COVID-19 SUMMARY: Direct Brexit talks suspended after team member tests COVID positive, record COVID-19 deaths for the second day in a row in Poland


19th November 2020 – (Hong Kong)  Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 56,774,409 with 1,358,413 deaths as of 11.45pm today.

The International Monetary Fund and the Group of 20 are warning that the recovery from this year’s recession is at risk and could be derailed as the resurgence of Covid-19 forces fresh restrictions on households and companies.


Chief Brexit negotiators suspended direct talks on Thursday after a member of the EU team tested positive, but officials were continuing their work in line with health guidelines.

People should be able to mix coronavirus vaccines, so they wouldn’t be precluded from trying a different shot if their first one is less effective, the University of Oxford’s lead trial investigator said.

Rangers’ Jordan Jones and George Edmundson have been banned for seven games after breaching COVID-19 regulations by attending a party, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) said on Thursday.

Ireland plans to cull its farmed mink, state broadcaster RTE reported, in a precautionary move after a mutated coronavirus was found in mink in Denmark. While no time frame has been set for the cull, the agriculture ministry informed the nation’s mink farmers of the plan, RTE said.

The suspension came as Finland’s European affairs minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, said the talks on a new trade agreement were at “a critical stage” but could still yield a “comprehensive and balanced” deal.

Spain’s Catalonia region will allow bars, restaurants, gyms and cinemas to reopen from Monday, gradually easing some of the restrictions put in place to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, although a curfew from 10pm to 6am remains.Gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed from 21st December, enabling larger groups to celebrate Christmas and New Year together, the regional government said. At present only gatherings of up to six are allowed.

Poland has registered a record number of COVID-19 deaths for a second day in a row, according to new data from the country’s Health Ministry. Figures released on Thursday show a further 637 people died, compared to the 603 deaths reported on Wednesday.Overall, Poland’s death toll from the pandemic has reached 12,088.  The country reported 23,975 new coronavirus cases in its Thursday update, bringing the total to 796,798 since the pandemic began. 

Hungary has become the first European Union nation to receive samples of the Russian coronavirus vaccine, according to Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

The Dutch government plans to make wearing a face mask while circulating in indoor public spaces mandatory from 1st December, it said in a statement on Thursday. Previously, the country only advised wearing a face mask.

After faring much better than most other countries this year, Finland is now facing a rapid escalation of the pandemic, health authorities warned. The rate of infections rose to 53 per 100,000 people over the two weeks through 15th November, compared with 49 in the preceding fortnight.

German COVID-19 infections are still “too high,” the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI) said on Thursday.

The University of Oxford confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccine it’s developing with AstraZeneca Plc produced strong immune responses in older adults, who are at highest risk of severe illness. The results, published Thursday in The Lancet medical journal, shed more light on preliminary data released in recent months.

U.S. and Canada

An ensemble forecast published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects there will be 276,000 to 298,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by 12th December.

Wall Street’s main indexes edged lower on Thursday as soaring coronavirus cases and an unexpected rise in weekly jobless claims raised fears of stalling growth in the world’s largest economy.

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week, likely as new business restrictions to control spiralling COVID-19 infections unleashed a fresh wave of layoffs, which could further slow the labour market recovery.

The weekly unemployment claims report from the Labour Department on Thursday, the most timely data on the economy’s health, also showed at least 20.3 million people on unemployment benefits at the end of October, seven months after the pandemic started in the United States.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NPR’s Rachel Martin on Morning Edition Tuesday that his Thanksgiving will be “significantly” different this year than previous holidays.

AstraZeneca’s experimental coronavirus vaccine appears to work safely in older people, generating as strong an immune response in those over the age of 70 as it does in younger people, British researchers reported Thursday.

The pandemic is far from over as infections are on the rise and millions of Americans remain unemployed. At least 742,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis last week, the Labour Department reported on Thursday.

New York City is closing down its public school buildings starting today after the city’s 7-day average reached the 3% positive testing rate threshold. All students will transition to remote learning.

Indiana reported 6,143 new positive coronavirus cases and 60 deaths on Wednesday, according to its COVID-19 dashboard.

Virus hospitalizations in the second-biggest U.S. state swelled for an 11th straight day, reaching 7,958, the highest since the first week of August, state health department figures showed.

The Canadian dollar weakened against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday as widening global COVID-19 restrictions weighed on investor sentiment, with the currency pulling back from a one-week high the day before.

China and Hong Kong

Nearly a million people have taken an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) through the country’s emergency use programme, the firm said late on Wednesday.

12 additional COVID-19 cases reported in Hong Kong today. Among the newly reported cases announced, eight had a travel history during the incubation period, two were local cases with unknown sources while the other two were epidemiologically linked with a local case and an imported case respectively. 

Elsewhere in the world

Russia surpassed 2 million COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to data from the country’s coronavirus response centre.  In the past 24 hours, Russia officially reported 23,610 new cases of COVID-19 and 463 deaths, both the highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The Australian state of South Australia reported no new COVID-19 cases Thursday on the first day of its six-day “circuit-breaker” lockdown, according to the state’s Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier.

South Korea may review raising social distancing steps further to level 2 if the average number of daily new confirmed cases exceeds 200 for a week in the greater Seoul area, Edaily says, citing Sohn Young-rae, a health ministry spokesman.

Tokyo is raising its COVID-19 alert to level 4, the highest of the four-tier alert system, officials in the Japanese capital announced on Thursday.

Iran’s health ministry reported 13,223 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, down about 1.4% from a record-breaking number of infections the previous day.

India’s capital region recorded its highest number of new fatalities from COVID-19 on Thursday, with 131 deaths, according to the Delhi government.

Information compiled from REUTERS, CNN, CNA and Bloomberg.