© Photographer: Go Nakamura/Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 31: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Medical staff member Gabriel Cervera Rodriguez treats a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) on New Year's Eve at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 31, 2020 in Houston, Texas. According to reports, Texas has reached over 1,760,000 cases, including over 27,800 deaths. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)
New York became the fourth state to pass 1 million total Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Florida reported more than 31,000 cases over New Year’s, and North Carolina’s new infections rose to two days of highs during the holiday. The U.S. is nearing 350,000 fatalities.
Hospitals in the U.K. struggled as the nation reported record new infections. Greece extended its national lockdown and Germany reached more than 21,000 new infections in 48 hours. Ireland also hit record infections.
India granted emergency approval for the virus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford.
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Florida Reports More Than 30,000 Cases over Holiday (3:42 p.m. NY)
Florida reported 31,518 new cases over New Year’s, by far the most infections in a two-day holiday period since the start of the pandemic. The state reports two-day totals after holidays, and the previous high came after Thanksgiving, at 17,344. The state broke its single-day record earlier this week, at 17,192 infections.
Another 217 Florida residents died over the two-day holiday, the state reported. That compares with 140 over Christmas and 109 after Thanksgiving.
Urgent Surgery in London to Be Canceled, Guardian Reports (3:03 p.m. NY)
The National Health Service is set to cancel urgent surgery across London in a move that could result in cancer patients waiting months for potentially lifesaving operations, the Guardian reported.
Hospitals across the capital, which has one of the highest infection rates in the country, are working at or near full capacity because of patients with Covid-19.
North Carolina Hits Record Over Holiday (2:47 p.m. NY)
North Carolina reported the most cases yet, with a two-day total of 18,892 for Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, state data show. That includes a record 9,527 infections reported on New Year’s Day. The state has emerged as a hot spot in the recent surge, now hitting the South hardest, data from the Covid Tracking Project show. The state also reached a record for total hospitalizations, at 3,479.
“We begin 2021 in our most dangerous position in this pandemic,” Mandy Cohen, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “We must do all that we can to protect one another.”
South African Health Officials Call for Firings Over Vaccine Delay (2:33 p.m. NY)
Some of South Africa’s leading health leaders and academics called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to fire officials responsible for the delay in procuring Covid-19 vaccines, which they said will cause thousands of deaths and economic damage. The country, the worst hit by the virus in Africa, is due to receive its first vaccines in the second quarter from the Covax initiative. Even then, the agreement will only cover 10% of the population.
California Nears Record Cases (2:30 p.m. NY)
California added 53,341 new cases, the most since a record more than two weeks ago, prompting an urgent appeal by the health department for blood donations with the surge. The increase brings the total for the state to almost 2.35 million -- with only six countries globally having more infections.
The Golden State added 386 new deaths, retreating from a record on Friday, with the total fatalities at 26,357. The test positive rate of 12.6% is among the highest since the peak in April.
New York State Surpasses 1 Million Covid-19 Cases (1:47 p.m. NY)
New York state passed 1 million Covid-19 cases, after a somber year in which more than 30,000 of its residents died from the virus.
Cases increased by 15,074, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a tweet Saturday. That is below a record set two days ago for the entire pandemic of 16,802 daily cases. Total hospitalizations fell slightly to 7,814, as did the rate of positive tests, now 7.45% statewide. Another 128 people died.
Ireland Cases Rise to New High (1:14 p.m. NY)
Gallery: From Wuhan to the White House: A timeline of COVID-19’s spread (Stacker)
Ireland reported 3,394 new cases, almost doubling the previous record, as the virus continues to sweep the country. Four more people died. While the jump in cases is due in part to a lag in confirming cases over the holidays, the incidence rate is now at least high as it was in March, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said in a statement, and hospitalisations are nearing record levels. “Everyone needs to stay at home other than for essential work or care,” Holohan said.
Zimbabwe Orders Lockdown (12:51 p.m. NY)
The Zimbabwean government plans to start 30 days of lockdown regulations following an increase of coronavirus infections during the festive season, vice president Constatino Chiwenga said late Saturday.
“Gatherings are reduced to not more than 30 people at all funerals,” Chiwenga told reporters in the capital, Harare. “All other gatherings at weddings, churches, bars, bottle stores, gymnasium, restaurants are banned for 30 days.” Essential services such as hospitals, pharmacies, and supermarkets, with only essential staff are allowed to open.
U.K. Draws Plans for People to Receive Two Different Vaccines, FT Reports (11:57 a.m. NY)
The U.K. government has drawn up plans to allow people to receive two different Covid-19 vaccines as part of the two-dose treatment to protect against the coronavirus, the Financial Times reported, citing official recommendations on vaccines.
The document says that “every effort” should be made to administer the same vaccine in both shots, but that it is “reasonable” to offer a different vaccine if the original one is not available. The guidelines say exceptions should only be made for high-risk individuals or those unlikely to attend another appointment, the paper reported.
Italy Keeps Ski Resorts Closed (11:51 a.m. NY)
Italy postponed the reopening of its ski resorts to Jan. 18, as measures to curb infections have been slow to show results. The government had shut the nation’s ski lifts through Jan. 6 as part of winter holiday restrictions implemented in December to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
On Saturday, health authorities reported 364 Covid-19 deaths, down from 462 a day earlier, and 11,831 new cases versus 22,211 the previous day when there were more than twice as many tests.
German Health Minister Calls for Extension of Restrictions (11:49 a.m. NY)
German Health Minister Jens Spahn is seeking to extend the country’s coronavirus restrictions beyond Jan. 10 because infection rates remain too high, he told German broadcaster RTL in an interview on Saturday. Schools and daycare facilities should stay closed even after next week so Europe’s biggest economy doesn’t fall further behind in the fight against the pandemic, Spahn said. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and state governors are scheduled to discuss a possible extension of the curbs on Tuesday.
Spahn, who has come under fire for what critics say is Germany’s slow inoculation strategy, added he’s confident that authorities will complete vaccinations of nursing-home residents by the end of this month.
U.K. Cases Reach New High (10:59 a.m. NY)
The U.K. reported 57,725 new cases, the highest since the pandemic started. Testing wasn’t widely available during the first phase of the outbreak in March and April.
Saturday marks the fifth straight day over 50,000 new infections a day, even as all countries in the U.K. aren’t reporting data during the holiday weekend. Another 445 people died, compared with a daily average over the previous week of 554.
Sweden Confirms 11 Cases of U.K. Strain (8:30 a.m. NY)
Sweden has 11 confirmed cases of the coronavirus variant that emerged in the U.K. three months ago, and one case of the South African variant, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said at a press conference.
The country is working to track down any further cases, and urges anyone traveling from the U.K. or South Africa to get tested, according to Tegnell.
More than 800,000 Russians Get Vaccinated (8:20 a.m. NY)
More than 800,000 Russians have received the Covid-19 vaccination, Tass newswire reported, citing Health Minister Mikhail Murashko. Earlier Saturday, Russia reported 26,301 daily cases, bringing the total to 3.21 million. A further 447 people died, pushing the toll above 58,000, government data showed.
U.S. Cases Reported Down Over New Year (7:30 a.m. NY)
The U.S. added 160,606 new cases on Friday, a day when many states did not release virus data because of the New Year holiday. The daily average number of cases over the previous week was 188,274, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.
Reported fatalities were also down. A further 2,051 people died, the data showed, compared with a daily average over the previous week of 2,388.
Danish Institute Issues Warning on Virus Strain (6:55 a.m. NY)
Denmark’s Serum Institute warned that the new strain of coronavirus will out-compete other variants, and the country will need to tighten or prolong infection restrictions to keep its spread under control, according to a report. On the last day of 2020, Denmark registered a record-high 42 deaths related to Covid-19.
Malaysia’s New Cases Remain Above 2,000 a Day (6 a.m. NY)
Malaysia’s health ministry reported 2,295 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections in the Southeast Asian nation to 117,373. New cases have been above 2,000 a day since Dec. 31.
A further nine fatalities were recorded, pushing the death toll to 483, Health Director General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement.
Iran’s Virus Deaths Fall to Four-Month Low (6:50 p.m. HK)
Iran’s daily virus deaths dropped to a four-month low on Saturday after the country reported 101 fatalities over 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry. New cases of the disease totaled 6,045 in the period, the ministry said.
Netherlands May Bring Vaccinations Forward (6:33 p.m. HK)
Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said staff in acute care, such as intensive-care workers, will be vaccinated as soon as possible. The timing of inoculations for this group of about 30,000 people should be clear by Monday, De Jonge said after facing criticism for an earlier plan to begin jabs no sooner than Jan. 8.
Greece Extends Lockdown to Jan. 11 (5:06 p.m. HK)
Greece extended its national lockdown to Jan. 11 from Jan. 7 amid continuing pressure on its health service despite a decline in new virus cases, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said. Sectors of the economy that reopened for the holiday period, such as hairdressers and click-and-collect services, will close again for a week. The nighttime curfew is moved forward to 9 p.m. The aim is to reopen schools from Jan. 11, Petsas said.
France Fails to Close Huge Illegal Rave (5 p.m. HK)
France’s security forces failed to shut down an illegal rave that attracted more than 2,500 revelers from Thursday until the early hours of Saturday.
The Interior Ministry convened an emergency meeting and forces were deployed around the site, but eventually the crowd left voluntarily at dawn, most being slapped with 135-euro ($165) fines for breaking curfew rules.
The Health Ministry has identified 100 local departments at high risk of worsening cases of coronavirus and brought forward curfews to 6pm from 8pm in many regions. A total of 64,765 people have died in France since the start of the pandemic. The daily death toll has averaged around 300 in recent weeks.
India Approves Astra-Oxford Vaccine (4:52 p.m. HK)
India followed the U.K. in granting emergency approval for the virus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford, the first step in its plan to inoculate citizens in a country that’s home to the world’s second-largest Covid-19 outbreak.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar said Saturday the AstraZeneca shot being produced locally by the Serum Institute of India Ltd. was approved Friday. The Drugs Controller General of India has yet to formally announce the approval. It came as the nation tested its vaccine delivery system with a countrywide dry run on Saturday.
U.K. Hospitals Filling; Nightingales Stand By (4:30 p.m. HK)
Hospitals across Britain are struggling with rising numbers of severely ill patients, the Guardian reported, citing staff from various medical centers. With cases spreading rapidly, a London Nightingale hospital -- an emergency facility set up this year to handle overflow -- is expected to take Covid patients next week for the first time since the spring, the newspaper said.
The government has also been forced into a U-turn on schools, deciding to keep all London primaries closed until at least Jan. 18.
New U.K. coronavirus cases topped 50,000 for the fourth day in a row, with almost 24,000 people in hospital and 613 deaths recorded.
Germany Adds 21,580 New Cases as Fatalities Jump (4:06 p.m. HK)
Germany is still struggling to contain the spread of Covid-19 with 21,580 new infections in the 48 hours through Saturday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The number of fatalities jumped by 915.
The data suggests that restrictions designed to contain the virus in Europe’s biggest economy will continue beyond Jan. 10, when most curbs are currently set to expire.
(An earlier version of this story corrected the date of the latest U.S. coronavirus data)
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