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Sunday, November 22, 2020, 18:00
Virus: WHO fears 3rd wave, calls Europe response 'incomplete'
By Agencies
Sunday, November 22, 2020, 18:00 By Agencies

A used face mask is seen left behind on the square in front of the Old Opera in Frankfurt, Germany, in the early hours of Nov 22, 2020. (MICHAEL PROBST / AP)

WASHINGTON / MEXICO CITY / RIO DE JANEIRO / LISBON / PARIS / ROME / PRAGUE / WARSAW / BERLIN / ATHENS / BUENOS AIRES / OTTAWA / DUBLIN / BELGRADE / LJUBLJANA / SANTIAGO / TBILISI / ADDIS ABABA / KIEV / MINSK / MOSCOW / ZURICH / SOFIA - A World Health Organization (WHO) special COVID-19 envoy predicted a third wave of the pandemic in Europe in early 2021, if governments repeat what he said was a failure to do what was needed to prevent the second wave of infections.

"They missed building up the necessary infrastructure during the summer months, after they brought the first wave under the control," David Nabarro said in an interview with Swiss newspapers. "Now we have the second wave. If they don't build the necessary infrastructure, we'll have a third wave early next year."

Europe briefly enjoyed sinking infection rates that are now surging again: Germany and France on Saturday saw cases rise by 33,000 combined, while Switzerland and Austria have thousands of cases daily.

Nabarro singled out Switzerland's move to allow skiing - with masks required in gondolas - as other Alpine nations like Austria have shuttered resorts. Nabarro said Switzerland could reach a "very high level of sicknesses and deaths".

Nabarro lauded the response of Asian countries like South Korea, where infections are now relatively low, and also noted that Asia did not relax restrictions prematurely.

"You must wait until case numbers are low and stay low," he said. "Europe's reaction was incomplete."

Russia

Russia on Sunday reported a daily increase of 24,581 new coronavirus infections, taking the national tally to 2,089,329.

Authorities also reported 401 more deaths related to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 36,179.

President Vladimir Putin told G20 leaders on Saturday that Russia was ready to provide its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to other countries who need it.

Russia is also preparing its second and third vaccine, Putin said, adding that creation of vaccine portfolio was "our common goal".

A view of a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients in the Krylatskoye Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia, Nov 18, 2020. (PAVEL GOLOVKIN / AP)

France

France will start easing coronavirus lockdown rules in coming weeks, carrying out the process in three stages so as to avoid a new flareup in the pandemic, the government said on Sunday.

On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron will give a speech to the nation about the virus situation and may announce a partial relaxation of restrictions which have been in place since Oct 30.

"There will be three steps to (lockdown) easing in view of the health situation and of risks tied to some businesses: a first step around Dec 1, then before the year-end holidays, and then from January 2021," government spokesman Gabriel Attal told Le Journal Du Dimanche.

"We had committed to allow them (shopkeepers) to reopen around Dec 1 if the health situation improved, which seems to be the case," Attal said. Bars and restaurants however "will continue to experience restrictions," he added.

The number of new COVID-19 infections in France rose by 17,881 on Saturday, lower than the 22,882 reported on Friday.

The health ministry also reported 276 additional deaths from COVID-19 in hospitals over 24 hours, pushing the total death toll to 48,518, of which 33,231 were reported in hospitals.

The number of hospitalizations dropped for the fifth day to 31,365 while the the number of patients in intensive care units fell to 4,493.

Africa tally

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded across the African continent has reached 2,043,462 while the death toll has risen to 49,099, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said on Saturday.

Argentina

Argentina reported 112 additional COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 36,902, the Health Ministry said Saturday.

Another 7,140 new cases were also reported, taking the national tally to 1,366,182, the ministry said, adding that 1,187,053 people had recovered.

The province of Buenos Aires is the hardest hit with 604,016 cases, or 44.21 percent of the nation's tally.

The Argentine people will be vaccinated in what will be "the largest vaccination campaign in Argentine history, something unprecedented in our country," the chief of the Cabinet of Ministers, Santiago Cafiero, said in a statement released on Saturday.

The government plans to buy vaccines upon approval by the National Administration of Drugs, Foods and Medical Devices.  

Belarus

Belarus reported 1,588 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, taking its tally to 122,435, the health ministry said.

Another 1,364 patients have recovered in the past 24 hours, taking the number of recoveries to 102,113, the ministry added.

The death toll rose by eight to 1,089, it said.

Brazil

Brazil has registered 32,622 additional coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours and 376 more deaths, the health ministry said on Saturday.

