Covid-19 has infected more than 67 million people and taken more than 1.5 million lives. Here are the developments for December 7:

A masked couple walks by the ancient Colosseum in downtown Rome on December 5, 2020.
A masked couple walks by the ancient Colosseum in downtown Rome on December 5, 2020. (AFP)

Monday, December 7, 2020

Italy reports 528 deaths, 13,720 new cases 

Italy has reported 528 coronavirus-related deaths against 564, the Health Ministry said, and 13,720 new infections, down from 18,887 the day before with the fall in cases reflecting the usual drop in the number of swabs conducted on Sundays.

The first Western country hit by the virus, Italy has seen 60,606 Covid-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain. It has also registered 1.74 million cases to date.

There were 111,217 swabs carried out in the past day, down from a previous 163,550, the ministry said.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 stood at 30,524 on Monday, up 133 from the day before.

There were 144 new admissions to intensive care units, while the number of intensive care patients decreased by 72 to 3,382, reflecting those who died or were discharged after recovery.

Italy's interior minister tests positive

Meanwhile, Italy's Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese tested positive for coronavirus but is asymptomatic, local news reports said.

Lamorgese submitted to a routine test after which she attended a meeting of government ministers, Italian media reported, citing government sources.

France still far above goal of 5,000 cases per day – official

France is still far from reducing its number of new Covid-19 cases per day to 5,000, and the risk of a strong rebound of the pandemic remains high, the health ministry's top official said.

"For the last few days, the level of infections has stopped falling," Jerome Salomon told a press conference.

Two government sources told Reuters that France may have to delay unwinding some Covid-19 lockdown restrictions next week after signs that the downward trend in new infections had flattened out. 

Turkey reports record 203 new deaths in 24 hours

Turkey's daily coronavirus deaths have risen to a record 203 in the last 24 hours, data from the Health Ministry showed, bringing the country's total death toll to 15,103 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Turkey also recorded 32,137 new coronavirus cases, including asymptomatic ones, in the last 24 hours. 

Turkey was on lockdown over the weekend to combat the recent surge in daily deaths and new infections.

UNICEF seeks $2.5B for Mideast children

The UN children's agency has appealed for $2.5 billion in new funds for 39 million children in the Middle East and North Africa impacted by war, poverty, and the coronavirus pandemic.

"The region is home to the highest number of children in need in the world," said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"This is largely due to man-made crises including armed conflicts, poverty, and economic stagnation."

He said the latest appeal "aims to reach children with critical humanitarian assistance and continue responding to the massive needs emerging as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic."

Children are most in need in war-torn Yemen, in and outside conflict-wracked Syria, and in Sudan, UNICEF said in a statement.

Canada to get Pfizer vaccine by end of this year 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that Canada will get up to 250,000 doses of the vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech before the end of December.

The vaccine is expected to be approved by Health Canada as soon as Thursday.

Trudeau had come under criticism from opposition parties for saying Canadians won’t be among the first to get a vaccine against Covid-19 because the first doses will likely go to citizens of the countries they are made in. Canada doesn’t have mass vaccine-production facilities.

Trudeau said Canada has contracts with six other vaccine makers as well.

Pakistan in talks with China, Russia to get vaccines

Pakistani health authorities are negotiating with China and Russia, among others, to procure coronavirus vaccines, an official said.

“We are in talks with China, Russia and some other countries for procurement of the [Covid-19] vaccine after narrowing down our priority list,” Faisal Sultan, special assistant to the prime minister on health, told Anadolu Agency.

The vaccine, he said, would be available in Pakistan sometime between January and March next year, and administered to health workers and senior citizens in the first phase.

While Russia has started the distribution of its Sputnik V Covid-19 shot nationwide, China is testing its vaccines in many countries, and supply deals are being signed.

NYC again reopens schools citing low virus rates

It's back to school again for some New York City schoolchildren, weeks after the schools were closed to in-person learning because of rising Covid-19 infections.

The city's public school system, which shut down in-person learning last month, brought back preschool students and children in kindergarten through fifth grade whose parents chose a mix of in-school and remote learning.

“We’ve proven that we can do it safely, and parents want that for their children,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told cable news station NY1 in a call-in interview.

Special education students in all grades who have particularly complex needs will be welcomed back starting on Thursday.

Middle school and high school will remain all remote at least until after the holiday break, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said.

Hamas receives virus test kits

Hamas has received nearly 20,000 coronavirus test kits from the World Health Organization, after warning it could no longer perform testing in Gaza due to a shortage.

The Health Ministry of the Hamas administration, which runs the Palestinian enclave, initially said on Monday the only laboratory in the territory able to analyse Covid-19 test samples had ceased its work "due to a lack of equipment" and called for urgent action.

In a later statement, the ministry said it had received 19,500 kits from the WHO, allowing testing to restart. But the newly arrived batch "is only enough for eight days," it added.

Senior Hamas official and former health minister Bassem Naim said authorities usually carry out "between 2,500 and 3,000 tests per day, at a cost of between $75,000 and $100,000."

Indonesia receives over a million Chinese vaccine doses

Indonesia has received 1.2 million doses of a vaccine made by China's Sinovac, officials said, as the world's fourth most populous nation struggles to get soaring case rates under control.

The doses arrived in Jakarta late Sunday on a flight from Beijing, with another 1.8 million expected to be sent again next month.

Although Chinese regulators have yet to clear any of country's vaccines for mass distribution, they have approved some advanced candidates for emergency use.

Germany says vaccinations to start in early January

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff has said he expects vaccinations to start in Germany “in the very first days” of the new year. 

The trained doctor says he’s prepared to help vaccinate people himself.

European Union authorities are expected to make a decision by December 29 on approving the first vaccine for use. Germany is getting special vaccination centres ready.

Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told the Bild newspaper late Sunday that he will tell medical authorities he’s prepared to help. 

He said “that won’t work at every hour of the day or night as chief of staff, but at the weekend I’m prepared to join in.” 

He said that he and Merkel will get vaccinated “when it’s our turn.”

Russia reports 28,142 new cases, 456 deaths

Russia has confirmed 28,142 new cases in the last 24 hours, including 7,279 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 2,488,912 since the pandemic began.

Authorities said 456 people had died overnight, taking the official death toll to 43,597. 

South Korea warns of virus war zone

South Korea's health minister has said that the Seoul metropolitan area is now a “Covid-19 war zone,” as the country reported another 615 new infections and the virus appeared to be spreading faster.

The country has recorded more than 5,300 new infections in the past 10 days and Monday was the 30th day in a row of triple-digit daily jumps.

Most of the new infections were detected in the Seoul metropolitan area where health workers are struggling to stem transmissions tied to various places, including restaurants, schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Japan prepares to send military nurses to hard-hit areas

Japan has said it is preparing to send nurses from the Self-Defense Forces to Osaka and Hokkaido to help treat a surge in infections as soon as the two prefecture governments request it.

Chief government spokesman Katsunobu Kato announced the plan on Monday, according to Kyodo News. The prefecture has seen infection clusters at two hospitals, Kyodo said.

In western Japan's Osaka, the local government said on Sunday that daily new cases had exceeded 300 for the sixth straight day, according to public broadcaster NHK.

UK prepares to roll out vaccine programme, scepticism remains

Britain has begun its vaccine programme this week but sizeable minority of people believe conspiracy theories about the virus and vaccines

"What we're finding is, in the wake of the pandemic, that conspiracy beliefs may have gone mainstream, that they're no longer confined to the fringes," Daniel Freeman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University, told Reuters.

"Around a quarter (of Britain's population) are entertaining such thoughts. Another quarter are consistently thinking in terms of conspiracy beliefs, and around one in 10 people seem to have a very high rate of endorsement of conspiracy beliefs."

NYC again reopens schools

The US city's public school system, which shut down in-person learning earlier this month, will bring back preschool students and children in kindergarten through fifth grade whose parents chose a mix of in-school and remote learning. 

Middle school and high school will remain all remote at least until after the holiday break, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has said.

