As Pfizer reports a 90% efficacy rate in clinical trials for its mRNA vaccine, here’s the latest edition of the Guardian’s vaccine tracker.
Weekly death toll in England and Wales jumps 41%
In England and Wales, a total of 1,379 deaths registered in the week ending October 30 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It is first time the weekly figure has been above 1,000 since the week ending June 12.
It is also the highest number of deaths involving Covid-19 since the week ending June 5. The total is up from 978 deaths in the week to October 23 – a jump of 41%.
For more on these figures, head to Andrew Sparrow’s UK live blog:
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German Health Minister Jens Spahn expects the EU to sign a final purchase agreement with BioNTech and its partner Pfizer “in the coming days” for its potential vaccine against COVID-19.
“We will now bring this to a speedy conclusion,” Spahn told a news conference in Berlin.
Spahn said he expects Germany will get up to 100 million doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. But earlier this morning, German economy miniter Peter Altmaier said: “Nobody knows when and for how many people this (vaccine) will be available.”
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat dies after contracting Covid-19
The Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat has died at 65 after contracting Covid-19, news agencies have reported. He was reported to be in a medically induced coma and in critical condition in mid-October.
Erekat, who had a lung transplant in 2017, had led the Palestinian negotiating team in peace talks with Israel since 1994. He was also secretary general of the PLO’s executive committee.
He continued to lead the Palestinian delegation in talks during the Trump administration, and in September said in response to the diplomatic breakthrough between Israel and Gulf monarchies: “We definitely feel betrayed … [the deals are] tremendous encouragement for the Israeli government to continue their occupation.”
“I am the most disadvantaged negotiator in the history of man,” he told a reporter in 2007, the year that the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’ forces. “I have no army, no navy, no economy, my society is fragmented.”
The American-educated Erekat was involved in nearly every round of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians going back to the landmark Madrid conference in 1991, when he famously showed up draped in a black-and-white checkered keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian nationalism.
Over the next few decades Erekat was a constant presence in Western media, where he tirelessly advocated for a negotiated two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, defended the Palestinian leadership and blamed Israel for the failure to reach an agreement.
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Indonesia reported 3,779 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total number to 444,348, data from the country’s Covid-19 taskforce showed.
The data added 72 new Covid-19 deaths, taking the total number to 14,761. Indonesia has confirmed the highest tally of coronavirus cases and deaths.
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In Hungary, the government has reported 103 deaths from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, Reuters reports. That figure is close to the national peak set on Saturday of 107.
The number of new cases rose by 4,140, the government said in a statement. It said the number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 rose to 6,153, with a record number of 461 patients on ventilators.
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Matt Hancock has been speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He reiterates some of the points he made earlier, noting that the vaccine can only be taken out of -70C temperatures four times between the manufacturer’s facility and a GP’s surgery.
He says that he wrote to GPs last night to set out the agreement about “the incredibly important role they’ll play” and says £150m extra will be allocated to GPs this winter to help with the process. “It is a mammoth logistical operation,” he adds.
He also notes that while the most vulnerable will be vaccinated first, the rest of the programme may begin before every person over 80 has received their doses:
We’ll vaccinate category 1 first, and then category 1 and 2, and then category 1 and 2 and 3… it’s a bit like boarding an aeroplane… when you’re called to board, they call the passengers they want on first, after that they call the passengers they want on next, but they don’t say the first group can’t any longer get on. So you keep rolling it out.”
He reiterates that suppression tactics must continue because “we will not know how effective the vaccine is at stopping the transmission [for some time].” “The protection of an individual only comes after both doses and then one to two weeks after that, so that itself is a four to five week process.” He says the government is “cautious to be really clear that we’ve got to stick with the programme we’ve got at the moment.”
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Russia reported 20,977 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, including 5,902 in the capital Moscow, bringing the national tally to 1,817,109, Reuters reports. There were 21,798 cases the previous day.
Authorities also reported 368 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, against 256 the day before, taking the official death toll to 31,161.
The UK’s unemployment rate has jumped to 4.8 percent as the coronavirus pandemic destroys a record number of UK jobs, official data showed Tuesday.
The reading for the third quarter compared with an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent for June-August, the Office for National Statistics said.
“The employment rate has been decreasing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, while the unemployment rate is now rising sharply,” the ONS said.
“Redundancies have reached a record high,” it added.
You can read more about this at the UK business live blog:
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Spain’s health minister Salvador Illa has said the first doses of the promising Pfizer vaccine could reach the country in early 2021.
The government expects to get 20m doses initially, enough to vaccinate 10m people, he says.
In India, Amrit Dhillon has reported on the children forced into work by the coronavirus pandemic. Her excellent piece begins with Subhan Shaikh, who was at school in Mumbai until the pandemic hit but now has to work because the lockdown brought his mother’s work as a school bus attendant to an end:
Today, life for Subhan revolves around tea, which has become a lifeline for his family. After seeing his mother struggle, Subhan decided to do something and became a tea seller on the streets of Mumbai.
From 2pm Subhan is allowed to borrow the stove in the corner of a food stall in Bhendi Bazaar to make a big pan of milky tea. He strains the tea into a large thermos flask, hangs it precariously on his bicycle handlebars and sets off to sell it in tiny paper cups for five rupees each.
There is no shortage of customers as Indians drink tea endlessly throughout the day. “I go around all day until about 10pm. I make about 250 rupees (£2.50) every day which I give to mum to buy vegetables,” says Subhan, speaking on the phone from Mumbai.
Subhan’s experience is typical for millions of India’s urban poor, Dhillon writes, “who have been pushed further into poverty by the impact of Covid-19 on jobs and incomes. All dreams of educating children to give them a better life have been put aside for now.”
You can read the piece here:
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When people aren’t feeling optimistic about a vaccine by spring, they’re probably worrying about celebrations at Christmas. And in France, a Paris hospital director has argued that the traditional festivities should be cancelled this year over fears of sparking another resurgence in infections.
According to Reuters, Julien Lenglet told RMC Radio that there was a risk that Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties – known in France as “Saint-Sylvestre” – could end up as a “giant, intergenerational cluster that could be at the origins of a potential new third wave” of Covid-19.
“I would say, without any hesitation, that we ought to cancel Christmas and Saint-Sylvestre,” said Lenglet, who works at the Antony hospital in the Paris region.
France entered a second, national lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus at the end of October, but some politicians and health experts are hoping that by doing so, the Covid-19 numbers might start to come down, allowing allow the country to reopen in time for the Christmas season.
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Ukraine registered 10,179 Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, its health ministry said on Tuesday, not the record figure of 10,842 that it had earlier reported.
The minister Maksym Stepanov said a total of 479,197 cases had been registered in Ukraine as of 10 November, with 8,756 deaths.
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UK’s health service asked to be ready to deploy vaccine in December
Meanwhile, the UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, has also been speaking about the vaccine.
Hancock says he has asked the NHS to be ready to start deploying the vaccine from the start of December. But he notes that there are “many hurdles that still need to be gone over” and that the full safety data needs to be analysed first.
Hancock says that priority for vaccination when available is a “clinical process” and that it will start with the most vulnerable people in care homes and those that look after them, then be rolled out to NHS and social care staff, and then “coming down through the age ranges”. He adds: “That prioritisation is set by the clinical body and we will take their advice on the best way to roll this out to keep people safe.”
He declines to explicitly back the suggestion from Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, that life could be back to normal by spring 2021. “Yes, this is promising news, but there is a long way further to go,” he says. A little later in the interview he says: “We’ve always been clear that our central expectation for the roll-out of a vaccine … is in the first part of 2021 … that remains my central expectation.”
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Everyone wants as many expert views on the vaccine news as possible, so here’s another voice: in the UK, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme is interviewing Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics and vaccine specialist at the university of Bristol. He’s pretty optimistic.
“This is extremely good news,” he says. “It gives us the first step but a very important step forward in defeating the pandemic.”
He says that a 90% efficacy rate “is up there with the very best vaccines that we’ve got … it really really works … it is extraordinarily good.”
He does note that the study was probably mostly on “relatively mild cases.” And, he adds, “in order to extrapolate from being able to prevent relatively mild Covid to stop elderly people from getting seriously ill or dying is to some extent at this point a leap of faith – but we have to take that leap of faith, that’s the evidence we’ve got at this point, and 90% is pretty good, so it’s pretty likely that even if it’s less effective in elderly people than younger people it’ll still work to some extent.”
He concludes: “We’re going to see it being used, almost certainly, within a few weeks from now.”
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