9th January 2021 – (Hong Kong) Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 88,844,813 with 1,912,998 deaths as of 12.30am today.
The European Union reached a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for 300 million additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, the head of the European Commission said on Friday, in a move that would give the EU nearly half of the firms’ global output for 2021. The European Union could approve the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford by the end of January.
Sweden tightened social distancing rules for shopping centres, gyms and private gatherings on Friday and said it was ready to close businesses if needed, but stopped short of a lockdown to fight the spread of the pandemic. From Sunday, gyms, sports centres, shopping malls and public pools will have to set a maximum number of visitors based on their size.
London declared a major incident on Friday because its hospitals were at risk of being overwhelmed by a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus racing “out of control” across the United Kingdom. The U.K. cleared Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, making it the third shot to get authorization.
Scotland is considering further coronavirus measures, as it contends with record deaths and hospitalisations.
French people shouldn’t cancel ski-holiday bookings even amid uncertainty about when ski-stations will be allowed to operate normally, according to Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, a junior tourism minister. Skiers should take advantage of flexible booking conditions in case the situation improves, he said.
Greece is introducing a compulsory one-week quarantine for all international air arrivals, including from other European Union countries.
A new study provides early evidence that a COVID-19 vaccine might be effective against two new coronavirus variants first identified in South Africa and the United Kingdom, despite a concerning mutation. The two viruses share a mutation known as N501Y that scientists worry could allow the virus to evade the immune protection generated by a vaccine. The study, conducted by researchers at Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch does not test the full array of these mutations. It also has not been peer-reviewed.
Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized by the UK medicines regulator “following months of rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people and an extensive analysis of the vaccine’s safety, quality and effectiveness,” the country’s Department of Health said in a press release on Friday.
Denmark will restrict travel from all countries and advise against any travel abroad, Danish broadcaster TV 2 reported on Friday citing sources. Only persons with a credible purpose and documentation of a recent negative COVID-19 test will be allowed to enter the Nordic country, TV 2 said.
The health chief in Italy’s wealthy Lombardy region, one of the areas of the world hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, left office on Friday after months of criticism over his handling of the medical crisis. Giulio Gallera is a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and was part of a local government headed by the far-right League, which is led by Matteo Salvini. Italy’s government will tighten coronavirus restrictions in Milan and its surrounding area, as well as four other regions, in bid curb the accelerating spread of the pandemic. Bars and restaurants will have to close as part of the toughened rules, which come into force on 10th January.
Germany’s COVID-19 death toll increased by 1,188 in the past 24 hours — a new single-day record — according to the country’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa warned Friday that the country will have some tough weeks ahead as COVID-19 cases continues to rise.
Portugal reported the biggest daily increase in confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak. There were 10,176 new cases in a day, more than the previous record announced on Wednesday. The total number of deaths rose by a daily record 118 to 7,590.
Romania confirmed its first case of a new COVID-19 variant. The patient hasn’t travelled abroad, which suggests that the variant — first identified in the U.K. — is already active in the country, epidemiologist Catalin Apostolescu told B1TV. More cases will likely appear, he said.
U.S. and Canada
The pandemic in the US is showing no signs of slowing down. Yesterday’s sobering numbers marked the highest single day of reported COVID-19 deaths and the second highest single day of new cases. The U.S. reported more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The nation had never reached that milestone in a single day previously.
US stocks rose slightly Friday, hitting new all-time highs after the government reported that 140,000 jobs were lost in December.
President-elect Joe Biden will aim to release every available dose of the coronavirus vaccine when he takes office, a break with the Trump administration’s strategy of holding back half of US vaccine production to ensure second doses are available.
The U.S. government is introducing new “robust safeguards” when the third round of the country’s main small business pandemic aid program launches on Monday after fraudsters and ineligible companies claimed cash last year, administration officials said on Friday.
The number of people dying of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County in a day is now equivalent to the number of homicide deaths the city saw in an entire year, Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a Thursday news conference.
Central and Latin America
CoronaVac, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinovac, has been shown to have an efficacy of 78% during phase 3 trials in Brazil, its local partner, the Butantan Institute, announced on Thursday.
China and Hong Kong
Commuters travelling between China’s capital city and the neighbouring northern Hebei province must provide evidence they are Beijing residents and a negative COVID-19 test, according to local officials working to contain the country’s worst coronavirus flare-up in months.
As a passenger flight (EK384) operated by Emirates arriving in Hong Kong from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and Bangkok, Thailand, on 5th January had three passengers confirmed to have COVID-19 through specimens collected at the DH’s Temporary Specimen Collection Centre, while one passenger failed to comply with requirements specified under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H), the DH thus invoked the regulation to prohibit the landing of passenger flights from Dubai and Bangkok operated by Emirates in Hong Kong from 9th to 22nd January.
Elsewhere in the world
Iran’s Supreme Leader on Friday banned the government from importing COVID-19 vaccines from the United States and Britain, labelling the Western powers “untrustworthy”, as the infection spreads in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country.
Saudi Arabia will lift a ban on international flights from Wednesday 31st March, the state news agency SPA said on Friday.
Iceland plans to ease COVID-19 measures from 13th January, with cases having dropped significantly from an October peak.
All international travellers will be tested for COVID-19 before they can board a flight to Australia under tightened border controls aimed at stopping the U.K. strain of the coronavirus from spreading.
Four inmates from Seoul’s Dongbu Detention Centre filed a compensation lawsuit after a COVID-19 outbreak infected more than 1,100 people at the prison. A lawyer at South Korean law firm Chung told CNN in a statement that they filed a formal complaint at the Seoul Central District Court on Wednesday demanding 10 million Korean won (about US $9,155) per person.
The Delhi government announced a mandatory seven-day quarantine at an isolation facility for passengers arriving from the United Kingdom, even if they test negative for COVID-19 at the airport.
A 20-year-old Singaporean man who works at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport is on Friday the second reported local COVID-19 case who tested preliminarily positive for the new B117 strain. He is also the third person working at the Azur restaurant in the hotel who tested positive for the coronavirus in the last week.
The Philippines is seeking 15,000 volunteers in the Manila area for a World Health Organization Solidarity vaccine trial due to take place as early as this month, Rowena Cristina Guevara, science and technology department undersecretary, said on a virtual media briefing Friday.
Indonesia set a fresh record in new coronavirus cases for the third day in a row after the government warned of a spike following year-end holidays. The country reported 10,617 new cases in the 24 hours through midday Friday, the most since the outbreak began. That brings total infections to 808,340, the most in Southeast Asia.
Malaysia on Friday reported its highest daily death toll since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 16 deaths, all citizens, were in Johor, Sabah and Selangor. The youngest fatality was a 44-year-old man in Kluang who had a history of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. A total of 2,643 new COVID-19 cases were also reported.
A British woman who was in COVID-19 quarantine centre Serdang, Malaysia shared a video online to show the brutal and poor conditions of the isolation facility of the South-East nation. She claimed that the shared toilet was full of faeces with no running water. No blankets or pillows were provided. The lights were switched on the whole night. No toilet rolls or hand sanitisers were provided to quarantined persons. There were doctors and nurses around but they did not conduct routine checks on them. She requested for help but feared for her safety if she revealed her face. She was told that she was quarantined between 5-10 days.
Information compiled from REUTERS, CNN, CNA and Bloomberg.