International update: Global Covid infections pass 74 million – Brazil cases top 7 million

17 December 2020 (Last Updated December 17th, 2020 09:02)

17 December

Global: Coronavirus infections have passed 74 million. Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll has passed 1,649,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

US: Covid-19 infections are nearing 17 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 307,501 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Australia: Australia’s largest city Sydney is battling to prevent an outbreak of Covid-19 after five new cases in the past two days ended a more than month-long run with limited community transmission in New South Wales.

Brazil: Brazil sees record daily Covid-19 infections as cases top 7 million. Brazil registered over 70,000 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, a daily record, as a second wave of infections spreads across the country.

Canada: Oil workers in Alberta are falling victim to a growing spread of the pandemic in the Canadian province’s remote north, with a Chevron Corp. site among the latest to be struck.

France: France reported 17,615 new confirmed Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, sharply up from the 11,532 on Tuesday and 14,595 a week ago.

Ireland: Ireland Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan warned of “significant and concerning indicators that this disease in moving in the wrong direction” after figures Wednesday showed daily cases rising about a third to 431. Health authorities will meet Thursday to consider the renewed surge, which came after Ireland reopened non-essential stores, restaurants and some bars even as many governments across Europe tighten restrictions over Christmas.

Japan: Tokyo will report at least 800 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, a record daily amount, NHK reported, citing a metropolitan government official. That beats the previous record of 678 cases on 17 December. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government raised its warning on the city’s medical system to “under strain”, the highest of four levels, for the first time since the alert system was laid out in July.

Vaccine news

Global: Twitter bans harmful false claims about Covid-19 vaccinations. Twitter has said users will be required to remove new tweets that advance harmful false or misleading claims about Covid-19 vaccinations, in an expansion of its rules on coronavirus misinformation.

The global scheme to deliver vaccines to poorer countries faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024, internal documents have revealed. The risk of failure of the Covax project is higher because the scheme was set up so quickly, operating in “uncharted territory”, one internal report says.

EU: European authorities are pushing for a compressed approval timeline for the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, according to people familiar with the plan, which could enable a rollout on the continent before Christmas. Should the vaccine win the backing of a key drugs oversight committee on Monday, the European Commission is planning for a sign-off as soon as the same day, two people said. That would enable shipping the first shots to vaccine centers as early as 23 December, one of the people said.

Germany: Germany aims to roll out BioNTech/Pfizer Covid vaccine on 27 December. Germany will begin coronavirus vaccinations on 27 December with elderly care home residents, health minister Jens Spahn announced, with the EU aiming for all 27 member states to begin on the same day.

France: France expects to receive 1.16 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by 30 December, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in a parliamentary debate. He said France, in coordination with other European countries, will do “everything possible” to start vaccinating in the last week of the year. France is counting on a further delivery around 5 January, and an additional 1.6 million doses in February.

Japan: Japan’s health ministry has found it difficult to reach a conclusion on the effectiveness of Fujifilm Holdings Corp.’s anti-viral drug Avigan in treating Covid-19 patients, according to domestic media reports citing unidentified government sources. Fujifilm’s stock fell as much as 4.2% in Tokyo trading Wednesday on the news. Fujifilm had applied in October to expand usage of Avigan to include treatment for coronavirus in Japan, where the drug is already approved for use against novel influenza. Japan’s health ministry is likely to make the decision on Monday, according to the news reports.

US: Vice President Mike Pence will publicly receive the coronavirus vaccine on Friday, and President-elect Joe Biden is expected get vaccinated as soon as next week, amid concern that many Americans may refuse the injection.

About 1,600 health-care workers have been vaccinated in New York City in 48 hours, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday.

Some vials of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine may contain usable extra doses, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

New Zealand: New Zealand aims to begin vaccinating its entire population against Covid-19 in the second half of next year in its largest-ever immunization program, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. The government has secured two additional vaccines from pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Novavax and will have enough for all 5 million New Zealanders, Ardern said Thursday in Wellington. If proven to be safe and effective, immunization will begin with border workers and essential staff in the second quarter of 2021 followed by the general population in the second half, she said. The vaccines will be free to the public.

Lockdown updates

New Zealand: New Zealand has eliminated community transmission of the virus, but its border remains closed, a big blow for the important tourism industry and the economy. Vaccines will be key to the reopening of the border, but the government cautioned Thursday that the start of the immunization program “will not mean any changes to our borders initially.”

Denmark: Danish PM confirms Christmas lockdown. Shopping malls will close starting on Thursday and other stores, with the exception of supermarkets and food shops, will close from 25 December. Students still in school will be sent home as of Monday.

Spain: Spain granted regional administrations the power to further restrict movement and limit the size of Christmas gatherings, as new cases rose to the highest in almost a month.