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Coronavirus around the globe

Started by thaiga, March 25, 2020, 12:51:08 PM

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thaiga

California at COVID-19 'tipping point' as Trump administration hopes for vaccines by Christmas
(Reuters) - California's governor said on Monday the state was at a "tipping point" in the COVID-19 pandemic that would soon overwhelm hospitals as political leaders nationwide turn to increasingly aggressive measures to hold back the latest surge.

Governor Gavin Newsom said he may clamp new "stay-at-home" orders on California's roughly 40 million residents in the face of infections and hospitalizations that are still rising weeks before emergency vaccines are predicted for release.

"(California) has worked hard to prepare for a surge - but we can't sustain the record high cases we're seeing," Newsom said on Twitter. "Current projections show CA will run out of current ICU beds before Christmas Eve.

The governor told reporters discussions were underway among state health officials over the potential stay-at-home order. He expects to issue a decision in the next day or two.

Last week he ordered a daily curfew barring social gatherings and other non-essential activities across most of the state between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily.

Newsom, who has largely banned indoor dining in the state, has apologized after photos surfaced of the first-term Democrat eating dinner with 11 other people, including a prominent lobbyist, at a French restaurant near Napa. None wore masks.

More than 4.2 million new COVID-19 infections and 36,000 COVID-19 related deaths were reported across the United States in November, according to a Reuters tally. Hospitalizations are at a pandemic high and deaths the most in six months.

Nearly 93,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up 11% from last week and double the number reported a month ago, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county public health reports.

Americans who have endured eight months of restrictions, lockdown and business closures in the face of the pandemic are pinning their hopes on vaccines developed by drug companies Pfizer Inc and Moderna that are awaiting U.S. government approval for emergency use.
VACCINES BY CHRISTMAS?

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said Pfizer's medication could be authorized and shipped within days of a Dec. 10 meeting of outside advisers to the Food and Drug Administration.

Moderna's vaccine could follow a week later, Azar said, after the company announced on Monday it would apply for emergency authorization both in the U.S. and Europe.

"So we could be seeing both of these vaccines out and getting into people's arms before Christmas," Azar said on CBS' "This Morning."

Health officials in many states say that even after the vaccines are approved the rollout to Americans nationwide could be slowed by shortages of personal protective equipment and other factors.

The non-partisan Government Accountability Office reported on Monday that some diagnostic test kits and accompanying reagents, as well as PPE are hard to come by "due to a supply chain with limited domestic production and high global demand."

In Los Angeles, health officials on Friday banned all public and private gatherings for at least three weeks and urged residents to stay home as much as possible.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday ordered all elective surgeries to cease in one county and told hospitals statewide to plan on increasing their capacity by 50% if necessary or set up and staff field hospitals.

"Hospital capacity is the top concern," Cuomo said.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said that as of Saturday he was re-tightening the limit on most outdoor gatherings to 25 people.

Murphy, who has brought back a series of COVID-19 restrictions in recent weeks, also said all indoor youth and adult sports will be put on hold from Dec. 5 through Jan. 2, 2021, also with exemptions.

reuters.com
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thaiga

WHO says Mexico in 'bad shape' on coronavirus, sees 'serious problem'
(Reuters) - The head of the World Health Organization said on Monday that Mexico is in "bad shape" regarding the coronavirus as infections and deaths surge, and urged the government to be serious about addressing the pandemic.

Mexico's coronavirus death tally, the fourth highest in the world, stands above 105,500. Confirmed cases are in excess of 1.1 million, but public health experts say the true figure is likely significantly higher.

"The number of increase in cases and deaths in Mexico is very worrisome," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing in Geneva. The number of weekly deaths had gone from 2,000 the week of Oct. 12 to around 4,000 by Nov. 23, he added. "This shows Mexico is in bad shape."

At least seven of Mexico City's 54 public hospitals treating COVID-19 patients are at full occupancy for coronavirus beds with respirators, according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The OCHA said another 14 health centers risk being stretched, with COVID-19 bed occupancies exceeding 70%. It noted that Mexico's health ministry reported 63% of all general hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in the capital are occupied.

"When both indicators, deaths and cases, increase I think this is a very serious problem and we would like to ask Mexico to be very serious," said Tedros.

Since Mexico began lifting its strictest lockdown restrictions in June, it has been reluctant to reimpose blanket measures because so many of the population living hand-to-mouth depend on being able to go out every day and do business.

However, some states have ratcheted up restrictions to contain the pandemic in the past few weeks.

msn.com
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thaiga

Hospitals stretched beyond 'reasonable limit' as number of Covid-19 patients reaches 100,000 and reported deaths hit all-time high
The total number of coronavirus deaths reported in a day set a new record Wednesday and hospitalizations also reached an all-time high, and doctors and nurses across the US are trying to find creative ways to handle the surging number of patients.
The numbers are grim. More than 100,200 patients were in US hospitals Wednesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
There were more than 2,670 deaths reported Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Those totals have never been higher. The stress on frontline health care workers has never been greater.
One county official in Wisconsin told CNN, "Our hospital ICUs and emergency rooms remain stretched beyond any reasonable limit and our healthcare workers as well as our patients need our help."

And the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that these next three months will be "the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation."

After they are authorized by the federal government, coronavirus vaccines should help blunt the pandemic, but experts think it won't be until spring before a lot of Americans can get them.

Right now, the situation in places like Dane County, Wisconsin, are dire. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, who told CNN resources are alarmingly stretched thin, said medical facilities are nearing capacity and this was the worst of the pandemic.
Dr. David Andes, who is a professor and chief of the Division of Infectious Disease within the Department of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, said their hospitals are about 98% full.

"Our numbers are pretty out of control right now," he said.
Andes said hospitals are trying to work through the crisis by finding new places to care for Covid-19 patients. Some are being treated in a children's hospital. Some patients are being seen by doctors who are working outside their specialties. Many health care workers are signing up for extra shifts.

Other hospitals are facing similar demands. And while those facilities have been stretching capacity -- by opening up new areas, creating more double occupancy rooms and bringing in staff from outside its own system -- "we are out of levers to pull," Dr. Jason Mitchell, chief medical officer of Presbyterian Healthcare Services in New Mexico, told CNN.
"When you run out of resources -- whether that's doctors or nurses or beds or ventilators -- you cannot give (the best) care. ... We are not there yet (but) we are very close as a state."

full article edition.cnn.com
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thaiga

Vaccines offer hope for end to pandemic, but brutal months lie ahead
Vaccines offer hope for end to pandemic, but brutal months lie ahead

Coronavirus vaccines are poised to be approved and distributed in the coming weeks in the United States, but that promising news comes amid record levels of infections and hospitalizations, with experts warning that the most brutal period of the pandemic lies ahead.

This is a split-screen moment: Progress on vaccines means people can now plausibly talk about what they will do when the pandemic is over. But with new infections topping 212,000 Thursday - another daily record, topping one set Wednesday - it won't be over in a snap. This remains a dismal slog.

"The vaccine has not come in time to do much about the winter wave," said Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. "Vaccination is coming too late even if we do a really great job of scale-up. It's coming too late to do much by March 1, or really by April 1." Only at that point, he added, will the widespread distribution of vaccines begin to crush the virus.

In the meantime, the country faces what could turn out to be the most challenging few months in the public health history of the nation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield warned in a speech Wednesday. That kind of dire language is increasingly coming from the top experts in the field and from the highest levels of the federal medical establishment. "We are in a very dangerous place," declared a White House coronavirus task force document circulated to governors earlier this week.

To date, at least 275,000 people in the United States have died of the virus, a toll that includes more than 2,700 deaths reported Thursday, according to health data tracked by The Washington Post. That is among more than 14 million confirmed infections.

A new national ensemble forecast - an aggregation of 37 models sent to the CDC - projected that 9,500 to 19,500 people would of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the week encompassing Christmas. Murray's institute, meanwhile, has been putting the final touches on a new forecast that he said would show an increase from its Nov. 19 projection of 470,000 deaths by March 1.

