Russia is another country to report record high number of coronavirus deaths today, with authorities in Moscow warning they could consider imposing additional restrictions if the situation worsened.
There were 439 deaths linked to the virus reported in Russia today.
Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said he did not expect the surge in cases in the capital, which reported nearly 6,000 new infections today, to subside any time soon. He said about 12,000 coronavirus patients were currently hospitalised.
The sprawling city of nearly 13 million people has already ordered bars, restaurants and nightclubs to close at 11pm, and moved university and college students to online learning.
“I hope that more restrictions will not be needed, but that will depend on the situation,” Sobyanin said in an interview with state television.
Nationwide, Russian authorities reported 21,608 new infections over the last 24 hours.
Wary of crippling the economy and destroying jobs, they have said they will not reimpose a full lockdown like that seen earlier this year, stressing the importance of hygiene, social distancing and targeted measures in certain regions instead.
With 1,858,568 infections since the start of the pandemic, Russia has the world’s fifth largest number of cases after the United States, India, Brazil and France. Russia has reported 32,032 deaths to date from Covid-19.
Croatia today reported 3,082 new cases of Covid-19, the highest daily number since the global pandemic hit the country nine months ago, although the prime minister, Andrej Plenković, said the overall rate of increase was slowing.
The south-east European nation of 4 million people has registered a total of 75,922 cases of the respiratory disease with 925 fatalities to day. There are now 16,388 active cases.
Plenković appealed to citizens to respect protective measures. He said:
We are in the toughest period of the epidemic, but a good thing we see is that a rise in the number of newly infected is slowing down [over the course of the past week].
Croats are obliged to wear face masks in indoor public spaces and on public transport, while employees are urged to organise work from home wherever possible. But the conservative government has said it will try to avoid a blanket lockdown or a curfew to avoid crippling the economy
Dozens of hospital workers have held protests at hospitals in Greece, demanding more medical staff be hired as the country struggles to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus that has led to a new lockdown being imposed.
The country’s health system has come under increasing pressure due to an increase in the number of people seriously ill with Covid-19. As of last night, Greece had a total of 1,104 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, of which 496 were set aside for Covid-19 patients. Of those, 335 are occupied.
The government has stressed it has massively increased the country’s intensive care capacity, noting there were a total of just over 500 ICU beds in Greece when it came to power after elections in mid-2019.
In a speech this morning on the government’s handling of the pandemic, the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said:
Every humanly possible effort was made so that we can, in the intervening time between the first wave and where we are today, reinforce the ICUs with beds and personnel. Whatever was humanly possible to be done has been done and continues to be done.
Mitsotakis said that no matter how many ICUs a country has, “and obviously we prefer to have more rather than fewer, a health system cannot cope if we do not hit the problem at the start of the chain. The start of the chain is the uncontrolled spread of the virus mainly through crowding and contact with people we do not know.”
The prime minister said the resurgence of the virus in Greece and the rest of Europe was due to “young people having fun. I’m not saying this as criticism, of course young people are more susceptible to such behaviour. But it’s an observation and it needs to be heard.”
In the initial outbreak of the pandemic in the spring, Greece imposed an early lockdown, a move that was credited with keeping the number of deaths and seriously ill very low. But a resurgence of the virus this autumn has led to a rapidly increasing number of people in ICUs, and a sharp increase in deaths.
As of last night, Greece’s total confirmed coronavirus cases stood at just over 63,300 with 909 deaths in the country of about 11 million people.
Iran death toll exceeds 40,000
Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus has risen above 40,000 after 457 more fatalities were recorded in the past 24 hours.
The number of people who have died from Covid in Iran, which has the highest death count in the Middle East, now stands at 40,121.
Health ministry data showed the total number of identified cases has reached 726,585. The health ministry spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, told state TV that Iran had identified a further 11,517 new cases over the last 24 hours.
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France’s minister of economy, Bruno Le Maire, said on Thursday the crucial Christmas season for businesses and shopkeepers could be saved, provided people stick to strict guidelines under the current lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“What I wish is that we can save December for retailers … What will dictate the decision of the prime minister and of the president is the protection of the safety of the French population,” Le Maire told BFM Business radio, according to Reuters.
If the population sticks to current guidelines, “we could have a dynamic December”, he said.
And that’s it from me. I am now placing you in the hugely capable hands of Haroon Siddique.
Two pieces of sports news.
Firstly, the Football Association has said it has asked the government to consider allowing England to play their Nations League match against Iceland at Wembley “by giving travel exemption to the Icelandic team subject to strict medical protocols”.
Secondly, France 24 is reporting that fans may be asked not to cheer at the Tokyo Olympics to avoid the risk of spreading the coronavirus, a top official said on Thursday.
The comments follow a gymnastics test event in Tokyo on Sunday where mask-wearing spectators, urged not to shout or cheer, confined themselves to polite applause and murmurs of approval.
Tokyo 2020’s chief executive, Toshiro Muto, said fans arriving in Japan may be spared a mandatory two-week quarantine, saying it would be too hard to enforce. But he said officials were also considering urging fans not to shout or talk loudly, to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infections at the postponed 2020 games.
“There’s a possibility that we might ask the (Olympic) spectators to refrain from shouting or talking in a loud voice,” said Muto after a committee meeting.
“When we think of the impact, we believe it is an item for consideration, to reduce the risk of airborne droplets.”
However, Muto added that the “practicality and feasibility” of clamping down on cheering needed to be considered.
While sports competitions around the world have resumed after shutting down for the pandemic, most are taking place behind closed doors.
Fans are allowed at sports events in Japan, usually in limited numbers, but they are advised not to shout and cheer.
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen his longtime adviser Ron Klain to reprise his role as chief of staff, thereby installing an aide with decades of experience in the top role in his White House, AP reports.
Klain will lead a White House likely to be consumed by the response to the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to spread across the nation, and will face the challenge of working with a divided Congress that could include a Republican-led Senate. Klain served as the coordinator to the Ebola response during the 2014 outbreak.
Klain served as chief of staff for Biden during Barack Obama’s first term, was chief of staff to Vice-president Al Gore in the mid-1990s and was a key adviser on the Biden campaign, guiding Biden’s debate preparations and coronavirus response. He has known and worked with Biden since the Democrat’s 1987 presidential campaign.
The choice of Klain underscores the effort the incoming Biden administration will place on the coronavirus response from day one. Klain also played a central role in drafting and implementing the Obama administration’s economic recovery plan in 2009.
California is nearing the unwelcome milestone of a million Covid-19 cases, reports AP.
For months, the virus has hammered the economy, disproportionately affected the poor, and upended daily life – and now the state and the rest of the country are trying to curb another surge of infections.
California will be the second state – behind Texas – to eclipse a million known cases. The grim milestone in a state of 40 million people comes as the US has surpassed 10m infections. Eleven counties this week have had to reimpose limits.
The timeline of Covid-19 in the US often comes back to California. It had some of the earliest known cases among travellers from China, where the outbreak began. The death of a San Jose woman on 6 February is the first known coronavirus fatality in the US. That same month, California recorded the first US case not related to travel and the first infection spread within the community.
Health officials have warned against get-togethers as the holidays approach and people spend more time indoors, where the virus spreads more easily.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said on Thursday the number of Covid-19 deaths is set to rise and it expects an uncontrolled spread of the disease in some parts of the country, reports Reuters.
Global oil demand is unlikely to get a significant boost from the roll-out of vaccines against Covid-19 until well into 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday, a view that is likely to dampen oil price gains since vaccine progress was announced earlier this week.
“It is far too early to know how and when vaccines will allow normal life to resume. For now, our forecasts do not anticipate a significant impact in the first half of 2021,” the IEA said in its monthly report, reported by Reuters.
“The poor outlook for demand and rising production in some countries … suggest that the current fundamentals are too weak to offer firm support to prices.”
The Gates Foundation added another $70m of funding on Thursday to global efforts to develop and distribute vaccines and treatments against the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it hoped other international donors would also pledge more.
An extra $50m will go to the Covax Advance Market Commitment (AMC) led by the Gavi vaccine alliance, the foundation said, and another $20m to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) which is co-funding development of several Covid-19 vaccine candidates, reports Reuters.
“We have to ensure that everyone gets equal access to tests, drugs, and vaccines when they are available – no matter where you live in the world,” the foundation’s co-chair, Melinda Gates, said in a statement. “Our pledge today … means we are getting closer to having the resources needed to help the world fight this virus.”
Along with the World Health Organization, Cepi and Gavi are co-leading a global scheme known as the Access to Covid-19 Tools (Act) accelerator, which aims to speed up development, production and fair access to Covid-19 drugs, tests and vaccines.
European shares retreated from eight-month highs on Thursday as surging coronavirus infections raised doubts about a quicker economic rebound and overshadowed several upbeat quarterly earnings reports, reports Reuters.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 index was down 0.7% by 08.04 GMT, taking some of the shine off gains of more than 13% this month that had set it on course for its best monthly performance ever.
London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.9% as data showed the UK economy grew by a slower than expected 1.1% in September from August, even before the latest restrictions on businesses.
The German engineering group Siemens shed 3.4% even as it reported better-than-expected profit at its industrial business in the final set of results overseen by Siemens’ long-standing chief executive, Joe Kaeser.
Israeli’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he is working “around the clock” to make a deal with the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, following promising preliminary results from its Covid-19 vaccine trial.
Fearing Israel could be left without an early vaccine, the country’s leader said he had held two phone calls with Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla – one at 2am local time on Thursday – in the hopes of signing an agreement.
Netanyahu said in a statement that the call was “very warm and cordial” but did not announce an agreement had been signed. “The whole world wants to get [Pfizer’s] medicines. We are negotiating with them,” he said.
Interim results from Pfizer this week suggested that its two-shot vaccine, developed with the German firm BioNTech, was 90% effective.
Local media in Israel, a country of 9 million people, reported the prime minister was looking to source about 6m doses. Pfizer has not commented on any deal.
Israel has deals in place with at least two other pharmaceutical firms for vaccines and is developing its own, but officials do not expect to start vaccination drives with those unreleased products for several months.
AP is looking at whether it is safe to fly during the pandemic. From 1 December, reports the news agency, Southwest Airlines will join United and American in allowing every seat on planes to be sold. JetBlue will scale back the number of blocked seats, and – along with Delta and Alaska – plans to drop all limits some time next year.
The airline industry says it is safe to fly, pointing to a report it funded that found the risk of viral spread on planes very low if everyone wears a mask as planes have good ventilation and strong air filters.
But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that sitting within 6ft of other passengers – sometimes for hours – can still increase your risk of infection. And although airlines are still requiring passengers to wear masks, there is no guarantee everyone will comply. More than 1,000 people who refused to wear masks have been banned by US airlines.
Remember, says AP, that flying also means spending time in airport security lines and gate areas, where you might come into close contact with others.
In an October travel update, the CDC emphasised the importance of wearing a mask and recommended checking whether infections are rising in the area to which you’re travelling.
The Philippine health ministry has reported 1,407 new coronavirus infections and 11 more deaths, the lowest daily increase in fatalities in nearly three months.
The ministry said total confirmed cases rose to 402,820, while deaths reached 7,721. The Philippines has the second highest Covid-19 cases and deaths in south-east Asia, next to Indonesia.