22 December

Global: Global coronavirus infections pass 77.3 million. Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll has passed 1,702,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 18 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 319,364 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

There are no intensive care beds available in densely populated southern California or the state’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley, together home to nearly 30 million people, amid a deadly surge of Covid-19, governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday.

Texas state’s hospitals tallied 10,009 virus patients on Monday, the highest since 24 July, state health department figures showed. Almost half the state’s 22 trauma service areas have more than 15% of hospital capacity occupied by Covid-19 patients. Earlier in the day, Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to reopen the state capitol on 4 January as lawmakers prepare to convene their bi-annual legislative session.

Australia: Australia’s most-populous state reported eight new local cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday as authorities battled to bring an outbreak in Sydney under control without having to resort to lockdowns over Christmas. Seven of the cases are linked to infections in the Northern Beaches area of the city, bringing that cluster to 90, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters. The other case was a health care worker, who transported infected overseas travellers from Sydney airport to hotel quarantine.

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Vaccine news

US: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said new guidance from the US Department of Health and Human Services could lead to the deployment of the National Guard to help vaccinate people across the state, particularly in rural areas. “There will certainly be opportunities where we’ll want the Guard to come in and get the job done,” he said at a news briefing. He also said a decrease in the expected number of Pfizer Inc. vaccine doses shipped this week to Ohio is less of a concern than receiving additional vaccines developed by other companies.

President-Elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, received the coronavirus vaccine on Monday, joining a list of US political leaders who’ve sought to boost public confidence in the shot. Joe Biden received the first of a two-shot regimen at a public event at Christiana Care Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday. Jill Biden got the vaccine earlier in the day. Both received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The US National Institutes of Health plans to begin a clinical trial that aims to help doctors “predict and manage” allergic reactions related to the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine, according to Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the US vaccine program.

Slaoui said during a Monday news briefing that the aim of the trial, which will also study the Moderna Inc. shot just authorized for emergency use, will be to pinpoint why the incidents, known as anaphylaxis, are occurring.

EU: Europe’s medicines regulator approved the use of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The approval puts Europe on course to start inoculations within a week. EU countries including Germany, France, Austria and Italy have said they plan to start vaccinations from 27 December. Having gained the green light from the EMA, the final step is approval by the European commission, which is expected in the coming days. The commission typically follows the EMA’s advice.

UK: More than half a million people in the UK have been vaccinated against Covid-19, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Singapore: The first batch of coronavirus shots arrived in Singapore on Monday, marking an important step in the city-state’s plan to vaccinate its population and serve as a global hub for distribution of the jabs. Singapore Airlines Ltd. delivered the vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE from Brussels, the airline said in a statement on Monday. The shots were sent to ground handling operator SATS Ltd.’s cold-chain facility for subsequent storage and transportation.

Philippines: The Philippines expects to soon sign deals for the supply of as many as 60 million coronavirus vaccine doses for delivery as early as the second quarter of 2021, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said. The Southeast Asian nation will next week sign an agreement with AstraZeneca Plc for 20 million vaccine doses, and was assured of 30 million doses by Serum Institute of India which will produce Novavax Inc.’s vaccine, Galvez said in a televised briefing late Monday.

Brazil: China’s Sinovac vaccine, which scientists hope can be used to combat Covid-19 in much of the developing world, has shown to be effective in late-stage trials in Brazil, people involved in its development told The Wall Street Journal. Brazil is the first country in the world to complete Phase 3 trials of Sinovac’s vaccine, CoronaVac, which is also being tested in Indonesia and Turkey, the Journal reported. With Covid-19 largely under control in China, the country’s vaccine developers have had to conduct their clinical trials abroad.

New Covid variant updates

UK: The UK’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, warned the public to stay local to keep the new coronavirus strain in check, but said some areas of England will face tighter restrictions with the variant likely to spread across the country. Speaking at a press conference alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who ordered London and much of southeast England into lockdown over the weekend, Vallance said current vaccines should work against the latest Covid-19 mutation.

Boris Johnson the UK prime minister said he had an “excellent” conversation with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and said he was keen to get the situation at Dover sorted out “in a few hours” if it was possible. Johnson said he and Macron are working to “resolve these issues as fast as possible” so that freight traffic can get moving again.

UK PM Boris Johnson insisted that Channel port delays at Dover will only affect a small amount of food and medicine shipments coming into the UK. Johnson says the delays only involve “human-handled freight”, which only amounts to about 20% of the goods going to continental Europe.

British supermarket group Tesco warned on Monday that there may be a shortage of some fruit and vegetables later this week if transport ties are not quickly restored with mainland Europe. The supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s has warned that some products could be missing from UK shelves due to restrictions at ports, but said food for a traditional Christmas lunch is available and already in the country.

Sweden: Sweden has joined the list of countries, which include France, Israel, and Germany, that will stop allowing in foreign travellers from Britain in a bid to curb the rapid spread of a new strain of the coronavirus, the government said today. Sweden is also barring travellers from Denmark.

US: All three airlines that fly from the UK to New York have agreed to test for Covid-19, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. British Airways, Delta and Virgin Airlines all will require passenger testing, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said on Twitter. Cuomo on Monday said he had asked the three airlines to add the state to a list of 120 countries requiring pre-boarding Covid tests. Cuomo blasted the US government for not enacting a travel ban from the UK or requiring testing. The new strain of the virus that has been discovered in the UK “is flying around the world,” he said.

Lockdown updates

China: China’s north eastern Dalian locked down five residential districts and halted school as the coastal city has detected five confirmed cases in the most recent flare-up. In Beijing, the small cluster started by some imported cases seems to be under control after authorities escalated the risk level and strengthened control of relevant area.

South Korea: South Korea will close its ski resorts and tourist spots from 24 December to 3 January in an attempt to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further, Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun said. South Korea reported 869 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours versus 926 a day earlier, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s website.