Two vaccines are being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and expected to receive clearance in the coming weeks. One of them, from Pfizer and the Germany company BioNTech, was approved this week in the United Kingdom. Four more vaccine candidates are in late-stage trials. Later this year or early next year, there could be more than a million doses of vaccines going into arms every day in the United States.

But it will take time to change the trajectory of the epidemic. The fall wave of infections that began in September in the Upper Midwest and Northern Great Plains is now crashing across much of the country, including in the high population centers of California and the Northeast, such as metropolitan New York City, which was pummeled by the virus in the spring.

"The assessment does indeed look pretty frightening when you see how this is spreading now not just in a subset of the country but across most of the landscape," Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Thursday. "We are seeing a person dying every minute. We have an enormously significant challenge here to try to get this turned around."

In some of the worst hit hospitals in the country, health care workers are navigating a punishing surge in cases that has left them short on beds and staff. In Jackson, Miss., the University of Mississippi Medical Center on Thursday had 35 more patients than beds, said Vice Chancellor LouAnn Woodward. Those patients are being held for now in the emergency department and in the recovery room. And because the hospital is the premiere destination for specialized medical care in Mississippi, like trauma and transplants, the covid surge has also placed significant pressure on all facets of health care in the state.

"It is challenging all the way around. It is alarming. It is a very uncomfortable place for us to be," she said.

full article dailyprogress.com
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thaiga

US breaks daily coronavirus records as Fauci warns January will be 'terrible'
The US set three grim coronavirus records on Thursday, as it recorded the highest daily number of coronavirus deaths, the highest number of new cases, and the number of people admitted to hospital with Covid exceeded 100,000 for the second day in a row.

Some 2,879 people died from coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, while there were 217,664 new cases, as the top infectious disease official, Dr Anthony Fauci, warned "January is going to be terrible".

Numerous states have warned that they are running out of intensive care beds, with 100,667 people currently in hospital with Covid,

The escalating figures came as California plans to implement a sweeping stay-at-home order in a desperate attempt to get coronavirus infections under control, and after Joe Biden said he would ask all Americans to wear face masks during his first 100 days in office.

Donald Trump stayed silent on the crisis on Thursday, as the total of number of people who have died reached 276,366.

The president is due to hold a rally in Georgia, which is seeing its highest number of coronavirus cases since August, on Saturday. Two Republican senators face runoff elections in the state in January.

In an interview with Newsweek, Fauci warned that the worst was yet to come in the US.

"I think January is going to be terrible because you're going to have the Thanksgiving surge super-imposed upon the Christmas surge," Fauci said. "So it's entirely conceivable that January could be the worst."

Fauci, who has accepted Biden's offer to serve as chief medical adviser, said he expected data to show a further rise in cases and deaths in mid-December – largely attributable to Thanksgiving gatherings.

"If you and I travel and then go home and have family dinners, you're gonna see infections two to three weeks from there and then a week later you'll see more hospitalizations and then two weeks later you'll see more deaths," Fauci said.

California is fast becoming one of the most severely hit states in the country, and its governor, Gavin Newsom, announced a series of new restrictions on Thursday.

Stricter stay-at-home orders will be implemented in areas in the state where intensive care units are expected to fall below a capacity of 15% – with the vast majority of the state expected to meet that criterion within the next few days.

"The bottom line is if we don't act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed," Newsom said. "If we don't act now, our death rate will continue to climb."

The new stay-at-home order, the most far-reaching since the pandemic began in March, will include restrictions on business and gathering spaces – no salons, no gyms, no indoor worship, no playgrounds. Restaurants will be allowed to offer only takeout or delivery.

Retail that is already limited to 20% of customer capacity will be allowed to remain open, but all non-essential travel is restricted.

The record high number of cases came amid news that the recovery in the US jobs market collapsed in November.

The US added just 245,000 new jobs in November, less than the 638,000 jobs added in October, the 672,000 jobs added in September and the 1.4m jobs added in August. The unemployment rate fell to 6.7%.

theguardian.com

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thaiga

Record U.S. deaths prompt pleas for mask-wearing
U.S. leaders urgently called on Americans to wear masks as deaths from the coronavirus set a single-day record with 2,861 deaths reported on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally of official data.

Dec 4, 2020
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thaiga

Britons flock to food banks as COVID continues
Demand for emergency supplies at British food banks is predicted to increase 61% from October to December. That's six parcels handed out every minute, and a reminder of how the COVID-19 pandemic has made so many people struggle for money.

Dec 4, 2020
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thaiga

The coronavirus has come roaring back into Brazil, shattering illusions it wouldn't
For weeks, it has seemed to Carla Santos de Lima that people here have been in the thrall of a collective delusion that the pandemic was on the way out.

The beaches, bars and restaurants had filled. The message: Rio de Janeiro was back.

The pleasant fiction held for weeks — even as people explained away surging coronavirus cases as a temporary blip. It finally unraveled late last month for Santos de Lima.

Her elderly father had fallen gravely ill with the coronavirus. The family had launched a desperate search to find an intensive care bed for him. But they were all full with other covid-19 patients.

He died Nov. 28, inside an ambulance outside the hospital, just as his long-awaited bed opened up.

"When the restrictions were relaxed, it resulted in this illusion that the problem was under control," said Santos de Lima, 33, a public school teacher. "People believed it was possible to resume a certain normality. This ended up bringing about for us a false sense of security."

The city — and much of Brazil — is grappling with the sudden realization that there is nothing secure about this moment. The coronavirus has suddenly roared back.

And there's now the chance that even in pandemic-battered Brazil — where more people have died of the virus than any other nation save the United States — things could soon become as bad, if not worse, than ever before.

In Rio de Janeiro, where the virus has already killed tens of thousands, upturned the economy and sent rates of homelessness soaring, moments that recall the darkest days of the pandemic are once more appearing in the news.

Sick people, unable to get help in the medical system, are again being found dead at home. Lines stretching into the hundreds are forming for intensive care beds. Hospital officials are warning of supply shortages and an imminent collapse in medical services.

Even the vaunted private heath-care system reached 98 percent capacity in its intensive care units this past week, officials said. In states across the country, the situation wasn't much better.

"Brazil has to be very, very serious," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, told reporters this past week. The situation is "very, very worrisome."

But public health experts in Rio de Janeiro are expressing alarm over what they are seeing — both from officials and also from ordinary people.

In May, during the worst weeks of the first wave, city life was vastly constrained. Even if Rio never fully locked down, shops and restaurants closed, people worked from home and several field hospitals were opened.

This time is different. There is neither talk of field hospitals, nor restrictions on businesses. The streets and beaches remain full of unmasked people who are either unaware or unbothered by the alarming health warnings.

"We are not going to take a step backward," acting Rio de Janeiro governor Claúdio Castro said Thursday, conceding the difficulty of reinstating restrictions. "It's no use to pass measures that the population won't follow."

On Friday, Castro and Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella announced the opening of more hospital beds and that city schools would halt classes. But health officials across the country are warning that such minor restrictions almost certainly won't be enough.

The most powerful weapon against the coronavirus — fear — has dulled. Many people either simply don't care or no longer believe in the dangers posed by the virus.

"We're facing a campaign of disinformation and denial," said Suzana Lobo, president of the Brazilian Association of Intensive Medicine. "The impact in January will be very, very large. Our fear is that in January and February, the health system won't be able to bear it."

In a fiercely individualistic society, where people have little trust in either government or each other, the pandemic has, from the beginning, been a mass social experiment in the limits of scientific persuasion. But now, public health officials are increasingly worried that their warnings don't matter.

"It's this story: 'My life for a dip in the ocean,' " said Ligia Bahia, a public health professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. "It's as if we haven't learned any lessons. For us, it's very sad.

"We're completely defeated," she added. "I don't even want to talk about a vaccine."

Now, many Brazilians who have been victimized by the disease only see a year filled with mistakes, errors in judgment and confusion.

Santos de Lima, the teacher, said everyone in her family, who live in the impoverished and crime-plagued area of Pavuna, had been petrified of the disease. But as cases began to diminish, the city relaxed almost all of its containment measures.

"Very, very, very irresponsible," Santos de Lima now says of the decision.

But at the time, she, along with much of the city, was loosening up. Allowing herself to believe the worst had passed, she went back to the classroom. And her family started to get together once more, even though her 65-year-old father, Carlos Alberto Correia de Lima, was in poor health. Much of the family soon had the coronavirus.

Now, many of them can't look past the guilt.

"You ask whether we are responsible for what happened," she said. "We keep asking if things could have been different, if our contact could have been avoided."

But she can't come up with any good answers.

"The guideline is to avoid contact, but are we supposed to stay in complete isolation for nine months?"

washingtonpost.com
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thaiga

Record US virus cases as Russia starts vaccinating: world update
The United States notched a record number of coronavirus cases in 24 hours for the third day running, as it was reported that Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will get a vaccine within weeks.

A tally by Johns Hopkins University showed the world's worst-hit country -- which has seen a dramatic virus resurgence in recent weeks -- reached nearly 230,000 new infections and 2,527 Covid-related deaths on Saturday alone.

For two weeks, the US has regularly topped 2,000 deaths per day, as it had in the spring at the height of the first wave of the country's outbreak.

US health officials warned of a surge after millions of Americans traveled to celebrate last week's Thanksgiving holiday despite pleas from authorities to stay home.

The coronavirus has now killed more than 1.5 million people and infected 66 million around the world since emerging in China last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

- Vaccine for queen -

In Britain, it was reported that the 94-year-old monarch will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine within weeks after UK regulators granted emergency approval. The rollout of the vaccine will begin next week.

The queen and her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip are in line to get the jab early due to their age and will not receive preferential treatment, the Mail on Sunday reported.

The newspaper said Britain's most senior royals would reveal they have been given the inoculation "to encourage more people to take up the vital jab", amid fears so-called anti-vaxxers could dent enthusiasm for it.

British health officials are set to use criteria based on age and vulnerability to decide who gets the vaccine first.

Elderly care home residents and their carers will be the very first to get inoculated, followed by those aged 80 and over and frontline health and care staff.

Britain has pre-ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine in total, and is set to receive an initial batch of 800,000 to begin next week's rollout.

- Moscow jab rollout -

The World Health Organization has warned that vaccines are no magic bullet for the coronavirus crisis, as Russia started vaccinating its high-risk workers and other countries geared up for similar programs.

The WHO cautioned against what it said was an erroneous belief that the pandemic would end soon with vaccines on the horizon.

"Vaccines do not equal zero Covid," said WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan, adding that not everyone will be able to receive it early next year.

"Vaccination will add a major, major, powerful tool to the tool kit that we have. But by themselves, they will not do the job."

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also cautioned against the "growing perception that the pandemic is over" with the virus still spreading fast, putting enormous pressure on hospitals and health workers.

Health officials in Moscow said they had opened 70 coronavirus vaccine centers in the Russian capital that would initially offer jabs for health, education and social workers.

The WHO says 51 candidate vaccines are currently being tested on humans, with 13 reaching final-stage mass testing.

The United States is expected to give a green light to vaccines later this month, while Belgium, France and Spain have said jabs will begin in January for the most vulnerable.

Italy is seeing a dramatic resurgence of infections after it largely tamped down an earlier outbreak by enforcing a strict lockdown, while Latin America and the Caribbean region have seen an 18 percent spike in cases in a week.

Other countries are also unveiling holiday restrictions, with Switzerland banning Christmas caroling in the streets and Madrid canceling most New Year events in the city center.

Portugal's second wave has started to subside, but authorities said they decided to keep restrictions in force so they can be relaxed over the festive period.

bangkokpost.com
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thaiga

'Hopefully it's the beginning of the end': first in line prepare for Covid vaccine in UK
theguardian.com

Vaccine hopes: UK to start inoculations as cases rise across Europe
Dec 7, 2020
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thaiga

All Eyes on U.K. for Western World's First Covid Shots
The U.K.'s National Health Service launched what it has called the biggest immunization campaign in its history, starting Covid vaccinations across the country.

People over 80 are at the front of the line for the shot made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE on Tuesday, with tens of thousands expected to get vaccinated in the coming days. The U.K. is the first western nation to begin its program, having approved the jab last week.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

thaiga

Germany virus deaths soar amid global vaccine rollouts: world update
Germany was battling a second virus wave much more deadly than the first on Wednesday with record fatalities, as Joe Biden pledged to inoculate 100 million people in his first 100 days as US president.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging regions to take much more drastic action to curb the spread, after state leaders agreed measures that would see comparatively modest social restrictions eased even further for the Christmas holidays.

The darkening mood in Germany was in stark contrast to the joy ushered in by Britain doling out the first approved jabs in the Western world on Tuesday.

Both Russia and China have already begun inoculation campaigns with domestically produced vaccines and the United States is expected to grant emergency authorisation soon to the Pfizer-BioNTech jab -- the same one used in Britain.

Israel accepted its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising to be the first to be injected -- though it has yet to pass regulatory hurdles.

"What is important to me is that Israeli citizens get vaccinated," he said. "I want to serve as an example to them."

The virus has now killed more than 1.5 million worldwide since it emerged in China late last year.

- Change 'for the better' -

Merkel has been in no mood for celebration, repeatedly urging local leaders who have responsibility for health policies to clamp down more strongly -- Germany's death toll hitting a new high of 590 on Wednesday.

"If we have too many contacts before Christmas and it ends up being the last Christmas with the grandparents, then we'd really have failed," she said.

Two weeks ago, Germany's states agreed rules limiting social mixing to five people but agreed to double the limit to 10 for the holiday season -- something Merkel argued against.

The United States is also mired in political rows over an epidemic that has killed more than 280,000 -- the world's worst toll.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday that sought to guarantee access to vaccines for all Americans, but critics immediately queried what legal force it could have as drug firms have already signed contracts with other countries.

Biden, who will take over from Trump in January, urged Congress to come up with funding to stop the virus response from stalling, and unveiled his plan for 100 million jabs in his first 100 days.

"I'm absolutely convinced that in 100 days, we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better," he said on Tuesday.

- Hunger the bigger fear -

Merkel was not the only one issuing dire warnings -- UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet telling reporters that the pandemic had zeroed in on fissures in societies and had exposed "all our failures to invest in building fair and equitable societies".

Proving her point, experts are warning that hunger in the Philippines has reached new levels thanks in part to restrictions that have crippled the economy and left many without livelihoods.

"If you go out there everybody will tell you that they're more afraid of dying from hunger than dying from Covid," said Jomar Fleras of the Rise Against Hunger NGO.

And there were dark warnings too for democracy, with a Swedish-based watchdog saying more than 60 percent of countries had put in place anti-democratic measures during the pandemic.

Kevin Casas-Zamora of International IDEA told AFP he expected authoritarian governments to act in this way but added: "What is more surprising is that so many democracies have adopted measures that are problematic on the standpoint of democracy and human rights."

Even countries trying to push forward with democratic processes have faced criticism -- Indonesia being the latest to hold elections against the advice of experts.

"Health is being trumped by political demands and that's very concerning. It's not worth it," said Hermawan Saputra of the Indonesian Public Health Experts' Association.

bangkokpost.com
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

thaiga

two people with allergies experienced reactions to the Pfizer shot

US daily deaths top 3,000: Virus Update
Deaths in the US from Covid-19 surpassed 3,000 a day for the first time, while Germany's latest measures have so far failed to contain the spread in Europe's largest economy. The UK's vaccination campaign hit a stumbling block after two people with allergies experienced reactions to the Pfizer shot.

