Coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 71 million people around the world and claimed over 1.5 million lives. Here are updates for December 11:

This photograph taken on December 11, 2020, shows a health worker statute placed in front of Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, Italy.
This photograph taken on December 11, 2020, shows a health worker statute placed in front of Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, Italy. (AFP)

Friday, December 11, 2020

Italy reports over 750 additional deaths

Italy has reported 761 coronavirus-related deaths against 887 the day before, the Health Ministry has said, while the daily tally of new infections increased to 18,727 from 16,999.

There were 190,416 swabs carried out in the past day, up from a previous 171,586, the ministry said.

The first Western country hit by the virus, Italy has seen 63,387 Covid-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain.

It has also registered 1.806 million cases to date.

When Italy's second wave of the epidemic was accelerating fast in the first half of November, hospital admissions were rising by around 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day.

France records more than 600 deaths

France has reported 13,406 new coronavirus infections on Friday, fewer than Thursday's 13,750 but well above the 11,221 reported last Friday, while intensive care cases dropped again and are now well below a government target.

The total case count since the start of the pandemic rose to 2.35 million, while the number of deaths rose by 627 to 57,567. 

Friday's reported toll included 304 hospital deaths, compared to 292 on Thursday, and a three-day batch of 323 retirement home deaths.

UK sees over 400 deaths

The United Kingdom recorded 21,672 cases of Covid-19, up slightly from the day before, and 424 deaths of people who had tested positive for the disease within 28 days, official data showed.

The UK had recorded 20,964 cases on Thursday and 516 deaths.

Death toll in Turkey rises by 226

Turkey's daily coronavirus deaths rose to a record 226 in the last 24 hours, bringing the country's total death toll to 15,977, Health Ministry data has shown.

Turkey also recorded 32,106 new coronavirus cases, including asymptomatic ones, in the last 24 hours. 

The government imposed weekday curfews and weekend lockdowns to saddle the surge in cases. 

AstraZeneca to test combining Covid-19 vaccine with Russian shot

AstraZeneca will start clinical trials to test a combination of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine with Russia's Sputnik V shot aimed at boosting the efficacy of the British drugmaker's vaccine, Russia's sovereign wealth fund said.

Trials will start by the end of the year, said the RDIF wealth fund, which has funded Sputnik V, named after the Soviet-era satellite that triggered the space race.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said it was considering how it could assess combinations of different vaccines, and would soon begin exploring with Russia's Gamaleya Institute, which developed Sputnik V, whether two common cold virus-based vaccines could be successfully combined.

Russia sees record daily virus deaths

Russia reported its highest virus daily death tally a day after official data revealed a surge in excess deaths in October that made it Russia's most deadly month in a decade.

Russia, which began vaccinating vulnerable people in Moscow on Saturday, has resisted imposing a strict lockdown as it did in the spring, relying on targeted measures instead, though the Kremlin says places like St Petersburg are nearing a "red line".

Officials reported a record 613 Covid-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 45,893, a total some critics call into question, pointing to the significantly elevated number of excess deaths during the pandemic.

Greece to shorten quarantine, open churches for Christmas 

Greek authorities say bookshops and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen beginning on Monday but all other retail stores, entertainment venues, restaurants, bars and cafes will remain shut throughout the Christmas period as part of the country’s second lockdown.

A mandatory quarantine for travellers arriving in Greece will be cut on December 18 to three days from the previously announced 10 but a 10 pm-5 am curfew will be in place throughout the holiday season.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that despite five weeks of lockdown measures, virus infections remain high, putting pressure on the country’s health system. Intensive care units were at 83 percent of their capacity nationwide, and at 91 Hamas militant group has imposed a second lockdown in the Gaza Strip of capacity in the hard-hit northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest urban centre.

Churches will be allowed to open to the faithful only on Christmas Day and Epiphany on January 6, with limits on the number allowed inside according to church size.

Germany braces for tougher lockdown before Christmas

Germany will have to shut down more parts of society before Christmas to try and get the virus pandemic under control, ministers said, as Europe's largest economy reported a record number of daily infections and deaths.

The government of the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of the 16 federal states would meet on Sunday to discuss new measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said the rise in infection numbers was worrying and the government and state premiers would have to look at extending lockdown measures to other parts of society.

Indonesia reports record number of daily cases

Indonesia reported 6,310 coronavirus infections and 175 deaths, the highest number of fatalities in a day, data from the country's Covid-19 task force showed.

With Friday's data, Indonesia's total number of cases rose to 605,243, while the number of deaths rose to 18,511, both are the highest tallies in Southeast Asia. 

Hamas imposes second lockdown in Gaza

Palestine's Hamas political party has imposed a second lockdown in the Gaza Strip to contain a worsening outbreak in the isolated and impoverished territory, home to more than 2 million Palestinians.

Residents have been ordered to remain at home on Friday and Saturday, a brief period that appears unlikely to significantly alter the outbreak’s trajectory. 

A nighttime curfew has been in place since August.

Authorities are reluctant to impose more sweeping measures because the economy is already suffering from an Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed when Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. 

India sees 29,398 new virus cases 

India has recorded 29,398 new virus cases in the past 24 hours, a continuing downward trend. It had reported 31,521 new cases a day earlier.

Single-day cases have remained below the 50,000 mark for more than a month now.

India reported another 414 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 142,186, according to the Health Ministry. 

Second wave threatens Nigeria

Nigeria may be on the verge of a second wave of the Covid-19 infections, as the country expects to roll out a vaccine by April next year.

