International update: Global Covid cases pass 55.2 million – pandemic control possible mid 2022, says BioNTech CEO

17 November 2020 (Last Updated November 17th, 2020 18:06)

17 November

Global: Global coronavirus infections have passed 55.2 million, meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll exceeds 1.3 million according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The world may be able to vaccinate enough people to get the coronavirus pandemic under control by mid-2022, said Ugur Sahin, chief executive officer of BioNTech, Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine partner. Countries will need to focus on immunizing as broadly as possible in the first six to eight months of 2021, Sahin said in an online forum hosted by Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 11.2 million. The US coronavirus death toll is 247,468 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

President-elect Joe Biden said containing the coronavirus pandemic is key to the US economic recovery. He also urged Congress to pass a stimulus bill this year to deliver immediate relief to struggling Americans.

In one of the most aggressive actions taken in the US to confront the looming crisis, Philadelphia officials on Monday ordered a ban on “indoor gatherings of any size in any location, public or private,” except among individuals who live together.

California will dramatically roll back its reopening efforts, the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced on Monday, saying he was pulling the “emergency brake” amid a troubling surge in cases.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds implemented a limited mask mandate that takes effect Tuesday. Everyone aged two or older has to wear a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces. The rule applies when people are within six feet of others who aren’t members of their households for 15 minutes or longer, though there are some exceptions.

China: Mainland China reported 15 new Covid-19 cases on 16 November, up from eight cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Tuesday.

India: India’s daily cases fall to lowest number since mid-July. Daily coronavirus infections in India fell to their lowest since mid-July, with 29,163 new cases reported for the last 24 hours, taking the total to 8.87 million, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

France: France reported new confirmed Covid cases rose by 9,406 to 1.99 million, the smallest increase since 12 October. The seven-day average of infections fell for a ninth consecutive day to 26,251, reaching the lowest level in more than three weeks. Positive tests fell to 16.4%, declining more than three points in a week.

Australia: Australian authorities conducted mass tests on Tuesday and about 4,000 people were confined to quarantine in the hope of stifling a new cluster of cases of the novel coronavirus after hopes it had been largely eradicated, Reuters reports.

Vaccine news

US: Biotech firm Moderna has claimed that its Covid-19 vaccine is 94.5% effective, according to an interim analysis released on Monday and based on 95 patients with confirmed Covid infections. The company plans to apply to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorisation.

Pfizer Inc. said it started a pilot Covid-19 immunization program in four U.S. states to help refine the plan for the delivery and deployment of the company’s coronavirus vaccine candidate being co-developed with BioNTech SE. The four states – Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico, and Tennessee – were selected based on factors such as differences in overall size, diversity of populations and immunization infrastructure.

Belgium: The Belgian government said Monday it intends to make any coronavirus vaccine available to around 70% of the population, some eight million people, and free of charge. The jab will not be compulsory, added Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke as he and regional counterparts attended an interministerial health conference.

Lockdown updates

Iran: Iranians in more than 100 cities with high infection rates face fines if they violate a nighttime curfew due from Saturday, the coronavirus task force said. The order is part of broader, nationwide restrictions. Iran reported its highest single-day spikes in Covid-19 deaths and new cases on Monday.

Sweden: Sweden is introducing its toughest restrictions yet to fight the coronavirus pandemic, after a spike in new cases led to an influx of infected people filling intensive-care beds. From 24 November, public gatherings of more than eight people will be banned, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said. Lofven said the “unprecedented” response was needed if Sweden is to “curb transmission.”

UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson should consider “strengthening” regional coronavirus restrictions after England exits its second national lockdown next month, a senior government medical adviser said. The three-tier system of social-distancing rules in place before Johnson ordered a four-week lockdown to 2 December was not wholly effective, and a winter of tougher measures may be needed, said Susan Hopkins, deputy director of Public Health England.

South Korea: South Korea raised social distancing restrictions in greater Seoul to the 1.5 level from 1 after a jump in new cases, according to Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun. That’s the second-lowest level of a five-tier approach tied to infection levels. The number of new, confirmed cases remained above 200 for a fourth day, the longest such streak since August.

Economy updates

EU: The European Central Bank will provide enough monetary stimulus at its next meeting to make sure governments, companies and households have access to cheap credit throughout the coronavirus crisis, according to chief economist Philip Lane.