Summary for Saturday, 12th December
Here’s a summary of key developments in the global coronavirus pandemic over the past few hours:
- Schools in England could face legal action if they attempt to switch to online learning in the run up to Christmas.
- Dogs are being trained to sniff out coronavirus, following indications they can detect illnesses such as malaria.
- Japan has recorded more than 3,000 new coronavirus infections in a day for the first time .
- The World Bank has approved a $300m loan for Ukraine to help support low-income families during the pandemic.
- Wales is facing an “incredibly serious situation”, its health minister Vaughan Gething said, warning of “rising tide of infections” .
- The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is to meet state leaders on Sunday to discuss tightening lockdown restrictions as the number of new coronavirus cases continues to rise.
- Up to 40% of care workers in the UK might refuse to have the coronavirus vaccine, Nadra Ahmed, the chair of the National Care Association , said.
- Community testing will be introduced in parts of England on Monday, as the government pushes to identify asymptomatic cases and bring down the transmission rate.
- Peru has suspended trials of China’s Sinopharm vaccine after a “serious adverse event” occurred with one of the volunteers for the study, the government has said.
- The head of the US FDA has insisted it is not rushing to approve a vaccine and that reports Donald Trump had forced him to do so by a certain date were false .
- Boris Johnson has told the UN’s virtual climate ambition summit of his commitment to climate action and the promise of green initiatives as a way to get people back into employment in the aftermath of the pandemic.
- There are not enough nurses to safely care for patients in the UK, according to the body that oversees the profession. The Royal College of Nursing said many of those working are suffering from anxiety and burnout after a gruelling nine months treating Covid patients.
- The British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has agreed to buy the US drugmaker Alexion for $39bn in cash and shares, in an attempt to bolster its work in immunology and rare diseases.
‘Covid-19 has an odour, and the dogs are detecting it’: meet the canine super-squad sniffing out the virusIt’s no secret that dogs have a remarkable sense of smell. They have already been used to detect drugs and weapons in police forces, but their recent feat might be their most impressive yet.
Dogs are being trained to smell coronavirus, following indications that they can sniff out other illnesses such as cancer and malaria.
“Viruses themselves do not produce odours. When the virus has infected our cells, this can have a knock-on effect on various systems within the body, which results in odours being released through our skin and breath. So there was a really strong likelihood that coronavirus would produce a distinct odour as well,” one expert said.
Meet the super sniffer canines here.
Japan records a record 3,000 daily casesJapan has recorded more than 3,000 new coronavirus infections in a single day for the first time, the public broadcaster NHK reported.
A total of 3,041 people were newly infected, with the capital of Tokyo confirming 621 new cases.
Japan has not suffered as seriously from the pandemic as countries such as the UK and the US, but infections have increased as winter has set in.
So far, 2,588 people have died of Covid-19 in Japan.
Peru suspends trials for China's vaccine after 'serious adverse event'Peru has suspended trials of China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine due to a “serious adverse event” that occurred with one of the volunteers for the study, the Peruvian government has said.
The country’s health ministry said the event is “under investigation to determine if it is related to the vaccine or if there is another explanation.”
The trial, which involves 12,000 volunteers, was due to complete its first phase in the next few days.
This is not the vaccine which has begun to be administered in the UK.
Peru has lost 36,544 lives to the coronavirus pandemic so far.
Church of England gives space for Covid vaccination and testing for up to a yearA growing number of churches and cathedrals in England are offering their city and town-centre buildings to be converted into mass vaccination and Covid testing centres, even though it could mean restricting worship for a year.
As authorities press ahead with logistical plans for the country’s biggest ever public health programme, the Church of England said offers by churches to turn over their buildings were “a great act of service and witness”.
You can read the full story here :
Minister threatens headteacher over pre-Christmas online lessonsThe government is using its emergency powers under the Coronavirus Act to threaten to use legal action against headteachers in England who want to allow their pupils to learn remotely in the run-up to Christmas.
The Observer understands any schools that were planning to move most of their teaching online during the last week of term, to ensure none of their pupils would have to self-isolate on Christmas Day, are being ordered to remain open.
One headteacher in Hertfordshire was sent an official letter last week from the schools minister, Nick Gibb, warning him that the government was prepared to deploy its new powers under the act to ensure his secondary school remained open for all pupils until Friday.
The school, Presdales in Ware, was planning to teach the majority of its pupils remotely for the last week of term, while continuing to provide socially distanced, face-to-face lessons for vulnerable pupils, children who need extra support and any other students who wished to come into school. Only about 25 pupils were expected to come in, so they could all sit 2 metres away from each other in class.
Italy overtakes UK as European country with highest death tollItaly on Saturday became the European country with the highest official number of Covid fatalities, as its new total of 64,036 deaths overtook Britain, according to an Agence France-Presse tally.
The Italian health ministry said that 649 people had died from the virus in the previous 24 hours and that 19,903 new cases had been diagnosed.
Worldwide, the US has reported the highest number of Covid-19 deaths, with 295,539 as of Saturday morning, followed by Brazil, India and Mexico.
According to the AFP tally for Europe, Italy overtook Britain, which has reported 64,026 deaths and is followed by France with 57,567 and Spain with 47,624.
Italy was the first European country to suffer a wave of infections earlier this year.
The UK’s toll overtook that of Italy on 6 May, with close to 30,000 fatalities, and for a while over the summer the southern European nation appeared to have weathered the storm.
But despite the introduction of mass testing, cases began rising again in early autumn, as they did in many other nations - and deaths inevitably followed.
Italy’s national medical association said Friday that a total of 251 doctors have now died from the virus.
“In this second wave, it is mainly general practitioners who are paying the highest toll,” warned Filippo Anelli, head of the FNOMCeO association.
He blamed “greater circulation” of asymptomatic patients, but added that all doctors did not have the necessary protective equipment.
“We must put an end to this massacre,” he said.
Germany to close shops before Christmas as part of tougher restrictionsGermany will close shops from the middle of next week in a tightening of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.
The decision came ahead of a meeting planned for Sunday between German chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders.
The federal and state governments have largely agreed on a lockdown to contain the corona pandemic, which is expected to be implemented on 16 December at the latest, Business Insider reports.
A final decision should be made on Sunday morning. According to the report, the question of whether schools and nurseries will be kept open is controversial.
Germany has been in partial lockdown for six weeks, with bars and restaurants closed, while stores and schools have remained open.
Some regions have already imposed tougher measures.
The head of the Hanoi Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Vietnam has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for overstating the cost of coronavirus equipment.
Nguyen Nhat Cam, 57, was found guilty of overstating the cost of Covid-19 testing systems during a transaction, causing a loss of 5.4 billion dong (around £17,000) to the state budget, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement. Nine other people were also sentenced to between three and 6-1/2 years in prison for their involvement in the incident.
The ministry said that the actions of Cam and his accomplices would negatively impact the image of doctors and the anti-coronavirus agency.
With its strict quarantine and tracking measures, Vietnam has managed to quickly contain outbreaks of coronavirus. It has registered a total of 1,395 cases and 35 deaths.
Chile is preparing to launch an immunisation campaign with Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, if it wins approval, the country’s health minister said on Saturday.
The state institute of public health will review data on the performance of the vaccine next week.
“I cannot give you any dates, but we will make every effort ... to start the coronavirus vaccination program as soon as possible,” Enrique Paris said.
Despite the progress, he encouraged people to keep wearing face masks and follow social distancing measures, particularly because the vaccination campaign will not be completed by the end of the first half of 2021.
The number of people to have died of Covid-19 in Chile stands at 15,846.
France is to give care home residents and their families greater freedom for the Christmas holidays, enabling them to see their loved ones even if they have tested positive for coronavirus.
The new regulations were announced Saturday and will apply from Tuesday until 3 January. The deputy health minister in charge of elderly affairs said it was essential to maintain family ties and fight loneliness.
Around a third of France’s coronavirus deaths, which currently stand at more than 57,500, have occurred in care homes. Residents have been subjected to strict confinement measures, including being limited to their rooms, to curb infections.
Under the revised regulations, residents who have not tested positive will be allowed out again to spend time with their families, and residents who have tested positive will be allowed to receive up to two visitors in their room.
The Philippines recorded 1,301 new Covid-19 infections on Saturday, pushing the country’s total to more than 448,000, the Department of Health said.
The agency’s case bulletin showed that 30,168 or 6.7% of the people who tested positive in total are active or currently ill, CNN Philippines reports.
Of these active cases, at least 85.8% have mild symptoms, 7% have no symptoms, 4.6% are in critical condition, 2.3% are severe cases and 0.24% are moderate cases.
The US is poised to hit a record 16 million Covid-19 cases in the coming days and deaths are closing in on the 300,000 mark, even as millions of doses of a new vaccine are expected to start being distributed across America before Sunday.
The first vaccine was approved late Friday by the US Food and Drug Administration and is expected to kick off an unparalleled mass-inoculation campaign to end the pandemic that has upended daily life in the United States and devastated its economy.
The first US Covid-19 vaccine shipments will arrive at 145 locations around the country on Monday morning, US Army General Gus Perna said on Saturday during a press briefing, Reuters reports.
The United States authorised the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine on Friday evening.
Perna, who is chief operating officer of the government’s Operation Warp Speed programme, said it would start to ship the vaccine on Sunday.
“Make no mistake, distribution has begun,” Perna said.
The share of Brazilians unwilling to take any Covid-19 vaccine grew to 22% this week, from 9% in August, and most said they would not accept one made in China, a new poll showed on Saturday, as president Jair Bolsonaro’s comments stoked wider scepticism.
The survey by pollster Datafolha found 73% of respondents plan to take a shot and 5% do not know if they will, compared with 89% and 3%, respectively, in August.
Late last month, Bolsonaro said he would not take any coronavirus vaccine that becomes available.
One of the world’s most prominent coronavirus sceptics, Bolsonaro said refusal was his “right” and expressed concerns specifically about the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac and produced in conjunction with Sao Paulo state government’s Butantan Institute, Reuters reports.
According to Datafolha, only 47% of participants would take a vaccine made in China, while 50% said they would not take it and 3% said they were undecided.
The figures showed a correlation between vaccine rejection and trust in Bolsonaro.
A total of 33% of people who said they always trust Bolsonaro are unwilling to take a shot, against 16% of those who say they would never trust the president.
Brazil reported 43,900 additional confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and 686 fatalities from Covid-19, its Health Ministry said on Saturday.
The South American country has now registered 6,781,799 cases since the pandemic began, while its official death toll has risen to 179,765, according to ministry data.