Nigeria's Health Minister Osagie Ehanire, speaking at a news conference in the capital Abuja, said 1,843 cases were recorded last week compared with 1,235 two weeks before that.

Ehanire, in a weekly briefing by Nigeria's virus task force, said the rise in cases was mostly driven by an increase in infections within communities and, to a lesser extent, by travellers entering Nigeria.

Virus bites into profits at Europe's top restaurants

An elegant Madrid institution known for exquisite soufle potatoes, Zalacain has closed its doors last month, the latest top European restaurant to have its fate sealed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Other prestigious European eateries are in the same predicament, with the closure in June of two iconic London venues, The Greenhouse and The Ledbury, both of which held two Michelin stars.

Like other French restaurants, Mirazur will not be able to reopen until January 20 at the earliest due to the ongoing virus restrictions.

Running a prestigious restaurant "is often the project of a lifetime," explains Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guide.

He said that only 15 to 20 percent of Europe's top eateries are open, with the rest closed by Covid restrictions or financial difficulties.

South Korea mobilises military in Seoul as cases surge

South Korea will mobilise military forces in the capital Seoul to help frontline health workers deal with a surge in the virus, with 689 new cases reported  and as the death toll and number of patients in critical care rose.

Of the new cases, 673 were locally transmitted, which brings the total tally to 40,786, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. The death toll increased by eight to 572 deaths, KDCA reported.

The surge in cases has delivered a blow to South Korea's vaunted pandemic-fighting system which successfully used invasive tracing, testing and quarantine to avoid lockdowns and blunt previous waves, and keep infections below 50 per day for much of the summer.

The authorities scrambled to build hospital beds in shipping containers this week to ease strains on medical facilities stretched by the latest virus wave.

Australia won't rush Pfizer after homegrown vaccine canned

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that his government won't rush approval of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine because he wants people to have confidence in the product.

His comments come as Australian researchers said they were abandoning their own potential vaccine because it produced false positive results to HIV tests.

Morrison said Australia was in a different position to Britain, which has given emergency approval to the Pfizer roll out, and the United States, where a government advisory panel has endorsed the Pfizer vaccine.

Bahrain plans free shots

Bahrain has announced plans to give the public free coronavirus vaccines.

The island nation, off the coast of Saudi Arabia, made the vaccine pledge in an announcement published by its state-run Bahrain News Agency.

Bahrain plans to inoculate everyone 18 years and older in the kingdom at 27 different medical facilities, hoping to be able to vaccinate 10,000 people a day.

Saudi Arabia approves Pfizer jab

Saudi Arabia's Food and Drug Authority said it had registered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine “so that health authorities in the kingdom can then import and use the vaccine.”

The kingdom said it based its decision on information given by Pfizer on Nov. 24, without elaborating. 

Pfizer on Nov. 18 said its vaccine is 95% effective.

A major challenge for the Pfizer shot in the Mideast remains the weather, however. The vaccines must be stored and shipped at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit).

Saudi Arabia said its Health Ministry later would announce plans on how it would distribute the vaccine in the kingdom, the biggest Gulf Arab state, with a population of 34 million people.

Advisers to Mexican health regulator to review Pfizer vaccine

An advisory committee for Mexican health regulator Cofepris will review Pfizer's  vaccine application , a health official says, as the country registered another 11,897 cases and 671 more deaths.

Cofepris' New Molecules Committee will meet at noon for the review, which deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell described as similar to the meeting of outside advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday.

The US advisory committee voted overwhelmingly to endorse emergency use of Pfizer's vaccine, paving the way for the FDA's authorization.

Brazil reports 53,347 new cases

Brazil has reported 53,347 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 770 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 6,781,799 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 179,756, according to ministry data, in the world's third-worst outbreak outside the United States and India.

Mexico reports 11,897 new cases, 671 more deaths

Mexico's health ministry has reported 11,897 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 671 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 1,217,126 cases and 112,326 deaths.

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

Pfizer's vaccine to arrive in Canada soon – PM Trudeau

The first 30,000 doses of Pfizer's Inc's Coviud-19 vaccine are set to arrive in Canada soon, allowing authorities to kick off a campaign to crush a second wave, officials said.

Canada on Wednesday became only the third country in the world, after Britain and Bahrain, to approve the vaccine.

"To all Canadians – if you're feeling relieved and hopeful, you're not alone. This is the good news we all needed," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

"But remember, this is only the first step in what will be a massive project over a long winter."

The shipments will be sent to 14 special distribution sites across what is the world's second-largest country by area, much of it remotely populated. The military has been drafted in to assist.

Major-General Dany Fortin, who is in charge of the logistics, said the first doses should start to arrive at the sites on Monday.

Canada has so far recorded 435,330 cases of Covid-19, including 12,983 deaths. Most of the major provinces have reimposed some restrictions on businesses and gatherings to combat a second wave. 

South Korea reports 689 new cases

South Korea has reported 689 new coronavirus cases, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Of the new cases, 673 were locally transmitted, which brings the total tally to 40,786, with 572 deaths.

US panel endorses widespread use of Pfizer vaccine

A panel of outside advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration has voted overwhelmingly to endorse emergency use of Pfizer Inc's coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for the agency to authorise the shot for a nation that has lost more than 285,000 lives to Covid-19.

The FDA is expected to follow the recommendation issued on Thursday by its expert advisers. The advisory group, in 17-4 vote with one abstention, concluded that the shot appears safe and effective against the coronavirus in people 16 and older.

A final FDA decision is expected within days. Millions of shots would then ship to begin vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents. Widespread access to the general public is not expected until the spring.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies