8 December

Global: Global coronavirus infections pass 67.5 million. Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll has passed 1.54 million according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

US: US Covid-19 infections are nearing 15 million, meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 283,703 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Rebekah Jones, the Florida data scientist embroiled in a dispute with the state’s Republican governor over the handling of coronavirus figures, had her home raided on Monday by armed police who confiscated her computers.

Workers who went to the office in ten of the largest US business districts fell to 16.9% of pre-Covid-19 levels in the week ended 2 December, according to data from Kastle Systems. Employees who went to the office decreased 5.8 percentage points from 22.6% the previous week.

California, struggling with a record surge in coronavirus cases, will use a phone-based app developed with Google and Apple Inc. to help alert people who may have been exposed to Covid-19. State officials have been testing it on several University of California campuses for the past two months and will make it publicly available on Thursday. The app, whose use is voluntary, will tell someone whether they have recently come into close contact with another person who has the app and has tested positive for the virus – meaning large numbers of residents will need to sign up in order for it to be effective.

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California reported 24,735 new cases Monday, a day after shattering records with more than 30,000 daily infections. Much of the state is now under stay-at-home orders as officials try to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

India: India reported 26,567 new coronavirus infections, data from the health ministry showed on Tuesday, the lowest daily increase since 10 July. Daily cases have been falling in India since hitting a peak in September. However, experts have cautioned that the testing regimen – relying heavily on less-accurate rapid antigen tests – may understate scale of the epidemic.

South Korea: Seoul authorities are converting shipping containers into temporary hospital wards to accommodate a potential overflow of patients amid a surge in coronavirus infections in the South Korean capital.

Italy: Italy’s coronavirus outbreak continued to slow Monday, with health officials reporting the lowest daily new cases since 20 October. The country registered 13,720 new infections compared with 16,377 a week ago, and the number of patients in intensive care declined. Deaths fell to 528 compared with 564 on Sunday.

Vaccine news

Global: The World Health Organization said Monday that persuading people on the merits of a Covid-19 vaccine would be far more effective than trying to make the jabs mandatory. The WHO said it would be down to individual countries as to how they want to conduct their vaccination campaigns against the coronavirus pandemic.

US: President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Tuesday to ensure that priority access for Covid-19 vaccines is given to the American people, for doses procured by the US government, before assisting other nations, senior administration officials said on Monday.

US officials insisted they’ll have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to let most Americans get inoculated by next summer, downplaying reports that they passed up a chance to secure more of Pfizer Inc.’s shot. The Trump administration is confident that the US will have enough supply to vaccinate everyone, a senior administration official said Monday on a call with reporters.

Indonesia: Indonesia’s government plans to begin inoculating those on the front lines of the pandemic, including health workers and law enforcement, in January, Wiku Adisasmito, a spokesman for the task force, said in televised address. Inoculations can begin pending quality and safety checks as well as the issuance of an emergency use authorization from the food and drug regulator known as BPOM.

The first batch of Covid-19 vaccine ordered from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. arrived in Indonesia late Sunday, marking a new phase in the country’s fight against Southeast Asia’s worst outbreak.

UK: The UK is set to administer the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Tuesday, with the NHS giving top priority to people over the age of 80, frontline healthcare workers and care home staff and residents.

Italy: Italy may get its first 3.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine as soon as 15 January, a week earlier than expected, Il Messaggero newspaper reported earlier Monday.

South Korea: According to Yonhap, South Korea has secured 64 million vaccine doses for 44 million people (three of the vaccines need two shots). Vaccines for 34 million will come directly from the drugmakers and 10 million via the WHO. The vaccines ordered are sufficient to cover 88% of the population.

South Korea’s pharmaceutical company GL Rapha will begin full-scale production of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in January after sending test products to Russia this month, Maeil Business Newspaper reported, citing an unidentified company official. GL Rapha’s pharmaceuticals manufacturing unit will produce 150 million doses to be exported to the Middle East, the report said.

UAE: Abu Dhabi has started a volunteer program for Phase 3 clinical trials of Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V. The oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates is initially seeking 500 volunteers, according to the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office.

Lockdown updates

Hong Kong: Hong Kong will ban evening dining at restaurants and close fitness centres, the city’s leader said on Tuesday, as part of new measures aimed at stemming a fourth wave of coronavirus infections.

France: France is poised to miss a coronavirus goal set by President Emmanuel Macron as a condition for lifting the country’s lockdown next week, with daily new Covid-19 cases holding at more than twice the targeted level.

Economy updates

Uruguay: Uruguayan beef allegedly tainted with Covid-19 couldn’t have been contaminated in the country because the shipment was dispatched in December 2019 before the virus was detected domestically, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement. The frozen beef shipment, which the disease control center in Wuhan on 6 December 2020 said contained Covid-19, passed through South Africa, Malaysia and the city of Tianjin before reaching a warehouse in Wuhan in March 2020, the ministry said. Uruguay detected the first local Covid-19 cases in the second week of March.