Pfizer said a cyberattack had exposed some documents filed with a European regulator relating to its vaccine review. India's largest hospital chain said it's ready to administer 1 million coronavirus vaccine doses a day. Passengers disembarked a cruise ship in Singapore after a Covid-19 scare on board.

California's average rate of positive tests over 14 days reached 8.8%, the highest since the spring as cases surged to another record. US health and human services secretary Alex Azar warned Americans to avoid crowded indoor social gatherings.

South African cases surge

South Africa's government declared a second wave of coronavirus infections as the number of cases surged.

The wave is being driven by the provinces of Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the economic hub Gauteng, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement Wednesday. A seven-day moving average graph shows that the increases in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are exponential, he said.

South Africa registered a record 6,709 infections on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 828,598, with 22,574 deaths.

New cases in Tokyo hit record

New coronavirus cases in Tokyo hit a record 602 on Thursday, breaking above 600 for the first time.

Some observers have blamed a campaign to promote domestic travel for the resurgence in Covid-19 infections, but Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this week unveiled a six-month extension of the measure to support the economy.

Germany's lockdown light fails to quell cases

Germany is still struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic. There were 458 fatalities in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, taking the total to 20,460, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Confirmed cases in Europe's biggest economy rose by 25,089 to 1,254,358. Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Germans to rein in Christmas celebrations and called for tougher measures to slow the spread, in an unusually emotional appeal on Wednesday in Berlin.

India drug panel asks for more vaccine data

A drug approval panel in India has asked the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to submit more data on the safety and efficacy of their coronavirus vaccines before it can consider their applications for accelerated approvals of their shots.

An expert committee of Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation on Wednesday said that Serum, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, has so far only provided safety data up to Nov 11 and asked for additional safety data of phase-II and phase-III clinical trials in the country, immunogenicity data from clinical trials in the UK and India and the assessment of the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

The company, expected to produce the country's front-runner vaccine, is conducting trials of AstraZeneca Plc's shot locally as part of a manufacturing agreement. India's Bharat Biotech has also been asked for more data before the emergency use application for its Covaxin shot can be considered.

Cabin crew told to wear diapers on risky flights

China's aviation regulator is recommending cabin crew on charter flights to high-risk Covid-19 destinations wear disposable diapers and avoid using the bathroom to reduce the risk of infection.

The advice comes in a 38-page list of guidelines for airlines to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The sixth edition echoes similar instructions in previous, less lengthy versions.

White House panel backs inbound travel

The White House coronavirus task force recommended to President Donald Trump that the US start allowing in travelers from Brazil, the UK and 27 other EU countries, CNBC reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

Travel restrictions on travelers from China and Iran wouldn't be relaxed, according to the recommendation, which wasn't unanimous.

US daily deaths top 3,000

US deaths from Covid-19 exceeded 3,000 a day for the first time, according to Johns Hopkins University data. That surpasses record fatalities set last week, and is more than the number of lives lost in the U.S. during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Coronavirus is infecting Americans at an ever-increasing clip in the final weeks of 2020. And that trajectory is beginning to show in fatalities: In just over a week of December, deaths were more than double the rate of the same week in November, according to Covid Tracking Project data.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecasts the US will rise above 300,000 deaths by Christmas.

Seoul offers free virus tests

Citizens in greater Seoul area can take virus tests for free for the next three weeks regardless of their symptoms, South Korean Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said in a government meeting Thursday.

The nation reported 682 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours compared with 686 a day earlier, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency's website.

US hospitalisations slowing

The pace of Covid-19 hospitalisations appears to be slowing in the US, with the average number of in-patients increasing by fewer than 500 a day from Dec 4 to 9, data from the Department of Health and Human Services show.

There were 105,035 coronavirus patients hospitalised as of Wednesday, up 2.4% from 102,579 on Friday. California accounted for about half of the national increase, with 1,289 additional Covid-19 hospitalizations over the period. It had 10,230 coronavirus cases in hospitals as of Wednesday, more than any other state.

New Mexico recorded 100% utilisation of its intensive-care beds, with 23.4% of all hospitalised patients in the states suffering Covid-19. Coronavirus cases accounted for at least a fifth of all hospitalised patients in Nevada, Arizona, South Dakota and Rhode Island.

India's hospital chain ready to vaccinate 1m daily

Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd, India's largest hospital chain, says it's ready to administer 1 million coronavirus vaccine doses a day, but the government has not made clear how vaccines will be distributed and whether private health-care networks will be involved.

The chain has so far trained 6,000 staff to give out jabs across its network of 71 hospitals, hundreds of clinics and thousands of pharmacies, according to Managing Director Suneeta Reddy, who said the company's talks with officials in New Delhi had yet to provide any firm guidance.

California continues to set record

California reported 30,851 new virus cases, topping the record of 30,075 set over the weekend. The average rate of positive tests over 14 days reached 8.8%, the highest since the spring.

Hospitalisations jumped 3.8% in the past 24 hours to a record to 11,965 patients. With cases soaring, much of the state is now in lockdown as officials warn of intensive-care units becoming overwhelmed.

CDC: Covid was in Italy in November 2019

The coronavirus was circulating in Italy as early as the end of November 2019, according to a new report published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lending weight to other studies that have suggested an earlier appearance of the disease in Europe.

US in talks With Merck on treatment

Operation Warp Speed, the US programme to accelerate drugs and vaccines to thwart the pandemic, is in negotiations with Merck & Co to secure supply of a treatment for the deadliest cases of Covid-19.

As hospitalisations top all-time highs in the US, Warp Speed's chief scientific officer, Moncef Slaoui, told Bloomberg that talks with Merck for the under-the-radar drug, CD24Fc, ensued after the drug giant acquired a 10-person biotechnology company that had spent decades developing it.

Within months, patients with severe and critical cases of Covid-19 could get access to the intravenous treatment that appears to halve the risk of both respiratory failure and death.

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Britain has Europe's highest death toll from COVID-19, with more than 62,000 fatalities, and official data on Thursday showed that the economic recovery from the pandemic had almost ground to halt because of the impact of restrictions which barred people from socialising in pubs and restaurants.

London has England's highest COVID-19 rate, raising fears of tighter restrictions
(Reuters) -London had the highest prevalence of COVID-19 cases in the week to December 6, Public Health England (PHE) said on Thursday, raising the prospect that the capital will be moved into the strictest level of restrictions in the coming days.

Case rates per 100,000 people in London stood at 191.8, PHE said, putting the city ahead of regions in the highest level of tier 3 restrictions, such as the West Midlands, where cases had fallen to 158.4 per 100,000 from 196.8 a week earlier.

Under the tier system brought in when a month-long national lockdown in England ended on Dec. 2, all hospitality except for takeaways must close in areas in the highest level.

The capital was originally placed in tier 2 avoiding the more restrictive category into which large swathes of England were placed.

"None of us want our city to move into tier 3," London Mayor Sadiq Khan said. "Please continue to follow the rules - lives and livelihoods truly are dependent on it."

Britain has Europe's highest death toll from COVID-19, with more than 62,000 fatalities, and official data on Thursday showed that the economic recovery from the pandemic had almost ground to halt because of the impact of restrictions which barred people from socialising in pubs and restaurants.

PHE said cases at a national level had plateaued, and the rate of infection had fallen in central and northeastern England, areas which had been placed in tier 3.

There has been discontent about the tier system from lawmakers in the ruling Conservative party, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had promised it would be reviewed on Dec. 16, holding out the possibility some areas would move to lower categories.

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UK issues anaphylaxis warning on Pfizer vaccine after adverse reactions
Starting with the elderly and frontline workers, Britain began mass vaccinating its population on Tuesday, part of a global drive that poses one of the biggest logistical challenges in peacetime history.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there had been two reports of anaphylaxis and one report of a possible allergic reaction since rollout began.

"Any person with a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food should not receive the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine," MHRA Chief Executive June Raine said in a statement.

"Most people will not get anaphylaxis and the benefits in protecting people against COVID-19 outweigh the risks... You can be completely confident that this vaccine has met the MHRA's robust standards of safety, quality and effectiveness."

Anaphylaxis is an overreaction of the body's immune system, which the National Health Service describes as severe and sometimes life-threatening.

The fuller guidance, clarifying that the main risk was from anaphylaxis specifically, was issued after consulting experts on allergies. The MHRA had initially advised anyone with a history of a "significant allergic reaction" not to take the shot.

Pfizer and BioNTech said they were supporting the MHRA's investigation.

Last week, Britain's MHRA became the first in the world to approve the vaccine, developed by Germany's BioNTech and Pfizer, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) continue to assess the data.

A top U.S. official said on Wednesday that Americans with known severe allergic reactions may not be candidates for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine until more was understood about what had happened.

Canada's health ministry said it would look at the reported adverse reactions in Britain, but said adverse events were to be expected and would not necessarily change the risk/benefit of the shot, after the country approved the vaccine.
ALLERGIC REACTION

MHRA chief Raine told lawmakers such allergic reactions had not been a feature of the Pfizer's clinical trials.

ALLERGIC REACTION

MHRA chief Raine told lawmakers such allergic reactions had not been a feature of the Pfizer's clinical trials.

full article reuters.com
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South Korea scrambles to build makeshift hospitals in shipping containers
South Korea is scrambling to build makeshift hospitals in shipping containers, as medical facilities reach capacity. Despite strict new restrictions, COVID-19 infections are still rising.

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Germany heads for national lockdown as Covid cases rise sharply
Experts warn that delaying measures until after Christmas could cost tens of thousands of lives

Germany is heading for a major new nationwide lockdown to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus after health experts said that to wait until after Christmas to wind the country down could cost tens of thousands of lives and overwhelm hospitals.

The country recorded almost 23,000 new cases on Wednesday morning, and 598 deaths, both rates higher than at any time since the start of the pandemic.

Leading politicians urged the government to act immediately to instigate what some media were calling a "blitz lockdown".

Markus Söder, leader of the southern state of Bavaria, where cases have risen sharply in the past few days, said on Friday morning: "We have to act as soon as possible." He said that every day counted, tweeting: "Why hesitate, when we know that it's necessary? Which is why we need to push everything forward and act decisively. We need to wind everything down before Christmas."

He called for a nationwide approach, including curfews, the closure of non-essential shops, and an extension of school and kindergarten holidays.

On 2 November the country entered a "soft lockdown", with rules tightened on gatherings and bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools remaining open.

Germans had been expecting a relaxation of restrictions from 23 December, which was to have allowed private gatherings of up to 10 individuals – though not counting children under 14 – from two different households, until 1 January.

People were being discouraged from making nonessential journeys but were not banned from travelling. They were urged to quarantine for a week before any celebrations, particularly those involving elderly people.

But those rules are now widely expected to be overwritten this weekend.

The health minister, Jens Spahn, said: "It's clear that we need additional measures, and rather sooner than later. We cannot allow this to be a festival for the virus. The virus doesn't care whether or not we've bought our Christmas presents."

Appealing to Germans to show solidarity towards each other, he said: "The 'us' has to be more important than the 'I', and that means making a sacrifice."

The federal government and the leaders of the 16 states are to meet on Sunday to decide on the next set of emergency measures. But many decision-makers were urging the government to act more quickly.

Daniel Günther, head of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, said it was "irresponsible to wait another day". He said Germany faced "an unbelievably difficult time until Easter".

On Thursday, Berlin's mayor, Michael Müller, said he wanted the capital to shut its shops and to coordinate with neighbouring Brandenburg, but a decision is not due until Tuesday.

In an emotional speech to the state parliament, he asked: "How many deaths is a candlelit dinner worth? ... How many deaths is a shopping spree worth?" as he sought support for a lockdown before Christmas, which he said was necessary to save lives.

Earlier the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said it would be a mistake to wait until after Christmas to tighten restrictions. "The only chance for us to take control of the situation again is a lockdown that kicks in immediately," he told Der Spiegel. To do otherwise would leave Germany tackling an exponential rise in cases over months, he added.

Seehofer said he was "furious" that Germany had "thrown away the advantage it had fought for" early on in the pandemic, blaming not a lack of discipline by citizens, but "insufficient measures taken".

On Wednesday, the chancellor, Angela Merkel, delivered an unusually expressive appeal, her voice breaking as she urged people to stay at home over Christmas, or risk not seeing their grandparents again.

Merkel has repeatedly called for a nationwide approach to tackling the coronavirus but most of the decisions have been made on a state basis, and have appeared ad hoc and confusing.

Bavaria introduced stricter rules on Wednesday including a night-time curfew in hotspots and a ban on alcohol sales in inner cities.

The state of Baden Württemberg has introduced a curfew to start on Saturday, with people allowed out to go to work or for essential visits to the shops or doctor.

From Monday in Saxony, schools, kindergartens and nonessential shops will be closed. Politicians urged Saxonians not to travel to neighbouring Brandenburg, where shops remain open.

The German Society of Surgeons has warned of the consequences of overburdened hospitals on non-coronavirus patients. Currently 4,000 intensive care beds in Germany are occupied with Covid-19 cases, a third more than at the high point of the pandemic during the first wave.

Prof Thomas Schmitz-Rixen, vice-president of the German Society for Surgeons, told the broadcaster Deutschlandfunk: "The situation in the hospitals is getting increasingly tense."

theguardian.com
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South Korea reports record 950 cases in COVID-19 'emergency
(Reuters) - South Korea reported a record 950 daily coronavirus cases on Saturday, exceeding the late February peak of 909, with the president calling the country's third wave of COVID-19 an "emergency".

The South Korean authorities warned they may tighten social-distancing restrictions to their strictest level but held off for now.

Of the Friday cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), 928 were locally transmitted and 22 were imported, bringing the total to 41,736 infections with 578 deaths.

More than 70% the domestically transmitted cases were from Seoul and its neighbouring areas, where about half of the nation's 52 million people live.

"This is indeed an emergency situation," said President Moon Jae-in, ordering the mobilisation of police, military personnel and public medical doctors in an effort to curb the further spread of the coronavirus, chiefly driven by small, widespread clusters..

"We plan to extensively expand drive-through and walk-through coronavirus testing methods ... as preemptive measures to track down infected people and block the spread," Moon said in a Facebook post.

South Korea is likely to see a further rise in the caseload with significant increases in testing, he added.

The surge has been a blow to South Korea's vaunted pandemic-fighting system, which used invasive tracing, testing and quarantine to blunt previous waves without lockdowns, keeping daily infections below 50 for much of the summer.

"I was worried when I heard the daily coronavirus count was beyond 900 infections," Chae Hyeong-chan, 29, told Reuters on a visit to Seoul for a doctor's appointment from the port city Incheon.

"I had to take the subway today, which made me worried, because I'm afraid I might be exposed to the risk of infection. I will try to return home as soon as possible."

The third wave comes despite tougher social-distancing rules that took effect on Tuesday, including unprecedented curfews on restaurants and most other businesses. The country has reported about 600 cases a day this week.

Greater Seoul is under level 2.5 restrictions. Raising that to 3, the highest of the five levels, would require schools to switch to remote learning, allow only essential workers in offices and ban gatherings of more than 10 people.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government will make all-out efforts to halt the third wave.

"If we don't curb the spread now, escalating social distancing restriction to Level 3 would be inevitable," Chung told an emergency meeting.

Authorities urged people to stay home and cancel all face-to-face meeting as new infections have been spotted from personal meetings.

"While we cannot avoid contact with our family at home, meetings with your friends and colleagues at work are not safe. Please cancel them," senior KDCA official Lim Sook-young told a briefing.

