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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Dec. 6 to Dec.12, Global COVID-19 cases surpass 70m

Trump calls Pfizer vaccine authorization a 'medical miracle'

A health worker checks the temperature of passengers at a railway station in Mumbai, India. The country has the second-highest number of cases after the U.S.   © 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 70,111,812, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 1,591,595.

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



Saturday, Dec. 12 (Tokyo time)

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.

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.

10:45 a.m. Mexico has become the fourth country to approve emergency use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, following authorization from health regulator Cofepris. Britain, Bahrain and Canada have already approved the Pfizer vaccine.

10:20 a.m. China reports 13 new coronavirus cases for Friday, down from 15 cases a day earlier. All of the new cases were imported infections originating from abroad.

10:00 a.m. South Korea reports 950 new cases as of Friday midnight, the highest daily count since the peak of 909 cases reported on Feb. 29. Of the new cases, 928 were locally transmitted and 22 were imported, which bring the total tally to 41,736 infections, with 578 deaths. More than 70% of the domestically transmitted cases were from Seoul and its neighboring areas.

6:52 a.m. Biotech company Moderna says the U.S. government has exercised an option to purchase an additional 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine, bringing total committed orders to 200 million doses. Moderna says 20 million doses will be delivered by the end of December.

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.

4:30 a.m. New York City will set up a COVID-19 "vaccine command center" next week to direct the distribution of vaccines, Mayor Bill de Blasio says, as the U.S. is poised to approve its first shot against the disease.

Customers dine at the Panna II Garden in New York City's East Village on Nov. 13. Indoor dining at the city's restaurants will be suspended starting Dec. 14.   © Reuters

3:58 a.m. Two weeks after Japan's government called for a focused three-week fight against a resurgent coronavirus outbreak, public behavior has barely budged even as daily case counts continue to set records.

Data on traffic in entertainment districts and tourism hot spots in major cities mostly shows only slight declines in recent days. This is despite a warning by Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister leading Japan's virus response, that the next three weeks would be "critical" to containing the spread of COVID-19.

Signs of pandemic fatigue are showing among businesses dependent on foot traffic.

"I followed the requests in spring and summer, but now I'm staying open till 12 a.m. so I can bring in whatever customers I can," said the proprietor of a yakiniku grilled-meat restaurant in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward.

Lots of masks, little distance: Commuters crowd the street in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward on Dec. 10.   © Kyodo

2:30 a.m. New York City restaurants will halt indoor dining Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says, as the city returns to the heavy restrictions of earlier in the pandemic.

2:00 a.m. In another sign of China's economic recovery, sales of so-called new-energy vehicles, which include electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles, will jump 40% in 2021 to 1.8 million autos, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers forecasts.

Tesla's expansion of local production as well as price cuts are helping to lift the world's largest auto market.

New-vehicle sales of all types will increase 4% to 26.3 million in 2021, the first growth in four years, according to the association.

1:50 a.m. The World Health Organization says almost 1 billion doses of leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates have been secured as part of a program to supply low- and middle-income countries.

1:30 a.m. AstraZeneca will test whether the effectiveness of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine can be boosted by combining it with Russia's Sputnik V shot.

The trials will reportedly take place in Russia. Sputnik V was approved for use in Russia well ahead of Western drugmakers' COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

12:20 a.m. South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk has died in Latvia from coronavirus complications, according to media reports. Kim, who was 59, had won awards at the Venice, Cannes and Berlin film festivals.

Friday, Dec. 11

11:20 p.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it is working rapidly "toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization" for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19.

Vaccinations of Americans are expected to start as early as next week, assuming an imminent approval.

9:58 p.m. The annual snow festival in Sapporo, Japan's biggest winter event, is expected to be canceled for the first time in its history, owing to a surge in coronavirus cases.

The northern city had already decided to scale down the festival in 2021. But as Japan's third wave of COVID-19 infections rises, officials are finding it difficult to rationalize holding an event that annually attracts upward of 2 million visitors.

8:30 p.m. Britain's Heathrow Airport, which has lost its crown as the busiest airport in Europe over the course of the pandemic, posted an 88% fall in passenger numbers in November from the same month last year. Heathrow said the drop meant it would keep Terminal 4, one of its four terminals, closed until the end of 2021.

7:50 p.m. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said clinical trials of their vaccine had showed an insufficient immune response in older people, and they would therefore be delaying its launch to late next year, marking a setback in the global fight against the pandemic.

7:45 p.m. Indonesia reports another daily high of pandemic-related deaths, with 175 people dying in the past 24 hours, and cases jumping to 6,310 from 6,033 yesterday. Total infections are now at 605,243, with 18,511 deaths.

7:05 p.m. The U.K.'s AstraZeneca has withdrawn its application for a clinical trial in the Philippines, according to Enrique Domingo, head of the country's food and drug administration. "They said they have enough data already," Domingo told Nikkei Asia when asked the reason for the withdrawal.

5:30 p.m. The Asian Development Bank on Friday launched a $9-billion vaccine fund for member economies, many of which have been ravaged by the pandemic. Called the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility, the bank said the initiative offered rapid and equitable support to its developing members as they procure and deliver vaccines.

5:15 p.m. Hong Kong has agreed with two vaccine makers -- Beijing-based Sinovac and New York-based Pfizer -- to secure 15 million shots for the city's 7.5 million residents, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announces. Around 1 million shots will be delivered as early as January.

Taiwanese will be free to fly to Singapore beginning Dec. 18, then have free reign in the city-state if they test negative for the virus.   © Reuters

4:00 p.m. Singapore on Dec. 18 will unilaterally lift border restrictions for visitors from Taiwan, the Civil Aviation Authority says, according to local media. Those from Taiwan who wish to travel to Singapore must have stayed in Taiwan for 14 consecutive days before departure. Visitors who test negative for the coronavirus upon arrival will not be issued stay-home notices.

3:20 p.m. China's civil aviation regulator has started requiring cabin crew on charter flights to and from high-risk countries to wear disposal diapers to avoid using the washroom, according to local news NetEase. The requirement, which includes wearing personal protective equipment, is part of the country's tightened control measures against imported cases.

1:25 p.m. India reports 29,398 cases in the last 24 hours -- down from 31,521 a day earlier -- bringing the country total to nearly 9.8 million. Deaths rose by 414 to 142,186.

1:00 p.m. A pandemic-struck world has cut CO2 emissions this year by 7%, according to the Global Carbon Project show. The group has calculated that the world will have emitted 34 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020. According to a study published in the journal Earth System Science Data, the figure marks a decrease from 36.4 billion tons in 2019.

11:45 a.m. Japan approves an additional 385.6 billion yen ($3.7 billion) to fight the pandemic, with most of the money used to extend a controversial travel subsidy program that experts have blamed for rising infections. The government will extend its "Go To Travel" campaign for another five months beyond January to support tourism.

10:23 a.m. South Korea confirms 689 cases -- up from 680 a day ago -- marking the largest daily rise since February as the government battles a third wave of infections. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun says he will dispatch around 800 military, police and government workers in every district of the greater Seoul area to help track down potential patients. Total cases in the country have hit 40,786 with 572 deaths.

9:30 a.m. China reports 15 cases for Thursday -- up from 12 a day earlier -- nine of which were imported. Of the six locally transmitted cases, four were reported in Sichuan Province and two in Heilongjiang Province.

8:30 a.m. Australia abruptly halted the production of a domestic vaccine after trials showed it could interfere with HIV diagnosis, the developers say. Its makers will instead produce a rival vaccine. Production of the vaccine by the University of Queensland and vaccine maker CSL was one of four candidates contracted by the Australian government. It was stopped after "certain HIV diagnostic assays" returned false positives.

8:00 a.m. A panel of outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to endorse the widespread use of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine. It puts the country just one step away from launching an epic vaccination campaign against the outbreak that has killed close to 300,000 Americans. Shots could begin within days, depending on how quickly the Food and Drug Administration signs off, as expected, on the expert committee's recommendation.

5:05 a.m. Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, Honduras and other Latin American nations have expressed interest in buying Sinovac Biotech's Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccine, according to an official in Brazil, where the shot is being mass-produced.

The Butantan Institute in the state of Sao Paulo is already in talks to supply the CoronaVac vaccine to Argentina, institute chief Dimas Covas is quoted by Reuters as telling a news conference.

In a tweet, the institute announces that it has begun production of the vaccine, calling it a "historic moment for Brazil."

Sao Paulo Gov. Joao Doria holds a box of China's CoronaVac vaccine. The shot against COVID-19 has entered into production in the Brazilian state.   © Reuters

4:00 a.m. U.S. deaths from COVID-1 have surpassed 3,000 in one day for the first time, reaching 3,124.

The grim milestone was crossed on Wednesday, data collected by Johns Hopkins University shows. To put this number in perspective, the death toll for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. is 2,977.

Single-day U.S. deaths during the first wave of COVID-19 infections peaked at 2,241 on April 24 and came to 1,138 during the second wave on Aug. 1.

3:00 a.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has convened a meeting of outside advisers to discuss whether to recommend emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

This is one of the final stages of the approval process before the shot can be distributed to Americans.

2:00 a.m. An emergency medical center in Osaka is just one hospital in Japan limiting its intake of non-coronavirus patients in response to local spikes in COVID-19 cases. "Our staff has been diverted to the coronavirus response and that has made it difficult to maintain our normal emergency readiness," a representative at the Osaka General Medical Center says.

The government of Osaka Prefecture has called on five university hospitals to each make four additional beds available for severe COVID-19 cases. The hospitals say they are being stretched to the limit. Osaka Prefecture reported 415 new COVID-19 cases for Thursday, marking the second day in a row over 400. Severe cases totaled 150, or about 73% of the 206 beds set aside for such patients.

12:10 a.m. European Central Bank policymakers have expanded monetary stimulus for the euro zone for the first time in six months.

The pandemic emergency purchase program, which buys assets to counter risks to monetary stability, has been scaled up by 500 billion euros ($606 billion) to 1.85 trillion euros and extended to March 2022.

Thursday, Dec. 10

People line up outside a career center in the U.S. state of Kentucky.   © Reuters

11:40 p.m. The head of the European Union's drug regulator says a recent cyberattack has not disrupted the agency's review of COVID-19 vaccine candidates. "I can assure you that this will not affect the timeline for delivery of vaccines and that we are fully functional," Emer Cooke is quoted by Reuters as telling European Parliament lawmakers.

11:00 p.m. U.S. initial jobless claims surged by 137,000 to 853,000 in the week ended Dec. 5, reaching the highest level in two and a half months, a new report shows.

The result far exceeds the estimate of roughly 730,000 by forecasters in a Dow Jones survey.

9:15 p.m. Japanese bullet train operator Kyushu Railway will close its Shanghai office at the end of March 2021, seeing no prospect of an immediate recovery in Japan-bound tourism.

The group says it will also close three Akasaka Umaya restaurants serving Japanese food in the Chinese city by the end of this year.

JR Kyushu's Shanghai office opened in 2010 and was tasked with promoting tourism through market research and collaboration between local governments. The closure will leave the railway operator with just one overseas office, in Bangkok.

8:55 p.m. Saudi Arabia's health authorities have registered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for import and use, Reuters reports, citing the Middle Eastern kingdom's state news agency SPA. This clears the way for import and inoculation procedures to begin, according to the report. The country has recorded a total of about 359,000 infections with 6,000 deaths, though it has made progress in flattening its curve.

Muslims observe social distancing rules while completing Umrah pilgrimages in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in October.    © Reuters

7:30 p.m. Japan confirms a nationwide record 2,820 daily coronavirus infections, after Tokyo's count exceeded 600 for the first time. A Tokyo Metropolitan Government panel warns, "The medical system has started to become strained."

7:00 p.m. Belarus plans to close its land borders to its own citizens in the name of fighting COVID-19, Reuters reports, while opposition figures liken the move to a "new Iron Curtain." The government of President Alexander Lukashenko says the measure, which bans traveling unless it is for work or study, will take effect in 10 days.

The country has been rocked by unrest since an Aug. 9 election Lukashenko claimed to have won, while his opponents said the vote was rigged. The government appears eager to stop an outflow of young talent. Meanwhile, as of Wednesday, the health ministry had reported 152,453 coronavirus infections and 1,230 deaths.

3:16 p.m. Tokyo reports 602 new infections, up from 572 a day earlier and topping 600 for the first time.

2:10 p.m. Japan will buy about 10,000 deep freezers to store coronavirus vaccines and is considering purchasing dry ice in bulk. The country has agreements to buy a total of 290 million doses from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna -- enough for 145 million people if everyone gets two shots as required. Pfizer's vaccines need to be kept at temperatures around minus 75 C while Moderna's requires minus 20 C, posing logistics problems.

1:45 p.m. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in the U.S. grew to an all-time high of 106,217 by late Wednesday, as at least 3,253 U.S. patients perished on Wednesday alone, according to a Reuters tally of state-by-state data.

1:35 p.m. India reports 31,521 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from 32,080 the previous day, bringing the country total to 9.77 million. Fatalities jumped by 412 to 141,772.

10:30 a.m. Developing Asia's first economic contraction in nearly six decades is likely to be less severe than initially thought, thanks partly to China's faster-than-expected recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The regional gross domestic product is now expected to shrink 0.4% in 2020, slightly improving from the 0.7% projected in September as more economies reopen from pandemic-induced lockdowns and vaccines become available, according to the Asian Development Bank.

A nearly deserted street in a Seoul entertainment district: The South Korean government plans to mobilize soldiers to expand public health surveillance to contain a COVID-19 outbreak.   © Reuters

10:03 a.m. South Korea confirms 682 new coronavirus cases, down from 686 a day ago. The country's total infections have reached 40,098, with 564 deaths. To control the outbreak, the government plans to mobilize soldiers to expand public health surveillance, and operate COVID-19 test sites on nights and weekends in Greater Seoul.

10:00 a.m. Britain's drug regulator says anyone with a history of anaphylaxis to a medicine or food should not get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, giving fuller guidance on an earlier allergy warning about the shot.

9:00 a.m. China reports 12 new coronavirus cases for Wednesday, down from 15 cases a day earlier. Of the new cases, 11 were imported infections from overseas. One locally transmitted case was reported in the Inner Mongolia region.

8:40 a.m. Jenner Institute Director Adrian Hill, who oversees the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine research and development, said a vaccine would not be available in the U.S. until "the middle of next year" if regulators wait for the end of their vaccine trial. "I would hope that the [Food and Drug Administration] would look at the data set on this vaccine, including all of the available data in January. To wait for the end of the trial would be the middle of next year," Hill said in remarks released by U.S. TV network NBC.

7:00 a.m. Johnson & Johnson says it has cut enrollment for its pivotal COVID-19 vaccine trial to 40,000 volunteers from its original plan for 60,000, as higher rates of COVID-19 infection amid the worsening pandemic should generate the data it needs with fewer study subjects. The move could speed up the time frame for U.S. regulatory clearance.

6:15 a.m. Tokyo residents 65 and older are being infected with COVID-19 at nearly twice the rate of the second wave of Japan's outbreak in August, public broadcaster NHK reports, citing data from health authorities the capital. Causes include travel and dining out.

4:15 a.m. U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech report that documents related to their COVID-19 vaccine candidate were "unlawfully accessed" in a cyberattack on Europe's medicines regulator. The European Medicines Agency has issued a statement without naming Pfizer or BioNTech. "EMA has been the subject of a cyberattack. The Agency has swiftly launched a full investigation, in close cooperation with law enforcement and other relevant entities. "

3:40 a.m. The U.S. is closer to approving a COVID-19 vaccine, but only about half of American adults want one, a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows. In interviews conducted Dec. 3 to Monday, 47% of respondents say they will get a COVID-19 shot, while 26% say they will not. Unsure respondents number 27%. Willingness to be vaccinated varies with age, ranging from as high as 62% for Americans older than 60 to as low as 36% for people under 45.

2:55 a.m. Four lions at the Barcelona Zoo have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, joining tigers on a list of documented coronavirus cases among big cats.

2:30 a.m. Turkey has confirmed 31,712 new cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, with 217 new deaths, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. The daily death toll marks a record high, Koca is quoted as saying.

1:40 p.m. In announcing its first approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for use in Canada, the country's health authority says it "has determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meets the Department's stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements." Canada becomes the third nation to approve this vaccine, after the U.K. and Bahrain.

1:25 a.m. What other COVID-19 vaccines are under development around the world, and what challenges do scientists still face? This visual data presentation from Nikkei provides some facts.

1:10 a.m. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reports that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 has been approved for use in Canada.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander in Iraq, is in charge of logistics for vaccine distribution, the CBC says.

12:30 a.m. U.S. stocks rally on hopes for early distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, only to give up early gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average touches a new high of 30,296.07 before sinking into the red for the session. The S&P 500 also retreats from record territory.

Investors seem to be biding their time as Republicans and Democrats still wrangle over a new economic aid package. New U.S. COVID-19 cases remain at record highs of over 200,000 a day.

Wednesday, Dec. 9

11:00 p.m. Winter bonuses at Japanese companies will fall 8.55% this year, a Nikkei survey shows, marking the second-biggest decline on record.

The only bigger drop in payouts was the nearly 15% plunge in 2009, when the world was still reeling from the global financial crisis.

The service sector has been hit hardest this year, and its 14.6% decrease in winter bonuses shows is worse than the all-industry figure.

All Nippon Airways has canceled its bonus for the first time, while rival Japan Airlines has slashed its by 80%. Yoshinoya Holdings, one of the nation's leading fast-food chains, will pay out around 63% less this winter.

8:12 p.m. U.K. regulators say people who have a "significant history'' of allergic reactions should not receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine while they investigate two adverse reactions that occurred on the first day of the country's mass vaccination program.

8:01 p.m. Rich countries have secured enough coronavirus vaccines to protect their populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021, Amnesty International and other groups said on Wednesday, possibly depriving billions of people in poorer areas.

Britain approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine this month, raising hopes that the tide could soon turn against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million globally, hammered the world economy and upended normal life.

7:08 p.m. More Indians have searched for cricket tournament Indian Premier League this year than coronavirus, which came second, according to 2020 search trends data released by Google.

India is the world's biggest market for cricket, and this year's IPL was shifted out of the country and held in the United Arab Emirates due to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A vendor touts his wares in front of a mural aimed at raising awareness about coronavirus infections in Jakarta.   © Reuters

6:40 p.m. Indonesia reports its deadliest day since the beginning of the pandemic with 171 deaths over the past 24 hours, and 6,058 new infections. Cases now total 592,900 with 18,171 deaths.

6:36 p.m. Philippine high rollers will soon be allowed to place bets in the comfort of their own homes as the gaming regulator allows integrated resort casinos to offer online gambling to partially recoup billions of dollars of lost revenues amid the coronavirus pandemic.

5:14 p.m. Roche is partnering with Moderna to include a COVID-19 antibody test in the mRNA specialist's ongoing vaccine trials, which can demonstrate if the vaccine is working, the Swiss drugmaker said on Wednesday.

5:13 p.m. President Moon Jae-in says South Korea should be able to secure more COVID-19 vaccines despite budget constraints it faces. The remarks, made Wednesday in a statement from the presidential Blue House, came as South Korea reports another 686 new coronavirus cases. The country is battling a third wave of infection that is threatening to overwhelm its medical system.

4:56 p.m. Israel has received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines on Wednesday and a distributor predicted the country would have enough for about a quarter of the population by the end of the year.

The United Arab Emirates has been conducting Phase 3 clinical trials of China's Sinopharm vaccine since July and in September approved its emergency use for certain groups.   © Reuters

3:17 p.m. An experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinopharm has 86% efficacy against the virus, the United Arab Emirates health ministry said on Wednesday, citing an interim analysis of a human trial underway there.

3:08 p.m. Tokyo reports 572 new infections, up from 352 a day earlier, posting a second-highest daily record. The number of patients in serious condition in the capital decreased by one to 59.

1:29 p.m. India reports 32,080 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, up from 26,567 the previous day, pushing the country total to over 9.73 million cases so far. Deaths jumped by 402 to 141,360.

1:18 p.m. China's factory gate prices fell at a slower pace in November, adding to signs that the world's second-largest economy is rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic. But consumer prices unexpectedly declined for the first time in over a decade. The producer price index fell 1.5% from a year earlier. The consumer price index fell 0.5% in November from a year earlier after rising 0.5% in October.

12:00 p.m. Edtech startups in Southeast Asia are trying to expand their reach as the pandemic cuts off in-person learning for many students. The technology could free teachers to focus on meaningful forms of education, such as personalized coaching and mentoring. Find out more here.

10:54 a.m. A passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise from Singapore has tested positive, forcing all guests aboard the Quantum of the Seas to be quarantined in their cabins as the ship returned to port.

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas cruise ship docks at Singapore's Marina Bay Cruise Center after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 9.   © Reuters

10:37 a.m. Japan's core private-sector machinery orders rose 17.1% in October from the previous month, the sharpest increase on record, as the economy recovered from the pandemic.

9:41 a.m. South Korea confirms 686 cases -- up from 594 a day ago -- marking the third largest daily rise since January and bringing the country total to 39,432 with 556 deaths.

9:00 a.m. A Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been launched in the U.K. Nikkei looks at other vaccines still under development around the world, as well as the challenges facing scientists.

8:29 a.m. Brazil has signed a letter of intent with Pfizer for more than 70 million vaccine doses, its health minister said on Tuesday. On the day, 842 fatalities were reported, the highest in almost a month.

8:03 a.m. Japan's latest spike in coronavirus cases overwhelmed a city in central Hokkaido, prompting the northern prefecture's governor to request backup from the national government.

7:26 a.m. North Korea lashed out at South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha for doubting its claim that there were no coronavirus outbreaks in the North, warning of consequences for her "impudent" comment, according to state media.

5:30 a.m. Cumulative U.S. COVID-19 cases have crossed the grim milestone of 15 million, out of a global total of 68 million, according to Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center.

More than 285,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has picked Vivek Murthy as U.S. surgeon general, a role Murthy held under the Obama administration. The son of immigrants from India, Murthy comes from a family of doctors, went to high school in Miami, college at Harvard, and medical and business school at Yale.

"I will dedicate myself to caring for every American, driven always by science and facts, by head and by heart, and endlessly grateful to serve one of the few countries in the world where the grandson of a poor farmer in India could be asked by the president-elect to look out for the health of an entire nation," Murthy says in a news conference announcing Biden's health care team.

4:05 a.m. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks on his health care team picks.

3:40 a.m. Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will pay companies up to 40,000 yen ($380) per month for every person they employ whom has been put out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 74,000 people in Japan have or are expected to become unemployed or go on furlough owing to the pandemic, government estimates show. The food service and travel industries are among the hardest-hit sectors of the economy.

Japan has expanded aid to keep workers on payrolls during the crisis.

As of Dec. 4, more than more than 2.3 trillion yen, or $22 billion, in subsidies have been approved since April for companies that put workers on paid furloughs rather than laying them off.

2:05 a.m. Singapore Changi Airport seeks to become the coronavirus vaccine distribution hub for Southeast Asia, boosting its cold storage capacity and forming a task force to oversee the project.

The vaccines will be distributed in Southeast Asia and Oceania, according to Changi Airport Group. This arrangement will support outlying cities in Southeast Asia that lag in developing logistic infrastructure.

Vaccine cargo deliveries would help prop up the local airline industry depressed by a lack of air traffic following border closures to stem the spread of the pandemic. It is also anticipated that vaccine distribution will do its part to bring back passengers.

12:40 a.m. The COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Pfizer and BioNTech receives a favorable initial assessment from the U.S. drug safety regulator in a bid for emergency approval.

"The efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity data in this [emergency use authorization] application support a positive assessment of risk and benefit for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and [fulfill] the data requirements outlined in the Food and Drug Administration EUA guidance," documents published Tuesday say.

The two-shot vaccine shows appears to confer some protection after the first dose, according to the documents.

Emergency use authorization is a fast-track approval process for products in critical need. An FDA official explains:

12:05 a.m. Japan reports 47 new COVID-19 deaths for Tuesday, the highest single-day tally to date. Hokkaido and Osaka prefectures had nine deaths each, followed by Tokyo with six.

Tuesday, Dec. 8

11:00 p.m. American Airlines says it will expand preflight COVID-19 tests to passengers going to all U.S. states with travel restrictions.

For $129, travelers can receive a coronavirus check than involves swabbing their own nose and sending the sample to a testing center about 48 hours before boarding. Travelers who test positive will not be allowed to board.

8:35 p.m. India's federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan says the government's regulator could grant a license to some developers of COVID-19 vaccines in the next few weeks. Six vaccine candidates, including AstraZeneca's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, are in trial stages, Bhushan says.

6:15 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says the latest economic stimulus package to help the country recover from its coronavirus-driven slump likely will boost gross domestic product by around 3.6%.

Japan's new round of economic relief during the pandemic will be worth roughly 73.6 trillion yen ($706 billion).

Earlier, Suga says: "We will maintain employment, keep businesses going, revive the economy and make a breakthrough toward growth including through green and digital technology."

5:32 p.m. Indonesian state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma says that interim data on its trials for vaccine candidates produced by China's Sinovac Biotech show up to 97% efficacy.

4:30 p.m. Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old grandmother, early Tuesday became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine outside of a trial. Rolling out the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, Britain became the first Western country to start vaccinating its general population, hailed as a watershed moment in defeating the coronavirus. Keenan received the vaccine at a local hospital in Coventry, central England, a week before she turns 91.

"I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19," Keenan said as she received the shot from a nurse originally from the Philippines.

3:20 p.m. Tokyo reports 352 new infections, up from 299 a day earlier, with the number of patients in serious condition in the capital increasing by five to 60.

1:32 p.m. India reports 26,567 cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest daily count since July 10, bringing the country's total to 9.7 million. The death toll jumped by 385 to 140,958.

Hong Kong will ban dining in restaurants after 6 p.m. and study additional relief measures for those affected.   © Reuters

11:30 a.m. Hong Kong will ban dining in restaurants after 6 p.m. to curb a rise in coronavirus cases in the densely packed financial hub. The government will also study additional relief measures for those affected by the latest restrictions. On Monday, Hong Kong recorded 78 new cases of coronavirus, taking its total to 6,976.

10:55 a.m. South Korea has signed deals with four companies as part of a program that will provide coronavirus vaccines for 44 million people, the government says. The government has arranged to buy 20 million doses each from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, and 4 million from Johnson & Johnson's Janssen, which together are enough to cover up to 34 million people. Additional doses for 10 million people will be procured through the World Health Organization's global vaccine project, known as COVAX.

10:40 a.m. Japan's household spending rose 1.9% in October from a year earlier, the first rise in 13 months, government data shows. The country's economy also grew an annualized 22.9% in the July-September period, better than the initial estimate of a 21.4% expansion, revised data from the Cabinet Office shows, as it rebounded from a COVID-induced recession.

10:30 a.m. Brazil says it is in advanced talks with Pfizer to buy 70 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and a memorandum of intent should be signed this week. The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, whose final trial results showed a 95% success rate, will be delivered next year, the health ministry said. Earlier on Monday, President Jair Bolsonaro said the government will offer COVID-19 vaccines to all Brazilians free of charge.

9:41 a.m. South Korea confirms 594 new cases, down from 615 a day ago. Total infections reach 38,755, with 552 deaths.

9:30 a.m. China reports 12 new cases for Monday, down from 15 cases a day earlier. Of the new cases, 10 were imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to five, from six cases a day earlier.

7:27 a.m. Japan's cabinet is set to approve on Tuesday a third round of stimulus worth roughly 73.6 trillion yen ($706 billion), aiming to shore up an economy threatened by an upswing in coronavirus cases.

5:30 a.m. The Brazilian state of Sao Paulo plans to start inoculating residents with a Chinese-made vaccine candidate Jan. 25, Gov. Joao Doria says. Though the vaccine, developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, is still being tested and has not received Brazilian government approval, the state is eager to start a vaccination drive as the pandemic shows no signs of subsiding.

3:30 a.m. California has enacted widespread restrictions on social and business activity for over 30 million people, including a ban on private gatherings of any size.

Separately, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the disease expert whom President-elect Joe Biden has chosen to be his chief medical adviser on the coronavirus, says the pandemic will worsen in the coming weeks as a result of infections during the holiday season. "Mid-January is probably going to be a bad time," Fauci was quoted as saying at a news conference with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo warned that more restrictions are possible in his state. In New York City, indoor dining could be closed entirely, and in the rest of the state, indoor dining could be reduced to 25% of capacity.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will shut down indoor dining at New York City restaurants unless hospitalizations stabilize within five days.   © Reuters

1:50 a.m. The World Health Organization so far has not had contact with the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

"The U.S. is in transition and the team is not formed in full, so there can be no formal or organized discussions when they are in transition," Tedros was quoted as saying at a news conference.

12:40 a.m. Looking to make up lost revenue, the Louvre in Paris will host a special auction that lets the highest bidder watch the annual examination of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" outside of its glass case.

Other prizes include a walk along the rooftop of the museum palace with French street artist JR, Reuters reports.

"The Louvre is suffering like all big museums around the world" and will lose up to 90 million euros ($109 million) in revenue this year, museum official Yann Le Touher was quoted as saying.

Monday, Dec. 7

11:15 p.m. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has announced his incoming administration's health team.

Among the picks is Vivek Murthy, an American of Indian descent, who will return as surgeon-general -- a position he held under Barack Obama. Murthy is a physician, research scientist, and former vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, according to his bio.

9:45 p.m. SoftBank Group has opened a COVID-19 testing site in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo where people can having saliva samples tested for coronavirus.

The site is able to handle about 500 tests a day, with plans to increase capacity to 1,000 tests by February.

This marks the Japanese technology group's second such site in Japan. The first is in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo.

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Donald Trump in the virtual G-20 meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia in November.   © Reuters

8:28 p.m. Italy will hold a health summit in Rome next May during its presidency of the Group of 20 major economies and hopes world leaders will attend, according to Reuters.

If heads of state accept the invitation, it would be the first such in-person meeting for global chiefs since 2019, after the coronavirus pandemic reduced the main G-20 and Group of Seven summits this year to virtual meetings. The global health summit is scheduled for May 21 in Rome and will focus on the handling of the pandemic.

7:23 p.m. Next year's Paris Airshow has been canceled as the aerospace industry continues to weather the coronavirus crisis, a spokesperson for the French organizers said on Monday.

6:06 p.m. Taiwan's exports have risen 12% in November from a year ago for the fifth consecutive month and at a stronger-than-expected pace, boosted by surging global demand for electronic goods as people work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and amid new phone launches.

Exports jumped to $31.99 billion in November, the second highest on record for any month, the Ministry of Finance said on Monday.

5:29 p.m. Russia has granted approval for clinical trials to be held for the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Ad5-Ncov involving 8,000 volunteers, the Interfax news agency reported on Monday. Ad5-nCoV is a vaccine candidate co-developed by CanSino Biologics and a Chinese military-backed research unit.

4:50 p.m. Russia confirms 28,142 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours on Monday, including 7,279 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 2,488,912 since the pandemic began. Authorities say 456 people died overnight, taking the official death toll to 43,597.

4:39 p.m. South Korean President Moon Jae-in calls on Monday for expanded coronavirus testing and more thorough tracing as the country is struggling to control its latest and largest wave of infections. Moon says testing sites should stay open for longer to allow people to get tested after work and that more drive-through testing facilities should be set up. Starting next week, testing centers will begin using a test kit designed to more easily gather samples from saliva. The centers will also start using antigen tests as a stopgap.

3:30 p.m. Tokyo reports 299 new infections, down from 327 a day earlier, with the number of patients in serious condition increasing by one to 55.

3:00 p.m. Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine producer by volume, has sought emergency use authorization in the country for AstraZeneca's vaccine candidate, its CEO says. The experimental vaccine can be stored at 2 to 8 C and can be distributed relatively easily in India. Serum's move follows Pfizer's application for similar authorization of its vaccine candidate on Saturday.

2:31 p.m. China's Clover Biopharmaceuticals has cleared the hurdle of initial evaluation by Philippine vaccine experts. It now moves to a final review by the country's food and drug administration before its COVID-19 vaccine can go to clinical trials, according to Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire.

2:04 p.m. India reports 32,981 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 36,011 the previous day, bringing the country total to 9.68 million. Deaths jumped by 391 to 140,573.

1:00 p.m. A Thai reentering the country illegally from COVID-hit Myanmar has alarmed Chiang Mai, a northern province that was particularly popular with Chinese visitors before the pandemic. The woman, in her late 20s, returned with two female friends on Nov. 24 after working at the 1G1 hotel and casino in Tachilek, Myanmar. The entertainment complex is 1.5 km from an official border crossing to Mae Sai in Thailand, but the trio used an irregular crossing point in order to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine. After visiting a number of crowded places in the north, she fell ill, and she and her friends tested positive for COVID-19. Subsequently a 32-year-old Thai DJ working at 1G1 also tested positive.

12:30 p.m. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura tells reporters he has asked the central government to send nurses from the Self Defense Forces to help operate the prefecture's new COVID-19 treatment facility for seriously ill patients, opening on Dec. 15. Chief government spokesman Katsunobu Kato had said Monday morning that Japan was prepared to send SDF nurses to Osaka and Hokkaido, Japan's main northern island, upon request to help treat the two prefectures' surges in infections. Hokkaido has seen infection clusters at two hospitals and is set to ask the government to send nurses.

11:30 a.m. Japanese ad agency Dentsu says it will slash nearly 6,000 employees who engage in foreign markets -- a 12.5% cut in that part of its workforce -- as companies cut their spending on advertisements amid the pandemic. The Tokyo-based company said Monday that it expects to register consolidated loss of about 23.7 billion yen ($227 million) for the year ending December.

10:04 a.m. South Korea confirms 615 cases, down from 631 a day ago, bringing the country's total to 38,161 with 549 deaths. The government will tighten social distancing rules in greater Seoul from Tuesday, closing karaoke bars, gyms and indoor sports centers. Discount stores, hair shops and movie theaters must close by 9 p.m.

Sinovac Biotech aims to complete construction of a second production facility by the end of the year, giving it an annual vaccine capacity of 600 million doses.   © Reuters

9:40 a.m. China's Sinovac Biotech has secured $515 million in funding from a domestic company, Sino Biopharmaceutical, to double the production capacity of its coronavirus vaccine, the companies say. Sinovac expects efficacy data on its experimental shot this month. Sino Biopharmaceutical said on Monday a business unit will invest $515 million in Sinovac Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Sinovac, to help in the development and production of the vaccine, CoronaVac. In a separate statement, Sinovac said it will be able to manufacture 300 million vaccine doses annually and aims to complete construction of a second production facility by the end of the year to increase the annual vaccine capacity to 600 million doses.

7:30 a.m. U.S. President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for COVID-19, Trump says. The 76-year-old Giuliani is the latest in a string of people close to the White House, including Trump himself, sickened in the pandemic. "@RudyGiuliani, by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, and who has been working tirelessly exposing the most corrupt election (by far!) in the history of the USA, has tested positive for the China Virus," Trump said, using a term for the disease that has drawn criticism.

4:30 a.m. Britain is preparing to become the first country to roll out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine this week, initially making the shot available at hospitals before distributing stocks to clinics, the government said on Sunday. Footage posted by the National Health Service showed boxes containing doses of the vaccine being delivered to Croydon University Hospital in London and being stored in a special, securely locked fridge.

A health worker collects a swab sample from a woman amid the spread of COVID-19 in Mumbai on Dec. 1.   © Reuters

2:10 a.m. Pfizer has applied for emergency authorization for its coronavirus vaccine in India, a senior government health adviser says. The U.S. drugmaker approached Indian authorities on Saturday, according to V.K. Paul. India's drug regulator usually takes up to 90 days to decide on such applications, but a decision on Pfizer's vaccine could come much faster, he said.

12:57 a.m. Indonesia has received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine from China, President Joko Widodo says. Indonesia has been testing the vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech since August. The initial 1.2 million doses are expected to be followed by an additional 1.8 million doses in early January.

Sunday, Dec. 6

3:04 p.m. South Korea will impose heightened social distancing rules for capital Seoul and surrounding areas, health officials say. The decision comes after the government implemented unprecedented measures on Saturday in a country that had seen initial success through aggressive contact tracing and other steps. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency has reported 631 new cases as of midnight Saturday -- the largest daily tally since a peak in February and early March -- bringing the country's total to 37,546, with 545 deaths.

10:25 a.m. Australia's Victoria state eased COVID-19 restrictions after the country's pandemic hot spot recorded 37 days without any new coronavirus infections, moving toward a "COVID-safe" holiday season. From midnight on Sunday, up to 100 people will be able to attend such public gatherings as weddings, with density rules of one person per 2 sq. meters staying in place, while 50% of office workers will be able to return to workplaces by Jan. 11, up from 25% now, the state's premier said.

8:09 a.m. California's two most densely inhabited regions and its agricultural breadbasket will be under stay-at-home orders by Sunday night as the COVID-19 pandemic strains hospitals in the most populous U.S. state, officials say. The order affecting Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley will close bars, hair salons and barbershops, and allows restaurants to remain open only for takeout and deliveries.

2:52 a.m. Turkey has entered its first full weekend lockdown since May as deaths from coronavirus more than doubled in less than three weeks to hit record highs, with daily infections now among the highest numbers recorded globally. The daily death toll rose to a record high of 196 on Saturday, bringing the total since the beginning of the pandemic to 14,705. Official daily deaths were in the 70s at the end of October.

Saturday, Dec. 5

7:44 p.m. Iran's total death toll from coronavirus surpasses 50,000 with 321 new fatalities recorded in the past 24 hours, the health ministry says, as cases in the Middle East's worst-affected country reach 1,028,986.

5:29 p.m. Moscow begins distributing the Sputnik V COVID-19 shot via 70 clinics, marking Russia's first mass vaccination against the disease, the city's coronavirus task force says. The task force says the Russian-made vaccine will first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers because they run the highest risk of exposure to the disease.

3:04 p.m. Tokyo records 584 daily infections, the highest level on record. The tally exceeds the 570 logged on Nov. 27. The number of people with serious coronavirus symptoms totals 55, up two from Friday, according to the metropolitan government.

9:34 a.m. South Korea reports 583 new cases, slightly down from the previous day's 629, the highest in nine months. This brings the country's total tally to 36,915, with 540 deaths, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reports.

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

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