At least 74 million people have been infected by the coronavirus that has claimed more than 1.6 million lives around the world. Here are updates for December 17. A woman looks out a window from a locked-down public housing tower in Melbourne on July 6, 2020. (AP) Thursday, December 17, 2020
Australian state violated human rights during lockdown
Victoria's state Ombudsman says in a report that the state's decision to lockdown more than 3,000 people in public housing towers to contain a second Covid-19 outbreak was not based on direct health advice and violated human rights
Australia's second-most populous state, Victoria, locked down nine public housing towers for several days in July due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
Victoria's acting chief health officer had only 15 minutes to consider and approve the lockdown, including the potential human rights impacts , Ombudsman Deborah Glass said in her report.
Residents in eight towers were confined in their apartments for five days but the ninth tower, which had the highest number of infections, went through a total lockdown for two weeks.
Some were left without food and medicines while many others waited more than a week to be allowed outside, the report said.
The state government conceded mistakes were made, but said decisions were made to ensure the safety of the residents.
US angling to secure more of Pfizer's vaccine
US officials say they’re actively negotiating for additional purchases of Pfizer’s virus vaccine after passing up a chance to lock in a contract this summer since it was still unclear how well the shots would work.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and special adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui also told reporters that Pfizer had been unable to commit to a firm delivery date. Azar called that “the core issue.”
There was no immediate comment from the company, whose CEO Albert Bourla told CNN this week it is “working very collaboratively” with the government to deliver additional vaccine through the federal Operation Warp Speed.
Chilean health regulator approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
The Chilean health regulator has approved for emergency use the virus vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, paving the way for the first doses to be administered as early as Christmas to citizens over the age of 16.
The Institute of Public Health (ISP) received the Pfizer request for approval on November 27, and a panel of experts was convened to analyse the vaccine data supplied by the US drugmaker.
Chile has signed a purchase agreement for 10 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, enough to inoculate 5 million people.
Sweden struggles to contain second wave of Covid-19
Despite a sharper tone from authorities and new restrictions, Sweden, which has famously relied on non-coercive measures, is struggling to contain a strong second wave of Covid-19 it thought it could avoid.
The capital Stockholm is once again at the epicentre of the epidemic and this week called on members of the public with medical training to help offset some of the burden on healthcare.
On Monday, the number of people receiving hospital care reached 2,406, near the peak of 2,412 on April 20.
The total number of deaths associated with Covid-19 in the country of some 10.3 million reached 7,802 on Wednesday, with more than 500 in the last week and over 1,800 since the beginning of November.
Brazil will purchase Sinovac vaccine
Brazil's federal government will purchase 46 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine being developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd as authorities rush to source vaccines in a sometimes-confusing free-for-all.
Wellington Dias, the leftist governor of the northeast state of Piaui, said Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello told him of the federal government's plan to purchase the vaccine, which is being produced at the Instituto Butantan, a biomedical center in Sao Paulo state.
He told journalists he saw a copy of a production and delivery contract during a meeting with Pazuello, adding that 9 million doses are set to be delivered on January 25.
Mexicans fill streets for Christmas shopping
Tired of months of confinement, Christmas shoppers have been crowding stores in Mexico City this week despite a recent spike in coronavirus cases that has strained hospitals in the capital.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has pleaded with Mexico City residents to avoid being out in the streets as much as possible during the normally festive holiday season.
The mayor of Mexico City declared a “Covid-19 emergency” last week.
The city of about 9 million people has registered over 19,000 deaths related to the virus, and a fifth of Mexico's nearly 1.3 million confirmed cases.
Germany's virus cases rise by 26,923
The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 26,923 to 1,406,161.
The reported death toll rose by 698 to 24,125, the data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.
Vaccinations reach California's nursing homes
The first Covid-19 vaccinations are underway at US nursing homes, where the virus has killed more than 110,000 people, even as the nation struggles to contain a surge so alarming it has spurred California to dispense thousands of body bags and line up refrigerated morgue trucks.
With the rollout of shots picking up speed on Wednesday, lawmakers in Washington closed in on a long-stalled $900 billion coronavirus relief package that would send direct payments of around $600 to most Americans. Meanwhile, the U.S. appeared to be days away from adding a second vaccine to its arsenal.
At the same time, a major snowstorm pushing its way into the Northeast raised concern it could disrupt distribution of the first vaccine.
Tokyo says Covid-19 strain on hospitals severe
The Japanese capital of Tokyo has said the strain on its medical system from the pandemic was severe, raising its alert level to the highest of four stages as hospital beds filled up with rising infections.
At a coronavirus monitoring committee meeting attended by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, a health official said it had become difficult to balance the care of Covid-19 patients with regular ones, assigning a “red” alert for medical preparedness for the first time.
