Covid-19 wrap | Global cases cross 71.52 million as US receives first vaccine

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A Montefiore Medical Center employee walks past signs thanking the medical staff on April 9, 2020 in New York City.
A Montefiore Medical Center employee walks past signs thanking the medical staff on April 9, 2020 in New York City.
PHOTO: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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Here are the latest developments

Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 71.52 million, death toll at 1 613 549

More than 71.52 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1 613 549 have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.


New York nurse receives first Covid vaccine in US

A nurse in New York became the first person in the United States to receive the coronavirus vaccine Monday.

Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot live on television shortly before 9:30 am.

"First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!" President Donald Trump tweeted.

Lindsay said the jab "didn't feel any different from taking any other vaccine."

"I feel great. I feel relieved," she said.

"I hope this marks the beginning of the end of the very painful time in our history. I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe.

"We're in a pandemic so we all need to do our part," Lindsay added.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, watching the landmark moment via video-link, told Lindsay he hoped the vaccine would give her and other frontline health care workers "a sense of security and safety."

"It's going to take months before the vaccine hits critical mass. So, this is the light at the end of the tunnel, but it's a long tunnel," he said, reminding people to keep following social distancing guidelines.

Covid-19 has ravaged the United States.

More than 299 000 Americans have been killed by the virus, including over 35 000 residents of New York state


Austria defends virus tests despite low numbers

Austria on Monday defended its mass coronavirus testing programme despite opposition complaints that less than half the targeted number had been tested so far.

The programme has been running over the past two weeks. Experts and opposition parties have pointed out that only 22 percent of the population have taken part - far short of the 60 percent the government initially said it was aiming for.

"It's a successful step to contain the pandemic in Austria," Health Minister Rudolf Anschober told a press conference, adding that two million people across the country had participated in the voluntary tests out of a population of 8.8 million.

Anschober said 4 200 cases had been discovered.

In Vienna, just 13.5 percent of residents got tested.

Christian Deutsch of the main opposition Social Democrats (SPOe) said the campaign was "amateurish", pointing to IT issues that meant some test results had to be recorded with pen and paper, as well as a data breach from the online registration platform.

The liberal Neos party said the real goal should be to enforce measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing.

A new round of mass testing is set to start around 8 January, with media reports that the government is considering offering incentives to citizens to get tested to boost participation.

Like several other countries in the region, Austria escaped the worst of the first wave of the pandemic but has struggled to contain the second wave and had to introduce a second coronavirus lockdown which ended last Monday.

The country has recorded 322 588 infections, of which 4 350 have been fatal.


CureVac starts clinical trial for Covid-19 vaccine candidate

German biotech firm CureVac has started a large Phase 2b/3 clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, banking on the same technology that has allowed rivals BioNTech and Moderna to lead the development race.

"The goal is to have interim results in the first quarter of 2021, which will form the basis - provided the data is good, and we are hopeful - for filing a so-called rolling submission with regulators," Chief Executive Franz-Werner Haas told Reuters on Monday.

The trial will assess the safety and efficacy in adults of various ages and is expected to include more than 35 000 participants in Europe and Latin America, the company said.

The study aims to demonstrate the efficacy of its vaccine candidate in preventing first episodes of confirmed cases of Covid-19 of any severity as well as preventing moderate to severe confirmed cases of Covid-19 in participants who have never been infected with SARS-CoV-2, CureVac said.

CureVac's vaccine candidate is based on so-called messenger RNA, a technology that has been shown separately by Moderna and an alliance of BioNTech and Pfizer to be about 95% effective, far above expectations.

The Pfizer compound was the first to be launched in Western countries, winning emergency approval in the United States and Britain, among other nations.

CureVac's vaccine candidate is one of three German vaccine projects that the German government is supporting with about 750 million euros ($911 million) in total. The European Commission has already secured up to 405 million doses of the vaccine.

Haas reiterated that CureVac does not intend to introduce its vaccine in the United States during the pandemic as the government there had already secured sufficient vaccine quantities from rivals.

The company would, however, seek discussions with the Food and Drug Administration with a view to a US market launch after the pandemic has been brought under control.


London, parts of southeast England put under stringent Covid restrictions

Britain's capital London and parts of southeast England will be put under more stringent Covid-19 restrictions from early on Wednesday, health minister Matt Hancock said, saying the rise in cases could overwhelm hospital services.

"Over the last week we've seen very sharp, exponential rises in the virus across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire ... We therefore have decided to move greater London, the south and west of Essex ... and the south of Hertfordshire ... into tier three, which is the very high alert level," Hancock told parliament on Monday.

"There restrictions will come into force at midnight on Wednesday morning."


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