Novel coronavirus has infected over 83 million people globally and has claimed more than 1.8 million lives.
China gives its first vaccine approval to Sinopharm
China approved its first vaccine for general public use, a shot developed by an affiliate of state-backed pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, as it braces for greater transmission risks over the winter.
No detailed efficacy data of the vaccine has been publicly released but its developer, Beijing Biological Products Institute, a unit of Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group, said its vaccine was 79.34 percent effective in preventing people from developing the disease based on interim data.
The approval, announced by the National Medical Products Administration, comes after the United Arab Emirates this month became the first country to roll out the vaccine to the public.
Pakistan to purchase 1.2M vaccine doses from Sinopharm
Pakistan will purchase 1.2 million vaccine doses from China’s Sinopharm, a minister said.
“The Cabinet Committee has decided to initially purchase 1.2 million doses of the vaccine from the Chinese company Sinopharm, which will be provided free of cost to frontline workers in the first quarter of 2021,” Pakistani Minister for Science and Technology said on Twitter.
US hits record daily deaths as world looks to vaccines
The US has logged its highest ever daily death toll from the coronavirus as the world prepares to turn the page on a grim year defined by the pandemic.
More than 3,900 people died of Covid-19, a new daily record, bringing the toll since the pandemic began to more than 19.7 million infections and 341,000 lives lost.
And experts believe the worst is yet to come, as US healthcare workers brace for a surge in cases after major holiday gatherings.
Germany’s confirmed cases rise by 32,552
The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 32,552 to 1,719,737, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.
The reported death toll rose by 964 to 33,071, the tally showed.
South Korea enforces tough measures in prisons
South Korea has enforced its toughest physical distancing rules at correctional facilities across the country after a major cluster of coronavirus infections flared at a Seoul prison.
The Justice Ministry says that 792 people, 771 inmates and 21 staff, at Seoul’s Dongbu Detention Center have tested positive for the virus since one of center officials was found infected on November 27. One of the infected inmates has died.
The Dongbu cluster infection comes as South Korea is struggling to contain a recent viral resurgence tied to a variety of other sources such as nursing homes, churches, army bases and family gatherings.
Earlier Thursday, South Korea reported 967 new virus cases, taking the country’s total to 60,740 with 900 deaths.
Thailand reports 194 new cases
Thailand confirmed 194 new cases, the majority of which were locally transmitted, the government’s Covid-19 task-force said.
The new infections include 13 imported cases. Thailand has confirmed a total of 6,884 coronavirus cases and 61 deaths since first detecting the virus in late January.
Brazil sees 55,649 new coronavirus cases, 1,194 deaths
Brazil has recorded 55,649 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 1,194 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.
Brazil has registered more than 7.6 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 193,875, according to ministry data.
Mexico reports over 1,000 new coronavirus deaths
Mexico has registered 12,406 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,052 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 1,413,935 infections and 124,897 deaths, according to the Health Ministry’s official count.
The government says the real number of infected people and deaths are likely significantly higher than the confirmed figures.
Case of UK variant of virus identified in California
The highly infectious coronavirus variant originally discovered in Britain has been detected in California, Governor Gavin Newsom has, a day after the first known US case was documented in Colorado.
Newsom announced his state’s first known case of the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, identified in Southern California, at the start of an online discussion of the Covid-19 pandemic with leading infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Newsom did not immediately provide further details, but Fauci said he was “not surprised,” adding that additional cases of the variant would likely surface in California and other states.
The first U.S. case of the so-called UK variant of the virus, believed by scientists to be more contagious than others previously identified but no more severe in symptoms it causes, was announced by Colorado Governor Jared Polis on Tuesday.
Pandemic made my last year in office the hardest – Merkel
Germany’s “historic” coronavirus crisis will extend into 2021 even if the vaccines bring some hope, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in her New Year’s greetings.
Merkel said 2020 was by far the most difficult of her 15-year leadership, yet the start of vaccinations against Covid-19 made 2021 a year of hope.
In a rare show of emotion, Merkel, who steered Germany and the European Union through the 2008 financial crisis, the Greek debt crisis a year later and the migrant crisis five years ago, condemned a protest movement opposed to lockdowns and said she would get vaccinated when the shot is widely available.
“Let me tell you something personal in conclusion: in nine months a parliamentary election will take place and I won’t be running again,” said Merkel, 66.
“Today is therefore in all likelihood the last time I am able to deliver a New Year’s address to you.”
She added: “I think I am not exaggerating when I say: never in the last 15 years have we found the old year so heavy and never have we, despite all the worries and some skepticism, looked forward to the new one with so much hope.”
El Salvador greenlights AstraZeneca, Oxford vaccine
The Covid-19 vaccine developed jointly by British drugmaker AstraZeneca and Oxford University was approved for use in El Salvador, according to a statement by the national medicines agency.
The one-page statement noted the approval was based on evidence provided by the developer but also cited emergency use permissions authorized by other countries for the vaccine.
It added that the Central American country’s health ministry will later announce the timeline and process by which it plans to distribute the vaccine.