The number of positive cases in Tokyo hit a daily record of 678 cases on Wednesday, and the city a month ago raised its coronavirus alert for new infections – a separate category – to the highest level.
Australia looks for source of virus cluster
Authorities are searching for the source of an emerging Covid-19 cluster in Sydney’s northern coastal suburbs.
Australia’s largest city had gone 12 consecutive days without community transmission until Wednesday when a driver who transported international air crews in a van to and from Sydney Airport tested positive.
By Thursday, six people had been infected with the virus though community transmission in Sydney, as well as six returned travelers who had been infected overseas and tested positive while in hotel quarantine.
US Interior Secretary Bernhardt tests positive
US Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt has tested positive for Covid-19.
Bernhardt was asymptomatic and would continue to work while in quarantine, Interior spokesman Nicholas Goodwin told Reuters by email.
Russia's vaccine roll-out draws wary response
While excitement and enthusiasm greeted the Western-developed coronavirus vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, the Russian-made serum named “Sputnik V” has received a mixed response.
Kremlin officials and state-controlled media touted the “Sputnik V” vaccine as a major achievement after it was approved on 11 August, but among Russians, hope that the shot would reverse the course of the crisis has become mixed with wariness and skepticism, reflecting concerns about how it was rushed out while still in its late-stage testing to ensure its effectiveness and safety.
Russia faced international criticism for approving a vaccine that hasn't completed advanced trials among tens of thousands of people, and experts both at home and abroad warned against its wider use until the studies are completed.
A poll conducted in October by the Levada Center, Russia 's top independent pollster, showed that 59% of Russians were unwilling to get the shots even if offered for free
US sees record single-day spike
The United States has set a grim double record notching more than 3,700 deaths and over 250,000 new Covid-19 cases during the past 24 hours, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The country has seen a spectacular spike in Covid infections for more than a month now, with some 113,000 people currently hospitalised due to the virus, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.
South Korea marks deadliest day with more than 1,000 new cases
South Korea has added more than 1,000 infections to its coronavirus caseload for the second straight day amid growing fears that the virus is spreading out of control in the greater capital area.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Thursday said the Covid-19 death toll was now at 634 after 22 patients died in the past 24 hours, the deadliest day since the emergence of the pandemic. Among 12,209 active patients, 242 are in serious or critical condition.
Nearly 800 of the 1,014 new cases were reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where health officials have raised alarm about a looming shortage in hospital capacities.
Thursday marked the 40th consecutive day of triple digit daily jumps, which brought the national caseload to 46,453.
Mexico reports 10,297 new cases, 670 more deaths
Mexico's health ministry has reported 10,297 new cases of coronavirus infection and 670 more fatalities, bringing the country's totals to 1,277,499 cases and 115,769 deaths.
The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
Novavax enters deal with New Zealand for 10.7 mln doses of vaccine candidate
Biotechnology company Novavax Inc has said it had entered an agreement with the government of New Zealand for 10.7 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
“Under the terms of the agreement, Novavax will manufacture NVX-CoV2373 with a target of delivering initial doses by mid-2021,” it said in a statement on Thursday.
The company will work with New Zealand's regulatory agency, Medsafe for approvals, it added.
The statement did not disclose further terms of the agreement.
Brazil's infections cross seven million mark
Brazil has registered over 70,000 new cases of the coronavirus, a daily record, bringing the country's total caseload above 7 million as a second wave of infections slams the South American country.
Brazil has the second-deadliest Covid-19 outbreak in the world, behind only the United States, with over 180,000 deaths from the highly contagious respiratory virus. Wednesday's record came without even the daily numbers from Sao Paulo state, the nation's most populous, which has been the epicenter of the outbreak.
In a statement, the Sao Paulo state government said it had been unable to upload the data because of technical issues.
After reaching a peak in late July, daily coronavirus cases and deaths in Brazil fell steadily until early November. But in the last month, cases and deaths have spiked.
Epidemiologists consulted by Reuters blamed the second wave on the relaxation of social distancing measures and decreased mask usage among Brazilians.
The nation registered 70,574 new infections on Wednesday, bringing the number of total confirmed coronavirus cases to 7,040,608.
Biden, Pence set to get vaccine soon
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President Mike Pence are set to receive the Covid-19 vaccine soon.
According to two transition officials familiar with the matter, Biden will receive the vaccine publicly as early as next week. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss it publicly.
The White House says Pence and his wife, Karen, will receive the vaccine publicly on Friday.
Biden said on Tuesday that Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, advised him to get the vaccine “sooner than later.” Biden has said that he wants to keep front-line health care workers and vulnerable people as the top priority as the vaccine is rolled out throughout the country.
But he’s also noted the importance of him getting the vaccine publicly to build confidence among Americans to get vaccinated.
Source: TRTWorld and agencies
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