Health, is a molecular single use test that is intended to detect the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.

India's tally of infections exceeds 8.9 million

India has recorded 38,617 new infections, taking its tally to 8.9 million, health ministry data showed.

The south Asian nation's infections are the second highest in the world after the United States, but they have slowed from a September peak, despite celebrations of several major festivals that authorities had feared could trigger a spike.

Deaths rose by 474 in the last 24 hours, taking the toll to 130,993, the ministry added.

South Australia announces 6-day lockdown

South Australia Premier Steven Marshall has announced a six-day lockdown to stamp out an outbreak that has now expanded to 22 new cases, warning that the strain of virus detected was especially worrying.

All schools, takeaway food, pubs, cafes and universities will be closed. Regional travel is not approved either, Marshall said.

"We need this circuit breaker, this community pause. This is about South Australia pausing so that we stay ahead of the virus," he said.

South Korea reports highest number of cases since August

South Korea has reported 313 new daily cases as, the highest since August, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Mainland China reports 8 new cases

Mainland China reported eight new cases on November 17, down from 15 cases a day earlier, the country's health authority said on Wednesday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that one of the new cases was a local infection reported in the city of Tianjin, which shares a border with capital Beijing.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed infections, fell to five from 12 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 86,369, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634. 

Sinovac's vaccine induces quick immune response

Sinovac Biotech's experimental vaccine CoronaVac triggered a quick immune response but the level of antibodies produced was lower than in people who had recovered from the disease, preliminary trial results showed on Wednesday.

While the early to mid-stage trials were not designed to assess the efficacy of CoronaVac, researchers said it could provide sufficient protection, based on their experience with other vaccines and data from preclinical studies with macaques.

The study comes hot on the heels of upbeat news this month from US drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna as well as Russia that showed their experimental vaccines were over 90 percent effective based on interim data from large, late-stage trials.

CoronaVac and four other experimental vaccines developed in China are currently undergoing late-stage trials to determine their effectiveness in preventing Covid-19.

Toilet paper limits, empty shelves are back as virus surges

A surge of new coronavirus cases in the US is sending people back to stores to stockpile again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to put limits on purchases.

Walmart said Tuesday it's having trouble keeping up with demand for cleaning supplies in some stores. 

Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix are limiting how much toilet paper and paper towels shoppers can buy after demand spiked recently. 

And Amazon is sold out of most disinfectant wipes and paper towels.

A similar scene played out back in March, when the pandemic first hit and people hunkered down in their homes.

Pfizer 'very close' to applying for US emergency approval, says CEO

Pfizer is "very close" to applying for an emergency use approval for its Covid-19 vaccine after collecting safety data to submit to US regulators, the company's CEO said Tuesday, according to a report.

The pharmaceutical giant announced last week preliminary results from a late-stage clinical trial showing the injections it had co-developed with Germany's BioNTech was more than 90 percent effective after the second dose.

"We are very close to submitting for an emergency use authorization," Albert Bourla told medical news site Stat. "We will announce it as soon as we are doing it."

Pfizer has previously said it expects to contact the US Food and Drug Administration to apply for an Emergency Use Authorization by the third week of November, meaning the announcement could be days away.

The FDA had imposed a requirement on Covid-19 vaccine makers of having at least two months of follow-up with volunteers after their second dose, taken 28 days after the first, in order to ensure the drugs are safe.

Volunteers still needed to test variety of vaccines

Two vaccines might be nearing the finish line, but scientists caution it's critical that enough people volunteer to help finish studying other candidates in the US and around the world.

Moderna Inc. and competitor Pfizer Inc. recently announced preliminary results showing their vaccines appear more than 90 percent effective, at least for short-term protection against Covid-19.

If those early results hold up and US regulators agree the shots are safe, emergency use of small, rationed supplies could start in late December. Other countries with contracts for early doses would undertake their own reviews.

But multiple vaccines will be needed to meet global demand and help end the pandemic, raising concern that studies that still need to sign up thousands of volunteers could run short if people wait for an already OK'd option instead.

Brazil reports over 35,000 new cases

Brazil recorded 35,294 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours and 685 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has registered more than 5.9 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 166,699, according to ministry data.

Greek protesters clash with police after defying virus ban

Greek police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon in Athens on Tuesday to break up a demonstration to commemorate a 1973 student uprising against the military junta that was banned because of the pandemic.

November 17 is a treasured anniversary for many Greeks, recalling a crackdown that killed 24, including many students of the Athens Polytechnic.

The bloodbath was generally considered to have broken the junta's grip on power and speeded the restoration of democracy, and last year's commemorations drew crowds totalling more than 30,000 people in major cities.

But this year Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' conservative government banned the public demonstrations as Greece faces mounting coronavirus cases.

This year, "protecting public health and solidarity with our fellow citizens, especially young people squeezed by the economic crisis, is the priority," Mitsotakis said Tuesday.

Police said around 1,500 people defied the ban, adding that they were backers of the KKE communist party and small left-wing party Antarsya.

Large numbers of riot police were already deployed.

States in US plead for more federal help

With more shutdowns looming and a vaccine months away from wide distribution, governors across the US are pleading for more help from Washington ahead of what is shaping up to be a bleak winter.

Renewed restrictions on indoor businesses, overloaded hospitals and the coming end of unemployment benefits for millions of Americans have led governors to paint a dire picture of the months ahead unless the federal government steps in with more money and leadership to help them shore up their damaged budgets and beat back the resurgence of the coronavirus.

Between now and June 2022 , state and local governments could be facing a shortfall of $400 billion or more by some estimates.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies