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Beijing government is calling for stricter Covid-19 control and prevention during the holidays as the Chinese capital city reported five local cases on Saturday. The cluster of infections that’s thrust Sydney’s Northern Beaches into lockdown has increased to 122 cases.
Japan will ban entry to most non-Japanese nationals through the end of January. U.S. cases rose on Christmas Day at the slowest rate in almost two months, though the numbers were likely skewed by the holiday. Global infections surpassed 80 million.
As some European nations began vaccinations, Sweden joined France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland and Japan on a growing list of countries that have identified their first cases of the coronavirus mutation widespread in the U.K.
China Reports 12 Local Covid Cases (08:37 a.m. HK)
China reported 12 confirmed local coronavirus cases on Saturday, including five in Beijing and seven in the northeastern province of Liaoning, according to the National Health Commission.
Of the cases in Liaoning, four are in the provincial capital of Shenyang and three are in Dalian. Beijing city government is calling for stricter control and prevention during the holiday time, People’s Daily reported.
Covid-19 Cluster in Sydney’s Northern Beaches Rises (08:28 a.m. HK)
The cluster of Covid-19 infections that’s thrust Sydney’s Northern Beaches into lockdown has increased to 122 cases, health officials said Sunday.
Seven new local cases were reported overnight, with six linked to the cluster, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
The outbreak is a blow to Australia, which had largely suppressed community transmission through rigorous testing and contact tracing, and by shuttering the international border — with all returning overseas travelers made to isolate for 14 days in quarantine hotels. The source of the cluster is still being investigated.
Argentina to Begin Using Russian Vaccine (7:40 a.m. HK)
Argentina President Alberto Fernandez said during a video meeting with the country’s governors that the Russian Sputnik V vaccinations will begin on Tuesday.
Vaccines will be distributed on Monday throughout the country, according to a statement. The Health Ministry reported 14,402 new cases and 187 deaths between Thursday and Saturday.
Expanded Vaccinations to Begin in U.K. on Jan. 4: Telegraph (5:51 p.m. NY)
Oxford and Astrazeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine will be rolled out across the U.K. starting Jan. 4, the Telegraph reports, citing plans that ministers are drawing up. The publication also reported that mass vaccination centers at sports stadiums and conference venues are expected to launch in the second week of January.
Responding to the report, a Health Department spokeswoman told Reuters that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency will need time to carry out review of the vaccine data.
Virus Variant Found in Canadian Couple With No Travel History (4:32 p.m. NY)
The Canadian province of Ontario announced that it had found two cases of the coronavirus variant now widespread in the U.K. They were identified as a couple “with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts,” according to a statement.
“This further reinforces the need for Ontarians to stay home as much as possible and continue to follow all public health advice, including the provincewide shutdown measures beginning today,” said Barbara Yaffe, the province’s chief medical officer. The lockdown restricts gatherings, limits in-person shopping and prohibits indoor and outdoor dining.
N.Y. Investigates Possible Vaccine Fraud (4:16 p.m. NY)
New York state investigators are looking into reports that an upstate health care agency obtained Covid-19 vaccine doses and improperly distributed them. A press release from Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, suggested ParCare Community Health Network in Orange County may have diverted the vaccine to people not on the state’s list to receive it first — health care workers and residents and staff of nursing homes.
“We take this very seriously and DOH will be assisting State Police in a criminal investigation into this matter,” Zucker said.
Mexico to Deploy Covid Vaccines on Monday (3:15 p.m. NY)
Mexico will begin to deploy doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccines on Monday Dec. 28 in different areas of Mexico City and the state of Coahuila, the Ministry of Health said in a statement. The first to receive the vaccine will be health workers.
Trump Restates Opposition to Lockdowns (3:08 p.m. NY)
President Donald Trump, never a fan of closing the economy to slow the spread of the coronavirus, tweeted on Saturday that “lockdowns in Democrat run states” are ruining the lives of many people.
“Cases in California have risen despite the lockdown, yet Florida & others are open & doing well,” Trump said.
Democrat-led California has seen record Covid-19 cases and a spike in deaths this month, and health systems have become overwhelmed in some areas. An average of over 18,500 people have been hospitalized in California with Covid in the past seven days. But some Midwest states, both Democratic and Republican, have had recent success bringing cases down with restrictive measures of various kinds.
Florida, where few restrictions are in place, is now recording infections just below the level of the deadly surge last summer. Average daily fatalities, which trailed off in the fall, have more than doubled since the beginning of November.
France Cases Slow Over Holiday (1:39 p.m. NY)
France reported the lowest number of new cases in almost two weeks, with 3,093 additional confirmed cases, according to French health authorities. The number of deaths rose by 146 to 62,573.
N.J. December Cases Equal May-October Tally (1:31 p.m. NY)
New Jersey has had about as many cases in December as it did from May through October. This month’s tally is already a record.
The state reported 4,000 cases on Dec. 25, bringing its total so far this month to roughly 117,000. From May 1 to Oct. 31, it reported nearly 119,000.
Of 458,901 total cases since the outbreak first hit New Jersey in March, just under half were reported in November and December, data show.
Hospitalizations from Covid-19 have tripled in that same two-month time period.
New York State Cases Slow, Deaths Again Above 100 (1:26 p.m. NY)
New York state’s new cases slowed and total hospitalizations fell slightly, as did the statewide positive test rate, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a tweet. But several areas — including Long Island and the regions around Albany and Erie — are getting hit harder than state averages.
After two straight days of new infections above 12,000 — among the highest numbers of the pandemic — 10,806 cases were recorded Saturday. Another 122 people died, the 10th consecutive day with fatalities above 100.
