Germany Extends Lockdown; Iran’s 1 Million Cases: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — The number of coronavirus cases reported in Iran surpassed 1 million on Thursday, the Middle East’s worst outbreak. German Chancellor Angela Merkel extended the nation’s partial lockdown for three more weeks, with the daily death toll at its highest since April.

Los Angeles ordered residents to stay home and businesses that require in-person work to cease operations. The U.S. had its deadliest day ever, with Covid-19 fatalities topping 2,700, according to Johns Hopkins University. Hospitalizations in the country surpassed 100,000 for the first time.

Thailand will intensify patrolling at its borders after about a dozen people, who illegally entered the country from neighboring Myanmar, tested positive for coronavirus.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases reach 64.5 million; deaths top 1.49 millionOperation Warp Speed and U.K. vaccine drive leave Europe behindU.S. Hot Spots: New York, California, Rust Belt drive death surgeThe U.K. has approved a vaccine. Here’s what happens nextVaccine Tracker: Covid-19 inoculations are about to beginThe best and worst places to be in the coronavirus era

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chart, histogram: U.S. records its deadliest day of the pandemic as virus fatalities top 2,600

© Bloomberg
U.S. records its deadliest day of the pandemic as virus fatalities top 2,600

Covid Drugs Need U.S. Controls to Prevent Gouging (7 a.m. NY)

The U.S. government should set prices for coronavirus vaccines and therapies to prevent gouging, a coalition of companies and other employers said.

Medicare, the health program serving older Americans, should determine fair prices for Covid-19 drugs and inoculations that would also be paid by companies, organizations and individuals, Employers’ Prescription for Affordable Drugs said in a statement. The group cited Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir antiviral as an example of an overpriced therapy.

Philanthropic Fund to Pay South Africa’s Vaccine Deposit (6:20 a.m. NY)

The Solidarity Fund, a more than 3 billion rand ($196 million) charitable fund set up to help South Africa fight the coronavirus, has agreed to pay the 320 million rand deposit the country needs to ensure access to vaccines against the pathogen from the Covax initiative.

Belgium Identifies Priority Groups for Vaccination (6:37 a.m. NY)

Belgian health-care workers and care-home residents will be the first to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, followed by people aged 65 and above. People aged 45 to 65 with an underlying medical condition are next in line, ahead of Belgians with a still-to-be-defined “essential” social or economic function. Belgium expects to receive about 600,000 vaccine doses in the first months of 2021, according to Pedro Facon, the official in charge of coordinating Belgium’s pandemic policy.

Unknown Nation-State Attacking Vaccine Cold Chain (6 a.m. NY)

Nation-state hackers have been masquerading the past few months as one of the world’s largest cold-chain providers in a global email phishing scam seemingly aimed at spying on entities essential to the global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, researchers said.

X-Force, a digital security unit at International Business Machines Corp., discovered an email operation in which hackers claimed to represent Qingdao Haier Biomedical Co., a China-based company and one of the world’s largest cold-chain suppliers, making equipment to store and deliver materials at cold temperatures. In at least one copy of the spam email, the fake Haier representative sought to purchase about 500 vaccine refrigerators to bolster their temperature-controlled logistical services.

Pandemic Pushed 32 Million Into Extreme Poverty: UN (6:47 p.m. HK)

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the world’s poorest countries, pushing millions into extreme poverty, according to a United Nations report.

More than 32 million additional people in the poorest countries in the world now live on less than $1.90 a day — a direct result of the outbreak, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said Thursday.

Moscow to Begin Mass Vaccinations Saturday (6:46 p.m. HK)

Video: Nations press on with AstraZeneca vaccine amid concerns (Reuters)

Nations press on with AstraZeneca vaccine amid concerns



Moscow will begin giving high-risk workers Covid-19 vaccinations on Saturday after President Vladimir Putin called for authorities to roll out a mass inoculation program. The first doses will be for teachers, health care workers and city social services employees, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on his blog. The list of eligible people will be expanded as more supplies arrive, he said.

Russia has the world’s fourth-highest number of cases globally, with almost 2.4 million. On Wednesday, Putin said more than 2 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine will be ready for use in the coming days.

Phase III Trials of Russia's 'Sputnik V' COVID-19 Vaccine

© Bloomberg
Phase III Trials of Russia’s ‘Sputnik V’ COVID-19 Vaccine

A health worker administers a Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine shot during a trial at the City Clinic #2 in Moscow, on Nov. 26.

Greece Extends Lockdown for a Week (6:43 p.m. HK)

Greece extended its lockdown until Dec. 14, said Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman. “Certain types of economic activity are simply not going to operate until we have a vaccine,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday. “Maybe at some point we’ll be able to open restaurants with proper social distancing and we can certainly contemplate opening retail, but certain restriction will be absolutely necessary until we find the vaccine,” he said.

Iran Surpasses 1 Million Covid Cases (6:30 p.m. HK)

The number of coronavirus cases reported in Iran surpassed 1 million on Thursday, underlining the virus’s persistent spread in the Middle East’s worst outbreak. The Health Ministry announced 13,922 new cases in the country of about 80 million, above the seven-day average of 13,598.

While new infections have leveled out in the past week, the daily death toll has fallen from a record high of 486 on Nov. 16 to 358 on Thursday. Some 49,348 people have so far died from the disease.

U.K. Won Vaccine Race Because It’s a ‘Better Country’ (6:12 p.m. HK)

A minister in Boris Johnson’s government said the U.K. won the race to approve a coronavirus vaccine because it’s a “better country,” threatening to amplify a row over Britain claiming credit for the shot.

“We’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulator, much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have,” Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told LBC Radio on Thursday. “That doesn’t surprise me at all because we’re a much better country than every single one of them.”

Hungary Reports Record Number of Deaths (5:15 p.m. HK)

Hungary reported a record 182 covid deaths, with the daily toll having stayed consistently above 150 for almost a week. There were 7,693 coronavirus patients in hospital, including 663 on ventilators, the government said Thursday. Officials have been bracing for a surge into at least early December because of the delayed effect of lockdown restrictions imposed last month.

The nation may see the rate of infections and deaths start to fall this month, Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas told reporters.

Study Shows Economic Gains From Sharing Vaccines: WHO (5 p.m. HK)

Ten of the world’s biggest economies would get a combined boost of at least $153 billion through next year if Covid-19 vaccines are shared on an equitable basis with low- and medium-income countries, according to a report by the Eurasia Group commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That would rise to $466 billion through 2025, compared with the $38 billion estimated cost of the ACT Accelerator, a program to develop vaccines and treatments.

The pandemic could push the number of people living in extreme poverty to more than 1 billion by 2030, the United Nations Development Program said in a separate report.

Finland Reports Rapid Deterioration in Pandemic (4:25 p.m. HK)

Finland’s pandemic situation has deteriorated rapidly with the number of infections growing sharply in almost all areas of the country. Finland registered 5,620 new Covid-19 cases in the two-week period through Nov. 29, which is 2,559 more than during the previous fortnight, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said on Thursday. Incidence over the same period almost doubled to 101 cases per 100,000 people, from 55 during the prior fortnight.

Italian Cabinet Approves New Restriction Plan (4:21 p.m. HK)

The Italian government approved a new restriction plan for the Christmas and New Year holiday season, banning movements between regions from Dec. 21 to Jan. 6. Movements between different towns will also be banned on Dec. 25, Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, according to a statement from the cabinet.

High schools would reopen on Jan. 7, and cruises would be banned, according to a draft of a new decree seen by Bloomberg, which is being finalized by the administration of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The draft is subject to change, with measures due to come into force on Friday.

Thailand Steps Up Surveillance (3:39 p.m. HK)

Thailand will intensify patrolling at its borders after about a dozen people, who illegally entered the country from neighboring Myanmar, tested positive for coronavirus.

“We’re not only cracking down on border areas but we’re doing increased searches throughout the nation,” Opas Karnkawipong, acting director general of disease control at the health ministry, said at a briefing Thursday. “Our immigration and communicable diseases laws all carry severe punishments and the authorities will punish all who break our laws to the highest degree.”

Germany Extends Virus Curbs Into 2021 (3:36 p.m. HK)

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will extend its partial lockdown by three weeks as the country struggles to regain control of the coronavirus spread. Bars, gyms and cinemas will remain closed until Jan. 10 and the government will reconvene with regional leaders on Jan. 4 to reassess the restrictions, Merkel said late Wednesday after talks with the premiers of Germany’s 16 states.

The country’s infection rates are still far too high and need to come down faster, Merkel said in Berlin. “We have to bemoan a very high number of deaths every day, which shows the amount of responsibility that we have.”

a group of people sitting on the side of a building: Germany Maintains Semi-Lockdown In Effort To Rein In Coronavirus Infections

© Photographer: Maja Hitij/Getty Images Europe
Germany Maintains Semi-Lockdown In Effort To Rein In Coronavirus Infections


Visitors walk past a shuttered Berlin restaurant. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Turkey’s Vaccination Road Map (2:21 p.m. HK)

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca outlined a road map for vaccination as the country struggles with an increasing number of coronavirus cases and deaths. The first batch of vaccines is expected to arrive after Dec. 11 and people including medical staff and those over 65 years old with chronic diseases will be vaccinated in the first phase, according to minister’s remarks in state Anadolu news agency.

Although Koca didn’t mention a specific vaccine name, Turkey has previously said it agreed with China to purchase 50 million doses over the next three months. The country is also in discussions for 1 million doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.

L.A. Mayor Issues Order to Stay Home (12:44 p.m. HK)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an order for residents to stay at home, warning that the city is approaching a “devastating tipping point” in its fight against Covid-19 that would overwhelm the hospital system.

“We must minimize contact with others as much as possible,” Garcetti wrote in the order dated Dec. 2. The steps were needed to avoid risking “needless suffering and death,” he said.

The order, which supersedes one from June, prohibits public and private gatherings of people from more than one household and states that all businesses in the city that require people to work on location must stop operations. Walking, driving, travel on public transport, bikes, motorcycles and scooters are prohibited, other than for those undertaking essential activities.

Japan’s Osaka to Signal State of Emergency (11:44 a.m. HK)

Based on Osaka’s three-tier alert system a red alert indicates the medical system is under incredible strain. It calls for people not to travel and facilities that could be the source of cluster outbreaks to close. Tokyo found 533 new virus cases, 54 of which are serious.

Japan authorities have been urging preparations for a “worst-case scenario” as serious Covid-19 cases have risen to a record across the country. Tokyo raised its Covid-19 alert to the highest of four levels last month, as daily infections in the Japanese capital increased by more than 500.

(An earlier version was corrected to the right time stamps)

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