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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Dec. 13 to Dec. 19, Infections in India surpass 10 million

Moderna vaccine gets US authorization; WHO to lead virus probe in China in January

The number of new COVID-19 infections has fallen sharply since hitting a peak in mid-September.   © Reuters

Nikkei Asia is tracking the spread of the new coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Follow the latest updates.

Global cases have reached 75,588,781, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 1,672,826.

To see how the disease has spread, view our virus tracker charts:


Saturday, Dec. 19 (Tokyo time)

1:43 p.m. India's coronavirus tally exceeds the 10 million mark, although the number of new daily cases has fallen sharply since its mid-September peak. It reported 25,152 new infections and 347 deaths in the past 24 hours, according to the health ministry. So far, 145,136 people have died of the virus in the country.

10:45 a.m. Moderna's coronavirus vaccine becomes the second to receive emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The announcement by the FDA comes a week after the FDA authorized a vaccine from Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter hailed the authorization. "Congratulations, the Moderna vaccine is now available!" he wrote.

6:37 a.m. The Oxford COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be approved for use in the U.K. "within days of Christmas," The Telegraph reports, citing senior government sources.

The newspaper also reports that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson summoned senior ministers to discuss a new variant of the virus that causes the disease.

4:40 a.m. The Washington Monument, one of the most iconic sights in the U.S. capital, has been temporarily closed to visitors owing to a staff shortage caused by the COVID-19 infection of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

Many of the monument's staffers are quarantining after a visit by the secretary.

3:30 a.m. The World Health Organization will lead an international team to China in early January to probe the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, officials say.

People visit a Wuhan street market on Dec. 7, almost a year after the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease.   © Reuters

2:55 a.m. Coronavirus vaccines have gone on sale on hidden parts of the internet, with offers appearing soon after the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 shot was approved early this month, the Financial Times reports.

"One such offer on the so-called dark web, traced by cyber security company Check Point Software, was priced at $250 with the seller promising "stealth" delivery in double-wrapped packaging. Shipping from the US via post or a leading courier company would cost $20, with an extra $5 securing overnight delivery.

Another vendor claimed this week to have vaccines developed by Chinese manufacturers Sinopharm and Sinovac for sale at $750 for two doses, payable in bitcoin. The advertisement was illustrated with a stock photo, which did not correspond to the two Chinese vaccine makers' normal packaging. When asked how the vaccine should be stored, the seller suggested a cold box or refrigerator."

2:15 a.m. Russia began vaccinating its cosmonauts and space training center staff against COVID-19 at Star City, Tass reports.

Oleg Artemyev and Nikolay Chub were the first cosmonauts to receive the shot, according to the report.

Russia in August claimed to register the world's first COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed Sputnik V in a throwback to the Soviet-era space race.

1:33 a.m. China's leadership plans to set its real economic growth target at about 8% for 2021, government sources tell Nikkei, as the country nears a full recovery from the coronavirus-induced lull it suffered this year.

China's gross domestic product is estimated to have increased just about 2% this year due to the pandemic. But the government expects the economy to bounce back in full force next year on strong exports and a recovery in private-sector investment.

This year, meanwhile, China will probably be home to three of the world's top five stock exchanges in terms of proceeds from initial public offerings, Caixin reports.

Friday, Dec. 18

11:50 p.m. Canada will share COVID-19 vaccines to other countries if has more doses than necessary, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is quoted as saying by Reuters.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence receives the COVID-19 vaccine at the White House on Dec. 18.   © Reuters

10:46 p.m. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence receives his COVID-19 vaccine live on television, seeking to shore up public support for vaccinations after U.S. deaths from the coronavirus topped 3,000 for a third straight day.

8:23 p.m. Spain's health minister says the country will begin its vaccination campaign on Dec. 27.

6:23 p.m. Turkey, one of the worst-hit countries in the Middle East by the coronavirus, is rushing to deploy vaccines as quickly as possible, and the Chinese are eager to help. The first 3 million doses of Sinovac vaccines out of a contracted 50 million are to be delivered in the coming days.

5:13 p.m. The Philippines logs 2,122 new cases, the highest daily tally in nearly six weeks, as local health authorities warn of a possible spike in infections during the Christmas holidays. The number of total cases is now 456,562 with 8,875 deaths.

5:00 p.m. Johnson & Johnson says it has enrolled about 45,000 participants for the first late-stage trial of its COVID-19 single-dose vaccine candidate and that it expects interim data by late-January. The company lags rivals Pfizer and Moderna in the race for a COVID-19 tamer.

3:10 p.m. Tokyo reports 664 new infections in Japan's capital, down from 822 a day earlier, with the number of patients in serious condition unchanged at 66.

2:00 p.m. China is planning to vaccinate 50 million people in high-priority groups against the coronavirus before the start of the peak Lunar New Year travel season early next year, the South China Morning Post reports. Beijing is planning to distribute 100 million doses of vaccines made by Chinese companies Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech, according to the report.

12:21 p.m. The Bank of Japan decides to extend its emergency funding program by six months, a move that aligns with the government's initiative to introduce a new fiscal stimulus package to accelerate economic recovery.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has already received approval for emergency use in several countries, including the U.S., UK, and Singapore.    © Reuters

11:50 a.m. U.S. drugmaker Pfizer says it has applied to the Japanese government for approval of its COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first supplier to file the request in the country.