De Blasio announced November 18 that public school buildings would close because the city had crossed a threshold set earlier of 3 percent of all the tests performed over a seven-day period coming back positive.

Serum Institute vaccine applies for emergency use authorisation

India's Serum Institute has applied for emergency use authorisation for their Covishield vaccine made with partners AstraZeneca, says CEO Adar Poonawalla.

"As promised, before the end of 2020, Serum Institute has applied for emergency use authorisation for the first made-in-India vaccine, Covishield. 

This will save countless lives, and I thank the Government of India and Sri Narendra Modiji for their invaluable support," he said on Twitter.

Serum Institute of India is the world's largest vaccine producer by volume and had partnered with AstraZeneca to create the vaccine.

The company applied to the Drugs Controller General of India, citing unmet medical needs due to the pandemic and in the interest of the public at large, the agency report said.

India reports nearly 33,000 new cases

India has reported 32,981 new cases in the last 24 hours, data from the federal health ministry showed.

Cumulative cases now total 9.68 million, the second-highest tally in the world after the United States.

Deaths rose by 391, with the total now 140,573, the health ministry said.

But health officials are drawing some encouragement that daily readings have stayed below the 50,000 mark for a month, despite a busy festival season that saw crowded markets and busy streets. 

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 12,332

The number of cases in Germany has increased by 12,332 to 1,183,655, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 147 to 18,919, the tally showed. 

Turkey ends nationwide weekend curfew

Turkey has ended a nationwide weekend curfew aimed at helping to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The curfew began on Friday at 18:00 GMT (9pm local) and ended on Monday at 2:00 GMT (5am local).

US President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani test positive

US President Donald Trump has said his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tested positive for the virus, the latest member of the president's inner circle to contract the disease.

The 76-year-old former New York City mayor's age puts him in a high-risk group, and the New York Times and ABC reported he was hospitalised on Sunday in Washington as the US faces a record surge in cases.

Giuliani's diagnosis comes after he had been crisscrossing the country, leading the president's defiant — and unsuccessful — effort to undo Joe Biden's victory in the November 3 presidential election.

Brazil's cases top 6.6 million

Brazil has reported 26,363 additional confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, and 313 deaths.

The South American country has now registered 6,603,540 cases since the pandemic began, while its official death toll has risen to 176,941, according to ministry data. Brazil has the world's third worst outbreak after the United States and India. 

Sinovac secures $515 mln to boost vaccine production

China's Sinovac Biotech has secured $515 million in funding from a local firm to double production capacity of its virus vaccine, the companies said, as it expects efficacy data of its experimental shot this month.

The investment deal also comes as Sinovac expands supply deals and trials of its experimental virus vaccine CoronaVac with more countries following positive results from early to mid-stage clinical trials.

China's Sino Biopharmaceutical Limited said on Monday a business unit will invest $515 million in Sinovac Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Sinovac, to help development and production of CoronaVac.

Melbourne welcomes first international flight

Australia's second-largest city has welcomed its first international passenger flight in five months, an arrival that will test the state of Victoria's revamped hotel quarantine system.

Australia has since March closed its borders to non-citizens, but airports serving Melbourne, Victoria's capital, stopped accepting any arrivals in late June after a virus outbreak that begun at two hotels where arrivals were quarantining.

More than 20,000 infections were recorded in Victoria when hotel staff contracted the virus from people returning from overseas.

South Korea reports 615 new cases

South Korea has reported 615 new cases, capping a month of triple-digit daily increases that have driven the nation's largest wave of infections in nine months.

On Sunday authorities said they will impose heightened social distancing rules for the capital Seoul and surrounding areas that will last until at least the end of the month.

South Korea avoided lockdowns but used an intensive system of tracing, testing and quarantining to tamp down two earlier waves of infection.

In total, South Korea has recorded 38,161 cases, with 549 deaths.

Mexico registers 7,455 new cases

Mexico's Health Ministry has reported 7,455 new cases and an additional 261 fatalities, bringing the national total to 1,175,850 cases and 109,717 deaths.

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

Source: TRTWorld and agencies