The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 56.9 million people and killed over 1.36 million. Here are the updates for November 19:

A nurse writes notes as patients lay in bed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for COVID-19 patients at the Casalpalocco Clinical Institute in Rome on November 18, 2020.
A nurse writes notes as patients lay in bed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for COVID-19 patients at the Casalpalocco Clinical Institute in Rome on November 18, 2020. (AFP)

November 19, 2020

Cases and deaths surge in Italy

Italy has registered 36,176 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said.

The ministry also reported 653 Covid 19-related deaths, down from 753 on Wednesday.

There were 250,186 coronavirus swabs carried out in the past day, the ministry said, against a previous 234,834.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 47,870 Covid-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain's.

It has also registered 1.309 million cases.

France adds over 400 more fatalities

France reported 21,150 new confirmed cases on Thursday, down from 28,383 on Wednesday as pressure on the hospital system continued to ease.

Health ministry data showed the number of people in hospital with the virus dropped by 497 to 32,345, while the number of people in intensive care dropped by 122 to 4,653over the past 24 hours.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases now stands at 2,086,288.

The number of people who have died from the disease this year rose by 429 to 47,127.

UK sees 501 more deaths

Britain recorded a further 501 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, a decrease from 529 a day earlier, government figures showed.

There were 22,915 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the latest daily figures, an increase from the 19,609 cases recorded on Wednesday.

Turkey adds 4,542 more patients 

Turkey registered 4,542 more Covid-19 patients in the past 24 hours, according to figures by the Health Ministry.

The country's overall coronavirus count now stands at 430,170 patients.

As many as 2,918 patients also recovered during this period, pushing the tally to 364,573, while deaths rose by 123 to reach 11,943.

Some 157,756 Covid-19 tests were conducted across the country, taking the total to over 16.7 million.

The weekly hospital bed occupancy rate is 54.7 percent, while a total of 3,850 patients are in critical condition, according to the ministry figures.

Czech Parliament extends state of emergency

The lower house of the Czech Parliament voted to allow the government to extend a state of emergency until December 12 as the central European country struggles with one of the continent's worst Covid-19 outbreaks.

The state of emergency is the legal basis for some government measures aimed at slowing the spread of the infection, such as limits on assembly, temporarily shutting businesses, or a night-time curfew. 

Lockdowns in Europe avoidable - WHO Europe

Fresh lockdowns in Europe are avoidable through near-universal mask-wearing, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe office has said.

Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, told a press conference: "Lockdowns are avoidable, I stand by my position that lockdowns are a last resort measure. If mask use reached 95 percent, lockdowns would not be needed."

Primary schools should be kept open, he said, adding that children and adolescents are not driving spread of the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 and school closures are "not effective".

Iran's death toll up by 476 over 24 hours to 43,418

Iran's death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak has risen to 43,418, with 476 deaths in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, adding the total number of infections had reached 815,117 in the worst-hit Middle Eastern country.

Urging the nation to adhere to the health protocols to control the spread of the disease, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 13,223 new cases had been identified in the last 24 hours in the country.

Oxford's vaccine trial results "definitely" before Christmas

Results of late-stage trials of University of Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine candidate should be known by Christmas, the chief investigator on the study said, adding it was too early to know its efficacy yet.

Asked if it was too early to say whether the vaccine, which is licenced to AstraZeneca, stops disease developing, Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: "We haven't quite got to that point yet. We're obviously not going to rush that."

"We're getting close, and it's definitely going to be before Christmas, based on the progress," he told BBC Radio when asked when the trial investigators would be unblinded to efficacy data and results released.

News on potential vaccines extremely encouraging - RKI

The head of Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases has said that recent news on experimental Covid-19 vaccine trials has been extremely encouraging.

"This is of course extremely encouraging, extremely positive news," Lothar Wieler said at a virtual news conference.

Vaccines with an efficacy of more than 90 percent would be "great weapons" in the fight against the pandemic, he added. 

Russia reports record-high 463 deaths

Russia has surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases after reporting additional 23,610 infections and 463 deaths related to Covid-19, both record daily rises.

Russia is fifth in the number of infections reported, with 2,015,608, behind the United States, India, Brazil and France. Russia's official death toll now stands at 34,850.

Philippines' Duterte agrees to pay for vaccines in advance to ensure supply

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has previously criticised Western manufacturers for asking fees to reserve vaccines, has agreed to pay drugmakers in advance to secure millions of Covid-19 shots, his spokesman said.

Duterte had also "approved in principle" an executive order so that vaccines, which had been approved overseas for emergency use, can be utilised in the Philippines, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.

"We agreed to pay in advance because if we don't, we might be the last among countries to get the vaccine," Roque told a media briefing.

The Philippines, which has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Southeast Asia, plans to procure an initial 50 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to ensure at least a quarter of its 108 million population gets inoculated next year.

French minister says Covid-19 will not lead to power cuts

France will not face electricity outages this winter even if the new coronavirus crisis disrupts nuclear plant maintenance, Environment Minister Barbara Pompili said.

"There will be no blackouts in France," the minister said on France's BFM TV when she was asked over risks of electricity shortages.

Power grid operator RTE is expected to update its forecasts for electricity needs this winter later on Thursday.

RTE said in September that the ability of France to meet electricity needs required vigilance as the pandemic made forecasts difficult.

Pompili said that industrial companies would have to halt output in the case of any electricity shortages to reduce demand. 

AstraZeneca Covid-19 shot candidate shows promise among elderly

A potential vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and Oxford University has produced a strong immune response in older adults, giving hope it may protect some of those most vulnerable to the disease, data from mid-stage trials showed.

The data, reported in part last month but published in full in The Lancet medical journal on Thursday, suggest that those aged over 70 - who are at higher risk of serious illness and death from could build robust immunity to the pandemic disease, researchers said.

Late-stage, or Phase III, trials are ongoing to confirm the findings, researchers said, and to test whether the vaccine protects against infection with SARS-CoV-2 in a broad range of people, including people with underlying health conditions.

The first efficacy data from those Phase III trials is "possible in the coming weeks", the Lancet report said.

Czech Republic reports 5,515 new cases

The Czech Republic, one of the worst-hit countries in Europe in the second wave of the pandemic, has reported 5,515 new cases for November 18, Health Ministry data showed.

That was the highest daily tally since November 13 but only a third of the peaks recorded in late October and early November.

The ministry also reported 66 new deaths, taking the total to 6,740.

The Czech Republic has Europe's highest per capita death rate in recent weeks and one of the highest infection rates, although daily tallies of new cases have fallen in the past week after tighter lockdown measures came into place.

The country of 10.7 million has reported 475,284 cases.

Africa's coronavirus cases surge past 2 million mark

The African continent has surpassed 2 million confirmed cases as health officials warn of infections starting to creep up again into a second surge.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that the continent had crossed that milestone. Its numbers show the 54-country continent also has seen more than 48,000 deaths.

The African continent of 1.3 billion people is being warned against “prevention fatigue” as countries loosen pandemic restrictions to ease their economies’ suffering and more people travel.

The Africa CDC director this week openly worried that the level of mask-wearing has gone down and called that dangerous.

While the world takes hope from recent news about promising Covid-19 vaccines, African health officials also worry that the continent will suffer as richer countries buy up supplies.

China's Xi calls for cooperation on vaccine

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for closer international cooperation on making a vaccine for the coronavirus available.

Xi spoke on Thursday in an address delivered via video at an event at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Xi said: “To beat the virus and promote the global recovery, the international community must close ranks and jointly respond to the crisis and meet the tests.”

He said cooperation would include closer coordination on policies for development and distribution of a vaccine.

Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm are in the late stages of testing vaccines, putting them among nearly a dozen companies at or near that level of development.

That has introduced both commercial and political competition among countries and companies to be the first to offer a solution to the pandemic.

Ukraine reports new daily high cases, deaths

Ukraine has registered a record of 13,357 new cases in the past 24 hours, health minister Maksym Stepanov said, up from a previous record of 12,524 cases reported last week.

He said the number of coronavirus related deaths had also hit a new high of 257 compared with the previous record of 256 deaths.

The total number of cases climbed to 583,510 with 10,369 deaths. 

Tokyo raises alert for infections to highest level

Tokyo raised its alert level for the spread of infections to the highest of four stages after daily cases rose to new record highs in the Japanese capital.

The announcement was made at a coronavirus panel meeting of the metropolitan government.

Germany's cases rise by 22,609 to 855,916

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 22,609 to 855,916, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 251 to 13,370, the tally showed.

China reports 12 new cases vs 8 a day earlier

Mainland China has reported 12 new cases, up from eight cases a day earlier, the country's health authority said.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that all new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not count as confirmed cases, also rose to 10 from five a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases in China's mainland now stands at 86,381, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Japan to monitor before any emergency declaration decision

Japan will not immediately declare a health emergency following a record rise in cases and will continue to monitor infection rates and the capacity of hospitals to cope, the government's chief spokesman said.

"We will respond appropriately based on conditions," ChiefCabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a regular press briefing.

Infections in Japan hit a record daily high of 2,201 cases, public broadcaster NHK reported. Almost a quarter of those were in Tokyo, which is expected to raise its pandemic alert level on Thursday, according to local media reports.

Mexico's confirmed deaths near 100,000 

Mexico's health ministry reported 3,918 new confirmed coronavirus infections in the country and 502 deaths, bringing the official totals to 1,015,071 cases and 99,528 dead.

Health officials have said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher than the official tally.

Pacific's Samoa records first case

Samoa announced its first case on Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to spread to previously untouched Pacific island nations.

Prime Minister Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi called for calm in the nation of 200,000 after confirming a man who flew into the country last Friday tested positive while in managed isolation.

"We now have one case and will be added to the countries of the world that have the coronavirus," the mask-wearing leader said during a televised address on Thursday.