11:30 a.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration informed Moderna that it will work towards the finalization and issuance of emergency use authorization for its vaccine candidate, commissioner Stephen Hahn says. Earlier on Thursday, a panel of external FDA advisers endorsed emergency use of the vaccine candidate.

10:40 a.m. Australian states and territories begin imposing border restrictions after 28 infections were detected in a suburban Sydney cluster. "Everyone in greater Sydney needs to be on high alert," Premier Gladys Berejiklian of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, said in announcing 10 new cases. The state of Queensland and the Northern Territory are demanding that people who have been on Sydney's northern beaches quarantine for 14 days. Western Australia imposed a similar restriction on anyone from New South Wales. The island state of Tasmania and Victoria both banned people who had visited the northern beaches from Dec. 10.

9:58 a.m. South Korea confirms 1,062 cases -- up from 1,014 a day ago -- bringing the country total to 47,515 with 645 deaths.

9:15 a.m. China reports 12 cases for Thursday -- up from seven a day earlier -- of which 11 originated overseas. One local transmission was reported in Sichuan Province.

A suburb of Sydney is believed to be the origin of a new coronavirus cluster, forcing state and territory border closures across Australia.   © Reuters

7:20 a.m. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommends that Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine be cleared for broad use, setting the stage for the FDA to grant an expected emergency use authorization as early as late Thursday or Friday, local time.

6:10 a.m. All three leading U.S. stock market benchmarks -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq Composite Index -- close at record highs on expectations of fresh economic stimulus. Congressional lawmakers are negotiating over a coronavirus relief bill of around $900 billion.

5:50 a.m. More than 150 million Americans plan to shop on Super Saturday -- the last Saturday before Christmas -- this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. This marks a slight increase from last year's 147.8 million people.

"Consumers have embraced an earlier start to the holiday season," the federation's CEO Matthew Shay says in a statement. "They are spreading out their holiday shopping and taking advantage of sales and promotions from retailers in local communities and national brands."

1:30 a.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's advisory panel on vaccines is meeting on Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is poised to become the second approved for emergency use in the country, after the Pfizer/BioNTech shot. A vote by the panel on the candidate's efficacy and risks will take place on Thursday afternoon U.S. Eastern Time, with FDA authorization on emergency use to follow as early as Friday.

Thursday, Dec. 17

11:30 p.m. The head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group of mostly Western nations, is self-isolating after contact with the COVID-19-positive French president.

10:15 p.m. Known for its relatively light social restrictions early in the pandemic, Sweden has logged a record number of new COVID-19 cases -- 8,881 -- Reuters reports.

King Carl XVI Gustaf, speaking on the country's coronavirus response, reportedly tells a television program: "I believe we have failed."

9:30 p.m. Hong Kong will provide an additional 5.5 billion Hong Kong dollars ($709 million) to support businesses such as gyms and beauty parlors hit hard by the pandemic, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung says at a news conference.

A health worker collects a swab sample from a woman at a makeshift testing center in Hong Kong on Dec. 8.    © Reuters

8:19 p.m. Hong Kong's top annual sporting event, the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament, is to be delayed seven months to November 2021, making it the first time the contest will be held later than during the spring. Organizers cited rising COVID-19 rates overseas and in Hong Kong. The same reasons caused the cancellation of this year's event.

7:16 p.m. All European Union member states plan to start vaccinations Dec. 27, German Health Minister Jens Spahn says. "In Germany we will start, if the approval comes as planned, on Dec. 27. The other countries in the EU want to be able to start and want to start from Dec. 27," he says ahead of an online meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and executives of vaccine maker BioNTech.

7:11 p.m. President Vladimir Putin says at an annual news conference that he has not been inoculated with a Russian-made vaccine yet but will do so when possible.

6:35 p.m. French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for COVID-19, the presidential office says. Where he contracted the virus is unclear at this stage. His office said in a statement: "This diagnosis was made following a PCR test performed at the onset of the first symptoms."

The office says he will isolate for the next seven days and continue to run the country remotely. A spokesperson says all of Macron's trips have been canceled, including a visit to Lebanon on Dec. 22. Macron was at a European Council heads of state meeting over Dec. 10-11. Prime Minister Jean Castex also will self-isolate after coming into contact with Macron over the past few days.

5:45 p.m. Australia is scrambling to trace the source of new cases after a cluster was detected in the nation's largest city, Sydney. Authorities urged hundreds of thousands of people in the city to stay home as they set up emergency testing centers.

After reporting two new cases in Sydney's northern suburbs the previous day, authorities said the number of infected had jumped to 17 within hours, prompting a request for all 250,000 residents in the city's Northern Beaches district to stay home for three days.

People wearing protective masks make their way amid the coronavirus outbreak in Tokyo.   © Reuters

3:04 p.m. Tokyo reports 822 infections, marking another daily record amid growing concern over pressure on hospitals. The tally jumped from the previous high of 678 cases a day earlier. The metropolitan government raised its alert regarding the strain on the medical system to the highest of four levels.

2:10 p.m. The World Health Organization says China has welcomed an international team of investigators expected to travel to the country in early January. The investigators are looking into the origins of COVID-19.

1:55 p.m. India continues to show a drop in cases, reporting 24,010 infections in the last 24 hours. This is down from 26,382 the previous day and the fourth straight day of cases below 30,000, bringing the country total to 9.96 million as deaths jumped 355 to 144,451.

1:30 p.m. Vietnam is ready to begin the first trial of its domestically produced vaccine on 60 people. Three volunteers received their first injections on Thursday and will be monitored for 72 hours. The other 57 volunteers will then be injected a particular dose based on the results of the first three. The vaccine -- called Nanocovax -- is produced by a private company, Nanogen, in cooperation with Vietnam Military Medical University. As of Thursday, the country has recorded 1,045 cases with 35 deaths.

A health care worker helps residents waiting to take COVID-19 tests in Vietnam, where the government is about to begin the first trial of its domestically produced vaccine candidate, Nanocovax.   © Reuters

1:20 p.m. Locking down 3,000 people to contain a COVID-19 outbreak was not based on health advice and violated human rights, Victoria's state Ombudsman said. Australia's Victoria state locked down nine public housing towers for several days in July due to rising infections. Victoria's acting chief health officer had only 15 minutes to approve the lockdown, including the potential human rights impact, Ombudsman Deborah Glass said. "The rushed lockdown was not compatible with the residents' human rights," she said.

11:28 a.m. Japan has forecast GDP to rise about 4% in 2021, up from a July forecast of 3.4%, Nikkei has learned. The upward revision comes after the government promised additional measures to lessen the impact of the pandemic.

11:20 a.m. The Australian Open will start on Feb. 8, three weeks later than scheduled, according to the Association of Tennis Professionals. The main start date of the year's first Grand Slam event was originally slated for Jan. 18. Men's qualifiers for the event will take place in Doha on Jan. 10-13 before players relocate to Melbourne to enter quarantine.

10:02 a.m. South Korea marks a record daily high of 22 deaths, up from 12 a day ago. The country also confirms 1,011 new cases -- down from 1,078 the previous day -- bringing total infections to 46,453 with 634 deaths.

9:25 a.m. Biotech company Novavax says it has agreed with the New Zealand government to supply 10.7 million doses of its vaccine candidate. "Under the terms of the agreement, Novavax will manufacture NVX-CoV2373 with a target of delivering initial doses by mid-2021," the company said in a statement.

9:10 a.m. China reports seven cases for Wednesday -- down from 12 a day earlier -- all of which originated overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed, fell to six from nine a day earlier.

8:40 a.m. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to receive his first coronavirus vaccination as soon as next week, a Biden transition official said on Wednesday. Biden has said he would get the injection in a public setting to instill confidence in its safety. Biden, 78, is in a high risk category for the coronavirus because of his age.

8:05 a.m. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will receive a coronavirus vaccine shot on camera Friday morning at the White House to build "vaccine confidence" among the American people, according to an official with direct knowledge of the plans. His wife Karen Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams will also be vaccinated.

A man receives a shot containing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a U.S. hospital.   © Reuters

6:55 a.m. A health worker in the U.S. state of Alaska had a serious allergic reaction after receiving Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine, but is now stable, health authorities said on Wednesday. The adverse reaction minutes after taking the Pfizer shot on Tuesday was similar to two cases reported last week in Britain.

6:11 a.m. Peru's health minister says that China's Sinopharm could resume a trial for its coronavirus vaccine in the hard-hit Andean nation, just days after authorities suspended the tests to better understand why a volunteer had fallen ill, reports Reuters.

5:50 a.m. December is usually a busy season for luxury hotels in the Thai capital. But as the pandemic keeps foreign tourists away this year, the city's five-star hotels are slashing rates and offering added perks to entice domestic customers.

A Marriott in downtown Bangkok unveiled a 1,212 baht ($40) per night deal to coincide with the Chinese "Double 12" sales campaign that began on Dec. 12. A Shangri-La Hotel has rolled out a 2,000-baht offer. These prices represent deep discounts from the 7,000 baht to 8,000 baht they usually charge.

"Many five-star hotels have no choice but to lower their prices to two-star levels," said Sammy Carolus, general manager at Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit.

5:45 a.m. Germany will roll out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 27, with priority given to the elderly in care homes, Berlin's city government says.

4:15 a.m. In their last meeting of this pandemic year, Federal Reserve policymakers give assurance that funding will continue to flow into the U.S. economy until they are confident in a recovery.

The Federal Open Market Committee has decided to keep buying Treasury debt and mortgage-backed securities at the Fed's current pace "until substantial further progress has been made toward the Committee's maximum employment and price stability goals," according to a statement.

Before the latest meeting, the FOMC had given only "over coming months" as a timeframe for continuing the purchases.

Fed policymakers choose to keep interest rates unchanged this time.

3:00 a.m. China almost doubled its share of spending in the global luxury market to 20% this year, in stark contrast with the declines around the world, as the pandemic forced Chinese shoppers to buy locally rather than on holiday, according to a new report.

A medical staff member receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Miami on Dec. 15.   © Reuters

2:30 a.m. The U.S. is ready to provide support for meeting production targets of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Health and Human Services Alex Azar says.

"To date, we have had less visibility into their manufacturing processes," than Moderna, AstraZeneca or other participants in the U.S. Warp Speed vaccine development program, Azar tells a briefing.

"Part of our ongoing discussions is to remediate that, to get better visibility into what they're doing, what challenges they're facing," he adds.

The secretary notes that the U.S. drugmaker and its German partner have scaled back production estimates for the final weeks of 2020.

Azar expresses optimism over rising acceptance of the vaccine.

"We've been heartened to see that Americans' vaccine confidence is rising substantially," Azar says, citing opinion polls that show 70% to 80% of respondents plan to receive a COVID-19 shot.

1:43 a.m. Turkey's daily COVID-19 death toll continues to rise, reaching 240 in the past 24 hours, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reports.

1:30 a.m. The Financial Times has picked BioNTech's Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, the couple behind the COVID-19 vaccine now in use in the U.K. and the U.S., as the newspaper's People of the Year.

"The mere fact that a safe and effective inoculation is available less than a year after the genetic sequence for a new, pneumonia-like pathogen was released puts the achievement by Dr. Sahin and Dr. Tureci, who are the FT's People of the Year for 2020, alongside the greatest medical breakthroughs of our time."

Chile has become the latest country to approve the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

12:30 a.m. The price of bitcoin has topped $20,000 for the first time as risk-chasing institutional investors pile into the cryptocurrency at a time of excess liquidity.

The cryptocurrency has nearly tripled in price over the past year.

Wednesday, Dec. 16

11:40 p.m. U.S. retail sales fell by a worse-than-expected 1.1% on the month in November, the Commerce Department reports, in the second straight month of declines after the October reading was downgraded.

Tokyo has seen its COVID-19 caseload rise recently, reaching a record 678 new infections on Dec. 16.  (Photo by Rie Ishii)

10:40 p.m. The governors of Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures have called on railway operators in the region to cancel all-night train service on New Year's Eve as part of an effort to discourage travel and crowding during the holiday.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has urged residents to avoid making traditional New Year visits to temples and shrines during crowded times.

9:05 p.m. The postponed Tokyo Olympics will be successfully held, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach tells Nikkei. "There can be no doubt that the Japanese people will not only write Olympic history but write world history with this Olympic Games," he says.

7:04 p.m. Nearly 140,000 people in the U.K. have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the first week of the rollout of the shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the minister in charge of deployment of the vaccine said on Wednesday.

"A really good start," Nadhim Zahawi tweeted. He wrote that 108,000 have been vaccinated in England, 7,897 in Wales, 4,000 in Northern Ireland and 18,000 in Scotland for a total of 137,897.

6:43 p.m. Malaysian glove maker Kossan Rubber Industries will see production capacity reduced by nearly 25% for two weeks after 427 workers tested positive for COVID-19, media reports and analysts said. Kossan is the latest manufacturer of medical gloves in the Southeast Asian country to be hit by the pandemic in recent weeks.

6:25 p.m. President Joko Widodo pledged Wednesday to provide free COVID-19 vaccinations to all Indonesians as daily cases continue to surge in the Southeast Asian country.

5:54 p.m. Malaysia's government on Wednesday declared a state of emergency to stop by-elections in two constituencies scheduled for January, as the country grapples with a spike in coronavirus cases.

The Southeast Asian nation has seen a sharp jump in cases since September, with the total number of infections climbing above 86,000 and with 422 deaths as of Tuesday.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a statement the king had assented to the request to impose an emergency in the Bugaya constituency in Sabah on Borneo island and the Gerik constituency in Perak state. Health authorities believe Bugaya was the epicenter of the country's third wave of infections.

The government had declared a state of emergency in another constituency in Sabah last month, also to stop a scheduled by-election.

5:09 p.m. Taiwan's government on Wednesday extended an entry ban on Indonesian workers indefinitely, citing a surge in the number of infected people arriving and a lack of cooperation from the Indonesian government in verifying documents. Taiwan is home to more than 250,000 migrant workers from Indonesia, which has the highest tally of virus infections and deaths in Southeast Asia.

4:30 p.m. Actor Tom Cruise lets loose over apparent breach of COVID-19 safety protocols on the London set of the new "Mission: Impossible" movie, telling crew members they would be fired if they don't obey the rules, Britain's Sun tabloid reported on Tuesday. In expletive-filled remarks captured on audio tape obtained by The Sun, the star and producer of the action film series berated the crew over lapses in social distancing and other rules. A source close to the production said the tape was authentic, according to Reuters. Cruise's representative declined to comment.

3:03 p.m. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reports 678 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, a daily record. The number topped the previous record of 621, marked on Saturday.

1:40 p.m. India reports 26,382 new cases in the past 24 hours, up from 22,065 the previous day but the third straight day below 30,000. The country total stands at 9.93 million cases. There were another 387 fatalities for a total of 144,096.

12:28 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has drawn criticism for joining end of year social gatherings after imploring residents to avoid such parties as the country sees record numbers of coronavirus cases. Despite his own public warnings against large group meals, Suga went ahead with a series of get-togethers this week, stirring up criticism from politicians and social media users, including his party's coalition partner.

10:45 a.m. Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, on Wednesday reported its first coronavirus case in nearly two weeks after an airport worker tested positive, prompting authorities to suggest international flight crews should also quarantine after arriving.

10:25 a.m. Japan's exports fell in November, dashing expectations for an end to a two-year run of declines, largely due to weaker U.S.- and China-bound shipments and suggesting a slower pace of recovery for the world's third-largest economy.

9:58 a.m. South Korea sets a fresh high with 1,078 new daily cases, up from 880 a day ago. Total infections reach 45,442 with 612 deaths. The country reports it had 273,000 fewer jobs in November than it did a year earlier.

9:50 a.m. New Zealand's GDP is expected to bounce back from its sharpest contraction on record in the second quarter to grow 10.5% in the September quarter, followed by further growth of 2.2% in the December quarter, according to the treasury department's half-year economic and fiscal update. But the government also says large deficits and rising debt levels will have a lasting effect on the economy.

9:48 a.m. Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group says BioNTech has agreed to supply 100 million doses of its vaccine, if approved, to mainland China next year. Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine has already received approval for emergency use in several countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Singapore.

9:30 a.m. Japan's factory activity came within striking distance of stabilizing in December, a private-sector survey shows, even as a resurgence in coronavirus cases takes a toll on economies around the world, particularly in Europe. The slower decline in manufacturing will likely boost policymakers' confidence that Japan's export-oriented economy is able to pull through the crisis even as the services sector suffers a blow from a COVID resurgence.

7:45 a.m. Canada announces an agreement to receive early deliveries of the Moderna vaccine amid a surge of new cases. "Canada is now contracted to receive up to 168,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before the end of December, pending Health Canada approval," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

7:30 a.m. U.S. congressional leaders have ended one round of talks on fresh aid for the coronavirus-stricken economy, but they say they will meet again at 7:30 pm Eastern Time, Reuters reports, citing a source.

"Now we are continuing to work. I think there is progress," U.S. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is quoted as saying.

5:29 a.m. Japanese staffing agency Pasona Group will hire up to 1,000 young adults who have not found a job, helping them gain work experience while providing training so they have a better shot at landing full-time employment in a few years.

The bleak jobs market amid the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a severe blow to young people with no formal work history.

To help prevent another "lost generation" like the one that followed the bursting of Japan's asset-price bubble, Pasona will take on university and high school graduates as two-year contract workers in April.

They will learn about business and rural revitalization while also receiving foreign-language lessons. In the second year, these workers are expected to hunt outside jobs on their own.

3:45 a.m. U.S. President Donald Trump will receive a COVID-19 vaccine himself once his medical team determines that is best, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany says.

Trump himself has tweeted little about vaccines in recent days.

3:15 a.m. Just over 60% of the International Monetary Fund's lending in response to the coronavirus pandemic has gone to 21 countries in hard-hit Latin America, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva says.

Latin America had 8% of the world's population, but about 20% of the COVID-19 infections and 30% of the deaths, Georgieva is quoted as saying.

2:00 a.m. For those who want to avoid waiting in line for a COVID-19 test, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a home version:

12:30 a.m. People around the world are suddenly feeling hopeful as positive research findings and emergency government authorizations suggest that vaccines to end the COVID-19 pandemic are within reach. But massive challenges still lie ahead, Caixin reports.

These include quickly ramping up enough production capacity to inoculate billions of people in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed more than 1.5 million lives in just a year. And in addition to the normal problems of transporting vaccines to the remotest corners of the world, the COVID-19 inoculations require special handling at super-cold temperatures. Read more.

Tuesday, Dec. 15

11:30 p.m. Famed U.S. investor Warren Buffett calls for more relief for American small businesses, saying the country is fighting an "economic war."

The Berkshire Hathaway chairman, who is the world's fourth-richest person in a Forbes ranking, tells CNBC: "We need another injection to complete the job."

"It's very timely and it's very important and I do think Congress will do something and I hope they step up very sign because every day is important."

10:45 p.m. The coronavirus vaccine candidate made by Moderna is highly protective for adults and prevents severe cases of COVID-19, according to data released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA review confirms the U.S. drugmaker's earlier assessment that its candidate had an efficacy rate of 94.1% in a trial of 30,000 people.

Based on the encouraging findings, the vaccine likely will receive emergency authorization for use on Friday. That would give millions of Americans access to a second coronavirus vaccine beginning as early as next week.

9:20 p.m. The European Medicines Agency is poised to approve the vaccine developed by U.S. company Pfizer and German partner BioNTech on Dec. 23, Reuters reports, citing an anonymous German government source. This would allow the European Union to start catching up with the U.S. and U.K. inoculation rollouts.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn tells reporters he hopes the EU approval will be completed by Christmas. "It is good news that the approval can be granted on Dec. 23," he replies when asked about the reported date.

8:30 p.m. A senior World Health Organization official says he sees a "strong commitment" from Pfizer to set vaccine prices at levels poorer nations can afford, Reuters reports. Bruce Aylward, WHO senior adviser, says the agency is in talks with the U.S. drugmaker to include its COVID-19 vaccine in an early global rollout.

7:54 p.m. Myanmar National Airlines is set to restart domestic flights halted by the pandemic. Service is to resume on Wednesday, days after de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi spoke of a "return to normal" in some economic sectors despite the spread of the virus. A negative COVID test certificate, obtained within 36 hours of departure, will be required to board a plane.

6:00 p.m. South Korea's health authorities say doctors can administer an antibody treatment called CT-P59, made by the country's pharmaceutical producer Celltrion, to critically ill coronavirus patients who are not responding to other medications.

Celltrion is conducting second- and third-phase clinical trials for CT-P59, and plans to seek emergency-use approval for the treatment before year-end.

4:09 p.m. Bali's provincial government says it will tighten requirements for tourists to enter the popular Indonesian holiday destination, starting Friday. They will now be required to show a negative test for COVID-19 in a PCR or antigen rapid test within 48 hours of departure. There were previously no restrictions on entering Bali, although domestic airlines required negative PCR, rapid or swab test results issued a maximum of 14 days prior to boarding flights. The latest measure is valid until Jan. 4 next year and is meant to curb an influx of domestic tourists to Bali during the holiday season.

3:05 p.m. Tokyo reports 460 new infections, up from 305 a day earlier, with the number of patients in serious condition rising by five to 78, the highest since the country's state of emergency was lifted in late May.

India's efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus are having an effect, as the country records its lowest daily case total in more than five months on Dec. 15.   © Reuters

1:40 p.m. India reports 22,065 new cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest daily count in over five months, bringing the country total to 9.9 million. Deaths jumped by 354 to 143,709.

11:30 a.m. China's industrial output grew in line with expectations in November, expanding for the eighth straight month as the economic recovery gathered pace and global demand picked up, government data shows. Industrial output growth quickened to 7% from a year earlier, in line with analyst expectations in a Reuters poll and faster than the 6.9% expansion in October.

11:00 a.m. South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun pleads with residents to abide by social distancing rules to avoid greater restrictions. "Some [citizens] are adding fuel to the ferocious spread of the virus with their carelessness and irresponsibility," he says. "Considering the weight and impact of Level 3 distancing, we first need to level-headedly look back at whether all of us are properly implementing the current level." Level 3 would put the country, which reports 880 new cases, up from 718 a day earlier, under lockdown.

10:00 a.m. China reports 17 new cases for Monday, up from 16 a day earlier. Of the new cases, 14 were imported. An additional three locally transmitted cases were also reported, two in Heilongjiang Province and one in Sichuan.

8:20 a.m. Pfizer partners have delivered the first COVID-19 vaccine to 141 of 145 locations targeted by the U.S. government for the first day of a nationwide rollout on Monday, a Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman says. Health care facilities in four island territories -- American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the North Mariana Islands and Guam -- are still awaiting their supplies, the spokeswoman told Reuters.

6:15 a.m. More than 300,000 people in the U.S. have now died of COVID-19, a tally by Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center shows. The grim milestone is crossed on the day that inoculations began with the COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

New daily coronavirus cases have averaged more than 200,000 in December, far above the previous high of about 147,000 in November. The U.S. is suffering around 2,400 deaths per day from the disease this month, about double the amount of November. Monday saw new restrictions take effect in New York City, including a ban on indoor dining.

6:05 a.m. Revenue in Taiwan's technology sector has surged to record levels as the popularity of 5G-compatible iPhones and rising demand for personal computers spurred by the pandemic keep plants humming at chip and panel manufacturers.

Given that Taiwanese manufacturers supply companies like Apple, Google and Amazon, the strong orders they are seeing now are expected to translate into rosy earnings in the global tech industry a couple of months down the road.

5:54 a.m. South Korea and Germany, two countries once hailed for success in controlling the coronavirus pandemic, face a record wave of infections as public vigilance slips.

South Korea on Saturday exceeded 1,000 new infections in a day for the first time. The country's daily case count hovered around 100 in early November, but began climbing rapidly at midmonth. Chilly weather arrived in late November, and poor indoor ventilation due to the cold undermined a key plank in controlling the spread of the virus: avoiding closed spaces.

South Korea looks to enhance current prevention measures, but experts say the focus should be on upgrading the country's health care infrastructure.

5:00 a.m. The latest wave of pandemic-related restrictions in Europe includes a ban on indoor dining in London and school and store closures in the Netherlands ahead of Christmas.

"The Netherlands is closing down," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says about a decision that triggered protests outside his office.

4:04 a.m. The first coronavirus vaccination in the U.S. kicks off a distribution process that will prioritize critical health care workers and likely last into the second half of 2021.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, approved on Friday night by the Food and Drug Administration through a fast-tracked process, has been used in New York City as the total number of American lives lost to the pandemic approaches 300,000.

"This vaccine is exciting because I believe this is the weapon that will end the war," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says in a briefing as the vaccination was broadcast live.

But "it's going to take months before the vaccine hits critical mass," until June by some estimates, when 75% to 85% of Americans will have received it, the governor acknowledges.

2:55 a.m. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announces a national lockdown that will last from 9 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 5 a.m. on Jan. 4. Turkey's death toll from COVID-19 hit a record 229 on Monday, with new daily cases reaching 29,617.

Pigeons outnumber people in Istanbul's Taksim Square earlier this month.   © Reuters

2:35 a.m. Israel says it has begun a second-phase trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by a Defense Ministry-run national institute. If successful, the medication could be available by the end of summer.

Israel also has sourced COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and other developers.

2:00 a.m. The big city in Japan where the dining industry has been hit hardest by the pandemic is not Tokyo, but Osaka.

Osaka Prefecture has logged 146 bankruptcy protection filings by bars and restaurants this year, up 10% over last year and more than Tokyo's 129, according to data through November collected by Tokyo Shoko Research. This gives Osaka the most dining-related bankruptcies among any of Japan's 47 prefectures.

"Our business district may be unable to stay afloat," says Minoru Kitatsuji, head of an association of businesses in Osaka's normally bustling Dotonbori neighborhood. "Just a few days ago, I got word from two stores that they were closing."

Nationwide, restaurant bankruptcies this year are expected to top the record of 800 set in 2011, the year of a devastating tsunami in northwest Japan, according to Tokyo Shoko Research.

1:30 a.m. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce urges congressional lawmakers not to let disagreement on provisions of a new stimulus package stand in the way of support for the pandemic-hit economy.

"Partial agreement is better than no agreement, and it is imperative that Congress advance aid for small businesses and nonprofits, extension of unemployment programs, funding for schools and day care centers, and resources to support vaccinations before the end of the year," the chamber says in a statement attributed to Neil Bradley, the group's executive vice president and chief policy officer.

Annabelle Jimenez, left, congratulates fellow nurse Sandra Lindsay after she is inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine in New Hyde Park, New York, on Dec. 14.   © Reuters

12:15 a.m. BioNTech's Chinese partner Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group plans to import 7.2 million doses of the German company's COVID-19 vaccine in the first half of 2021, Caixin reports, citing people familiar with the company's plan.

Monday, Dec. 14

11:24 p.m. A New York hospital administers the state's first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine dose. The state's website livestreams the event, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo watches and applauds.

Intensive care unit nurse Sandra Lindsay received the first shot at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, in the New York City borough of Queens. A majority of the first injections are expected to be given on Monday to high-risk health care workers.

8:14 p.m. Germany expects to receive 11 million doses of BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine by March, the health ministry says. In January alone, 3 million to 4 million doses of the vaccine are expected to be provided for inoculations in the country.

7:29 p.m. The European Union could donate 5% of the COVID-19 vaccines it has secured to poorer nations, an internal document seen by Reuters shows, in a move that risks undercutting a distribution scheme co-led by the World Health Organization.

6:58 p.m. Singapore approves Pfizer-BioNTech's novel coronavirus vaccine and expects to receive shots by year-end, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says, adding that he plans to be among the early vaccine recipients. The city-state of 5.7 million people expects to have enough vaccines for everyone by the third quarter of 2021 and will make it free for citizens and long-term residents, Lee, says.

6:40 p.m. The Japanese government decides to suspend a travel subsidy program dubbed "Go To Travel" from Dec. 28 to Jan. 11 nationwide, responding to concerns about its impact on the spread of the coronavirus.

6:34 p.m. The Philippines aims to finalize negotiations with Sinovac Biotech this week to acquire 25 million doses of the Chinese company's COVID-19 vaccine for delivery by March, a coronavirus taskforce official says. President Rodrigo Duterte plans to inoculate all of his country's 108 million people, preferably by buying vaccines from Russia or China.

Chief Buddhist priest Seihan Mori of the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto on Monday writes a kanji that means "dense," a Chinese character picked to best describe this year's mood in Japan.    © Kyodo

6:20 p.m. Japan selects a kanji character used to encourage social distancing as its defining symbol for 2020, highlighting a catchphrase used extensively during the country's battle against the pandemic.

The Chinese character for "mitsu," which means "congested" or "dense," is used in the phrase "san-mitsu." Translated as "three Cs," the phrase is a reference to closed spaces, crowds and close contacts that Japanese are encouraged to avoid.

4:30 p.m. South Korea has ordered schools to close from Tuesday in the capital Seoul and surrounding areas as it battles its worst outbreak of novel coronavirus since the pandemic began.

4:00 p.m. All Nippon Airways launched a flight Monday between Narita airport, near Tokyo, and Shenzhen, southern China -- the first international route it has opened since March, when the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic. The round trip will be made once a week. The airline began operating the route after Tokyo and Beijing restarted reciprocal business travel last month. ANA already operates flights to Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao in mainland China.

ANA will make the round trip between Narita airport, near Tokyo, and Shenzhen, southern China, once a week.   © Reuters

3:30 p.m. Germany's CureVac announces that it has enrolled the first participant in the Phase 2b/3 study of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The trial will assess the safety and efficacy in adults and is expected to include more than 35,000 participants in Europe and Latin America.

3:08 p.m. Tokyo reports 305 new infections, down from 480 a day earlier. The number of patients in serious condition rises by three to 73.

1:55 p.m. India reports 27,071 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from 30,254 the previous day, bringing the country total to 9.88 million. Fatalities jumped by 336 to 143,355.

12:35 p.m. New home prices in China grew at a slower monthly pace in November, official data shows, with tightening policies continuing to cool the market in larger cities while some smaller towns saw prices fall as demand waned. Average new home prices in 70 major cities rose 0.1% in November from the previous month, the slowest pace since March when the market was battered by coronavirus-induced lockdown measures, according to Reuters.

12:30 p.m. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura says the prefecture will expand the coverage area for its request that restaurants shorten their hours in an attempt to hold off the recent acceleration in transmissions. The request, which now covers the entire city of Osaka, had been limited to a few areas. Also, the request will be extended by two weeks, to Dec. 29.

12:10 a.m. New Zealand agrees to allow quarantine-free travel with Australia in the first quarter of 2021, nearly a year after it closed its borders to protect its population from the pandemic. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the cabinet has agreed in principle on a trans-Tasman, quarantine-free travel bubble. The program is pending confirmation from the Australian cabinet and no significant changes in the countries' circumstances.

The hot tourist draw of Asakusa, as well as the rest of Tokyo, is on the verge of being excluded from a program of government subsidies for domestic travelers. 

11:50 a.m. Australia will bring forward by six months a payment to support the country's three remaining oil refineries to help tide over the financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic, Energy Minister Angus Taylor says. The refineries are reeling from a slump in demand due to COVID-19, racking up losses they say threaten their plants' futures. Taylor said the support, announced as part of a A$2.3 billion ($1.7 billion) comprehensive fuel security package in September, will begin on Jan. 1.

11:00 a.m. The first COVID-19 vaccines land on Canadian soil, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says, with some Canadians expected to roll up their sleeves for a shot as soon as Monday. Canada and the United States this week are set to become the second and third Western nations, after the U.K., to begin inoculations with the vaccine.

10:12 a.m. South Korea confirms 718 new cases, down from 1,030 a day ago. Total infections reach 43,484 with 587 deaths. President Moon Jae-in apologizes after new daily cases hit a record high over the weekend and asks his cabinet to consider a lockdown if such a trend continues.

9:40 a.m. China reports 16 new cases for Sunday, down from 24 a day earlier. Of the new cases, 14 were imported infections originating from overseas. Two new locally transmitted cases were reported in Heilongjiang Province.

8:53 a.m. Business sentiment among Japan's largest manufacturers remains depressed despite a second straight quarterly economic uptick, according to the Bank of Japan's latest Tankan quarterly survey.

8:00 a.m. The Japanese government is considering temporarily excluding Tokyo from its domestic travel subsidy program as the average number of new transmissions escalates, sources say. A final decision on whether to suspend the Go To Travel campaign for trips to Tokyo, as well as Nagoya, is expected later in the day.

7:40 a.m. Eswatini Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini, who tested positive for COVID-19 four weeks ago, has died at age 52 after being hospitalized in neighboring South Africa, Reuters reports.

1:30 a.m. The first U.S. shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine leave on trucks and planes, kicking off a historic effort to stop a surging pandemic that is claiming more than 2,400 lives a day in the country. Mask-wearing workers at a Pfizer factory in Michigan had packed the vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, in dry ice.

Potential relief from the massive COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. is on the way as Phizer puts the first American shipments of its vaccine on airplanes.   © Reuters

1:16 a.m. The official in charge of Canada's vaccine rollout team told the CBC on Sunday that the first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine were set to arrive later in the day, with more of the initial batch of 30,000 coming on Monday.

Sunday, Dec. 13

8:00 p.m. Germany will close most stores from Wednesday until at least Jan. 10, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday. "I would have wished for lighter measures. But due to Christmas shopping the number of social contacts has risen considerably," Merkel told journalists. Only essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as banks, are to remain open from Dec. 16.

2:24 p.m. China reported 24 new cases on Sunday, up from 13 cases a day earlier, while the authorities were monitoring possible contacts in the domestic tourism hot spot of Hainan.

Two tourists visiting Sanya in Hainan, China's southernmost island province, were found to be in close contact with an asymptomatic case in Xian in northwest China, after they had lunch with this person on Wednesday. Hainan, known as the "Hawaii of China," has been free of coronavirus for six months, drawing eager shoppers. The two tourists and 43 other people who were in close contact are being quarantined in Sanya, according to a statement on the city's official WeChat account.

9:41 a.m. South Korea reports a record daily increase in novel coronavirus cases for a second straight day, with 1,030 new infections, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Sunday. Of the new cases, 1,002 were locally transmitted, which brought the total tally to 42,766 infections, with 580 deaths.

A South Korean soldier is tested for the coronavirus at a railway station in Seoul on December 15.   © Reuters

3:24 a.m. The share of Brazilians unwilling to take any COVID-19 vaccine grew to 22% last week, from 9% in August, and most say they would not accept one made in China, a new poll shows as President Jair Bolsonaro's comments stoked wider skepticism. The survey by pollster Datafolha found 73% of respondents plan to take a shot and 5% do not know if they will, compared with 89% and 3% in August.

Late last month, Bolsonaro said he would not take any coronavirus vaccine that becomes available. One of the world's most prominent coronavirus skeptics, Bolsonaro said refusal was his "right" and expressed skepticism specifically about the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac and produced in conjunction with the Sao Paulo state government's Butantan Institute.

3:03 a.m. Indonesian police arrest firebrand Islamic cleric Rizieq Shihab on suspicion of breaching coronavirus restrictions by staging several mass gatherings since his return from self-exile last month. The controversial and politically influential cleric has called for a "moral revolution" since returning on Nov. 10, fueling tension with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

His arrest comes after six members of his Islamic Defender's Front were killed on Monday in a shootout with police investigating the violation of coronavirus protocols amid rising infections and deaths.

Saturday, Dec. 12

8:07 p.m. A Vietnamese court sentences the head of the Hanoi Center for Disease Control and Prevention to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of wrongdoing linked to the procurement of equipment intended to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nguyen Nhat Cam, 57, was accused of overstating the cost of COVID-19 testing systems during a transaction, causing a loss of 5.4 billion dong ($233,483) to the state budget, the Ministry of Public Security says. Cam and his accomplices' activities would negatively affect the image of doctors and the anti-COVID-19 agency, angering the public and undermining confidence in the health care sector, the ministry says.

The court also sentences nine other people to between three and 6-1/2 years in prison for their involvement in the matter.

3:30 p.m. South Korean President Moon Jae-in says the country is facing an "emergency situation" as the daily coronavirus count exceeds the late February peak. "We plan to extensively expand drive-through and walk-through coronavirus testing methods ... as preemptive measures to track down infected people and block the spread," Moon said on Facebook. South Korea reports 950 new cases as of Friday midnight, the highest daily count since the peak of 909 cases reported on Feb. 29.

3:18 p.m. Tokyo confirms a record 621 cases of daily coronavirus infections as Japan struggles to cope with a resurgence of cases. The figure surpassed the previous record of 602 cases marked on Thursday.

12:00 p.m. U.S. President Donald Trump posts a video message from the White House, calling the authorization of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine a "medical miracle."

11:26 a.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it has authorized the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, with the first inoculations expected within days, marking a turning point in the United States where the pandemic has killed more than 292,000 people.

5:40 a.m. A running count of global COVID-19 cases has topped 70 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, amid hopes that emerging vaccines will turn the tide against the coronavirus.

To catch up on earlier developments, see last week's latest updates.

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