More than 300,000 people have died of Covid-19 across Europe, according to a Reuters tally on Tuesday.
With just 10% of the world’s population, the continent accounts for almost a quarter of the 1.2 million deaths globally from the disease, and even its well-equipped hospitals are feeling the strain.
Good evening from London. I’m Lucy Campbell, I’ll be bringing you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic for the next few hours. As always, please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share. Your thoughts are always welcome!
Nearly 400 inmates at a Panamanian prison have been infected with the new coronavirus in the country’s largest prison outbreak of the pandemic, authorities said.
Those infected represent about 75% of those held at the Penonome prison in the central province of Cocle.
The outbreak came amid a rise in infections in Panama that has raised concern that a new wave of cases could be coming nearly a month after many social distancing restrictions were lifted.
The prison system issued a statement saying that so far there were no deaths among the 390 infected inmates at Penonome. Those who tested positive were given a kit including masks, oxygen meters and pain killers among other treatments.
No guards had reportedly tested positive.
There have been Covid-19 infections in other Panamanian prisons and six inmates who died, but this would be the largest.
UK reports more than 500 daily deaths
Britain reported 532 new deaths of people within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test on Tuesday, the highest daily figure since May, government figures showed.
The daily death toll is the highest since 614 deaths were reported on 12 May. The 532 new deaths are a sharp rise from 194 reported on Monday, and may reflect a lagged reporting of deaths from the weekend.
There were 20,412 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the latest daily figures, down slightly from 21,350 on Monday.
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged premiers of the country’s 10 provinces to take stricter measures against a rapidly spreading second wave of the coronavirus.
“We are seeing record spikes this morning across the country, so I urge the premiers and the mayors to please do the right thing: act now to protect public health,” he told a news conference.
Over the past week Canada has posted a daily average of more than 3,800 cases.
As Trudeau spoke, the central province of Manitoba announced a major shutdown beginning on Thursday. Social gatherings will be forbidden, restaurants can only serve takeout meals and all recreational facilities must close.
Other provinces have so far resisted such sweeping measures, citing the potential economic damage.
Trudeau’s comments were the second time in the last two weeks he has expressed frustration about how the pandemic.
Under Canada’s system of governing, the provinces are in charge of imposing restrictions to fight the virus. Ottawa can in emergencies step in to take over, but Trudeau said he saw no need now for such action.
“I would hope that no leader in our country is easing public health vigilance because they feel pressure not to shut down businesses or slow down our economy,” said Trudeau, noting that Ottawa has provided more than C$200 billion ($153.8 billion) in aid packages to help businesses and people.
“I understand that worry, but let me tell you: that’s how we end up with businesses going out of business and the economy damaged even more.”
Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has tested positive for Covid-19 only days after being released from prison, her husband said on Tuesday.
“Nasrin tested positive today,” Reza Khandan wrote in a brief post on his Facebook account.
“Last Wednesday, during (a) meeting I had with Nasrin at Qarchak prison, she said that the coronavirus had spread in her ward and many (inmates) had become sick.
“That’s why she was in a rush to follow up on her furlough process,” he added.
Sotoudeh, 57, was released from jail on Saturday after being granted a temporary leave of absence.
The lawyer and activist was jailed in 2018 after defending a woman arrested for protesting against the requirement for Iranian women to wear the hijab.
She was told at the time that she had been sentenced to five years in prison in absentia for spying, according to her lawyers.
In 2019, she was sentenced again to 12 years in prison “for encouraging corruption and debauchery”.
According to her husband, Sotoudeh’s health deteriorated badly behind bars, where she had to end in September a 45-day hunger strike that she had launched to seek the release of prisoners during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Iran is the Middle East country hardest hit by the pandemic. Since March, more than 100,000 inmates have been granted temporary release to limit the spread of the disease in prisons.
The pharma companies behind the most promising Covid-19 vaccine to date, are planning to price the two-shot regimen below “typical market rates” and would differentiate pricing between countries or regions.
Pfizer and BioNTech have said the price tag of the vaccine, which has yet to win regulatory approval, would reflect the financial risks that its private-sector investors have incurred.
Speaking at a Financial Times online event, the German BioNTech’s strategy head Ryan Richardson, said:
“We’ve tried to pursue a balanced approach that recognises that innovation requires capital and investment so we plan to price our vaccine well below typical market rates reflecting the situation that we’re in and with the goal to insure broad-based access around the world.
“I expect there to be differential pricing in certain regions of the world,” he added, declining to elaborate on the different price tags.”
In July Pfizer had agreed with the U.S. government the supply of 100 million doses of its potential vaccine at a price of $39 for a two-dose immunisation, or $19.5 per dose, with the option to sell another 500 million doses under conditions to be negotiated separately.
Later on Tuesday, Richardson signalled that order size would impact the per-dose price in the developed world.
The European Commission will discuss on Wednesday the adoption of a supply contract with Pfizer and BioNTech. The bloc earlier this week said a contract for up to 300 million doses was close to being signed, without providing financial terms.
A Covid-19 vaccine like Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate is likely to need centralised vaccination locations, Swiss health experts said, as it must be stored at temperatures matching an Antarctic winter.
US-based Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech said on Monday their mRNA vaccine candidate was more than 90% effective based on initial results, giving global markets an unexpected boost.
However, health experts have cautioned such a vaccine comes with special challenges because the genetic material it consists of must be stored at -70C (-94 F) or below.
This could complicate any inoculation programme, particularly in regions such as parts of Asia or Africa where the climate is warm, distances vast and the required infrastructure may be lacking.
The World Health Organization called the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine data “exciting”, but said it “presages significant cold chain challenges for African countries”.
Thomas Steffen, Basel’s cantonal doctor and a board member of the Swiss Doctors Association, said groups considering distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine are working with different scenarios, including for one like Pfizer’s.
“We have to have a solution if we need to chill the vaccine to minus 70 degrees, and in that case organise the distribution … differently than if it were stored at a temperature of a refrigerator,” Steffen told a Bern briefing, adding that this was likely to mean using centres.”
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Norway recalled Home Guard forces to patrol its land border as neighbouring Sweden reported another surge in Covid-19 cases that is straining hospitals and stretching testing to the limit.
Norway tightened coronavirus rules last week and extended border controls for another six months. As a result the Home Guard said it would assist police controlling the vast border, as it did during the spring and summer.
“Civilian authorities do not have sufficient resources to enforce the new measures and have asked the Armed Forces for assistance,” the Home Guard – a rapid mobilisation force in the military focused on local defence and civil support – said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Swedish-Norwegian border is Europe’s longest and around 80,000 Swedes live and work in Norway. Sweden’s Covid-19 deaths per capita are more than 10 times higher than in Norway, which opted for a lockdown in the spring.
On Tuesday Sweden recorded 15,779 new Covid-19 cases since its latest update on Friday as a resurgent pandemic stretched testing to the limit in many hard-hit, densely populated regions.