Covid-19 has infected more than 256M people and killed over 5M worldwide. Here are coronavirus-related developments for November 20:

Despite recent rise in infections, Ski resorts in northern Italy reopen for the winter season after prolonged shutdowns.
Despite recent rise in infections, Ski resorts in northern Italy reopen for the winter season after prolonged shutdowns. (Reuters)

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Ski resorts in northern Italy reopen amid Covid-19 worries

Ski resorts in northern Italy are reopening for the winter season after prolonged shutdowns due to the pandemic, although a recent rise in infections is spreading worries over possible new restrictions.

Fabio Sacco, the president of the Skirama consortium that brings together several resorts in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, said he had been waiting to restart since March last year, when Italy imposed a lockdown.

"It is really an exciting moment," he told Reuters.

Europe is being swept by a fourth wave of the pandemic that has already forced Austria, one of Italy's neighbours, to announce a full national lockdown.

Iraq gets 1.2M doses of Pfizer vaccine

Iraq said it has received 1.2 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine through the Covax sharing scheme, amid fears of a fourth wave in the country.

Nearly seven million Iraqis have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, amounting to 17.5 percent of the country's 40 million population, based on government figures.

Plagued by years of conflict, corruption and neglect, Iraq's health system has struggled to cope with the pandemic.

Slovakia reports new record of cases since pandemic start

Slovakia reported 9,171 new coronavirus cases, its biggest daily tally since the pandemic began, health ministry data showed.

The country of 5.5 million earlier in the week tightened restrictions on people who have not had Covid-19 shots.

With a seven-day incidence of 11,500 new cases per million inhabitants, the country has the worst reported epidemic situation in the world, according to Our World in Data statistics. 

Fresh Covid demos in riot-hit Netherlands

Dutch coronavirus demonstrators held fresh rallies, a day after 51 people were arrested in an "orgy of violence" in Rotterdam that left two people in hospital with bullet wounds.

The Netherlands went back into Western Europe's first partial lockdown of the winter last Saturday with at least three weeks of curbs, and is now planning to ban unvaccinated people from entering some venues.

A few hundred protesters angered at the latest measures gathered in Amsterdam on Saturday and a similar number marched through the southern city of Breda.

It followed the Rotterdam unrest where police said they had fired both warning and targeted shots and used water cannon.

Iran says 44 million fully vaccinated, half its population

Iran announced it has now fully vaccinated 44 million people, more than half of its population of 85 million. The country has been hit the worst by the pandemic in the Middle East.

The health ministry said the 44 million received two doses of the vaccine. Iran has recorded at least 128,000 deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The ministry also announced that there have been more than 3,500 new cases of infections in the past 24 hours, as well as 118 deaths.

The government also noted that the daily death toll numbers have been decreasing in recent months, something Iranian experts attribute to vaccination.

The highest single daily death toll was on August 24, with 709 fatalities.

Czechs report highest daily cases since pandemic start

The Czech Republic reported 22,936 new coronavirus cases for Friday, its biggest daily tally since the pandemic began, according to health ministry data.

Earlier in the week the country tightened restrictions on people who have not had Covid-19 shots to encourage more vaccinations and to ease the burden on hospitals.

The Czech government has approved plans to allow only those who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months to enter restaurants, attend certain events and use some other services from Monday.

Thousands rally against Covid curbs in Austria

Thousands took to the streets in Austria as anger mounted over new Covid restrictions imposed to tackle a resurgent pandemic, sparking overnight riots.

Europe is battling a fresh wave of infections and several countries have tightened curbs, with Austria announcing a national partial lockdown - the most dramatic restrictions in Western Europe for months.

Other nations on the continent have resorted to less severe restrictions, often choosing to ban unvaccinated people from venues like restaurants and bars.

Pro and anti-vaccination protesters take to Australia streets

Several thousand Australians have staged a protest against Covid-19 vaccination mandates, while smaller crowds gathered to support the measures that have elevated the country to be one of the most inoculated in the world.

Protesters gathered also in Sydney, Brisbane and other cities, with no immediate reports of unruly behaviour. 

A banner in Sydney read, "My life is not a gift from the government, it is a gift from God," according to The Age newspaper.

The anti-vaccination rallies have continued for weeks in Australia, becoming occasionally violent and attracting lose groups of regular citizens, as well as far-right and conspiracy theory supporters.

The anti-vaccination movement, however, remains small, with polls showing nationwide opposition in the single digits.

A counter-rally of several hundred took place in Melbourne, organised by the Campaign Against Racism & Fascism group under the slogan of 'Don't scab, get the jab'.

Nearly 85 percent of Australians aged 16 and above have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of November 19. 

Iraq gets 1.2 million doses of Pfizer Covid vaccine

Iraq has received 1.2 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine through the Covax sharing scheme, amid fears of a fourth wave in the country.

Nearly seven million Iraqis have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, amounting to 17.5 percent of the country's 40 million population, based on government figures.

Plagued by years of conflict, corruption and neglect, Iraq's health system has struggled to cope with the pandemic.

The health ministry announced on Saturday the arrival of a shipment of more than 1.2 million doses of "Pfizer's anti-Covid vaccine through the Covax programme and UNICEF", the UN Children's Fund.

Russia reports 1,254 new deaths 

Russia has reported 1,254 new deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours and 37,120 additional cases vs 37,156 recorded on the previous day.

Singapore eases social curbs from Monday

Singapore's government will ease social curbs imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19 as infections have stabilised in the city-state over the past month.

From Monday, limits on social interactions and dining out will be expanded to five people from two, government ministers told a news conference.

Singapore's daily Covid-19 cases have fallen below 3,000 on average. About 85 percent of the island nation's 5.45 million people have been vaccinated. 

All players must be vaccinated for Australian Open

All players at the Australian Open must be vaccinated for January's Grand Slam, tournament chief Craig Tiley confirmed on Saturday, piling more pressure on world number one and defending men's champion Novak Djokovic, who has refused to reveal if he has been inoculated.

Melbourne, where the tournament is held, has spent more than 260 days under lockdown during the pandemic and the Victoria state government made clear last month there would be no concessions for unvaccinated players.

Tiley said the playing group had been informed they must get the jab to compete at Melbourne Park .

"There's a lot of speculation about vaccination and just to be really clear, when the (Victoria) premier announced that everyone on site... will need to be vaccinated, we made that clear to the playing group," he told Channel Nine television.

"All the playing group understands it, our patrons will need to be vaccinated, all the staff working at the Australian Open will need to be vaccinated."

This includes nine-time champion Djokovic.

US expands Covid-19 booster eligibility to all adults

US regulators have expanded eligibility for booster shots of Covid-19 vaccines to all adults, allowing millions of more Americans to get additional protection against the virus amid a recent rise in infections.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, signed off on the expanded eligibility after the US Food and Drug Administration broadened its authorisation of booster doses to all adults who had received their second shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna.

The US is moving to open up Covid-19 booster shots to all adults, letting them choose another dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

China reports 23 new cases

China has reported 23 new infections including three locally transmitted cases.

China reported 16 new asymptomatic cases, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, compared with 26 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll unchanged at 4,636.

As of today, mainland China had 98,450 confirmed cases. 

Mexico records 3,837 additional infections

Mexico's health ministry has reported 3,837 new cases and 216 additional fatalities  , bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 3,858,831 and the death toll from the pandemic to 292,145.

Officials have said the ministry's figures likely represent a significant undercount of both cases and deaths.

Brazil reports 13,355 new cases

Brazil has registered 13,355 new coronavirus cases and 226 additional deaths in the last 24 hours.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies