The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 55 million people and killed over 1.3 million. Here are the updates for November 18:
South Australia announces 6-day lockdown
South Australia Premier Steven Marshall announced a six-day lockdown on Wednesday to stamp out an outbreak that has now expanded to 22 new cases, warning that the strain of virus detected was especially worrying.
All schools, takeaway food, pubs, cafes and universities will be closed. Regional travel is not approved either, Marshall said.
“We need this circuit breaker, this community pause. This is about South Australia pausing so that we stay ahead of the virus,” he said.
South Korea reports highest number of cases since August
South Korea reported 313 new daily cases as of Tuesday midnight, the highest since August, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Wednesday.
Mainland China reports 8 new cases
Mainland China reported eight new cases on November 17, down from 15 cases a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Wednesday.
The National Health Commission said in a statement that one of the new cases was a local infection reported in the city of Tianjin, which shares a border with capital Beijing.
The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed infections, fell to five from 12 a day earlier.
The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 86,369, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.
Sinovac’s vaccine induces quick immune response
Sinovac Biotech’s experimental vaccine CoronaVac triggered a quick immune response but the level of antibodies produced was lower than in people who had recovered from the disease, preliminary trial results showed on Wednesday.
While the early to mid-stage trials were not designed to assess the efficacy of CoronaVac, researchers said it could provide sufficient protection, based on their experience with other vaccines and data from preclinical studies with macaques.
The study comes hot on the heels of upbeat news this month from US drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna as well as Russia that showed their experimental vaccines were over 90% effective based on interim data from large, late-stage trials.
CoronaVac and four other experimental vaccines developed in China are currently undergoing late-stage trials to determine their effectiveness in preventing Covid-19.
Toilet paper limits, empty shelves are back as virus surges
A surge of new coronavirus cases in the US is sending people back to stores to stockpile again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to put limits on purchases.
Walmart said Tuesday it’s having trouble keeping up with demand for cleaning supplies in some stores.
Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix are limiting how much toilet paper and paper towels shoppers can buy after demand spiked recently.
And Amazon is sold out of most disinfectant wipes and paper towels.
A similar scene played out back in March, when the pandemic first hit and people hunkered down in their homes.
Pfizer ‘very close’ to applying for US emergency approval, says CEO
Pfizer is “very close” to applying for an emergency use approval for its Covid-19 vaccine after collecting safety data to submit to US regulators, the company’s CEO said Tuesday, according to a report.
The pharmaceutical giant announced last week preliminary results from a late-stage clinical trial showing the injections it had co-developed with Germany’s BioNTech was more than 90 percent effective after the second dose.
“We are very close to submitting for an emergency use authorization,” Albert Bourla told medical news site Stat. “We will announce it as soon as we are doing it.”
Pfizer has previously said it expects to contact the US Food and Drug Administration to apply for an Emergency Use Authorization by the third week of November, meaning the announcement could be days away.
The FDA had imposed a requirement on Covid-19 vaccine makers of having at least two months of follow-up with volunteers after their second dose, taken 28 days after the first, in order to ensure the drugs are safe.
Volunteers still needed to test variety of vaccines
Two vaccines might be nearing the finish line, but scientists caution it’s critical that enough people volunteer to help finish studying other candidates in the US and around the world.
Moderna Inc. and competitor Pfizer Inc. recently announced preliminary results showing their vaccines appear more than 90% effective, at least for short-term protection against COVID-19.
If those early results hold up and US regulators agree the shots are safe, emergency use of small, rationed supplies could start in late December. Other countries with contracts for early doses would undertake their own reviews.
But multiple vaccines will be needed to meet global demand and help end the pandemic, raising concern that studies that still need to sign up thousands of volunteers could run short if people wait for an already OK’d option instead.
Brazil reports over 35,000 new cases
Brazil recorded 35,294 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours and 685 deaths, the Health Ministry said.
Brazil has registered more than 5.9 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 166,699, according to ministry data.
Greek protesters clash with police after defying virus ban
Greek police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon in Athens on Tuesday to break up a demonstration to commemorate a 1973 student uprising against the military junta that was banned because of the pandemic.
November 17 is a treasured anniversary for many Greeks, recalling a crackdown that killed 24, including many students of the Athens Polytechnic.
The bloodbath was generally considered to have broken the junta’s grip on power and speeded the restoration of democracy, and last year’s commemorations drew crowds totalling more than 30,000 people in major cities.
But this year Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ conservative government banned the public demonstrations as Greece faces mounting coronavirus cases.
This year, “protecting public health and solidarity with our fellow citizens, especially young people squeezed by the economic crisis, is the priority,” Mitsotakis said Tuesday.
Police said around 1,500 people defied the ban, adding that they were backers of the KKE communist party and small left-wing party Antarsya.
Large numbers of riot police were already deployed.
States in US plead for more federal help
With more shutdowns looming and a vaccine months away from wide distribution, governors across the US are pleading for more help from Washington ahead of what is shaping up to be a bleak winter.
Renewed restrictions on indoor businesses, overloaded hospitals and the coming end of unemployment benefits for millions of Americans have led governors to paint a dire picture of the months ahead unless the federal government steps in with more money and leadership to help them shore up their damaged budgets and beat back the resurgence of the coronavirus.
Between now and June 2022 , state and local governments could be facing a shortfall of $400 billion or more by some estimates.