(Bloomberg) -- One year after a mysterious pathogen first revealed itself in Wuhan, China, the Covid-19 pandemic enters 2021 with no signs of slowing down. Global daily deaths reached record highs this week, while U.S. infections approached 20 million, almost twice as many as second-worst hit country India.
Countries from Japan to South Africa ended 2020 with record daily cases. In the U.S., New York state and Florida shattered their previous case records, while Texas saw a new high for hospitalizations. The U.S. added 227,616 cases on Dec. 31. China and Brazil became the latest to report infections of the new, highly transmissible virus strain.
Vaccines remained the best hope for 2021. The World Health Organization issued an emergency-use designation for Pfizer Inc.’s shot, a move that could allow more countries to import and distribute the vaccine. Singapore tightened restrictions on travelers from South Africa.
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Russia Cases Top 27,000 (5:30 p.m. HK)
Russia recorded 27,039 new cases of Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, taking the total number to 3.186 million, according to the country’s task force for combating the pandemic. Five hundred and thirty-six people died from the coronavirus in the past day, bringing the death toll to 57,555.
Germany’s Merz Calls for Schools to Reopen (4:42 p.m. HK)
Friedrich Merz, one of the contenders to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor, said schools in the country should reopen as soon as possible. “What I find most troubling isn’t the economic damage of the lockdown, but rather the massive damage to the education of our children,” Funke Mediengruppe cited him as saying in an interview. Merz said he wants the heads of Germany’s state governments take a uniform approach when they meet in coming days to discuss extending the country’s lockdown, according to Funke.
BioNTech Boosts Vaccine Capacity (4:29 p.m. HK)
BioNTech will increase production capacity of the vaccine it developed with Pfizer, CEO Ugur Sahin tells Der Spiegel. Germany has a gap in supply because some other shots haven’t been approved yet, he said. BioNTech’s plant in Marburg, Germany may be operational in February and produce as many as 250 million doses in the first half, the magazine cited Sahin as saying.
South Africa Breaks Record for Daily Cases (3:40 p.m. HK)
South Africa reported a record 18,000 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, bringing the cumulative total to 1.06 million. “Previously we warned that this second wave will dwarf the first wave and indeed this is the case,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement late Thursday.
“Despite performing of 55,000 tests in the past 24 hours, the positivity rate is 32.5% -- we keep highlighting this point because this indicates that the virus is spreading so fast that it is outpacing our ability to detect it -- even with good turnaround times.”
The number of people who’ve died after being diagnosed with the disease rose by 436 to 28,469, the health ministry said.
India’s Total Confirmed Cases Reach 10.29 Million (12:25 p.m. HK)
India added over 20,000 cases in a day, according to government data, bringing the total case load to 10.29 million as of Jan. 1. Coronavirus related deaths have reached 148,994.
China reported 19 new cases while South Korea reported 1,029 new infections.
Japan’s Stance Against Emergency Appears to Shift (11:20 a.m. HK)
Tokyo’s metropolitan government is considering a request to the central government to declare a state of emergency, national broadaster NHK reported. On Wednesday, Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan’s coronavirus response, said the country could consider an emergency if infections continue at the current rate.
Australia Cases Show Signs of Easing (9:00 a.m. HK)
Australians received positive news on New Year’s Day with few new coronavirus cases recorded from the previous day, bringing hope that clusters in Sydney and Melbourne have been brought under control. Three new cases were reported overnight in Sydney in the city’s west, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters Friday. Meanwhile, authorities in neighboring Victoria state recorded no new cases overnight after eight new infections were detected Thursday.
Wisconsin Hospital Worker Arrested for Spoiled Vaccines: AP (8:54 a.m. HK)
Authorities arrested a suburban Milwaukee pharmacist Thursday suspected of deliberately ruining hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine by removing them from refrigeration for two nights, the Associated Press reported. Police in Grafton, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Milwaukee, said the Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerment, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.
Bolsonaro Says Brazil Might Buy Moderna Vaccine Soon (8:22 a.m. HK)
Brazil may obtain the Moderna Inc. vaccine, President Jair Bolsonaro said during a live broadcast on social media Thursday. “In addition to Pfizer, we have another one that is now available, Moderna, which may be acquired by Brazil,” he said.
145 Workers at Costco Store Test Positive: AP (8:03 a.m. HK)
Some 145 workers tested positive for Covid-19 at a Costco store near Yakima, Washington, the Associated Press reported, citing health officials. The store remains open while health officials investigate, the report said. The health district said it will monitor the outbreak, which began before Christmas.
Utah Governor-Elect Warns of Surge as Cases Hit High (5:33 p.m. NY)
Utah reported a record 4,667 new cases, as Governor-elect Spencer Cox warned, “It’s possibly the beginning of a holiday-related surge.”
“Fortunately we only saw a small surge related to Thanksgiving,” he tweeted. “But our fear is that people were less cautious during Christmas. If you are planning large gatherings to celebrate New Years Eve, please reconsider.”
Georgia Hits Record; Perdue Goes Into Quarantine (5:10 p.m. NY)
Georgia reported 12,090 new cases, a record, as Governor Brian Kemp expanded eligibility for those who can receive a vaccine. He and health officials said that adults 65 years and older, law enforcement and first responders can also now receive inoculations, in addition to staff and residents of long-term care facilities.
Senator David Perdue, just days before a runoff that will determine control of the U.S. Senate, has gone into quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, his campaign announced on Thursday.
WHO Approves Pfizer/BioNtech Vaccine (4:38 p.m. NY)
The World Health Organization issued its first emergency-use designation for a Covid-19 vaccine, making the Pfizer/BioNtech the first immunization to receive a green light from the Geneva-based body. The move could allow more countries to import and distribute the vaccine, which has already been cleared for use in the U.S., U.K. and Europe.
Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Program as New Virus Deaths Surpass 1,000
Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
Photographer: Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg
Texas Hospitalizations Breach Record for 4th Straight Day (4:15 p.m. NY)
Virus hospitalizations in Texas hospitals set a record for a fourth consecutive day as outbreaks proliferated in the second-most populous U.S. state.
Hospitalizations rose 2.3% in the past 24 hours to 12,268, state health department figures showed. Covid-19 patients account for at least 15% of hospital capacity in almost three-fourths of Texas’s trauma service areas, prompting Governor Greg Abbott to shutter taverns and order restaurants and some other businesses to operate at reduced capacity in those areas.
New York Cases Rise to New High (3:53 p.m. NY)
New York state reached a new high of more than 16,800 coronavirus cases, as hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday.
Of the over 216,500 tests reported on Wednesday, 7.76% were positive including hotspot areas, according to state data. Hospitalizations reached 7,935, the highest since May 7. There were 136 virus-related fatalities, bringing the state’s Covid-19 death total to over 30,000.
NYC's New Year's Eve Celebration Amid Pandemic Restrictions
Members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) guard a roadblock in the Times Square area of New York on Dec. 31, ahead of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop event.
Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg
Florida Breaks Record for Daily Cases (3:32 p.m. NY)
Florida posted 17,192 new cases on Thursday, the highest single-day total ever except for a Nov. 27 report, which isn’t technically comparable because it included two days of data. The state also increased the number of dead by 133, including both residents and non residents, according to a report from the state health department Thursday.
Like other states, Florida’s case reports have been affected by a holiday slowdown at laboratories, and the jump may in part reflect a catch-up effect. But current hospitalizations -- a more reliable indicator amid the holiday distortions -- have been steadily climbing, reaching 6,298 on Wednesday, the highest since Aug. 13.
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