German Vaccinations Begin Earlier Than Planned (12:47 p.m. NY)
Germany’s vaccination program started a day earlier than planned when a 101-year-old woman and around 40 others in a care home for the elderly were inoculated on Saturday, DPA reported.
“Every day we wait is a day too many,” the news agency quoted the head of the home, Tobias Krueger, as saying. Ten workers at the facility in the eastern German city of Halberstadt were also vaccinated, DPA said.
Inoculations will start across Germany on Sunday, beginning with people aged over 80, care workers and health personnel deemed to be at particular risk. Health Minister Jens Spahn said Saturday it will likely take until the middle of next year to provide every citizen who wants one with a shot.
France Begins Vaccinations (12:04 p.m. NY)
France will kick off its vaccination campaign on Sunday morning with about 10 elderly residents and one staff member at a care home in Sevran, outside Paris. In the afternoon, several residents at a care home in Dijon will receive shots, French health authorities said in a briefing with reporters.
Next week, vaccinations will be rolled out to 23 establishments in the Paris, Lyon and Tours areas, as well as the northern tip of France. This will also involve elderly care home residents and older staff at risk.
The French Health Ministry expects that the current available vaccines will be effective against the new Covid-19 variants circulating mainly in the U.K. and South Africa. The first two stages of vaccination, covering 15 million people considered a priority, are expected to take six months, before vaccines are rolled out more widely.
Italy Cases Slow (11:54 p.m. NY)
Italy reported 10,407 new cases, a decrease from 19,037 the day before, and the number of newly-recorded deaths fell to 261. The country on Thursday began what will be the first of two strict lockdown periods as the government tries to curb contact between citizens during the holiday period. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a Facebook post on Saturday that the first doses of the vaccine arrived in Rome.
A new Covid-19 strain was found in the region of Campania, which includes Naples, in six passengers traveling from the U.K., where it is widespread, and in other areas of the country including Veneto, La Repubblica reported on its website.
Ireland Cases Accelerate (11:24 a.m. NY)
Ireland recorded almost 1,300 new virus cases on Saturday, breaking 1,000 for the second day in a row and taking numbers back to the peak of the so-called second wave of the disease. The government has already brought forward new curbs, closing all bars and restaurants on Christmas Eve and restricting travel for at least three weeks. It hasn’t ruled out a return of tougher measures.
U.K. Cases Stay Above 30,000 (11:11 a.m. NY)
The U.K. reported more than 30,000 cases for the seventh consecutive day. Saturday’s tally of 34,693 cases is in line with the average over the previous seven days. Deaths were significantly lower at 210, compared to a daily average of 522 for the past week. However, not all countries in the U.K. are reporting complete data over the holidays.
Portugal Reports Fewest Cases Since October (10:05 a.m. NY)
Portugal on Saturday reported the smallest daily increase in confirmed virus cases since October. There were 1,214 new cases in a day, less than a fifth of the daily record of 6,994 reported on Nov. 19. The number of patients in intensive-care units rose by nine to 513.
Portugal is scheduled to start providing Covid-19 vaccines on Sunday, and will begin by giving the shots to healthcare workers.
Japan Bans New Entry by All Non-Nationals (9 a.m. NY)
The Japanese government will ban all new entries by non-Japanese nationals starting Dec. 28 and lasting through the end of January, the government said in a statement. The move comes amid mounting concerns over a new variant of the virus at a time when new cases in Tokyo have reached a record.
Sweden Finds First Case of New Strain (8:26 p.m. NY)
Sweden has identified its first case of the new coronavirus mutation after a person from the U.K. visited the Nordic nation to celebrate Christmas in the Sormland region. There’s a risk more people in Sweden have been infected by the variant, according to Signar Makitalo, the infection prevention doctor for the region.
The country’s health agency is now recommending that everyone in Sweden who has traveled from the U.K. after Dec. 12 be tested for the virus.
The agency confirmed that 9,750 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine have arrived in Sweden, with enough doses to cover 4,900 people. The first inoculations will be administered on Sunday.
20 Nigerian Doctors Die From Covid in One Week: Report (3:46 p.m. HK)
At least 20 Nigerian doctors have died from Covid-19 in a week amid a second wave of infections, the Premium Times reported, citing the Nigeria Medical Association.
The outbreak has been caused by intense community transmission in nearly two dozen states. Nigerian health workers had complained of exposure to coronavirus infections due to a lack of adequate personal protective equipment, which has led to more than 1,000 infections among health workers.
South Africa Sees Another Daily Record (3:03 p.m. HK)
South Africa reported record daily infections for a third straight day, with 14,796 new cases, the health ministry said late Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 983,359.
The government rejected allegations that a new variant in the country had spurred a second wave in the U.K., and criticized its decision to impose travel restrictions. Several other countries have also halted flights from South Africa.
U.S. Cases See Christmas Lull (1:34 p.m. HK)
The U.S. recorded 106,188 new Covid-19 cases on Dec. 25, an increase of just 0.6% from the day before and the smallest daily gain since Nov. 4, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins University. However, the numbers were likely skewed by the Christmas holiday: The last time the daily rise was below 1% was on Thanksgiving, and was preceded and followed by significantly larger jumps.
— With assistance by Charlie Zhu, Chunying Zhang, Charles Daly, Joao Lima, Sara Marley, Dara Doyle, Chiara Remondini, James Regan, Stacie Sherman, Ros Krasny, Alex Vasquez, Jessica Park, Go Onomitsu, Ian Fisher, and Ed Johnson