Table of Contents
That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. I will now return to my other regular activities:
Here are the key developments from the last few hours:
- Joe Biden will ask Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office. The US president-elect Joe Biden has told CNN that it was his “inclination” that, on his inauguration, he would ask the public to wear masks for the first 100 days of his administration to help drive down the spread of the virus. Biden said he would issue an order for masks to be worn inside federal buildings and in transportation facilities.
- WHO looks at e-certificates for Covid-19 vaccination. The World Health Organization said it was considering introducing electronic vaccination certificates, as hopes for an end to the pandemic were boosted after Britain became the first country to approve use of a Covid-19 vaccine.
- Seoul to shut down most establishments at 9 pm to contain coronavirus. South Korea’s capital Seoul will require most establishments to close at 9pm each day, after South Korea reported 629 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number in nine months. Of the new cases, 295 were from capital Seoul alone.
- Moderna Inc said on Thursday it expects to have between 100 million and 125 million doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine available globally in the first quarter of 2021. The company said 85 million to 100 million of those doses would be available in the United States, with 15 million to 25 million available outside the country.
- America’s leading infectious diseases scientist, Anthony Fauci, has apologised for implying that he thought Britain’s drug regulator had rushed through its coronavirus vaccine approval. His comments came a day after Britain became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for general use, prompting some scepticism among European neighbours and suggestions of politicisation.
- Biden joins ex-presidents in pledge to take vaccine. President-elect Joe Biden told CNN during an interview Thursday that he would be happy to get his vaccine publicly to encourage people to follow suit, following Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton’s pledges to do the same.
- Costa Rica has signed an agreement with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech SE for the manufacture and delivery of 3 million Covid-19 vaccines next year, the office of President Carlos Alvarado said on Thursday.
- India’s daily coronavirus cases rose by less than 40,000 for the fifth straight day, health ministry data showed on Friday, with 36,595 new infections reported in the last 24 hours. India’s daily rate has fallen since the south Asian nation reported the world’s highest such tallies through most of August and September, despite a busy festival season last month that experts had warned could trigger a spike in infections.
Tech-savvy Estonia earlier this year began testing an app that could serve as a kind of digital “immunity passport”, allowing users with antibodies to show employers and others their reduced risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Britain on Wednesday became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and the European Medicines Agency is due to announce its decision on December 29 at the latest.
The WHO’s Europe zone, which covers 53 countries including Russia, has recorded more than 19.3 million infections and more than 433,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according its data table, with 1.5 million cases recorded in the past seven days.
“Whilst we are seeing a slight decrease in the number of cases in western Europe, this does not mean the entire WHO European region faces an improvement in the epidemiological situation,” said WHO Europe regional director Hans Kluge.
“The resurgence is moving eastward with the hardest-hit countries now in central and southern Europe,” he said, calling on governments not to lower their guard in the fight against the pandemic.
In the event of a fall in cases, “consider scaling-up the public health infrastructure and preparing for the next surge,” he said.
WHO looks at e-certificates for Covid-19 vaccination
The World Health Organization said it was considering introducing electronic vaccination certificates, as hopes for an end to the pandemic were boosted after Britain became the first country to approve use of a Covid-19 vaccine, AFP reports.
“We are looking very closely into the use of technology in this Covid-19 response and one of them is how can we work with members states towards something called an e-vaccination certificate,” WHO Europe expert Siddhartha Datta told an online press briefing Thursday.
Introducing such a certificate, which would make it possible to identify and monitor people who have been vaccinated, has not been finalised and would have to be drawn up in accordance with national laws, Datta said.
It would not be an immunity passport, which is supposed to assure that its carrier is protected against the disease because they have been infected and recovered.
“We do not recommend immunity passports,” said Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe.
Seoul to shut down most establishments at 9 p.m. to contain coronavirus
South Korea’s capital Seoul will require most establishments to close at 9 p.m. each day, acting Seoul mayor Seo Jeong-hyup told a briefing on Friday, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The measure take effect Saturday and comes after Seoul alone reported 295 new coronavirus infections as of midnight Thursday.
