18 January

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 2 million, reaching 2,031,032 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 95 million world wide.

US: US Covid-19 infections have are nearing 24 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 397,600 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of staff, told CNN on Sunday that Biden’s team projected another 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the first five weeks of the administration.

Rebekah Jones, the founder of Florida’s coronavirus database who has clashed publicly with Governor Ron DeSantis in a dispute over data manipulation, said she would surrender on Sunday after a warrant was issued for her arrest.

California’s health department said it’s concerned the variant first found in the UK is increasingly being identified by viral genomic sequencing in multiple counties across the state. The variant was seen in several large outbreaks in Santa Clara County, it said. Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the latest wave, said Saturday it identified its first case with the variant and expects the spread within the community to have started. “The reality is that the risk of contracting Covid-19 has increased with the presence of B.1.1.7 here in our community,” Hilda Solis, chair of the county’s board of supervisors, said in a statement Sunday.

Virginia shattered its record for new infections Sunday, rising to a new daily high of 9,914, state health data show. The state had set a record of 6,757 new infections on Saturday. New fatalities slowed to 23, compared with 50 the previous day, for a total of 5,729.

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China: Chinese health authorities say they have traced 102 infections to a “superspreader” case, a 45-year-old man who travelled around the northeast of the country giving lectures on health.

China’s Shanxi province banned sales of anti-fever drugs as part of efforts to prevent a virus outbreak, according to a statement from the region’s drug administration. Drug sellers must guide people with fever to see a doctor at designated hospitals. Drug stores are also told to monitor sales of antibacterial and cough medicines and report any irregularities.

China reported 93 confirmed local Covid-19 cases and 104 asymptomatic infections on Monday. Most of the asymptomatic infections were detected in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. Beijing reported two new cases from its southern suburb. A 63-year-old woman was found over the weekend to have been infected, indicating there’s still hidden transmission after authorities brought a cluster on infections on the other end of the city largely under control. China has built temporary quarantine facilities to accommodate villagers living at the center of the outbreak in the northern city of Shijiazhuang that has seen infections hitting nearly 1,000 in less than a month. A total of 1,008 container quarantine modules are ready to accommodate close contacts of Covid-19 patients.

Thailand: Thailand reported 369 new coronavirus infections, with 357 categorized as local infections, according to Apisamai Srirangsan, Covid-19 center spokeswoman. Thailand has seen more than 8,000 infections since its worse outbreak began in mid-December, with 61 provinces have reported cases. Samut Sakhon province, the origin of the new outbreak, remains among the biggest clusters, along with capital Bangkok.

South Korea: President Moon Jae-in said the country may reach herd immunity by November at the latest, as inoculations may begin in late February or early March. He said it’s clear the third virus wave has reached its peak. The country reported 389 new cases on Monday, the lowest number since 29 November.

Vaccine news

Norway: Norway said over the weekend that vaccines may be too risky for elderly people with serious underlying health conditions, after 29 people died in the country a short time after receiving their first dose of the Pfizer shot. Pfizer and BioNTech SE are working with the Norwegian regulator to investigate the deaths.

Thailand: Norway’s reports of several dozen elderly people dying after receiving inoculations of the Pfizer Inc. shot is raising concerns among some Asian nations. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said Thailand “won’t rush to get the vaccines that haven’t been fully tested and refused to be an experimental country.” Thailand has no orders for a vaccine from Pfizer, but has inked deals for Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and AstraZeneca Plc shots.

Australia: Australia’s medical regulator said it will seek information from Pfizer and Norwegian health authorities, while the country’s foreign ministry will contact Norway’s government to discuss the issue.

Japan: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed in a speech to parliament to overcome the latest wave of coronavirus infections and reiterated that the government was preparing to start vaccinations by late February. Suga, who has seen his popularity slide over his handling of the pandemic as case numbers rise, said his government would pass a law adding penalties and incentives to a law on virus management.

UK: Coronavirus vaccines will be offered to millions of over 70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable from this week as the Government expands the rollout amid a border crackdown to keep out new strains. More than 3.8 million people in the UK – including over-80s, care home residents, and NHS and social care staff – have already received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but from Monday it will be rolled out to the next two priority groups.

Brazil: Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved the urgent use of coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, enabling Latin America’s largest nation to begin an immunisation program that’s been subject to delay and political disputes.

China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. defended the efficacy of its Covid-19 shot, saying the vaccine that’s being rolled out from Indonesia to Brazil despite inconsistent data readouts is more effective in preventing the disease if the two-dose regime is administered over a longer time frame.

US: President-elect Joe Biden’s promise of delivering 100 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in 100 days is “absolutely a doable thing,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he expects Biden not to hesitate to “use whatever mechanisms we can” to speed the production and distribution of the shots.

Lockdown updates

Singapore: Several foreign airlines have received approval from Singapore to transit passengers at Changi Airport to other destinations, a move to revive the city-state’s air hub after being battered by travel restrictions amid the pandamic, the Straits Times reported. Under Singapore transit rules, passengers will have to remain in designated facilities in the transit area. But those who come from places that Singapore have unilaterally opened its borders to, such as China and Vietnam, are exempted from the rule.

Australia: The Australian Open tennis tournament will go ahead as scheduled next month, even after the number of players sent into a 14-day hotel quarantine on arrival rises to 72. A passenger has tested positive on a third flight, arriving in Melbourne from Doha, the event organizers said in a statement on Sunday. This means an additional group of people, including a further 25 players, will need to complete a 14-day hotel quarantine. It brings the total number of players in a two-week isolation period to 72.

Sweden: Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has said he can’t rule out further restrictions under a temporary new law to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. “But I hope we won’t need to use it,” he said during an interview on state broadcaster SVT on Sunday evening. The law, which runs from January until September, gives Lofven’s government the right to shutter businesses and fine citizens that fail to comply with tougher restrictions.

Economy updates

UK: British business leaders called on the government to rescue Eurostar, reports said, after the firm said it was close to collapse following border closures to contain new Covid-19 strains.