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Germany records 28,438 new cases and 496 new deaths

Germany has recorded 28,438 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total in the country to 1,300,516, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

An additional 496 people died from the virus, taking the total death toll to 21,466.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is set to meet with state leaders on Sunday to discuss tightening lockdown restrictions, amid a growing number of coronavirus infections.

Germany has been in a partial lockdown for six weeks, with bars and restaurants closed but shops and schools remaining open. However, as the number of coronavirus infections rise, some regions have already imposed tougher measures.

Merkel is expected to discuss measures including closing shops ahead of Christmas, sources 'familiar with the matter' told news agency Reuters.

On Saturday, economy minister Peter Altmaier warned that hospital intensive care units were reaching their peak capacity, and that measures must be introduced before Christmas "otherwise the pandemic will get completely out of control."

theguardian.com

Russia has reported 560 new lives lost to coronavirus, taking the country's official death toll to 46,453.

The country also confirmed 28,137 new cases of coronavirus, 6,622 of these in Moscow, bringing the national tally to 2,625,848 since the pandemic began.
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Covid vaccine gets green light in US
Millions of high-risk Americans could start receiving Pfizer jab within days

The United States has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, paving the way for millions of vulnerable people to receive shots within days in the world's hardest-hit country.

President Donald Trump immediately released a video on Twitter, hailing the news as a "medical miracle" and said the first immunisations would take place "in less than 24 hours"

The approval by the Food and Drug Administration late on Friday in Washington comes as infections across America soar as never before, with the grim milestone of 300,000 confirmed deaths fast approaching.

The US is now the sixth country to approve the two-dose regimen, after Britain, Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

The move came earlier than expected and capped a day of drama after it was widely reported that the White House had threatened to fire FDA chief Stephen Hahn if he did not grant emergency approval on Friday.

Trump's intervention reinserts politics into the scientific process, which some experts have said could undermine public confidence in the vaccine.

The US is seeking to inoculate 20 million people this month alone, with long-term care facility residents and healthcare workers at the front of the line.

The government also said it is buying 100 million more doses of the Moderna vaccine candidate, amid reports the administration passed on the opportunity to secure more supply of the Pfizer jab.

The purchase brings Washington's total supply of Moderna doses to 200 million, enough to immunise 100 million people with the two-shot regimen. which could also win FDA approval as early as next week.

Both vaccines are based on mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid), a major victory for a technology that had never previously been proven.

Two contenders stumble

Two other vaccine candidates stumbled on Friday: Sanofi of France and GSK of Britain said their vaccine would not be ready until the end of 2021.

And in Peru, clinical trials of a vaccine made by the Chinese drug giant Sinopharm were suspended after neurological problems were detected in a test volunteer.

In Australia, meanwhile, the development of a vaccine at the University of Queensland was abandoned after clinical trials produced a false-positive HIV result among subjects involved in early testing.

The mixed news on the vaccine front came as infections accelerated fast in North America and parts of Africa but started to stabilise in Europe and drop in Asia and the Middle East.

Around the world more than 1.58 million lives have been lost to Covid-19, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

Brazil on Friday crossed 180,000 deaths, despite President Jair Bolsonaro's insistence the crisis was at the "tail end".

But across the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand, which has been praised for its handling of the virus, took its first tentative steps towards reopening its borders with the tiny Cook Islands.

Less good news arrived in South Korea — a country previously held up as a model of how to combat the pandemic — which reported its highest daily number of new cases so far, with a surge centred around Seoul sparking fears the country could lose control of the spread.

Officials there announced 950 new infections after several days reporting numbers ranging from about 500 to 600.

And in China, where the virus first emerged a year ago but has since been brought under control, two cities on the border with Russia reported one local infection each, sparking mass tests in both and a full lockdown in one of them.

More rollouts imminent

Countries that have approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, meanwhile, are preparing for a rollout, as the World Health Organization warned of a potentially grim Christmas season.

Following Britain's lead, the first vaccine shipments to 14 sites across Canada are scheduled to arrive on Monday with people receiving shots a day or two later.

Israel, which accepted its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, is targeting a rollout on Dec 27.

And Hong Kong said on Friday it had struck deals for two vaccines — one from Pfizer and the other from Beijing-based Sinovac — with plans to launch a campaign in early 2021.

A new combined approach is also being tested by AstraZeneca, whose Russian operation said it would mix its shot with the locally made Sputnik V vaccine in clinical trials.

Russia and China have already begun inoculation efforts with domestically produced vaccines that have seen less rigorous vetting.

EU countries are eagerly awaiting clearance on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, in late December and early January respectively.

As Europe's surge eases off slightly, France is planning to lift a six-week lockdown from Tuesday but impose a curfew from 8pm, including on New Year's Eve.

Greece also announced new plans Friday to slash quarantine time for incoming travelers and reopen churches for Christmas.

But Switzerland, which is seeing a sharp resurgence in cases, announced a 7pm curfew for shops, restaurants and bars.

While lockdowns have brought economic pain, boredom and myriad other woes, the effect on the environment has been more positive.

Carbon emissions fell a record 7% in 2020 as countries imposed lockdowns, according to the Global Carbon Project.

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Northern Ireland: patients treated in car parks as hospitals overflow
Ambulances formed queues outside several hospitals as the region's circuit-breaker lockdown fails to stop rise in Covid-19 cases

Queues of ambulances have formed outside several hospitals in Northern Ireland as pressure continued to mount on the region's health service.

The scenes unfolded as first minister, Arlene Foster, participated in a call with other UK political leaders to review the planned relaxation of restrictions on household gatherings over Christmas.

No decisions were taken, with Stormont ministers set to convene to discuss the situation on Thursday amid intensifying calls from medics to rethink the relaxations and introduce fresh measures to curb the spread of the virus.

At that meeting, health minister Robin Swann will propose a series of new restrictions to executive colleagues.
'I'd like to be alive next year': Britons avoiding a family Christmas due to Covid
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"I will be bringing a paper to the executive on Thursday with a number of recommendations," he told Northern Ireland assembly members on Tuesday.

Chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, has warned that the region now faces one of the most challenging periods of the pandemic after the most recent circuit break lockdown failed to drive down infections.

Hospital capacity across the region stood at 104% on Tuesday.

At one point outside Antrim area hospital, 17 ambulances containing patients were lined up outside the emergency department. Doctors were treating patients in the car park.

Wendy Magowan, director of operations at the Northern Trust, said one patient had waited 10 hours in an ambulance overnight.

"We have never known that in Antrim hospital, that simply does not happen, but there wasn't a safe area to bring that patient in," she said.

The deaths of a further six people with Covid-19 were announced on Tuesday, bringing the region's toll to 1,135.

Another 486 new cases of the virus were recorded in 24 hours

McBride said Northern Ireland was not where it needed to be in terms of case numbers at the start of a fortnight of festive relaxations, including a five-day period of increased household gatherings over Christmas.

"The circumstances we are currently facing are extremely troubling," he said.
"We are not where we need to be or should be in terms of the transmission of the virus."

McBride said it was important that arrangements for the festive season were "kept under review".

Chief scientific adviser, Prof Ian Young, said there was no evidence to date to show that the circuit-break had brought down case numbers. Instead there had been two weeks of a "slow and steady increase" in case numbers with data showing that many people did not heed the "stay at home" message over the circuit break.

He said the R number was "at or a little bit above 1".

"That's certainly not where we hoped it would be," he said. "We're seeing a gradual increase in cases at the moment and that will undoubtedly feed through to hospital admissions and in due course critical care occupancy and unfortunately deaths.

"And those increases will come on the top of already high baseline levels in terms of hospital beds being occupied by Covid patients."

Describing the situation at the Northern Trust, Magowan said 43 people were waiting for an emergency bed at Antrim hospital and 21 at the Causeway hospital on Tuesday morning.

She said that 100 of the Antrim hospital's 400 beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients.

