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Hello and welcome to today’s live pandemic blog.
I’ll be bringing you the latest from around the world for the next while.
You can get in touch here.
As the US passes 10m coronavirus cases, the highest in the world and a fifth of the global total of 50m, pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and BioNTech revealed interim results of large-scale trials which showed that its Covid-19 vaccine was 90% effective. World leaders and scientists reacted to the news with cautious optimism.
You can read Sarah Boseley’s analysis of the vaccine announcement here and a Q&A by Nicola Davis here. There is also this piece by Philip Oltermann on the husband and wife dream team behind BioNTech and how the news was a shot in the arm for Germany’s Turkish community.
Here are the key developments from the last few hours:
- Italy will ramp up coronavirus restrictions in Tuscany and four other regions from Wednesday to rein in the second wave of the pandemic, a health ministry source said on Monday. Last week, the government imposed nationwide curbs including a nightly curfew, and divided the country into three zones based on the intensity of their Covid-19 outbreaks, calibrating additional limitations accordingly.
- The US president-elect Joe Biden led the tone for much of the reaction from world leaders. He said it could be “many months” before the vaccine is widely available – providing it passes several more hurdles in the approval and distribution process – and warned Americans: “We’re still facing a very dark winter.”
- Sir John Bell, one of the UK’s most eminent vaccines experts, said he believed “with some confidence” that life should return to normal by spring next year following the Pfizer/BioNTech announcement. Bell went further than many of peers in the scientific community but his prediction carries significant weight given his role on the UK’s vaccines taskforce.
- A senior World Health Organisation official said a Covid-19 vaccine may be rolled out by March 2021 to the most vulnerable. Bruce Aylward told the WHO’s annual ministerial assembly that interim results from Pfizer’s late-stage vaccine trial were “very positive”.
- There was also positive news from Belgium, where health officials said a second wave of Covid-19 hospital admissions appeared to have peaked and would now begin to decline. About 400 people were hospitalised due to coronavirus complications on Sunday, compared with 879 on 3 November.
- Iran was one of a number of countries reporting a record rise in the daily number of coronavirus cases. It said the figure had reached 10,463 over the previous 24 hours, the first time the numbers for new infections had reached five figures. Russia also reported its highest 24-hour tally of new infections.
- Doctors in Italy have warned there will be an additional 10,000 Covid-19 deaths in a month in the country unless a national lockdown is imposed. As Italy edges towards a million coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic, 32,616 new cases were registered on Sunday, a more than sevenfold increase since 8 October
- The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has tested positive for coronavirus. Zelenskiy said he “feels good” and was self-isolating, adding on Twitter: “It’s gonna be fine!”