The novel coronavirus has infected more than 87 million people globally and claimed over 1.8 million lives. Here are the updates for January 6:

EU's decision came against a backdrop of high infection rates in many EU countries and strong criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations across the region.
EU's decision came against a backdrop of high infection rates in many EU countries and strong criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations across the region. (Reuters)

Wednesday, January 6, 2021:

EU approves Moderna's vaccine

The European Union's executive commission gave the green light Wednesday to Moderna Inc.'s Covid-19 vaccine, providing the 27-nation bloc with a second vaccine to use in the desperate battle to tame the virus rampaging across the continent.

The European Commission granted conditional marketing authorisation for the vaccine. 

The decision came against a backdrop of high infection rates in many EU countries and strong criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations across the region of some 450 million people.

"We are providing more Covid-19 vaccines for Europeans. With the Moderna vaccine, the second one now authorized in the EU, we will have further 160 million doses. And more vaccines will come," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.

UK records more than 1000 Covid-19 daily deaths

The United Kingdom has recorded more than 1,000 Covid-19 daily deaths for the first time since April as the government struggles to deal with a new, more infectious variant of the coronavirus.

The four nations of the United Kingdom recorded 1,041 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for the virus and a further 62,322 new Covid-19 cases, according to official data.

Italy reports 548 coronavirus deaths

Italy has reported 548 coronavirus-related deaths against 649 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 20,331 from 15,378.

Some 178,596 swab tests were carried out in the past day, the ministry said, against a previous 135,106.

Italy has registered 76,877 Covid-19 deaths since its outbreak came to light on Feb. 21, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth-highest in the world. The country has also reported 2.201 million cases to date, the health ministry said.

Turkey reports over 13,800 new Covid-19 cases

Turkey has reported over 13,800 daily infections from the novel coronavirus.

The country confirmed 13,830 new cases, including 1,458 symptomatic patients, according to Health Ministry data.

With the new additions, the tally of infections topped 2.28 million, the figures showed.

European Medicines Agency gives its nod to Moderna vaccine

The European Medicines Agency said on Wednesday that it had given the green light for US firm Moderna's coronavirus vaccine, the second jab for the disease to be cleared for use in the EU.

"EMA has recommended granting a conditional marketing authorisation for Covid-19 Vaccine Moderna to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 in people from 18 years of age," the Amsterdam-based regulator said in a statement.

Dutch begin vaccinations; last EU nation to do so

Nearly two weeks after most other EU nations, the Netherlands has begun its Covid-19 vaccination programme, with nursing home staff and front-line workers in hospitals first in line for the shot.

The Dutch government has come under fierce criticism for its late start to vaccinations. Prime Minister Mark Rutte told lawmakers in a debate Tuesday that authorities had focused preparations on the easy-to-handle vaccine made by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which hasn't yet been cleared for use in the EU, and not the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The country's public health institute said that about 300,000 carers and hospital staff are first in line for shots. Two more large-scale vaccination centers are due to open on Friday and by the end of next week, 25 should be open across the country, the institute said.

Health authorities plan to be able to vaccinate a maximum of 66,000 care workers per week from January 18.

Philippines seeks 148M shots this year for 2/3 of population

The Philippines is negotiating with seven vaccine manufacturers to procure at least 148 million shots as it seeks to inoculate close to two-thirds of its population this year, a senior official said.

Carlito Galvez, a former general in charge of the country's strategy to fight the coronavirus, said the government hopes to close deals with Novavax, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac Biotech and the Gamaleya Institute this month, although availability could be a challenge amid stiff competition.

Wealthier nations had already snapped up 80 percent of available doses, Galvez said, without providing a source for the data.

The Philippines had earlier targeted 80 million doses and though it has been talking with vaccine-makers for months, the country has secured only 2.6 million doses, from Britain's AstraZeneca, paid for by a private sector group, which will give half of those to their employees.

The country will get subsidised doses for 23 million of its people through the global vaccine partnership known as COVAX, Galvez added.

Thousands to get tested as Australia-India match named possible hotspot

Thousands of cricket fans who attended Australia's showpiece Boxing Day Test against India have been told to get tested and isolate, after a spectator at the match tested positive.

Health authorities said the man in his thirties was not infectious while at the famed Melbourne Cricket Ground on the second day of play "but there is potential he acquired the virus while there" or at a nearby shopping centre.

"The MCG is being investigated as a potential source for the infection," Victoria's Department of Health said.

A race is now on to trace and test an estimated 7,000-8,000 fans, and to find out if one of the highest-attended sporting events since the pandemic began was a super-spreading event.

Russia reports 24,217 new cases

Russia has reported 24,217 new cases over the past 24 hours, including 5,142 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 3,308,601.

Authorities said 445 people had died, taking Russia's official death toll to 59,951.

Indonesia reports biggest daily rise in infections

Indonesia recorded its biggest daily rise in infections with 8,854 new cases, bringing the total number to 788,402, according to data from the country's Covid-19 task force.

It also reported 187 new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 23,296. Indonesia has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Southeast Asia. 

Czechs report 17,278 new cases, highest daily tally

The Czech Republic reported 17,278 new cases over the past 24 hours, its highest daily tally on record, Health Ministry data showed.

The country of 10.7 million also had a record number of active cases – 126,348 as of Wednesday morning, the figures showed. 

Thailand to expand virus testing at factories

Authorities in Thailand say they plan to expand coronavirus testing to thousands of factories in a province near Bangkok as they reported 365 new cases around the country and one new death.

Authorities have focused their efforts on migrant workers in Samut Sakhon, a province next to the capital that has been the epicentre of a new outbreak and where thousands work in its mainly seafood processing factories and markets.

They have also focused on trying to trace itinerant gamblers who travel widely around the country and are blamed for a second major hotspot outside Bangkok.

US logs more than 3,900 Covid deaths

The United States has broken its own record for the number of daily deaths from Covid-19 yet again, recording 3,936 fatalities in 24 hours, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins university.

The worst-hit country in the world by the pandemic also recorded 250,173 new cases in the period up until 0130GMT on Wednesday, the Baltimore-based university's records showed.

That brings the US to more than 21 million cases and 357,067 deaths in total since the start of the pandemic. 

The number of people hospitalised is also at its highest since the beginning of the pandemic, with more than 131,000 patients occupying beds due to Covid-19, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project. 

Ambulances put on alert as LA hospitals swamped by patients

Los Angeles health officials have told first responders to stop bringing adult patients who cannot be resuscitated to hospitals for treatment, citing a shortage of beds and medical staff, as the latest virus surge threatened to overwhelm the city’s healthcare systems.

The orders, effective immediately, marked a further escalation of measures being taken nationwide by state and local officials due to alarming increases in Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

“Patients in traumatic full arrest who meet current Ref 814 criteria for determination of death shall not be resuscitated and shall be determined dead on scene and not transported,” Marianne Gausche-Hill, medical director of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency, said in the directive.

Ref 814 refers to the county’s policy on determining and pronouncing death in a patient who has not been transported to a hospital.

China steps up restrictions near Beijing as local infections rise

Chinese authorities have shut sections of highways running through Hebei province that surrounds Beijing and banned gatherings in the province’s capital in the latest efforts to stave off another coronavirus wave.

The province, which entered a “wartime mode” a day earlier, accounted for 20 of the 23 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases reported in mainland China on January 5, more than the total of 19 cases in the province in the three previous days.

The total number of new mainland cases, including those originating from overseas, fell to 32 from 33 a day earlier. Hebei also accounted for 43 of the 64 new asymptomatic cases –patients who have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but not yet showing symptoms of Covid-19.

Shijiazhuang, Hebei’s capital that accounted for all but one of new virus cases in the province, said it will ban gatherings and bar non-residents from entering residential compounds in the city. It also shut down a key long-distance bus terminal and has begun a mass testing drive.

Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 21,237

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 21,237 to 1,808,647, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 1,019 to 36,537, the tally showed

American striker Morgan tests positive 

United States international and twice World Cup winner Alex Morgan said she and her family tested positive for Covid-19 over the Christmas holiday and are all recovering well.

Morgan, who is married to former Major League Soccer player Servando Carrasco and gave birth to her first child last May, returned to the United States last month after a five-game spell with Tottenham Hotspur in the Women's Super League.

"Unfortunately, my family and I closed out 2020 learning that we had contracted Covid while in California over the holidays," Morgan said on Twitter. 

"We are all in good spirits and recovering well.

Tokyo daily coronavirus cases exceed 1,500, renewing record

Tokyo's had a record 1,591 new coronavirus cases, local media reported, as Japan braces for a new state of emergency for the greater metropolitan area.

Rising infections have driven Tokyo and surrounding areas to the highest level of a four-stage alert, prompting regional governors to urge a declaration of emergency that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to announce on Thursday.

The health ministry held a meeting of infectious disease experts, the second in as many days. They have called for stricter and longer countermeasures, while Suga has sought a more limited response to avoid damaging the economy.

Mexico reports highest daily death toll since start of pandemic

Mexico's Health Ministry reported 11,271 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,065 additional fatalities in the country, bringing the total to 1,466,490 infections and 128,822 deaths.

The latest daily death toll was one of the highest since the start of the pandemic.

The real number of infected people and deaths is likely significantly higher than the official count, the health ministry has said.

Senegal imposes new state of emergency and curfew

Senegal President Macky Sall announced a new state of emergency in response to record cases of sweeping parts of the West African nation.

