November 29, 2020

Coronavirus live news: Italy reports 580 new deaths as Europe’s toll set to exceed 300,000

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Italy registers 580 further Covid-linked deaths, highest since mid-April

There were 35,098 new coronavirus infections registered in Italy on Tuesday and 580 more Covid-related deaths, the highest since 15 April.

Four more regions – Campania, Emilia Romagna, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia – are expected to be upgraded to either orange or red zones. Tuscany, Umbria, Basilicata, Liguria and Abruzzo will be in orange zones, meaning bars and restaurants will close completely and people won’t be able to travel beyond their town or city, from Wednesday.

However, the government is under pressure to impose a national lockdown, and a decision on that could possibly be made on 15 November.

Silvio Brusaferro, the president of Italy’s higher health institute, said on Tuesday that all of Italy’s 20 regions were either in a “moderate or high risk” situation and that the threshold for hospital admissions has already been exceeded in some regions.

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Row erupts over Brazil suspension of Chinese vaccine trials

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The European commission will on Wednesday formally authorise for the EU member states the purchase of 300m doses of the potential coronavirus vaccine produced by the German drugs company BioNTech and the US firm Pfizer.

Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president, said the drug appeared to be the “most promising so far”.

She added that it was part of a wider joint procurement of some 1.3m vaccine doses from producers for distribution among the 27 EU member states.

“Once this vaccine becomes available, our plan is to deploy it quickly, everywhere in Europe”, Von der Leyen said of the BioNTech-Pfizer product.

“This will be the fourth contract with a pharmaceutical company to buy vaccines. And more will come. Because we need to have a broad portfolio of vaccines based on different technologies. We have already started working with member states to prepare national vaccination campaigns. We are almost there. In the meantime, let us be prudent, and stay safe.”

The vaccines, once approved, will be distributed among the 27 member states in ratio to their populations.

The EU commissioner for health, Stella Kyriakides, told the Guardian: “The aim of the vaccine strategy is to have a portfolio of as many promising candidates as possible because this will increase our chances of being effective.

“In terms of BioNTech- Pfizer, we have concluded the negotiations and I will be signing the agreement with them in the coming days.”

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More on the race to secure the vaccine in Germany from our Berlin bureau chief, Philip Oltermann

Germany, home to the company that pioneered the mRNA vaccine, had not yet purchased any doses by the time Pfizer/BioNTech announced their breakthrough.

While the UK has bought 40m doses and the US have signed a contract guaranteeing delivery of 100m vaccine doses beginning this year, the European Union has only made a reservation for 200m doses of the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine.

On Monday, German health minister urged Brussels to sign on the dotted line:

As German health minister I am going to struggle to explain why a vaccine produced in Germany is going to be available in other regions in the world before it is available in Germany,” the conservative politician said.

On Tuesday, a European commission spokesman said the EU had concluded negotiations with Pfizer and BioNTech to secure millions of doses of their coronavirus vaccine.

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