In total, South America's largest country has recorded 6,052,786 confirmed cases and 168,989 deaths in the monthslong pandemic.

Bulgaria

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria has tripled in less than four weeks to reach 120,697, official figures showed on Sunday morning.

The health ministry said 2,279 new cases were registered in the last 24 hours.

Another 42 deaths were also recorded in the same period, raising the death toll to 2,820, while the number of recoveries rose by 1,364 to 35,752, the ministry said.

It added that there were 6,193 patients hospitalized, of whom 408 were in intensive care.

So far, 4,737 medical workers had been infected, the ministry said. 

Canada

Some provinces in Canada reported record single-day increases in COVID-19 cases on Saturday, reported CTV, as the country's tally hit 324,375 with 11,397 deaths.

Ontario posted a record 1,588 new cases on Saturday, surpassing the province's previous single-day high of 1,581 cases on Nov 14. The province has reported a total of 102,378 cases with 3,472 deaths.

Toronto and the neighboring Peel Region are going back into shutdown from Monday, which will last at least 28 days. Several other regions in the province are moving to higher restriction levels.

Quebec reported 1,189 new cases, raising its tally to 130,888.

New Brunswick posted 23 new cases, setting a new single-day high and bringing the total cases to 424, while Saskatchewan also posted a record daily tally fo 439 fresh infections, pushing the province's count to 6,237.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam called for a "stronger response" to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Chile

Chile's Ministry of Health on Saturday reported 1,550 new COVID-19 cases bringing the total caseload to 539,143.

The death toll rose by 27 to 15,030.

"We are seeing with concern how the number of cases has been increasing in some southern regions" of the country, Deputy Minister of Health Paula Daza said at a press conference.

Currently, 712 people were hospitalized in intensive care units, including 552 on ventilators and 78 in critical condition, she said.

Czech Republic

The number of deaths in the Czech Republic linked to COVID-19 doubled in November and passed the 7,000 mark, health ministry data showed on Saturday.

Recorded fatalities reached 7,021 as of Saturday, compared with the 3,523 recorded by the end of October, according to the figures.

The ministry reported 5,809 new cases for Nov 20, less than a half the peak numbers seen at the turn of October and November.

The number of hospitalizations dropped to 6,307 compared with a peak of 8,283 recorded on Nov 6.

Georgia

Georgia reported 4,048 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing its tally to 104,732.

Of the new cases, 1,602 were posted in the capital city of Tbilisi, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health said.

As of Sunday, 85,639 patients had recovered while 976 others had died, the center said.

Germany

Coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 15,741 to 918,269 while the death toll rose by 138 to 14,022, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday.

Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the restrictions may have to continue “for some time” beyond the end of November.

Germany has identified six sites in the capital Berlin to be used as centers to administer the new coronavirus vaccination, an official at the civil protection agency said on Saturday, calling for volunteers to carry out the work.

The sites, which include Berlin's trade fair as well Tempelhof and Tegel airports, will be set up by mid-December, said Albrecht Broemme, project manager for vaccination centers at the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW).

Greece

Greece reported 108 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, a daily record, with hospitals in the north of the country under pressure as available intensive care beds filled up from the surge in COVID-19 infections.

Health authorities reported 2,311 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the tally to 90,121. The death toll stands at 1,527.

After a two-month lockdown in March, which helped contain the spread of infections, a spike since October forced the government to impose a second nationwide lockdown this month that officially expires at the end of the month.

"Lifting the lockdown on Dec 1 does not seem realistic right now," government spokesman Stelios Petsas told state TV ERT on Friday.

Ireland

Ireland reported 344 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the country's caseload to 70,143, according to the Department of Health.

Four newly reported deaths pushed the death toll to 2,022, the department said in a statement.

According to the department, there were 269 COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals across the country, of whom 32 were in intensive care.

The government is continuing discussions over the weekend on what COVID-19 restrictions should be in place when the current Level-5 restrictions expire at the end of this month, broadcaster RTE reported.

The report quoted government sources as saying that Prime Minister Micheal Martin wanted the country to exit Level-5 restrictions on Dec 1.

Italy

Italy registered 34,767 new coronavirus infections in the space of 24 hours, the health ministry said on Saturday, slightly down from 37,242 the day before. 

The ministry also reported 692 COVID-19-related deaths after 699 on Friday, pushing the toll to 49,261, the second highest in Europe after Britain's. The country has registered more than 1.38 million cases in total.

The northern region of Lombardy, centered on Italy's financial capital Milan, remained the hardest-hit area on Saturday, reporting 8,853 new cases, down from 9,221 the day before.

The government has approved a new package worth around 10 billion euros (US$11.9 billion) to support businesses hit by the second wave of the pandemic.    Under the measures approved late on Friday, Rome will immediately offer 1.95 billion euros in grants to coronavirus-hit businesses and food aid for the poor.

READ MORE: EU says no change to uses of remdesivir after WHO guidance

Mexico

Mexico's health ministry reported on Saturday 6,719 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 550 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 1,032,688 and the death toll to 101,373.

Moderna

Moderna will charge governments between US$25 and US$37 per dose of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, depending on the amount ordered, Chief Executive Stephane Bancel told German weekly Welt am Sonntag (WamS).

"Our vaccine therefore costs about the same as a flu shot, which is between US$10 and US$50," he was quoted as saying.

"Nothing is signed yet, but we're close to a deal with the EU Commission. We want to deliver to Europe and are in constructive talks," Bancel told WamS, adding it was just a "matter of days" until a contract would be ready.

Poland

Shopping centers will reopen in Poland from Saturday next week, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, in a boost to retailers in the run-up to Christmas.

"There is one condition ... the discipline of every shop, mall, furniture store. If not, these stores will be closed," Morawiecki said at a news conference.

Morawiecki said schools would remain closed until Christmas.

The government closed entertainment venues and some shops from Nov 7 after a surge in COVID-19 cases, but infections have levelled off since then.

Portugal

Portugal is to ban domestic travel and close schools around two upcoming holidays in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus ahead of Christmas, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Saturday.

Travel between municipalities will be banned from 11 pm on Nov 27 to 5 am on Dec 2, and then again from 11 pm on Dec 4 to 5 am on Dec 9, to prevent movement around national holidays on Dec 1 and Dec 8.

We continue to have a very high number of cases which is a threat to our health.

Antonio Costa, Portugal's prime minister

Schools will close on the Mondays before both holidays, while businesses must close early. Employers are being encouraged to give workers the day off in order to minimize travel activity.

"We continue to have a very high number of cases which is a threat to our health," Costa said at a press conference. 

Masks, already mandatory in public and enclosed commercial spaces, are now also mandatory in the workplace, Costa said.

A nighttime curfew and weekend lockdown after 1 pm in 191 municipalities since Nov 9 will continue in 174 municipalities with particularly high infection rates for a further two weeks.

Portugal reported 62 deaths and 6,472 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, mostly in the north of the country, bringing the total infections to 255,970 cases with 3,824 deaths.

In this undated image grab made from video provided by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals on Oct 2, 2020, scientists work with a bioreactor at a company facility in New York for efforts on an experimental coronavirus antibody drug. (PHOTO / REGENERON VIA AP)

Renegeron

The US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued emergency use authorization (EUA) for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc's COVID-19 antibody therapy, an experimental treatment given to US President Donald Trump that he said helped cure him of the disease.

The FDA said the monoclonal antibodies, casirivimab and imdevimab, should be administered together for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing and who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19. 

The US FDA said the antibodies are not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy due to the disease

This includes those who are 65 years of age or older or who have certain chronic medical conditions.

Regeneron's REGEN-COV2 "antibody cocktail" - containing an antibody made by the company and a second isolated from humans who recovered from COVID-19 - is designed so that the two antibodies seek out and bind to the coronavirus' spike protein to prevent it from entering healthy human cells.

Regeneron said on Saturday it expects to have does of REGEN-COV2 treatment ready for about 80,000 patients by the end of this month, about 200,000 patients by the first week of January and approximately 300,000 patients in total by the end of January.

The FDA said the antibodies are not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy due to the disease.

ALSO READ: G20 leaders seek to help poorest nations in post-pandemic world

Serbia

Several thousand worshippers and clergy, some without face masks, filed steadily into a Belgrade church on Saturday to pay their respects to Patriarch Irinej, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who died aged 90 after contracting COVID-19.

Irinej tested positive for the coronavirus on Nov 4 and died on Friday, prompting the Serbian government to declare three days of national mourning in the predominantly Orthodox Christian country.

Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases, some of the faithful maintained tradition by kissing the glass-covered casket containing the Patriarch's body, which was dressed in a gold-embroidered robe and an ornate crown.

Predrag Kon, an epidemiologist and a member of the state committee tasked with combating COVID-19, said the Patriarch's funeral "is a great risk".

Serbia, which has a population of about seven million, has reported 110,351 COVID-19 cases and 1,140 deaths.

Slovenia

The COVID-19 death toll in Slovenia has passed the 1,000 mark, official figures showed on Saturday.

The toll rose by 31 in the last 24 hours to 1,026, while the total number of cases increased by 1,690 to 64,123.

A total of 1,219 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals, down by 35 from the day before. There were 197 in intensive care.

Spain

Spain’s campaign to vaccinate its population against COVID-19 will begin in January and will be voluntary, El Confidencial reported, citing Health Minister Salvador Illa.

Spain expects to vaccinate about half its people by May, Illa said. The government plans to reveal further details of its vaccination strategy on Nov 24.

Switzerland

Swiss doctors have urged those vulnerable to COVID-19 complications to record their wishes for end-of-life care in advance to help ease pressure on intensive care units, drawing criticism from an advocacy group.

Warning that Switzerland was running low on intensive care beds, the Swiss Society for Intensive Care Medicine (SGI) called this week on the "especially imperiled", including people over 60, or with health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, to put their wishes on paper in case the worst should happen.

Pro Senectute Schweiz said the call by the SGI, while in normal times sensible advice, created an impression of urgency inappropriate for a decision that demands deep consideration.

In Switzerland, COVID-19 numbers have exploded during the second infection wave, rising from 100,000 weeks ago to more than 290,000 cases on Friday, when 4,946 new infections were recorded. The death toll is at 3,575.

In the French-speaking region near Lake Geneva where infection rates are among Europe's highest, some hospitals have shifted patients elsewhere via helicopter, including the country's German-speaking north where the infection rate is lower, to free up ICU space.

UK

Britons will not be able to enjoy a normal Christmas this year due to the second wave of COVID-19, but the government is looking at ways to enable families to get together, Finance Minster Rishi Sunak said on Sunday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will confirm the end of the national lockdown in England on Dec 2 and reintroduction of the tier system when he announces the UK’s COVID-19 winter plan in Parliament on Monday.

The plan is set to be discussed and signed off by his Cabinet on Sunday, according to an emailed statement from the prime minister’s press office. It will include guidelines for family visits over Christmas, “despite ministers being clear this will not be a normal festive period.”

More areas will be placed into the higher tiers in order to keep the virus under control, and ensure further national restrictions aren’t required.

The United Kingdom recorded 19,875 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and 341 deaths of people who had tested positive for the virus within 28 days, official data showed.

Meanwhile, the UK Treasury said on Saturday Sunak is expected to announce one-year package worth more than 3 billion pounds (US$3.98 billion) to support the state-run National Health Service (NHS) in tackling the impact of the pandemic.

Ukraine

A total of 612,665 COVID-19 cases and 10,813 deaths had been registered in Ukraine as of Saturday, while 282,313 patients had recovered, according to the country's health ministry.

A record 14,580 new infections were registered in the past 24 hours, along with 7,989 new recoveries, the ministry said.

Health Minister Maxym Stepanov noted that restrictions would be tightened during the weekends and effects of that change would be seen at least two weeks after the rollout.

Under the tightened curbs, mass events with more than 20 people, as well as beauty salons and shopping and entertainment facilities will be prohibited from operating on weekends in Ukraine. 

A pedestrian walks past a sign reminding people to wear masks amid the coronavirus outbreak. In San Francisco, the United States, on Nov 21, 2020. (JEFF CHIU / AP)

US

The United States reported a new record-high COVID-19 daily tally of nearly 200,000 cases on Friday, as the total number of confirmed infections surpassed 12 million on Saturday.

The country has recorded more than 12,059,686 cases with more than 255,800 COVID-19-related deaths as of Saturday evening, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. It took just six days for the US to add over 1 million infections to hit 11 million cases on Nov 15.

The US saw 177,552 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from sources including Johns Hopkins University. 

A total of 192,673 new cases and 1,885 additional deaths were recorded across the US on Friday, according to data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday.

California, New Jersey and Oregon reported record infections Saturday, while New York posted its highest daily count since April. More curbs were expected in the Greater Los Angeles Area, such as restrictions on outdoor dining.

Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who is campaigning for January’s runoff election, is self-isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus, despite a subsequent inconclusive result, campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said in a statement.

Amid the continuing surge in infections, more than 1 million people flew through US domestic airports on Friday, the second-highest daily total since the pandemic hit last spring, even as officials warn against travel around the Thanksgiving holiday.

The CDC has issued a “strong recommendation” to Americans to refrain from all kinds of travel over Thanksgiving. It has also escalated its warning for cruise travel to the highest level and continued to recommend avoiding any trips on cruise ships worldwide.


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