18 December

Global: Coronavirus infections pass 75 million. Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll has passed 1,663,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 17.2 million. The United States on Thursday surpassed a total of 17m coronavirus cases, with infections rising by more than a million a week during the early winter surge – at the start of the year it took three months for the US to accumulate its first million cases. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 310,782 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

US president-elect Joe Biden tested negative for Covid-19, after an incoming White House adviser, Cedric Richmond, contracted the virus, a spokeswoman for Biden said in a statement. Richmond was not in close contact with Biden as defined by the Centers for Disease Control.

Florida reported 13,164 new cases among residents, the most for a single day since a summer surge in mid-July. The state’s positive-test rate, which stayed below 8% on most days in December, came in at 8.8% on Wednesday, according to health department data.

France: Emmanuel Macron ‘very likely’ infected with Covid-19 during EU council. The French President tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, prompting a track-and-trace effort across Europe following numerous meetings between the French leader and EU heads of government in recent days.

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France registered 18,254 new Covid-19 cases over 24 hours, the most since 20 November. The rolling seven-day average of cases, which smooths out fluctuations over a week, jumped 5.3% to 12,764, back to levels last seen at the end of November.

Colombia: Daily confirmed cases of coronavirus reached their highest level since mid-August on Thursday, as the government warned people against large holiday gatherings.

UK: The UK recorded its highest daily increase of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, in part because Wales added thousands of previously unreported infections. A further 35,383 new cases were reported, about 11,000 of them as a result of “system maintenance in the NHS Wales Laboratory Information Management System.”

Sweden: The king of Sweden said the country has failed in its response to Covid-19, as hospitals in the Stockholm region warned they were struggling to cope with a surge in cases and polls showed public confidence in the authorities had plunged to a new low.

Vaccine news

US: Many US states are going to get fewer vaccine doses than originally planned, according to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, marking what could be a significant hiccup in the effort to distribute shots to all Americans. Next week’s allocation for Washington, the state that saw the first outbreak of the epidemic in the US, was cut by 40%, Inslee, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “All states are seeing similar cuts,” he said, adding the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention didn’t give the state any explanation.

Pfizer Inc. said it has shipped all 2.9 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine that the US government ordered this week and that it has millions more doses sitting in warehouses awaiting instructions for where to ship.

US FDA advisers agreed on Thursday that the benefits of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine outweigh any risk, giving a boost to efforts to ramp up the US immunization campaign. The effort is initially focusing on health-care workers and seniors who live in long-term care facilities. The FDA could authorize the shot within the next day.

Pfizer Inc. and US drug regulators are revising information for use and monitoring of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine developed with BioNTech SE after rare allergic reactions were seen in some recipients. The revisions reflect guidelines from the CDC for following vaccine recipients and managing potential reactions, Doran Fink, deputy director of FDA’s division of vaccines and related products applications, said Thursday in a meeting of FDA advisers. Two people in Alaska who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine suffered reactions, which have also been seen in vaccine recipients in the UK

China: China is planning to distribute 100 million vaccines made by Sinopharm and Sinovac before Lunar New Year to prevent coronavirus outbreaks during the holiday travel season, South China Morning Post reports, citing an unnamed health specialist “with knowledge of” a training meeting to prepare for mass inoculations. It is planning to vaccinate high-priority groups such as health workers, police officers and transport and logistic workers, while inoculations for the general public aren’t expected to start until after the Chinese New Year.

Russia: Comments by President Vladimir Putin signalling caution about Russia’s coronavirus vaccine reverberated in Argentina, where the government plans to use it on priority groups, including the elderly. Argentina will await the final results before importing the vaccines by plane to Buenos Aires, said a person familiar with the matter. Putin, 68, expressed caution about taking the Sputnik V vaccine, saying at a news conference earlier Thursday that it hasn’t been fully tested on people his age.

Lockdown updates

US: Microsoft Corp. called for an accelerated reopening of elementary schools in Washington State and pledged protective equipment, cleaning supplies and technology to track Covid-19 tests. The company, based in Redmond, Washington, also called for teachers to be prioritized in the state’s vaccination plans.

Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland is preparing for a sweeping lockdown and the deployment of paramedics from the Republic of Ireland in an effort to control Covid-19. Health officials on Thursday proposed a six-week lockdown and approved a plan to reinforce the ambulance service with units from across the border.

Portugal: An overnight curfew from 11pm will come into force in Portugal on New Year’s Eve, prime minister António Costa said, as the country introduces measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus during the usually busy night.

Australia: Sydney reported an additional 10 cases on Friday, taking the total cluster on Sydney’s northern beaches to 28, prompting states to reimpose restrictions on visitors coming from New South Wales.