7 December

Global: Global coronavirus infections pass 67 million. Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll has passed 1.5 million according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

 US: US COVID-19 infections have passed 14.7 million, meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 282,310 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

US president-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting a defender of the Affordable Care Act in a leading role to oversee his administration’s coronavirus response. In other news, Biden is expected to nominate Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, to run the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Reuters reports, citing a person familiar with the decision.

 Multiple news outlets are reporting that Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to Donald Trump, has been admitted to hospital following the announcement by Trump on Twitter that Giuliani had tested positive for coronavirus.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports that the Arizona state legislature will close for the whole of this coming week, “after at least 15 current or future Republican legislators may have been directly exposed to COVID-19 by meeting with Rudy Giuliani.”

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The US is hospitalizing almost 2,000 coronavirus patients a day, data released by the Department of Health and Human Services show. There were a record 102,579 COVID-19 patients in hospitals as of 4 December, 5,911 more than on 1 December. New York, North Carolina and Tennessee recorded the biggest increase in inpatients. New Mexico exceeded its ICU capacity, with 103.3% of intensive-care beds utilized, the data show. COVID-19 cases account for at least one in five hospital patients in nine states, led by Rhode Island with 23.7%.

Larry Dixon, a retired and prominent state senator in Alabama, left some last words of warning before he died last week from COVID-19 at age 78. Dixon for years headed the state board that oversaw the medical profession. “We messed up,” Dixon, a Republican, was quoted saying by Al.com, citing a friend who is a medical doctor. “We just let our guard down. Please tell everybody to take this thing seriously and get help as soon as you get the virus.”

South Korea: President Moon Jae-in on Monday ordered testing for the new coronavirus to be expanded by mobilizing the military and more people from the public service, as the country continued to report triple-digit daily new cases.

South Korea reported 615 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said, capping a month of triple-digit daily increases that have driven the nation’s largest wave of infections in nine months.

UK: COVID infections rose by 17,272 on Sunday, the highest since Nov. 26 and 20% above the seven-day average of 14,400. Images circulating online of busy shopping streets in the run-up to Christmas and a period of looser restrictions during the festive season have sparked concerns that infections could surge again toward the end of the year. Another 231 deaths were reported, down from 397 on Saturday.

Japan: Public support for new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has plummeted over the past month amid mounting criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. A new poll by the Kyodo news agency shows support for his cabinet at 50.3%, down 13 percentage points from a month earlier. Disapproval rose from 19.2% to 32.6%.

Japan is preparing to send nurses from the Self-Defence Forces to Osaka and Hokkaido to help treat a surge in coronavirus infections as soon as the two prefecture governments request it, chief government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said on Monday.

Vaccine news

US: All Americans who want to get a COVID-19 vaccine should be able to do so by the second quarter of next year, Health and Human Services Alex Azar said. With the US Food and Drug Administration due to decide as early as Thursday on emergency authorization for a shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, Azar and Moncef Slaoui, the head of the government’s program to accelerate a vaccine, expressed confidence that the FDA would clear the way.

UK: Britain is set to administer the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, with the NHS giving top priority to vaccinating the over-80s, frontline healthcare workers and care home staff and residents.

India: The Serum Institute of India has sought emergency use authorisation from India’s drug regulator for AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, according to several reports in Indian media, citing the Press Trust of India.

Indonesia: Indonesia received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine from China on Sunday, President Joko Widodo said, as the government prepares a mass inoculation programme. In other news, the Indonesia Ulema Council is set to issue a declaration that the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. is halal, CNN Indonesia reported. The council, known as MUI, has sent a commission to visit Sinovac’s factory to monitor the content of the vaccine and is now awaiting results from lab trials before issuing the declaration.

Lockdown updates

Germany: The state of Bavaria is tightening its coronavirus lockdown regime, mostly banning people from leaving their homes starting from Dec. 9 and formally declaring a “disaster situation.” Previous and existing measures haven’t sufficiently brought down infections in the region, the Bavarian government said in a statement on Sunday. Under the new rules, people will only be allowed to leave their homes if they have a valid reason.