A nighttime curfew will be enforced in the regions of Dakar and Thies, which Sall said are home to more than 90 percent of cases. 

Mask-wearing will be mandatory and large gatherings banned.

The new measures come six months after a first state of emergency was lifted in an attempt to bolster an economy hit hard by restrictions on movement during a first wave of the virus.

Senegal has reported 19,964 infections and 428 deaths since the pandemic began, according to data compiled by Reuters. 

New cases rose by a record 240 on December 26; on December 29, seven deaths were reported, the second highest count yet.

Amnesty calls on Israel to give Palestinians virus vaccine

Amnesty International called on Israel to provide vaccine doses to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, saying the Jewish state was obligated to do so under international law.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, which is home to some 2.8 million Palestinians, has not publicly asked for Israeli assistance in vaccine procurement.

Hamas, who control the Gaza strip, where about two million Palestinians live, are highly unlikely to publicly coordinate with Israel in any vaccination effort.

But UK-based rights group Amnesty said Israel needed to "stop ignoring its international obligations as an occupying power and immediately act to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."

The PA has said Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will be vaccinated through the United Nations-backed COVAX programme.

The Palestinian health ministry said Monday that it expected to receive its first vaccine doses next month through COVAX.

Israel began inoculating its citizens, including Israeli settlers in the West Bank, on December 19, starting with medical workers and the over 60s, and has so far injected more than a million people.

Three inactive Turkish-made vaccines ready for human trials

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 17 different vaccine candidates are currently being developed in Turkey, and among them, three candidates have applied to the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency to begin human trials.

"Our inactive vaccine that is in human experiment phase is about to start Phase 2. It is expected to start Phase 3 in April."

Koca added that a Virus-Like Particle vaccine, which is unique in the world, will be tested on humans soon.

He said Turkey's scientific capacity is competent enough to conduct research and development activities for all vaccine types.

"I believe the scientific and technical background of our country and the ambition and efforts of our scientists will bring us the best vaccines."

Grammy awards postponed until March 

The Grammy awards celebrating music slated for January 31 in Los Angeles have been postponed until March due to Covid-19, which has been rapidly spreading in California.

The Recording Academy behind the gala did not immediately respond to AFP inquiries but updated the events listing on its website, setting the ceremony's new date as March 21.

The 63rd annual ceremony's delay comes less than a month before it was set to take place in the shadow of the pandemic, which has dealt devastating blows to the music industry.

The organisation had said the show set for late January would be mostly virtual, but had not released specific plans.

Beyonce, Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift and rapper Roddy Ricch are the top nominees at the normally star-studded gala. 

Comedian Trevor Noah was set to host the 2021 show, and it wasn't immediately clear if that was still the plan.

Fauci: US could soon give 1 million vaccinations a day

The US could soon be giving at least a million virus vaccinations a day despite the sluggish start, Dr Anthony Fauci said, even as he warned of a dangerous next few weeks as the virus surges.

The slow pace is frustrating health officials and a desperate public alike, with only about a third of the first supplies shipped to states used as of Tuesday morning, just over three weeks into the vaccination campaign.

“Any time you start a big programme, there’s always glitches. I think the glitches have been worked out,” the nation's top infectious disease expert told The Associated Press.

Vaccinations have already begun speeding up, reaching roughly half a million injections a day, he pointed out.

Now, with the holidays over, “once you get rolling and get some momentum, I think we can achieve 1 million a day or even more,” Fauci said. 

He called President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days “a very realistic, important, achievable goal.”

It’s an optimistic prediction considering the logistical hurdles facing states and counties as they struggle to administer rationed vaccine supplies amid rising hospitalisations.

Puerto Rico to reopen beaches, relax curfew

Puerto Rico’s new governor announced that he will reopen beaches, marinas and pools, eliminate a Sunday lockdown and shorten a curfew that has been in place since the pandemic began to control the number of cases.

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi stressed alcohol will be banned at beaches and other places, and that social distancing is required between people who are not family members, with no large groups allowed to gather. 

Meanwhile, the new curfew will run from 11pm to 5am and face masks remain mandatory.

He said the new measures go into effect January 8 and will be in place for 30 days but can be amended any time if there's a spike in cases.

Chile to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory

Chilean lawmakers presented a bill before Congress that would make vaccinations mandatory as the country's centre-right government pushes to inoculate the majority of its population by mid-year.

The bill would modify the country's health code, which already requires vaccination against smallpox, whooping cough and other diseases, according to the opposition Christian Democracy party lawmakers who submitted the legislation.

Chile was the first country in South America to begin a Covid-19 vaccination programme.

The Andean nation is also among the best positioned in the region for vaccine supply, having struck deals with AstraZeneca, Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE , and China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies