Total Covid-19 cases
Ukraine parliament defeats move to lift lockdown
Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday voted down a bill that would have lifted a weekend lockdown in the country.
The bill required the support of 226 legislators to pass but received only 149 votes, the Ukrinform news agency reported.
Ukraine’s government introduced a weekend lockdown from November 14 to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
All cultural institutions such as museums and libraries, as well as most commercial establishments apart from grocery stores, must shut from midnight on Friday evening to midnight on Sunday evening.
Legislators seeking to overturn the lockdown order said the order had a negative impact on the domestic economy.
The lockdown is in force until November 30 but the cabinet could seek to extend it.
South Australia orders 6-day lockdown over cluster
South Australia will enforce a six-day lockdown from midnight on Wednesday as a coronavirus cluster continues to grow.
All schools, universities, pubs and restaurants will close, as well as construction sites and some factories. Weddings and funerals are cancelled and the use of masks is mandatory in public places.
“We need a circuit breaker to stay ahead of this,” said premier Steven Marshall. “No effort will be spared to stop the spread.”
There are now more than 4,000 people either in quarantine or isolation as a result of the cluster, which now totals 22 cases, two more than Tuesday.
All inbound international flights to Adelaide are suspended, which currently affects only flights from Qatar. Routes to China, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates are currently suspended.
South Australians queue to be tested for coronavirus in Adelaide on Tuesday
Federal officials praised the state government for its moves. “Well, certainly we’re seeing very swift action by the health authorities in South Australia,” said Michael Kidd, the country’s deputy chief medical officer.
A campus of Adelaide’s Flinders University was shut down on Wednesday after a student tested positive, while cricket authorities moved quickly to relocate national squad players in South Australia to New South Wales.
Gladys Berejiklian, NSW premier, told the state’s residents to avoid non-essential travel to South Australia.
Victoria, scene of a July surge, also closed its borders to neighbouring South Australia for non-essential travel.
Truck drivers entering Victoria from South Australia will be tested from Thursday at a checkpoint in Nhill, 80km inside Victoria and 370km west of Melbourne.
S Korea officials voice fears over potential new wave
South Korea’s new coronavirus cases jumped to the highest level in nearly three months on Wednesday, raising concerns about another wave of infections weeks ahead of the annual university entrance exam.
The country reported 313 more cases, the highest level since August 29, raising the total caseload to 29,311, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Two additional deaths were reported, increasing the death toll to 496. The fatality rate was at 1.69 per cent.
“We are in a crisis where there is a pessimistic view that another wave of massive infections will be realised,” said Kang Do-tae, a vice-minister of health.
“The patterns of infections have become clearly different,” Mr Kang added. “So far, we have seen infections in certain places or limited cluster infections, but we are now facing simultaneous, small-scale infections in various parts of our society.”
On Tuesday, KDCPA head Chung Eun-kyoung stressed the need to expand tests for young people as the number of infected people under the age of 40 accounted for more than half of the daily cases over the past week.
Health authorities are preparing measures to ensure that high school seniors, including those under quarantine, can take the key university entrance test at separate facilities in early December.
US daily Covid-19 deaths hover around six-month high
The US on Tuesday reported a single-day increase in deaths on par with levels previously experienced in May, while hospitalisations again climbed to a new peak.
States attributed a further 1,565 deaths to coronavirus, according to Covid Tracking Project data, up from 581 on Monday, and compared with 1,347 on Tuesday last week.
The latest increase was on par with 1,565 fatalities on Wednesday last week, which in turn was the biggest one-day increase in Covid-19 deaths since mid-May.
Better treatment, preparation and more knowledge about coronavirus has meant daily deaths rates have generally been lower than the early stage of the pandemic, which hit northeastern states like New York and New Jersey hard. However, fatalities have crept higher through the course of autumn, lagging the record levels of new daily cases and hospitalisations.
The US has averaged 1,129 coronavirus deaths a day over the past week. During the summer surge that primarily affected states in the south and west of the country, there are only two days with a higher seven-day average that the US has at present.
A cyclist wearing a mask rides along a street in Chicago
Should the seven-day average death rate exceed 1,142, the metric will be at its highest since late May.
Texas (117) and Illinois (113) reported the largest one-day jumps in deaths on Tuesday. Wisconsin (103), Iowa (36) and Kentucky (33) all had record increases, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.
States reported 155,201 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, up from 148,532 on Monday and compared with nearly 131,000 on Tuesday last week. Over the past week, the US has averaged 154,365 cases a day.
Illinois (12,601), Texas (11,624 including new and historic cases) and California (8,743) had the biggest one-day jumps in infections. Pennsylvania (5,900), Nebraska (3,440), Wyoming (1,260) and Maine (246) all reported single-day records.
Hospitalisations hit a new peak, with 76,830 people currently being treated for coronavirus in US hospitals.
Chicago pupils to return to schools from January
Chicago’s public schools will reintroduce face-to-face classes from January 11, city officials said on Tuesday.
Pre-kindergarten classes would begin that day, followed by other students on February 1, according to a joint announcement by the city’s Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the decision to return to school was motivated partly by a lack of adequate access to remote learning among African-American and Hispanic pupils.
“Far too many CPS families … have not been served well enough by remote learning, and opening classrooms beginning with our youngest and highest-need learners will help ensure greater access to high-quality instruction,” she said.
Sinovac vaccine triggers ‘quick’ antibody response
A worker packs vaccines at a Sinovac Biotech plant in Beijing
A Chinese-developed Covid-19 vaccine candidate triggered a quick immune response in early trials, but the level of antibodies produced was below that of a person recovering from the disease, a study has shown.
The Lancet study examined the results of phase 1 and phase 2 trials in China of the vaccine developed by Sinovac. The group’s vaccine uses a chemically inactivated version of the virus to spark an immune response.
The study found that the level of antibodies 28 days after the last dose of the vaccine was lower than that of a patient recovering from Covid-19.
However, researchers pointed to other studies that have shown antibody responses from natural coronavirus infections decrease over time yet there are few reports of reinfection, suggesting “that immunological memory might have an important role of prevention of re-infections”.
“Therefore, the antibody level itself might not be the key for a successful Covid-19 vaccine, but rather the establishment of a recallable specific immune response to Sars-CoV-2,” the researchers said, referring to the virus that causes the disease.
The “quick” antibody response from trial participants on the day 0 and 14 vaccination schedule suggested the vaccine might be suitable for emergency use.
The days 0 to 28 vaccination schedule gave a “more robust antibody response”, which supported routine use of the vaccine when the risk of Covid-19 is low.
CoronaVac is currently undergoing phase 3 trials — the final stage before commercial licensing — in Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey.
Its Brazil trial was briefly put on pause this month after an event that scientists involved said was unrelated to the testing.
Data from phase 3 trials for vaccine candidates developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna, showed they were more than 90 per cent and 94.5 per cent effective, respectively.
New Orleans seeks alternatives to Mardi Gras parade
New Orleans, unable to hold its traditional annual Mardi Gras celebrations due to coronavirus restrictions on crowds, on Tuesday invited residents to design a safe carnival.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell insisted that the event scheduled for March 2021 had not been cancelled but would be “different”.
However, the traditional parades would be prohibited due to a 250-person limit on gatherings mandated by the state of Louisiana.
She said contributions on designing next year’s carnival would be reviewed by the city’s public safety and public health agencies for “feasibility, safety and other considerations”.
Ms Cantrell added: “It will ultimately be used to inform the city’s planning efforts about how to safely celebrate the Carnival season in New Orleans.”
In April, a report issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this year’s Mardi Gras accelerated the spread of the coronavirus in Louisiana.
Louisiana has recorded 205,059 cases since the pandemic began, with 6,139 deaths, according to state department of health data. More than 800 people remain in hospital.
Texas records 2nd-biggest daily jump in new cases
Texas on Tuesday reported its second-biggest single-day jump in new coronavirus cases.
A further 10,826 people tested positive, the state health department revealed, up from 6,858 new cases on Monday.
The increase was second only to the record jump of 10,865 on Tuesday last week and also marked the fourth time this month cases have risen by more than 10,000 a day.
Texas has the highest number of confirmed infections among US states, with 1.04m since the start of the pandemic.
A further 117 deaths were attributed to coronavirus, matching Monday’s increase and compared with 94 on Tuesday last week.
Hospital admissions jumped to 7,841 from 7,468 on Monday, remaining at their highest level since early August.
The daily death toll has been updated to reflect new figures from Texas’s health department.
Asia-Pacific equities mixed after weak US lead
Stocks in Asia-Pacific had a mixed start on Wednesday following on from declines in the US.
In Japan, the Topix fell 0.6 per cent, the Kospi in Seoul added 0.5 per cent and the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gained 0.5 per cent.
On Wall Street on Tuesday, disappointing consumer spending data pushed stocks lower as concerns grew over the effects of surging coronavirus cases on the economic recovery.
The S&P 500 closed down 0.5 per cent, retreating from an all-time closing high recorded on Monday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ended 0.2 per cent lower.
Hong Kong to test children with respiratory infections
Hong Kong authorities have reported new outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infection among children, and said dozens of pupils and staff would be tested for coronavirus from Wednesday.
The Centre for Health Protection said the outbreaks affected seven primary schools and two special schools.
CHP said it would advise the schools to suspend face-to-face classes and activities from Wednesday for at least seven days.
Separately, a 76-year-old man was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment for violating Hong Kong’s quarantine.
Tuen Mun Magistrates’ Courts was told on Tuesday that the man tried to avoid a 14-day self-isolation order and attempted to leave Hong Kong the day he arrived.
Organ damage seen in younger Covid-19 patients
Younger patients with symptoms of Covid-19 showed signs of damage to multiple organs months after they were infected, according to a study reported on Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.
Initial data from 201 patients suggest that almost 70 per cent had “impairments in one or more organs four months after their initial symptoms of infection” by Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, the BMJ reported.
The results emerged as the NHS announced plans to establish a network of more than 40 “long Covid” specialist clinics across England to help patients with long-term symptoms of infection.
Researchers studied 211 participants in Oxford and London between April and August. They were relatively young subjects – the median age was 44 – with no major underlying health problems, the BMJ said.
Assessments were undertaken using results from magnetic resonance image scans, blood tests and online questionnaires.
The research has not yet been peer reviewed and could not establish a causal link between organ impairment and infection, the BMJ noted.
Iowa senator Grassley tests positive
Chuck Grassley, one of the oldest members of the US Senate, said on Tuesday he had tested positive for coronavirus.
The 87-year-old Iowa politician said he would quarantine.
“I’ve tested positive for coronavirus,” Mr Grassley wrote on Twitter. “I’ll [follow] my doctors’ orders/CDC guidelines & continue to quarantine.”
Mr Grassley is president pro tempore of the Senate and the most senior Republican in the chamber.
He missed a key vote on Tuesday, when the Senate blocked the nomination of Judy Shelton for a seat on the Federal Reserve board of governors, in a defeat for President Donald Trump.
Canadian PM calls for passage of stimulus bill
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday called on the country’s Senate to fast-track a coronavirus aid bill, as provinces buckled under a surge of new cases.
“We don’t have to choose” between the economy and public health, Mr Trudeau said at a press conference, noting that Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan notched record numbers of new cases last weekend.
The Senate is debating a bill that would extend the federal wage subsidy until next year and expand a business loan programme. The bill has already passed the House of Commons.
Ontario, the most populous province, has seen daily new cases of more than 1,000 for nearly two weeks straight, including 1,249 on Tuesday, prompting new restrictions, including in the city of Toronto.
Provinces and cities manage public health in Canada, and local leaders have called on the federal government to do more to help businesses affected by closures.
“These businesses need help right now,” Toronto mayor John Tory wrote on Twitter, urging the federal upper house to pass the funding bill.
“I understand the role of the Senate and think its deliberations can often be useful in the cause of good public policy,” he wrote. “But if ever there was a case for sitting late nights and weekends to get this emergency bill passed, this is it.”
Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, warned of “very troubling developments” in the pandemic, including faster spreads in hospitals, aged-care homes and indigenous communities.
“Case counts, hospitalisations and deaths continue to rise, with increasing spillover into vulnerable populations,” Dr Tam said on Tuesday.
Mr Trudeau, pictured above, said the total lockdown to be imposed in the Nunavut territory from Wednesday was a measure he hoped would be avoided elsewhere in the country.
Pfizer vaccine reaches safety milestone
Pfizer has reached the safety milestone for its Covid-19 vaccine, paving the way for the company to file with the US regulator for an emergency use authorisation as early as this week.
Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive, told the STAT Summit, a health technology meeting, that it now had enough safety data to compile the application. “We are very close to submitting for emergency use authorisation,” he said.
The Covid-19 vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, has an efficacy rate of 90 per cent, according to early data released last week.
US Food and Drug Administration guidelines also require a two-month median follow-up time for participants, to monitor the safety of vaccines.
More than 100 held in Athens for defying gatherings ban
More than 100 people were arrested in Athens on Tuesday after thousands defied a government ban on gatherings to commemorate a 1973 uprising against the then ruling military junta.
Clashes between protesters and riot police took place in several districts, the ANA-MPA news agency reported, while seven people were arrested when police broke up a Communist party rally.
“There was no choice but to order the dissolution of this gathering,” civil protection minister Michalis Chrysochoidis told broadcaster Skai. “Imagine 1,500 people marching through the city in the middle of a pandemic.”
The Athens metro closed down several stations near the protests but they have been reopened since, the English-language Kathimerini newspaper reported.
The national police force has established a 46-person unarmed squad to manage and contain public gatherings and demonstrations in Athens.
Greece’s National Organisation for Public Health reported 2,422 new infections on Tuesday, bringing the national total to 78,825.
Ohio adopts curfew as Pennsylvania mandates tests
A billboard in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, discourages gatherings
Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced the Midwestern state will adopt a late-night curfew in a bid to clamp down on a record surge in coronavirus cases and hospital admissions.
The curfew takes effect on Thursday, running from 10pm to 5am, for the next 21 days.
“We believe this is going to help and will reduce some of the contact taking place,” Mr DeWine said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania will require travellers to the state to have a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of arrival and expand its mask mandate in an effort to clamp down on record levels of Covid-19 cases and a surge in hospital admissions.
Rachel Levine, the state’s health secretary, said a report from the White House’s coronavirus task force to Pennsylvania had described its current mitigation efforts as “inadequate” to slow the spread of the virus.
The report said modelling from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington forecast that Pennsylvania could run out of intensive care beds by December.
France cuts 2021 growth forecast after second lockdown
France has cut its forecast for economic growth next year to 6 per cent from 8 per cent following the country’s second nationwide lockdown, which includes the closure of non-essential shops and tight restrictions on travel.
Bruno Le Maire, finance minister, said he would maintain his forecast for the current year of an 11 per cent decline in gross domestic product as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Insee, the statistics agency, said on Tuesday the economy would probably shrink 9-10 per cent this year.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government said the latest lockdown has curbed a sharp rise in the number of infections, but added that the pressure on hospitals remains intense and that too hasty a return to normal would lead to yet another resurgence.
French health authorities reported 1,219 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, of which 428 were in hospitals in the previous 24 hours, and the other 791 in aged care homes in recent days. The total death toll reached 46,273.
“This second wave, which we are all confronted with, is massive, murderous and putting our whole health system under severe strain,” Jérôme Salomon, health director-general, said.
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The Scottish government is to impose its top level of coronavirus restrictions on 11 council areas including Glasgow, saying it hoped the “short and sharp” move to a near lockdown would allow measures to be eased for Christmas. Nicola Sturgeon, first minister, told the Scottish parliament on Tuesday that existing restrictions had slowed Covid-19 infections.
Education unions in England have called for children to attend in-person lessons on rota systems after data showed that last Thursday 64 per cent of state-funded secondary schools and 22 per cent of primary schools had one or more pupils isolating after possible contact with coronavirus at school.
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has bowed to months of pressure to take new steps to curb the spread of coronavirus, imposing new restrictions on provinces across the country. He said that the working-age population would be forbidden from going out at weekends between 8pm and 10am.
US retail sales grew for the sixth consecutive month in October, but at a much slower pace than expected. Sales rose 0.3 per cent last month, driven by electronics, cars and ecommerce, the commerce department said on Tuesday. That compared with economists’ expectations for a 0.5 per cent increase.
British Airways is to introduce coronavirus tests on some transatlantic flights in an attempt to convince the UK government to drop quarantine for incoming passengers. BA and American Airlines will this month introduce testing on select flights to London from New York, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Amazon has launched an online delivery service for prescription medicine in the US. Amazon Pharmacy will offer discounts of up to 80 per cent on generic drugs for Prime subscribers paying without insurance, either on its site or at over 50,000 brick-and-mortar pharmacies nationwide.
Convex, the privately held insurer led by industry veteran Stephen Catlin, has raised $1bn of extra capital as it seeks to take advantage of rising prices for cover. Heavy coronavirus-related claims and a series of expensive natural disasters have combined to push up prices for commercial insurance.
Sempra Energy has taken a final decision to build a new liquefied natural gas plant in Mexico, the country’s first LNG-export project and also the first globally to be greenlighted since the coronavirus pandemic. Natural gas from West Texas would be fed to the plant for supercooling before export to Asia.