"The pressure has been building, we are seeing our Covid figures here in Antrim hospital increasing," she said. "Day in day we're not seeing this second surge starting to abate at all."

theguardian.com
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Hard hit southern California to receive 5,000 body bags and 60 morgue trucks
Hospitalizations in the state are double the summertime peak seen earlier in the pandemic, threatening to overwhelm the system

California is distributing 5,000 body bags mostly to the hard-hit Los Angeles and San Diego areas and has 60 refrigerated trailers standing by as makeshift morgues in anticipation of a surge of coronavirus deaths.

The precautions come from hospitalizations that now are double the summertime peak seen earlier in the pandemic, and which threaten to soon overwhelm the state's already taxed hospital system.

Gavin Newsom, California's governor, said Tuesday that the number of average daily deaths has quadrupled from a month ago. The surge is forcing an urgent scramble for more staff and space, a crush that might not abate for two months despite the arrival of the first doses of vaccines this week.

The number of average daily deaths now stands at 163, while positive cases have surged to more than 32,500 each day. Of those new cases, an anticipated 12% will wind up in the hospital and 12% of those hospitalized will crowd already stretched intensive care units.

That means one day's worth of cases can be expected to produce a staggering 3,900 hospitalizations and nearly 500 ICU patients.

"We are in the middle of the most acute peak," Newsom said, urging residents to take precautions to slow the spread.

In Orange county, health officials said they plan to send large tents to four hospitals to help handle their patient caseloads.
'The virus is moving in': why California is losing the fight against Covid
Read more

After initially garnering praise for bringing the virus under control, California is grappling with its deadliest surge since the pandemic began. Hospital space is dwindling fast, with most intensive care units filled to capacity.

In the San Joaquin valley, California's agricultural hub, ICU bed availability recently dropped to zero for the first time. Statewide, overall ICU capacity dropped to just 5.7% as of Tuesday.

Nearly all Californians have gone back under the nation's most restrictive lockdown, which divides the state into five regions and is tied to ICU capacity. When ICU capacity drops below 15%, the lockdown is triggered.

The new restrictions ban all non-essential travel and require people to stay home and minimize non-essential contact outside their household. It also bans restaurants from both outdoor and indoor dining, prompting a backlash from many restaurant owners who say their businesses are already on the brink of collapse.

Southern California has remained one of the hardest-hit regions throughout the pandemic. In Orange county, health officials said mobile field hospitals would be rolled out to three hospitals that already need more space. The large, heavy-duty, temperature-controlled canvas tents with hard flooring add an extra 125 beds.

Dr Clayton Chau, the county's public health officer, told the county's board of supervisors that "emergency rooms have no capacity to triage people as quick as they can". He pleaded with residents to avoid gathering with people from outside their households.

"I have never been so afraid of Christmas and New Year's in my life," Chau said. "I can't imagine what it would be like after the holidays if people are not listening."

At the meeting where Chau spoke, dozens of residents didn't wear masks and demanded businesses be allowed to reopen.

California has brought in 507 extra staff and deployed them around the state, though most don't have the skills to help in ICUs. The state is seeking a total of 3,000 contracted medical staff.

"Two weeks from now we are concerned about what our ability to provide the same level of high quality care will be," said Dr Mark Ghaly, California's secretary of health and human services. He said hospitals have been planning for the worst, including updating what are called "crisis care guidelines" in case they must start triaging which patients get what level of treatment.

"Hospitals are in a very challenged situation right now," said Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association. "That will only get worse, and potentially far worse in the next 30 days or so."

In a rare bit of good news, Newsom said that nearly 394,000 more doses of Pfizer vaccines could arrive in California next week on top of the nearly 328,000 doses being distributed at 33 locations this week. On Monday, an ICU nurse became the first Californian to receive the Pfizer vaccine at a Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles medical center, with Newsom present for the historic event.

But even the joyful first inoculations at one of northern California's biggest hospitals were tinged with sadness on Tuesday.

Eva Teniola, 47, a clinical nurse in the University of California, Davis Medical Center's emergency department for the last 10 years, called it the "hero vaccine" as she spread her arms wide upon becoming the hospital's first employee to receive the vaccine.

She said she's never seen anything as bad as the coronavirus, which has forced people to die without their families by their sides.

"These past few weeks, it's really different," she said, adding that she can see the toll on her colleagues' faces. "It's like burnout. We get tired, you know ... the pressure, the stress."

For Shashi Kant, a senior custodian in the hospital's ICU, getting the vaccine was even more personal. His adult daughter, a radiology technician at a Modesto hospital, died from the virus several months ago.

"This is just like a lifeline," he said about getting the vaccine. "I'm protecting myself and the patient."

theguardian.com
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NHS hospitals running out of beds as Covid cases continue to surge
Hospitals in England had to divert patients 44 times last week – the highest number for four years

Growing numbers of hospitals in England are running short of beds and having to divert patients elsewhere and cancel operations as the NHS struggles to cope with the resurgence of coronavirus, a Guardian analysis shows.

According to the NHS figures, hospitals had to tell ambulance crews to divert patients elsewhere 44 times last week – the highest number for four years.

With hospitals in London, Leicester and Northampton particularly hard hit, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, warned: "It already feels like we're in the grips of a really bad winter, and there's a very long way to go."

The pressures are being compounded by the numbers of NHS staff who are themselves off work because of the virus, with doctors and NHS leaders saying that frontline services will come under even more intense strain in the next few weeks.

The warnings came as the UK recorded 35,383 positive cases on Thursday – the highest for a single day, with the total number of patients in hospital at more than 18,000, a rise of more almost 3,000 from the same time last week.

full article theguardian.com
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Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 31,300 - RKI
(Reuters) - The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 31,300 to 1,471,238, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday. The reported death toll rose by 702 to 25,640, the tally showed.
news.trust.org

India tops 10m cases but pace slows
AFP reports India surged past 10m coronavirus cases on Saturday, official data showed, the second highest in the world although new infection rates appear to have fallen sharply in recent weeks. Total cases were 10m, up just over 25,000 in 24 hours, with 9.6m recoveries and 145,136 deaths, according to the health ministry.
theguardian.com
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It is unclear whether the Oxford/AstraZenica vaccine, which is being assessed by regulators, will be effective against the new strain, but Birney said all coronavirus vaccines in development in the UK had been tested against all strains currently in circulation.

New coronavirus strain in south-east England prompts fears of third lockdown
'Acting urgently critical' as new strain will lead to greater numbers of infections, expert says

A new strain of coronavirus spreading rapidly in the south-east of England has prompted fears that the country could be forced into a third national lockdown in the new year.

Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust, said news of a new strain was a "very major concern", and illustrated the importance of reducing community transmission. Farrar said early evidence indicated the strain would lead to a greater number of infections, and that "acting urgently now is critical".

He warned the mutation meant we "may be entering a less predictable phase". "There is no part of the UK and globally that should not be concerned. As in many countries, the situation is fragile," he said. "It may feel harder during times we normally celebrate and enjoy with family and friends, but we must keep doing all we can to stay safe. The impact of increased interactions over the festive period is a huge concern as infections rise and possibility of a new variant."

Dr Ewan Birney, the deputy director general of the European Molecular Biological Laboratory, said while viruses mutated regularly, the recent strain was alarming scientists.

"When there's growth [of a virus], there's always some strains growing and some shrinking. What's concerned scientists this time around is that there's been one quite different strain. It has quite a few more, different mutations, and it's been growing very strongly in the south-east of England," he told the BBC's Today programme on Saturday.

While it is difficult to say whether the new strain is responsible for an increase in coronavirus transmission in the region, Birney said "the evidence is pointing in that direction", adding that "most scientists on the transmissibility of this new strain think it's going faster".

However, the virus may become less virulent as it mutates, meaning it can "transmit faster but cause less disease", he said.

It is unclear whether the Oxford/AstraZenica vaccine, which is being assessed by regulators, will be effective against the new strain, but Birney said all coronavirus vaccines in development in the UK had been tested against all strains currently in circulation.

Boris Johnson held an emergency meeting with ministers on Friday to tackle concerns around the strain.

Reports suggest that the strain could lead to restrictions on travel between the south-east and the rest of the country, particularly as Christmas is expected to lead to an increase in cross-UK travel, but ministers insisted on Friday night that no firm plans had been made.

According to Sky News, the government's emergency scientific advisory committee (Sage) is to meet on Monday to discuss the strengthening of tier three restrictions.

Former health secretary and chair of the Commons health select committee, Jeremy Hunt, said the situation was "very serious" and could lead the government to change its policy on Christmas gatherings.

"If they don't want to change the law, they could be much clearer on the advice they give people, and it's clearly not advisable to mix households indoors unless there's a very good reason, such as family member worried it might be their last Christmas," he said.

Hunt said it was "difficult to judge" if a new lockdowns would be needed in England and Scotland in the new year, describing the transmission rates in the north of England as "on a knife edge".

"In the north-east and north-west, infection levels are going up, but they're still much lower than they have been," he said. "The new strain doesn't seem to have spread as much as it has in the south."

However, he said the tier system would need to be reviewed if England was set to re-enter it in the new year.

"We do need to rethink what happens in lockdown. Sometime even when we call it a lockdown, it isn't sufficient to control the virus," he said.

"The most important thing now is we are very close to the end. The kind of debates we had in the summer on these controls on liberty are really immaterial now; by the end of February and March we are still very much hoping that a majority of people who are vulnerable will have had the vaccine. We really are in the final stage of this battle."

Wales announced new regulations beginning on Christmas Eve amid surging cases this week, including the closure of non-essential shops, with hospitality venues set to close at 6pm on Christmas Day. On 28 December, tighter restrictions for household mixing, staying at home, holiday accommodation and travel will apply, as part of new "level 4" restrictions.

theguardian.com
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

thaiga

Six South Koreans die of COVID-19 awaiting hospital beds: Report
Six people suffering from COVID-19 have died in South Korea this month while waiting for hospital beds and hundreds can not get admitted as surging coronavirus infections overload the health system, officials and media said on Friday (Dec 18).

South Korea reported 1,062 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its second-highest ever daily tally, as the government agonised over tighter restrictions and warned businesses it was unacceptable to try to dodge shut-down orders.

The daily number was above 1,000 for the third straight day for the first time, data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) showed.

The rash of new cases has shaken a country that has for months been held up as a mitigation success story. But despite its total tally rising to 47,515 infections, South Korea has only suffered about 650 deaths.

One of those who died waiting for a hospital bed was at home in the capital, Seoul, after testing positive on Saturday, while three others were in a nursing home in Gyeonggi province.

The Yonhap news agency reported two other such deaths in December but provided no immediate details.

"We express our deepest condolences and feel keenly responsible," Park Yoo-mi, a quarantine officer for the Seoul government told a briefing.

"The on-site response team in the Seoul metropolitan area has been experiencing difficulty in allocating beds due to sharp increase in confirmed cases and overload in administration and medical systems since the beginning of December."

Park vowed to strengthen the public health system and said 580 patients were waiting for beds in Seoul on Friday, 227 of whom have been waiting for at least two days.

The unprecedented surge in serious cases had strained the health system, with only a limited number of critical care beds available, health officials have been warning.

Meanwhile, the government is agonising over whether to tighten up social distancing, which would mean ordering 1.2 million business to suspend operations.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said that given the burden on businesses, "social consensus" was necessary for a decision.

He also said everyone had to play by the virus restriction rules.

"There have been increasing attempts to continue operation in an irregular way by changing their stated type of business in order to slip through the government's anti-virus efforts," Chung told a government meeting.

"That can never be acceptable."

Chung did not give any details but media has reported some bars trying to beat the bans by passing themselves off as restaurants.

channelnewsasia.com

1,771 healthcare workers in Malaysia infected with COVID-19
A total of 1,771 cases of COVID-19 were recorded among healthcare workers, with 1,359 cases detected during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Malaysia's health ministry.

The health ministry added that 43 new cases were recorded on Friday (Dec 18).

Of those infected, nurses made up the biggest group, with 690 cases recorded, said health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

The other cases included medical officers, healthcare assistants, assistant medical officers and graduate medical officers.

Dr Noor HIsham said 587 workers were infected in the community and 565 workers contracted the virus from their colleagues.

A total of 152 cases were infected by patients who had not yet been confirmed positive, 58 cases with unknown sources of infection and 409 cases still under investigation to determine the source of infection.

"Today 280 personnel are receiving treatment and in stable condition in hospitals, with a recovery rate of 84.2 per cent.

"A total of 1,697 health personnel throughout the country are undergoing the Home Surveillance Order (HSO), either at their homes or quarantine stations," said Dr Noor Hisham in a statement on Friday.

Malaysia reported 1,683 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 90,816.

No new fatalities were recorded over the last 24 hours. Malaysia's COVID-19 death toll remains at 432.

Selangor remains the state with the highest number of daily cases recorded, with a total of 692 new infections.

A total of 1,214 cases have recovered, taking the total number of recoveries in the country to 75,244.

channelnewsasia.com
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

thaiga

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

thaiga

UK COVID-19 variant likely found in Hong Kong as city secures vaccine supplies
A new variant of the novel coronavirus that is spreading rapidly in Britain appears to have infected two students who returned to Hong Kong from the UK, Hong Kong's Department of Health said on Wednesday (Dec 23), as the city secured 22.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Virus samples from the two students, who returned to the Asian financial hub in December, appeared to match the British variant of the coronavirus, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, an agency under the Department of Health, told a daily press briefing.

More analysis needed to be done to verify the samples, she said.Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, at a separate news briefing on Wednesday, said the government had secured 7.5 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and was looking for a fourth source to ensure adequate supply for the city's 7.5 million residents.

Residents would be able to choose which vaccine they want to take, in response to safety concerns, she said.

"I urge the public to get vaccinated for the good of themselves and their loved ones," Lam said.

Hong Kong has already ordered 7.5 million doses of China's Sinovac Biotech's and 7.5 million doses of Fosun Pharma-BioNTech's vaccines. The first batch of one million vaccine doses from Sinovac is expected to be delivered to Hong Kong in January.

Lam said the government had passed an emergency law to allow authorities to circumvent the normal regulation procedure to rush vaccines to residents.

Hong Kong has banned all flights arriving from the United Kingdom since Tuesday, becoming the first city in Asia to announce such a halt.

Hong Kong saw a spike in the number of cases at the end of November, which prompted authorities to once again shut down dining in restaurants after 6pm local time and close gyms and beauty salons. The measures are slated to be in place until at least Jan 6.

channelnewsasia.com
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

thaiga

Staff at UK coronavirus testing lab hit by outbreak of the disease
Whistleblower claims safety measures breached in Milton Keynes facility where 20 staff affected

Staff at the UK's biggest testing lab in Milton Keynes have been hit by an outbreak of coronavirus as the country struggles to contain the soaring number of infections.

Cases have been reported in three of the four scientific teams at Milton Keynes Lighthouse Laboratory, Sky News said on Christmas Eve. Sky said there had also been cases among the admin and warehouse departments.

It is believed that, as a result of the outbreak, about 20 members of a 70-person lab team are isolating.

The site is being asked to process 70,000 tests a day to keep up with rising demand. A whistleblower told Sky News that Covid safety measures had been breached.

full article  theguardian.com
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

thaiga

New coronavirus variant spreads to Germany
The new coronavirus variant which has been spreading across the UK, has now been detected in Germany.
A traveller tested positive to the strain after arriving in the German city of Frankfurt, from Britain, on December 20.

The infected individual has been in isolation since their arrival to the country. The new strain of the virus is reportedly highly infectious and fast-spreading.
msn.com
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

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