COVID-19 SUMMARY: 28 cases of British variant detected in Switzerland, Denmark raises its COVID-19 alert level to maximum


5th January 2021 – (Hong Kong)  Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 86,267,494 with 1,864,286 deaths as of 11.15pm today.


The EU is negotiating a new contract that would include 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as well as an option for as many as 200 million more, people familiar with the matter said. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday cancelled a planned trip to India later this month, citing the need to oversee the pandemic response at home. Britain began its third COVID-19 lockdown on Tuesday with citizens under orders to stay at home and the government calling for one last major national effort to stem the virus before mass vaccinations turn the tide.

Britain offered a 4.6 billion pound (US$6.2 billion) support package for businesses on Tuesday to soften an expected recession caused by a surge in COVID-19 cases that has triggered a third national lockdown.

McLaren driver Lando Norris has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now self-isolating, his Formula One team said on Tuesday.

Swiss health authorities reported 28 cases of the new variant of COVID-19 that has been spreading across the UK. 

Denmark imposed new lockdown measures on Tuesday aimed at curbing the rapid spread of a new coronavirus variant that is believed to be more transmissible, the country’s prime minister said. Denmark imposed a hard lockdown in December, including closing bars, restaurants and other non-essential shops, to curb a worrying spike in new infections, which has pushed the country’s hospitals to the brim of their capacity. Denmark raised its COVID-19 alert level to the maximum and introduced fresh restrictions amid concerns over the more transmissible variant of the virus found in Britain.

The Netherlands will start its vaccination program Wednesday, giving the first shot to a nursing home employee. The start was moved forward by two days, but the country is still the last EU member to begin immunisations. Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged his government should have been better prepared.

Belgium will only receive half of its expected doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine because of a “logistical issue,” a government spokesperson said at a COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday. “The company Pfizer has only provided us with half of the expected doses for the month of January,” Yves Van Laethem said, explaining that the logistical problems in the second half of December “disrupted the delivery of the vaccine.”

The economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic has put an end to five consecutive years of job recovery in Spain, data released by the country’s Employment Ministry on Tuesday showed. Some 724,532 more people were unemployed at the end of December 2020 than were a year earlier, according to the data.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran announced on Monday a plan to “amplify, accelerate and simplify” the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the country. The more transmissible Covid variant discovered in the U.K. has been found in a patient in the Paris region, Paris hospitals head Martin Hirsch said on France 2 TV. Health authorities have completed contact tracing on the patient and the case “is under control,” Hirsch said.

Italy will extend most of the coronavirus restrictions imposed during the Christmas holidays until 15th January, the government said on Tuesday.

Pope Francis will not hold the traditional baptisms in the Sistine Chapel on 6th January due to the pandemic, the Vatican said Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss extending a nationwide lockdown with the leaders of her country’s 16 states on Tuesday, as the number of COVID-19 infections continue to rise. The current lockdown, which went into effect in mid-December, is set to expire this Sunday. But the situation in Germany remains “extremely difficult” due to new coronavirus infections, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

German firm BioNTech warned on Tuesday (Jan 5) there is no data backing the “safety and efficacy” of delaying the second shot of its COVID-19 vaccine beyond three weeks, as some countries push back the jab to give more people their first dose. BioNTech, which developed the vaccine with US giant Pfizer, said its clinical data showing 95 per cent efficacy was based on a two-dose schedule separated by 21 days.

Hungary’s coronavirus death toll surpassed 10,000 after fatalities spiraled during the pandemic’s latest surge, posing a challenge for Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s quest to clinch a fifth term in elections next year.

U.S. and Canada

US stocks opened in the red on Tuesday as investors eye the high-stakes runoff election in Georgia that will determine the balance in the Senate.

Central and Latin America

The Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirms an outbreak of COVID-19 affecting 143 prisoners in the correctional facility of Bayamón 501, according to a news release from the agency. 

China and Hong Kong

Chinese mainland reported 33 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 16 imported, 17 locally transmitted.

 A total of 780 cases have been recorded in the past 14 days in Hong Kong including 710 local cases of which 247 are from unknown sources.

Elsewhere in the world

Public health experts advising Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called on Tuesday for the swift imposition of a state of emergency in the Tokyo area as daily COVID-19 cases hit a record and some citizens accused the government of dragging its feet. Top sumo wrestler Sho Hakuho has tested positive for coronavirus, the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) announced on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a phone call in which they discussed cooperation in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, with an “emphasis on possible prospects for joint production of vaccines,” according to a statement from the Kremlin on Tuesday. More than a million Russians have been vaccinated with the homegrown Sputnik V COVID-19 shot, RIA Novosti newswire reported, citing Alexander Gintsburg, head of Russia’s Gamaleya research center for epidemiology and microbiology. 

A cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean that’s one of the few places on Earth entirely free from COVID-19 could become one of the first countries vaccinated against the disease. The Republic of Palau, an archipelago home to about 18,000 people, received its first shipment of the vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical company Moderna on Saturday. Vaccinations started the next day, Palau’s Ministry of Health announced on Twitter.

Qantas Airways has started taking bookings for international flights 1st from 1st July. Ticket sales for Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, which had been set to start in March, have been pushed back to July, while other destinations like London have been brought forward from October, Australia’s national carrier said. New Zealand is the only overseas destination to which Qantas is currently flying.

The Armenian President has tested positive for COVID-19, his assistant Hasmik Petrosyan tells CNN. The President is self-isolating in London where he was visiting grandchildren, Petrosyan said, speaking from Yerevevan, Armenia. Asked how he’s doing, she said “not bad.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he will not allow members of his security team to face a congressional probe for their use of an unauthorised vaccine, warning legislators of a “crisis” if they push through with an investigation.

 Vietnam has suspended inbound flights from countries with new COVID-19 variants, initially Britain and South Africa, the health ministry said on Tuesday. A new variant first found in Britain includes a genetic mutation that could result in the virus spreading more easily between people.

Thailand has lengthened its nationwide emergency decree until the end of February, a government spokesperson told a weekly news conference on Tuesday. Thailand reported 527 new coronavirus cases, most of them migrant workers who already were isolated, and the government said it was tightening movements of people around the country.

Singapore police can obtain data from the country’s COVID-19 contact-tracing technology for criminal investigations, a government minister said in parliament. Singapore is in negotiations to establish potential travel lanes with Vietnam, Thailand and France, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing wrote in reply to a parliamentary question.

Indonesia will give the first COVID-19 shot to President Joko Widodo to mark the beginning of its vaccination program on 13th January, the country’s state-run Antara News Agency reported on Tuesday. 

Information compiled from REUTERS, CNN, CNA and Bloomberg.