Until recently, the remote Pacific islands were among the most successful in the world at keeping out the virus after closing their borders early in response to the threat, despite the huge cost to tourism-reliant economies.

But in the past two months, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands and now Samoa have lost their coveted virus-free status, although none have so far reported community transmission.

The island nations and territories of Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Tonga, and Tuvalu are believed to still be free of the virus.

'Tired to the bone': Hospitals overwhelmed with virus cases

Overwhelmed hospitals are converting chapels, cafeterias, waiting rooms, hallways, even a parking garage into patient treatment areas. Staff members are desperately calling around to other medical centres in search of open beds. Fatigue and frustration are setting in among front-line workers.

Conditions inside the nation’s hospitals are deteriorating by the day as the coronavirus rages across the US at an unrelenting pace and the confirmed death toll surpasses 250,000.

The number of people in the hospital with Covid-19 in the US has doubled in the past month and set new records every day this week. As of Tuesday, nearly 77,000 were hospitalized with the virus.

Newly confirmed infections per day in the US have exploded more than 80% over the past two weeks to the highest levels on record, with the daily count running at close to 160,000 on average. Cases are on the rise in all 50 states. Deaths are averaging more than 1,155 per day, the highest in months.

The out-of-control surge is leading governors and mayors across the US to grudgingly issue mask mandates, limit the size of private and public gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving, ban indoor restaurant dining, close gyms or restrict the hours and capacity of bars, stores and other businesses.

South Australia virus lockdown begins

One of Australia's strictest lockdowns kicked off in the country's south on Thursday with outdoor gatherings, weddings, funerals, takeaway food all coming to a standstill as authorities try to stifle a fresh coronavirus outbreak.

Images on social media showed empty morning streets in South Australia's capital of Adelaide on day one of the lockdown. Last night, residents flocked to supermarkets to pile up on supplies.

The state, home to about 1.8 million people, has so far recorded 23 cases from the current cluster.

There were no new cases on Thursday while 3,200 close contacts of those infected are already in quarantine, chief public health officer for South Australia Health Nicola Spurrier told a news conference.

Canada in talks to donate extra vaccine shots to poorer countries

Canada, which has reserved enough doses to vaccinate residents against the virus several times over, is in talks with other governments about a plan to donate shots to lower-income countries, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Canada has made deals to buy more doses per capita than any other nation, according to researchers at the Duke Global Health Innovation Center in North Carolina.

It is among a handful of wealthy nations that reserved billions of doses between them before late-stage trial data came in, ensuring they would get access even if only one or two vaccines worked.

Canada could donate extra doses through the World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility, which would distribute them among recipient countries, said a Canadian government source.

Separately, a COVAX source confirmed discussions were going on between Canada and other governments and organizations involved with COVAX, a facility created to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

US death toll passes 250,000

More than a quarter of a million people have died from the virus in the United States, the Johns Hopkins University tally recorded Wednesday, marking a bleak new milestone for the pandemic.

The US, which has now registered 250,029 fatalities, has by far the highest national death toll, ahead of Brazil with 166,699 deaths, India with 130,993 deaths and Mexico with 99,026.

Pfizer, BioNTech to seek emergency vaccine approval on Friday

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, will seek emergency approval from US regulators on Friday to begin using its vaccine.

In an exclusive interview with CNN on Wednesday, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said his company will approach the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and fill in the necessary paperwork on Friday.

In another interview with Reuters, also on Wednesday, Sahin said if all goes well, the FDA could grant emergency-use approval towards the end of the first half of December or early in the second half.

Conditional approval in the European Union could be achieved in the second half of December, he added.

"It will depend on the requests that we will receive and whether all the conditions are met."

Brazil reports over 34,000 new cases in 24 hours

Brazil recorded 34,091 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 756 deaths, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

Brazil has registered more than 5.9 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 167,455, according to ministry data.

Virus wave must be fought without vaccines: WHO

The World Health Organization's emergencies director warned Wednesday that vaccines would not arrive in time to defeat the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The WHO's Michael Ryan said vaccines should not be seen as a "unicorn" magic solution -- and countries battling a resurgence of the virus would once again have to "climb this mountain" without them.

"I think it's at least four to six months before we have significant levels of vaccination going on anywhere," he said, during a public question and answer session live on social media.

Despite recent promising announcements from final-phase candidate vaccine trials, "We're not there with vaccines yet," said Ryan.

"Many countries are going through this wave, and they're going to go through this wave, and continue through this wave, without vaccines.

"We need to understand and internalise that, and realise: we have got to climb this mountain this time, without vaccines."

New York City schools to close again as city fights virus

New York's public schools will close temporarily to combat a rise in coronavirus cases, its mayor announced Wednesday, dealing a blow to the city's recovery.

Bill de Blasio said the schools would shut from Thursday "out an abundance of caution" after the city recorded a seven-day average positivity rate of three percent.

"We must fight back the second wave of Covid-19," he wrote on Twitter.

The three percent threshold had been agreed between the city government and teaching unions when New York's schools began reopening in September.

New York City is the largest school district in the United States with 1.1 million students.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies