Novel coronavirus has infected over 84.3 million people globally and claimed more than 1.8 million lives.
Different efficacy data for Chinese vaccine “real and valid”
Different efficacy results for a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine released separately in China and in United Arab Emirates are both real and valid, an executive at China National Biotec Group (CNBG) told state media.
China approved its first Covid-19 vaccine for general public use on Thursday, a shot developed by an affiliate to state-backed Sinopharm, after the developer said the vaccine showed 79.34 percent efficacy based on an interim analysis of late-stage clinical trials.
That rate is lower than the 86 percent rate for the same vaccine reported by the United Arab Emirates on December 9.
Countries have certain differences in their standards and procedures in diagnosing patients, and the final results of Covid-19 case identification were different, Yang Xiaoming, chairman at Sinopharm unit’s CNBG, told Global Times, a tabloid published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.
“Therefore, there were differences between the comprehensive multi-country data we reviewed and the protection rate data previously evaluated by the UAE and Bahrain,” Global Times quoted Yang as saying in a report published on Thursday.
“But these two results are both real and valid,” Yang said, without offering further details for the data.
Vietnam reports first case of new variant
Vietnam has detected its first imported case of the new coronavirus variant that is spreading rapidly around Britain.
The variant was detected in a 44-year-old woman returning to Vietnam from Britain, who was quarantined upon arrival and was confirmed positive for the virus on December 24, the health ministry said in a statement.
“Researchers ran gene-sequencing on the patient’s sample and found the strain is a variant known as “VOC 202012/01″”, it said.
The variant includes a genetic mutation that, in theory, could result in the virus spreading more easily between people.
Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 12,690
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 12,690 to 1,755,351, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.
The reported death toll rose by 336 to 33,960, the tally showed.
Tokyo to request new emergency declaration
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will ask the central government to declare a state of emergency following a resurgence of virus cases, local media reported.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike will make the request in a meeting with Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who coordinates government measures to fight the pandemic, the Nikkei newspaper said, citing multiple sources.
Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo, will make a similar request of the government, national broadcaster NHK reported.
Mexico reports 11,091 new cases, 700 deaths
Mexico’s health ministry reported 11,091 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 700 additional fatalities on Friday, bringing its total to 1,437,185 infections and 126,507 deaths.
The real number of infected people and deaths is likely significantly higher than the official count, the health ministry has said.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter that he had spoken to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and both decided to deepen their strategic relationship in the fight against the pandemic. He gave no further details.
South Korea extends coronavirus social distancing in Seoul region
South Korea will extend unprecedented social distancing rules in Seoul and neighbouring areas until January 17, a health official said on Saturday, including a ban on gatherings larger than four people.
Kwon Deok-cheol told a briefing that the measures were necessary to reduce a prolonged surge in infections that has led to a spike in deaths.
The country reported 824 new cases as of midnight on Friday, down from 1,029 a day before.
Australia’s virus cluster expands as Victoria, NSW clock new cases
Australia’s Victoria state on Saturday recorded 10 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases as authorities confirmed the outbreak in the south eastern state was “directly linked” to a growing cluster in neighbouring New South Wales.
The growing numbers have sparked virus alerts for regional holiday towns in both Victoria and NSW where the cases travelled before testing positive.
Victoria, which now has 29 active cases, this week made masks mandatory across the state while limiting gatherings and shutting its border to NSW prompting lengthy delays at border checkpoints on New Year’s Day.
NSW, the epicentre of the outbreak, made masks mandatory from midnight after reporting seven new cases on Saturday.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian also announced restrictions on numbers for gym classes, weddings, funerals and places of worship to prevent any super-spreader events.
“We will be making sure that compliance or enforcement occurs from Monday so we will not fine you until Monday. The fine would be A$200 for not wearing a mask,” in certain indoor settings such as shopping centres, entertainment venues and on public transport, Berejiklian said.
Saints’ Kamara placed on reserve/Covid-19 list
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara has tested positive for coronavirus and has been placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list, the team announced on Friday.
Kamara will be out for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers and his postseason eligibility – at least for the wild-card round – is now in question.
The star running back, who was coming off a six-touchdown performance on Christmas Day against the Minnesota Vikings, had mixed results on tests Friday afternoon, but a later test confirmed he is positive for Covid-19, ESPN reported.
The Saints have clinched the NFC South title and will likely host a playoff game next weekend if it doesn’t ascend to the conference’s top seed.
Pfizer and BioNTech to offer Covid vaccine to volunteers who got placebo
Pfizer Inc and its partner BioNTech Se plan to give volunteers who received a placebo in its Covid-19 vaccine trial an option to receive a first dose of the vaccine by March 1, 2021, while staying within the study.
The trial’s Vaccine Transition Option allows all participants aged 16 or older the choice to discover whether they were given the placebo, “and for participants who learn they received the placebo, to have the option to receive the investigational vaccine while staying in the study,” the companies said on their website for trial participants.
The US Food and Drug Administration and a panel of its outside advisers have expressed concerns over Pfizer’s “unblinding” plan, saying it could make it harder to continue collecting data on safety and effectiveness needed to win full FDA approval of the vaccine.
Trial participants who received the placebo will have two doses of the investigational vaccine reserved for them within the study, the companies said on the website.
“The study doctor will follow the latest guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their local health authorities to offer the Vaccine Transition Option to participants in a prioritised manner,” the companies said.
Brazil’s death toll passes 195,000: ministry
Brazil reported 24,605 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 462 deaths from Covid-19, the health ministry said on Friday.
The South American country has now registered 7,700,578 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 195,411, according to ministry data, in the world’s third worst outbreak outside the United States and India.
AstraZeneca expects to supply 2 mln doses of vaccine every week in UK – The Times
About two million doses of vaccine developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca are set to be supplied every week by the middle of January in the United Kingdom, The Times reported.
There would be two million doses of vaccine ready in total next week and then the plan is to build up fairly rapidly, the newspaper reported, citing an unnamed member of the Oxford/AstraZeneca team.
US cases surpass 20 million as deaths mount
US coronavirus cases crossed the 20 million mark on Friday as officials seek to speed up vaccinations and a more infectious variant surfaces in Colorado, California and Florida.
The United States has seen a spike in number of daily Covid-19 fatalities since Thanksgiving with 78,000 lives lost in December. A total of 345,000 have died of Covid-19, or one out of every 950 US residents, since the virus first emerged in China late in 2019.
To slow the death toll, Senator Mitt Romney on Friday urged the US government to enlist veterinarians and combat medics to give out coronavirus vaccinations.