15 January

Global: Global coronavirus deaths near 2 million. The global Covid death toll has reached 1,995,806 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 93 million world wide.

The global death toll from Covid-19 could reach somewhere from 2.2 million to 5.1 million by the beginning of March while cases can rise to 110 to 170 million by that time, according to a study by researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and other research institutes including those affiliated with the Chinese military.

The World Health Organization’s emergency committee will meet two weeks early on Thursday to discuss the new coronavirus variants from South Africa and Britain that have rapidly spread to at least 50 countries and sparked widespread alarm.

 US: US Covid-19 infections have passed 23 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 388,692 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

 The Greater Los Angeles area may have had a far higher infection rate than expected, with county scientists estimating that one in three have had the disease since the start of the pandemic.

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China: China’s worsening outbreak in Hebei does not appear to be slowing down, with yet another rise in case numbers on Thursday. After consecutive days above 100 confirmed cases, health authorities announced 144 new Covid-19 infections, including 135 local transmissions yesterday. It is the highest increase in ten months.

UK: In the UK, seriously ill Covid patients are being transferred from overstretched London hospitals to intensive care units almost 300 miles away in Newcastle, the Guardian newspaper revealed.

Vaccine news

Denmark: Denmark leads the EU in vaccinations against the novel coronavirus thanks to a swift and smooth roll-out, and even more people would have got the jab if it had more available doses. So far, 2.2% of Denmark’s population of 5.8 million has been vaccinated since the campaign began on 27 December.

Lockdown updates

UK: The UK has banned travellers from across South America from entering the UK amid growing concerns about a mutant coronavirus strain which has emerged in Brazil. The ban which, also covers the Central American state of Panama and Portugal – due to its strong travel links with Brazil – and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, came into force at 4am on Friday.

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing to tighten Germany’s lockdown, as the country’s death toll soared by more than 1,500 for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Merkel aims to meet with regional leaders soon to discuss additional curbs amid fears that a more contagious variant may cause infections to spiral out of control, a government official said. The number of daily fatalities jumped by 1,589 in the 24 hours through Friday morning, taking the total to more than 45,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Indonesia: Indonesians who have completed a coronavirus vaccination may be exempted from having to show a negative test result to travel by plane. The government will issue digital certificates stored on mobile phone apps that people can use as a waiver for the test requirement when they travel by plane, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in parliamentary hearing on Thursday. The plan is meant to encourage people to get vaccinated.

France: The French government will impose a daily nationwide curfew at 6 pm starting on Saturday to combat a worrying increase in Covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday. Up to now, most of France has been under an 8 pm curfew, with some parts of the country, especially in the hard-hit east, already under the stricter 6 pm curfew that Castex said had resulted in an infection rate two or three times lower than in the rest of the country.

Economy updates

US: President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9tn stimulus package proposal that aims to bring new urgency to the nation’s coronavirus vaccination campaign and usher in another round of economic relief for struggling Americans.The US is facing its deadliest period of the pandemic so far. Detailing the plan in a speech on Thursday evening, Biden described the moment as “a crisis of deep human suffering”.“There’s no time to waste,” Biden said. “We have to act and we have to act now.”

China: China’s economy grew last year at its slowest pace since the 1970s, according to an AFP poll of economists, but finished the year strongly on an accelerating coronavirus recovery. The average forecast of analysts from 13 financial institutions was a 2.0% expansion for the world’s second-largest economy, down sharply from 6.1% in 2019, itself a three-decade low.

UK: Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak came under pressure from a powerful bloc of Conservative lawmakers and one of the UK’s biggest business groups to step up coronavirus assistance, with the UK mired in its third lockdown. Sunak should extend tax breaks and a temporary uplift in benefits, as well as borrow money to help fund an “infrastructure revolution,” 50 Tory lawmakers in the Northern Research Group said late Thursday in a letter to the chancellor. The group warned of a series of “cliff edges” faced by families and businesses, with various support programs due to close.