Millions of people in low-income countries have been forced to go without healthcare or have had to pay for it during the coronavirus pandemic, despite billions of pounds in emergency World Bank funding, research has found.
The World Bank’s $6bn (£4.45bn) emergency health fund to 71 countries in response to Covid-19 failed to strengthen health systems or remove financial barriers to using them, according to an Oxfam report published on Friday.
Oxfam reviewed the World Bank’s project documents to assess its support for water, sanitation and hygiene services and public health promotion; action to remove financial barriers to healthcare; and work on increasing the supply of healthcare workers and the role of the private sector in the public health response:
India records under 40,000 new cases for fifth day in a row
India’s daily coronavirus cases rose by less than 40,000 for the fifth straight day, health ministry data showed on Friday, with 36,595 new infections reported in the last 24 hours.
India’s daily rate has fallen since the south Asian nation reported the world’s highest such tallies through most of August and September, despite a busy festival season last month that experts had warned could trigger a spike in infections.
Its tally is now at 9.57 million and remains the world’s second-highest after the United States, where there have been nearly 14 million infections.
Deaths in India rose by 540, the ministry said, with the total now at 139,188.
In a break from coronavirus news, the first commercially printed Christmas card is up for sale – a merry Victorian-era scene that scandalised some when it first appeared in 1843.
The card, which is being sold online through a consortium run by Marvin Getman, a Boston-based dealer in rare books and manuscripts, depicts an English family toasting the recipient with glasses of red wine:
South Korean authorities are concerned that university entrance exams – which nearly half a million students sat on Thursday – and admissions tests over the next two weeks could prove to be another source of contagion, Reuters reports.
At least 207,000 students will move around the country for university admissions tests this weekend and 192,000 the next, Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae told a briefing.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the safety of South Korea depends on the test-takers,” Yoo said.
Karaoke bars and internet cafes are popular with high school students and have been the source of several coronavirus clusters in the past.
Under current Phase 2 restrictions, karaoke bars and internet cafes can operate with limited seating and need to close 9 pm. There are nearly 30,000 karaoke bars and over 9,500 internet cafes and game rooms nationwide.
Under the next level of restrictions currently under consideration, karaoke bars would close, social gatherings would be limited to 50 people, fans would be barred from attending sport events, and religious gatherings would be capped a 20 people.
Tighter restrictions would be a blow to Asia’s fourth-largest economy, which reported a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.2% in October, the highest since July.
“Small business owners and self-employed businesses are the most affected by social-distancing measures. We are very sorry for that,” health ministry official Yoon said.
“We think the best way is to reduce the number of confirmed cases as soon as possible and relieve their anxiety. The government continues to discuss economic support for the businesses.”
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, US president-elect Joe Biden says that he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president. Biden and vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris, also committed to receiving coronavirus vaccinations as soon as possible, when approved by US regulators:
Mainland China reported 17 new Covid-19 cases on 3 December, up from 16 cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Friday.
The National Health Commission, in a statement, said 15 of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. There were also two locally transmitted infections in the Inner Mongolia region, the commission said.
The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 12 from five cases a day earlier.
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mainland China now stands at 86,584, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 23,449 to 1,130,238, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Friday.
The reported death toll rose by 432 to 18,034, the tally showed.
In a break from coronavirus news, a 15-year-old scientist and inventor has been named as Time magazine’s first “kid of the year”.
Gitanjali Rao, from Denver, Colorado, has invented new technologies across a range of fields, including a device that can identify lead in drinking water, and an app and Chrome extension that uses artificial intelligence to detect cyberbullying.
She said she hoped she could inspire others to dream up ideas to “solve the world’s problems”.
Gitanjali was chosen from a field of 5,000 US-based nominees, which was whittled down to five finalists by a committee of young people alongside comedian and TV presenter Trevor Noah.
She and the other four finalists will be honoured in a TV special next Friday: