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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Nov. 15 to Nov. 21, First Americans to get vaccine by mid-December

Hong Kong uptick prompts warning; WHO advises against remdesivir

Pfizer's vaccine uses a synthetic version of coronavirus genetic material known as mRNA.   © 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 57,441,503, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 1,369,905.

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

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UPDATES CLOSED

Saturday, Nov. 21 (Tokyo time)

5:11 a.m. Pfizer confirms it has submitted an application to authorize its coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, setting in motion an accelerated regulatory process that could deliver a vaccine to the first Americans by the middle of December. 

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech have announced that their vaccine was safe and 95% effective. 

Friday, Nov. 20

8:40 p.m. Japanese travel agency JTB intends to shrink its workforce by 6,500 positions, or about 20% of the total, as it battles to weather the sharp slowdown in tourism. This is to be achieved through early retirements and natural attrition. The company also intends to cut its store count by 115. 

7:20 p.m. Warning lights are flashing in Hong Kong, which reports 26 new cases, 21 of them local transmissions. These numbers are still low by international standards, but they are high enough for Health Secretary Sophia Chan to say the city has "probably entered" a fourth wave, according to Reuters. This comes just days before the opening of a quarantine-free "air travel bubble" with Singapore on Sunday.

6:10 p.m. China's foreign minister will visit South Korea next week for talks that will include North Korea and the novel coronavirus, the South Korean foreign ministry says, as the region prepares for possible changes under a new U.S. administration. Wang Yi will arrive in Seoul on Wednesday for a three-day visit that will include talks with his counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha.

6:00 p.m. Britain could ease its stringent lockdown to allow families to gather for Christmas, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday. England has been under lockdown for two weeks, which Hancock said is helping to flatten case numbers.

3:50 p.m. Japan's northern island of Hokkaido confirms more than 300 new cases, surpassing the previous record of 266 reported a day earlier, according to sources.

3:08 p.m. Tokyo reports 522 cases, going over 500 for the second day in a row but coming in below the previous day's record high of 534. Despite the Japanese capital suffering from a third-wave surge in infections, the Tokyo metro government has opted to keep restaurants open as the holiday season approaches.

1:18 p.m. India's Covid-19 caseload tops 9 million as it reported 45,882 new cases in the last 24 hours, slightly up from 45,576 the previous day. The death toll jumped by 584 to 132,162.

1:02 p.m. AstraZeneca has expressed interest in conducting clinical trials in the Philippines, according to Enrique Domingo, head of the country's Food and Drug Administration. The British pharmaceutical company is the fifth COVID-19 vaccine developer to file a formal application for clinical trials in the Philippines.

1:00 p.m. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will make a two-day visit to Japan from Tuesday to discuss the resumption of business travel between the two countries amid the global coronavirus pandemic, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi says. Wang may also meet with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Beijing Daxing International Airport in July. China and Japan will next week discuss the resumption of business travel.   © Reuters

12:30 p.m. Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis has tested positive for COVID-19, and Anthony Tata, one of several senior U.S. defense officials who met him at the Pentagon last week, also tested positive on Thursday, the Pentagon said. Tata, who performs the duties of undersecretary of defense for policy, had met Karoblis on Nov. 13.

10:24 a.m. South Korea confirms 363 new cases, up 20 from a day ago. Total infections reach 30,017, with 501 deaths. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun asks people to stay at home and avoid unnecessary meetings and appointments.

9:40 a.m. Japan's core consumer prices fell in October at their fastest annual pace in nearly a decade as the boost from last year's sales tax hike petered out, heightening fears of a return to deflation for an economy still dealing with COVID-19.

9:30 a.m. China reports 17 new cases for Thursday, up from 12 a day earlier. All were imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed infections, rose to 14 from 10 a day earlier.

A World Health Organization panel says Gilead's drug remdesivir is not recommended for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as there is no evidence it improves survival or reduces the need for ventilation.   © Reuters

9:10 a.m. Gilead's drug remdesivir is not recommended for patients hospitalized with COVID-19, regardless of how ill they are, as there is no evidence it improves survival or reduces the need for ventilation, a World Health Organization panel says. The antiviral is one of only two medicines currently authorized to treat COVID-19 patients across the world, but a large WHO-led trial showed last month that it had little or no effect on 28-day mortality or length of hospital stays. Gilead last month cut its 2020 revenue forecast, citing lower-than-expected demand and difficulty in predicting sales of remdesivir.

7:27 a.m. California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a 10 p.m. curfew limiting in-home social gatherings as well as activities outside the home starting Nov. 21 across much of the state.

6:40 a.m. President-elect Joe Biden says he discussed a possible nationwide mask mandate with state governors on a call as COVID-19 case and death rates rise across the U.S.

Biden says wearing a mask is "not a political statement, it's a patriotic duty" in remarks after the call with both Republican and Democratic state governors.

6:20 a.m. Japanese health and beauty product maker Unicharm's decision to ramp up mask production came in reaction to the pandemic, but it has given the company the legs it needs to expand its international operations, especially throughout Asia. Read more in this week's Business Spotlight.

6:11 a.m. All three major U.S. stock indexes close with gains after a report of a bipartisan Senate deal to restart talks on fresh aid for the economy.

A new coronavirus stimulus package stalled in Congress in the lead-up to this month's presidential election. Now, Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to restart negotiations.

"So there's been a little bit of a breakthrough in that McConnell's folks are finally sitting down and talking to us," Schumer told CNBC.

4:11 a.m. As a "third wave" of coronavirus cases washes over Japan, companies are bolstering measures intended to keep employees safe.

Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, which had let staff use their own judgment for business dinners, has gone a step further and urged employees to avoid them "as much as possible."

Mitsubishi Electric is skipping official year-end wrap-up meetings, while telling employees that large-scale gatherings have been put on hold. Hitachi is steering clear of traditional end-of-year celebrations within the company and discouraging them outside as well.

3:50 a.m. A COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University shows the ability to produce a strong immune response in older adults, according to data publish Thursday.

An AstraZeneca sign is seen at the third China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Nov. 6.   © Reuters

Researchers say they aim to publish results of late-stage trials by Christmas.

3:05 a.m. A Twitter post by the U.S. Census Bureau shows the impact of the pandemic on small businesses.

2:00 a.m. Direct talks on Britain's exit from the European Union have been suspended because a member of the EU negotiating team has contracted COVID-19.

1:00 a.m. German industrial group ThyssenKrupp says it plans to cuts 5,000 jobs on top of the 6,000 layoffs it announced last year.

The company, which competes with Asian groups in steel, elevators and other businesses, reports a 1.63 billion euro ($1.93 billion) loss before interest in taxes for the fiscal year ended September 2020.

12:01 a.m. CEO Sunny Verghese of Singapore-based Olam, one of the world's top agricultural commodity traders, on the economic outlook:

"I don't see a V-shaped recovery. We've come down in an escalator, but we're going to go back up the stairs."

Verghese's remarks come at the World Cocoa Foundation conference.

Thursday, Nov. 19

11:57 p.m. U.S. stocks open lower, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly falling more than 200 points.

With new COVID-19 cases running at 160,000 to 170,000 a day, the pandemic shows no sign of slowing in the U.S. The death toll has topped 250,000.

In a sign of weakening economic activity, new applications for unemployment benefits totaled 742,000 in the week through Nov. 14, marking the first increase in five weeks. The total topped the roughly 710,000 market forecast.

8:33 p.m. Tokyo is opting to keep restaurants open during the festive season despite recording record numbers of COVID infections. Instead, the Japanese capital is urging diners to take preventive measures such as wearing masks even while eating.

8:28 p.m. Oxford University will start an initial analysis of data from its late-stage trial of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with AstraZeneca after 53 infections among its volunteers, the study's chief investigator says.

6:52 p.m. A Indonesian musician in Bali-based punk rock band Superman is Dead was sentenced to 14 months in jail for criticizing the country's medical association on his Instagram account over its handling of the pandemic.

5:33 p.m. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to pay drugmakers in advance to secure millions of COVID-19 shots, his spokesman says.

5:25 p.m. Japan's western city of Osaka confirms a record 338 new coronavirus infections, up from 273 the previous day and the sixth consecutive day above 200. Tokyo and Sapporo also reported record highs for daily infections as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says Japan is on "maximum alert."

4:26 p.m. Indonesia's central bank lowers its benchmark interest rate for the fifth time this year, in a bid to support an economy in recession for the first time in two decades. Bank Indonesia's latest cut -- its first in four months -- took the seven-day reverse repo rate to 3.75% from the previous 4%.

4:10 p.m. Nearly 1 million people have taken an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) through the country's emergency use program, the firm says. China launched the program in July, which so far includes three vaccine candidates for essential workers and other limited groups of people even as clinical studies have yet to be completed to prove their safety and efficacy. No serious adverse reaction has been reported, Sinopharm said in an article on social media platform WeChat, citing Chairman Liu Jingzhen from a recent media interview.

3:30 p.m. Japan's northern island of Hokkaido confirms around 260 new coronavirus cases, surpassing the previous record of 236 reported on Nov. 12, according to sources.

3:10 p.m. Turkey will sign a contract within days to buy some 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told parliament. The government is also in talks to buy vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech, the state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Koca as saying late Wednesday.

3:02 p.m. The Japanese government is seeking legal changes to allow corporate shareholder meetings to be held fully online, as the coronavirus pandemic has prompted many companies to mix limited online gatherings with actual physical ones.

1:34 p.m. India reports 45,576 cases in the last 24 hours, up from 38,617 the previous day, bringing the country total to 8.96 million. The death toll jumped by 585 to 131,578. Meanwhile, the situation in Delhi remains worrisome. Total infections in the nation's capital topped 500,000 after confirmation of 7,486 cases and 131 deaths -- the most daily fatalities in the city so far.

Tokyo has set a record for its daily new cases exceeding 500 cases of the coronavirus.   © AP

1:16 p.m. Daily cases in Tokyo have surpassed 500 for the first time, sources tell Nikkei, prompting the metropolitan government to raise its virus alert to the highest of four levels.

12:15 p.m. Garuda Indonesia posted a net loss of $1.07 billion for the January to September period this year, a company filing to the stock exchange shows, as the pandemic battered the global travel industry. The airline posted a $122.42 million profit for the same period last year.

12:10 p.m. China reports 12 new coronavirus cases for Wednesday, up from eight cases a day earlier. All new cases were imported infections from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not count as confirmed COVID-19 cases, also rose to 10 from five a day earlier.

11:12 a.m. "APEC assumes a central role in spearheading the post-pandemic economic recovery," says Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. Malaysia is hosting this year's meetings online due to the pandemic. "We must come together and work constructively toward navigating the region along a path of robust, inclusive and sustainable economic recovery and growth," he says.

A banner urging the wearing of masks greets fans outside the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul before Game 2 of the Korean baseball championships on Nov. 18.   © AP

9:55 a.m. South Korea's Health Minister Park Neung-hoo asks people to maintain social distance rules carefully for the coming two weeks to help students take the national college entrance exam safely on Dec. 3. On Thursday, the country reports 343 new coronavirus cases, up 30 from a day ago. The country's total infections have reached 29,654, with 498 deaths.

9:40 a.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says Japan is on "maximum alert" after reporting a record number of coronavirus cases. A day after the number topped more than 2,000, Suga tells reporters that he wants people to wear face masks when conversing even during meals, citing experts' views amid fears of a "third wave."

8:30 a.m. Johns Hopkins University reports that the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. has surpassed 250,000. The grim milestone is reached as a new wave of infections spreads across the nation.

6:30 a.m. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tries and fails again to break 30,000 as hopes for a coronavirus vaccine collide with a relentless rise in COVID-19 cases, as symbolized by the setback for New York City schools. The Dow gives up 344 points, or 1.16%, to close at 29,438. The broader S&P 500 falls by the same percentage.

6:00 a.m. Pfizer says new test results show its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective, safe and protects older people most at risk of dying -- the last data needed to seek emergency use of limited vaccine supplies. The announcement from Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, just a week after they revealed the first promising preliminary results, comes as the team is preparing within days to ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine. A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is preparing to debate the findings in early December.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer says new test results show its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective, safe and protects older people most at risk of dying.   © Reuters

4:35 a.m. New York City's public school system, the largest in the U.S., will close and switch to remote learning starting Thursday as virus cases rise.

"As of this morning, November 18, the city has now reached this threshold of test positivity citywide, and as a result, the DOE [Department of Education] will temporarily close down all public school buildings for in-person learning, Thursday, November 19," Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza writes in an email to principals.

The closure is a big setback for the city, whose schools have been open for in-person instruction for just under eight weeks.

3:15 a.m. Regulators in the U.S. and Europe could approve Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine candidate as early as mid-December if all goes well, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin tells Reuters TV.

2:29 a.m. Delta Air Lines says it will be the only U.S. carrier making middle seats unavailable for passengers from now through the end of March 2021.

Bill Lentsch, chief customer experience officer, says in a statement on the company's website that its "multi-layered" precautions against the new coronavirus "significantly reduce the risk of flight-related transmission."

"However, we recognize some customers are still learning to live with this virus and desire extra space for their peace of mind," Lentsch says.

1:00 a.m. The upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference comes amid the "first pandemic of the digital age," writes Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, in a commentary for Nikkei Asia.

"This context makes the debates that will take place about the rules that will shape the internet and the economy for years to come more urgent and important than ever," Sandberg adds. Read more.

12:35 a.m. This week's virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference will be the first attended by U.S. President Donald Trump, Reuters reports.

China's President Xi Jinping is also slated to be among the participants in Friday's APEC leaders' meeting. Trump has repeatedly blamed China for spreading the coronavirus.

12:10 a.m. A study in Denmark of 6,000 people suggests face masks provide only moderate protection against COVID-19 infection and possibly no protection at all, Reuters quotes leading state hospital Rigshospitalet as reporting.

Wednesday, Nov. 18

11:00 p.m. Final results from Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine trial showed its shot had a 95% success rate and two months of safety data, paving the way for the drugmaker to apply for an emergency U.S. authorization within days.

The vaccine's efficacy rate, the highest of any candidate in late-stage clinical trials so far, was welcomed by experts who had already said that interim results showing Pfizer's shot was over 90% effective were very encouraging.

9:00 p.m. Japan confirms 2,189 new cases as of 8 p.m., a record high. Last week, record numbers of new daily cases were reported for three consecutive days through Saturday, with the tally hitting 1,737 on that day.

7:55 p.m. Iran has registered 13,421 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, a new daily record, the health ministry says, bringing the country's overall tally to 801,894. The death toll has risen by 480 to 42,941.

7:21 p.m. Spain's medicines agency authorizes the launch of late-stage trials of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine. The Phase 3 trial of the two-dose vaccination program will be carried out at nine hospitals.

6:38 p.m. Singapore and Osaka no longer lead the ranks of the world's most expensive cities, as the COVID-19 pandemic has applied some deflationary pressure, the Economist Intelligence Unit's latest Worldwide Cost of Living Survey shows.

6:00 p.m. Malaysia and China have reached an agreement to "deepen cooperation" on vaccine development and accessibility. The deal, signed by the countries' science ministers in a virtual ceremony, guarantees Malaysia "priority access" to COVID-19 vaccines developed by China, as promised in October. On top of that, the governments have pledged to share knowledge and technological capabilities, and to promote public-private collaborations. A statement issued by Malaysia says the agreement is valid for an initial five years, and can be extended a year at a time after that.

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed China flag in this illustration taken, October 30.   © Reuters

5:50 p.m. World leaders are set to meet webcam to webcam this week, when Malaysia holds a virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit amid the coronavirus pandemic. Here are five things to watch for in the APEC sessions.

5:57 p.m. The number of reported global daily deaths from the coronavirus stood at 10,816 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, the highest single-day death count as the virus' global epicenter, the United States, entered winter. The previous record was 10,733, registered on Nov. 4, according to the Reuters tally.

5:21 p.m. There is no significant evidence of coronavirus being spread through food trade, said the chief economist of the United Nations' food and agriculture agency, Maximo Torero Cullen, and such reports "need to be minimized." The FAO has previously said it does not see food production in supplier countries as a source of the novel coronavirus, he told the Global Grain conference on Wednesday.

China says it has found the virus on the packaging of products from 20 countries, but foreign officials say the lack of evidence produced by authorities means the accusation is damaging trade.

4:44 p.m. Taiwan, a poster child for efforts to control the coronavirus, will from next month require almost all visitors to have negative COVID-19 tests before arriving, it said on Wednesday, tightening rules after an uptick in imported cases. The government will also increase the number of places where people must wear masks.

Taiwan has not reported any domestic transmissions of the virus in more than 200 days and has the pandemic well in hand thanks to early and effective prevention.

4:13 p.m. Thailand's central bank left its key interest rate unchanged at a record low, as expected, as the economy showed signs of recovering from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bank of Thailand's Monetary Policy Committee voted to keep the one-day repurchase rate steady at 0.50% for a fourth straight meeting.

3:06 p.m. Japan's Suntory Holdings, famous for its high-end whiskey, and Toppan Printing are taking advantage of data from the world's fastest supercomputer to develop special face shields to protect restaurant- and bar-goers from the coronavirus.

2:29 p.m. Daily coronavirus cases in Tokyo hit a record 493 on Wednesday, topping the previous high of 472 set on Aug. 1.

1:18 p.m. India reports 38,617 new cases, up from 29,163 the previous day, bringing the total to 8.91 million. The death toll jumped by 474 to 130,993. The city of Delhi has witnessed a renewed surge in infections even as cases have generally decreased nationwide. The city government is now looking to shut for a few days those markets where people are not following social distancing and not wearing masks. It also plans to withdraw a recent order that allowed up to 200 people to attend a wedding ceremony, instead of 50. On Nov. 11, Delhi reported over 8,500 new cases, the highest since the pandemic began.

12:25 p.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday it had approved emergency authorization for the first home COVID-19 testing kit that provides results within 30 minutes. The single-use test, made by Lucira Health, uses nasal swab samples collected by individuals age 14 or older whose health care provider suspects they are infected, the FDA said.

11:24 a.m. South Australia Premier Steven Marshall announced a six-day lockdown to stamp out an outbreak that has now expanded to 22 new cases, warning that the strain of coronavirus detected was especially worrying.

9:36 a.m. South Korea's daily new cases reach a three-month high of 313, up from 230 a day earlier, increasing fears of a "third wave." Total infections reach 29,311, with 496 deaths.

9:31 a.m. Mainland China reported eight new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, down from 15 a day earlier, the country's health authority said. The National Health Commission said one of the new cases was a local infection in Tianjin, which shares a border with Beijing. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed infections, fell to five from 12 a day earlier.

8:57 a.m. Japan had a goods trade surplus of 872.9 billion yen ($8.4 billion) in October, government data shows. Exports fell 0.2 percent from a year earlier and imports decreased 13.3 percent, the Finance Ministry says in a preliminary report.

The Beijing packaging facility of Sinovac Biotech, which is developing a COVID-19 vaccine that in preliminary trials triggered a quick but only moderate immune response.   © Reuters

8:30 a.m. Sinovac Biotech's experimental COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac triggered a quick immune response, but the level of antibodies produced was lower than in people who had recovered from the disease, preliminary trial results show.

While the early to mid-stage trials were not designed to assess the efficacy of CoronaVac, researchers said it could provide sufficient protection, based on their experience with other vaccines and data from preclinical studies with macaques.

The study comes hot on the heels of upbeat news this month from U.S. drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna as well as Russia that showed their experimental vaccines were over 90% effective, based on interim data from large, late-stage trials.

CoronaVac and four other experimental vaccines developed in China are currently undergoing late-stage trials to determine their effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

7:51 a.m. Brazil's Health Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the country would purchase the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine after it is proven safe in clinical trials and registered with the domestic health regulator.

6:12 a.m. Medical experts advising President-elect Joe Biden on the pandemic fear that the federal government's delay in recognizing his election victory could be compromising the U.S. response to the virus, the experts said on Tuesday.

Dr. David Kessler, co-chair of Biden's COVID-19 task force, said the experts had not been able to discuss the pandemic with current administration officials or access real-time data, including on hospital bed capacity and stockpiled equipment.

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy has not yet recognized Biden as the "apparent winner" of the Nov. 3 election, which is needed to release government funding for the transition.

5:20 a.m. Brazil's Butantan Institute biomedical center says it is slated to receive the first doses of China's Sinovac vaccine against COVID-19 this week.

The institute says preliminary results of the trials in Brazil indicate the vaccine, called CoronaVac, has an excellent safety profile.

5:05 a.m. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he is open to a $500 billion package aimed at alleviating economic pain from the coronavirus pandemic. He adds that he has not had any private discussions with Democrats who control the House of Representatives or President-elect Joe Biden.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the "overwhelming majority" of Americans, about 75% to 80%, need to receive a vaccine to contain the pandemic.   © Reuters

4:10 a.m. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. infectious disease expert, says the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines does not matter unless most people are inoculated.

Unless the "overwhelming majority" of Americans, about 75% to 80%, receive a vaccine, the country will continue to face serious public health challenges, Fauci says in a virtual interview by The New York Times.

He also calls for "a uniform approach" to the coronavirus pandemic, rather than "a disjointed" state-by-state response, in a remark that echoes the views of President-elect Joe Biden.

3:20 a.m. The U.S. Federal Reserve is committed to "using all of our tools to support the recovery for as long as it takes until the job is well and truly done," Fed Chair Jerome Powell is quoted as saying in an online event.

2:10 a.m. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposes tighter measures to fight the coronavirus, including partial lockdowns during weekends across the country.

Erdogan says all schools will remain closed until the year-end, and all restaurants will be open only for delivery.

2:00 a.m. Home Depot says it will invest $1 billion annually to increase employee benefits after reporting better-than-expected earnings.

The company reports a net profit of $3.4 billion for the third quarter, up more than 20% from a year earlier, buoyed by a sustained surge in demand for tools and building materials due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

12:40 a.m. U.S. retail giant Walmart gives an upbeat outlook on its holiday sales after reporting a 79% year-on-year jump in online sales and a 56% rise in net profit for the August-October quarter. Overall sales rise 5%, beating analyst forecasts.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku: Japan's capital is poised to raise its COVID-19 alert level to red. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

12:03 a.m. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is close to raising its four-tier COVID-19 alert to the highest level, sources familiar with the matter tell Nikkei.

Officials are also considering a call to shorten business hours in the Japanese capital. A decision will be announced Thursday.

Tokyo reported 298 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the biggest increase of any region in Japan.

Tokyo's alert level stood at the highest level in late July and early August, when daily new infections briefly topped 400, but was lowered one step in mid-August.

Tuesday, Nov. 17

11:30 p.m. AirAsia Japan has filed for bankruptcy proceedings in the Tokyo District Court with about 21.7 billion yen ($208 million) in liabilities, becoming the first airline to fail in the country during the COVID-19 era.

10:45 p.m. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested negative for COVID-19 after a brush with the coronavirus, his spokesperson is quoted as saying.

Johnson continues to self-isolate in accordance with government guidance, according to the spokesperson.

8:25 p.m. India and China may start producing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, the RIA news agency cites President Vladimir Putin as saying. Putin has also proposed that a vaccine research center for BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- be expedited, TASS reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says India and China may begin manufacturing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19.   © Reuters

8:13 p.m. Indonesia's plan to roll out mass vaccinations in December faces a delay as the country's food and drug agency warns incomplete data will prevent it from giving emergency authorization until late January, Reuters reports.

8:08 p.m. As New Delhi's outbreak worsens, authorities are drawing up plans to reinstate some restrictions, including lockdowns of certain markets, if necessary, while elsewhere in India new infections are falling.

7:18 p.m. Japanese companies are cutting job offers to new graduates at the fastest pace since 2009, a government survey shows. As of Oct. 1, 69.8% of university students who are set to graduate in March have received job offers, 7 points lower than a year earlier.

7:00 p.m. The development and availability of a COVID-19 vaccine could improve the outlook for the battered tourism industry but it is unlikely to convince consumers to spend more money in the short term, according to Reuters, citing a survey, on Tuesday.

The survey by research group Dynata asked more than 5,000 people in Germany, France, Britain, the U.S. and Australia how they would change their behavior once a vaccine becomes widely available. Most respondents said they were looking forward to visiting friends or relatives again (61%) and leaving the house more often (53%), but only 12% said they were looking forward to spending more money.

6:57 p.m. Mutations in the coronavirus are appearing in Siberia, says the head of Russia's consumer health watchdog on Tuesday, as the country reports a record daily high of 442 deaths from COVID-19.

6:05 p.m. Pakistan says it has approved cash funding to support its flagship carrier Pakistan International Airline's planned voluntary retirement scheme. The details of the plan and funding were not immediately available, but local media reported on Tuesday the airline was set to lay off as much as one-third of its workforce.

5:41 p.m. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says "those who keep us safe" should be given priority access to vaccinations against the coronavirus. After meeting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday, he said: "If the vaccine is available, then the IOC would take these costs and cooperate with the national Olympic committees as a signal of respect to our Japanese hosts."

3:30 p.m. Hokkaido asks residents in its capital city of Sapporo to refrain from going out unless it is deemed necessary and urgent. It also urges all residents to avoid moving in and out of Sapporo, the epicenter of an outbreak on the northern Japanese island. Meanwhile, infections in Tokyo rise to 298 cases, up from 180 reported on Monday,

3:10 p.m. Japan's benchmark Nikkei stock index closes at its highest level in almost three decades, following gains on Wall Street propelled by fresh news of progress toward a COVID-19 vaccine. The Nikkei Stock Average ended the day above 26,014, up over 107 points, or 0.4%, from the day before. It was its first close over 26,000 since May 1991.

3:00 p.m. Just a week after returning from exile in Saudi Arabia, an Indonesian Islamist leader is already creating a stir by holding mass gatherings of Muslims despite the country's coronavirus crisis. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has hit out at the events featuring Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, and two senior police officials have been dismissed for allowing the rallies to take place.

1:20 p.m. India continues to report a dip in cases, with 29,163 infections in the last 24 hours a day after recording a four-month low of 30,548. Total infections in the country have hit 8.87 million while the death toll has jumped by 449 to 130,519. Of the reported cases, 93.27% have recovered while 5.26% are active. India's COVID mortality rate stands at 1.47%.

1:01 p.m. ANA Holdings announces it will significantly scale back the recruitment of new graduates in April 2022 amid uncertainty over the coronavirus, as the Japanese airline expects to have enough manpower. The retreat comes after the company, which usually hires about 3,200 graduates each year, halted new hires in April 2021. However, it still plans to hire limited numbers of pilots and crew members as well as people with disabilities.

The U.S. pharmaceutical has selected Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico and Tennessee for the pilot because of differences in size, diversity and medical infrastructure.   © Reuters

12:00 p.m. Pfizer says it is starting a pilot program for COVID-19 immunization in four U.S. states to help refine a plan to deploy its vaccine candidate. The U.S. drugmaker has selected Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico and Tennessee because of their differences in size, population diversity and immunization infrastructure, as well as the need to reach people in varied urban and rural settings.

11:30 a.m. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives in Tokyo to discuss with Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga strengthening ties, including establishing a framework for each country's troops to train together and conduct joint military operations. Morrison will be the first foreign leader to meet Suga and is expected to spend the nationally mandated two weeks in quarantine when he returns home.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Nov. 17.   © Reuters

11:03 a.m. Japan's benchmark Nikkei stock index rose to its highest level in almost three decades on Tuesday, following similar gains on Wall Street propelled by fresh news of progress toward a COVID-19 vaccine.

10:20 a.m. Samsung BioLogics says it is mass producing COVID-19 antibody medicines developed by Eli Lilly. The South Korean contract drugmaker said it had signed an agreement with Eli Lilly in May to address global demand for COVID drugs.

9:30 a.m. South Korea will strengthen social distancing rules for greater Seoul starting Thursday amid infection spikes, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun says. Tighter curbs would ban public gatherings of 100 people or more, limit religious services and audiences at sporting events to 30% capacity, and require high-risk facilities, including clubs and karaoke bars, to increase distance between guests.

The country reports 230 cases on Tuesday, up from 222 on Monday, pushing total infections to 28,998 with 494 deaths.

9:10 a.m. China reports 15 cases for Monday, up from eight a day earlier. All new cases were from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases -- which China does not count as confirmed infections -- fell to 12 from 14 a day earlier.

6:10 a.m. The World Health Organization says 65 staff at its Geneva headquarters have been infected since the start of the pandemic and that a possible cluster was under investigation. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for COVID-19, said five staff had tested positive in the past week, adding that "All are doing well, all have had mild disease or [are] asymptomatic."

A sign at a train station in Seoul attests to South Korea's continued state of high-alert over the coronavirus.   © AP

3:00 a.m. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells reporters he has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the possibility of buying the so-called Sputnik-V COVID-19 vaccine. "My goal is to bring as many vaccines as possible, from as many sources as possible, to as many citizens as possible -- and as quickly as possible," Netanyahu says in a Twitter post.

12:30 a.m. Long a standout in Europe for choosing not to impose a COVID-19 lockdown, Sweden has announced its strictest restrictions so far on social and business activity in response to a rise in coronavirus cases. "Don't go to the gym, don't go the library, don't have dinner out, don't have parties - cancel!" Prime minister Stefan Lofven is quoted as saying in a news conference.

Monday, Nov. 16

11:35 p.m. U.S. stocks climb on fresh news of progress toward a COVID-19 vaccine, this time from Moderna, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average close to an all-time high of 30,000 at the open.

11:30 p.m. Life could return to a pre-coronavirus status quo by the winter that begins a year from now, a co-developer of Pfizer's vaccine candidate told the BBC. "If everything continues to go well, we will start to deliver the vaccine end of this year, beginning [of] next year," Ugur Sahin, co-founder and chief executive of BioNTech, said Sunday. "Our goal is to deliver more than 300 million of vaccine doses until April next year, which could allow us to already start to make an impact." While predicting that this coming winter will be a tough period, Sahin said he is confident of full immunization by next fall. "We could have a normal winter next year," he said.

A boy looks at Christmas lights at a shopping center in Bangkok, Thailand.   © Reuters

8:31 p.m. Europe's health regulator says it has started a real-time review of Moderna's experimental vaccine, on the back of similar review launches for candidates from AstraZeneca and Pfizer. The European Medicines Agency's human medicines committee has started a "rolling review" for Moderna's vaccine candidate and begun evaluating the first batch of data, the regulator says.

7:36 p.m. Iran reports a record 13,053 new coronavirus infections and 486 deaths over the past 24 hours as the government says it will tighten restrictions. The country totals are at 775,121 cases and 41,979 fatalities.

7:16 p.m. Malaysia reports 1,103 new cases, raising the infection total to 48,520. The Health Ministry also records four new deaths, taking total fatalities to 313.

6:00 p.m. Indonesia reports 3,535 new infections, taking the total number to 470,648, government data shows. The 85 new deaths over the past 24 hours bring the total to 15,296.

5:00 p.m. The Philippines records 1,738 new infections and seven additional deaths, the lowest daily increase in nearly three months. Total confirmed cases rose to 409,574, and deaths reached 7,839.

3:50 p.m. Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki and Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto will ask residents of the northern island's capital to refrain from nonessential outings, following back-to-back days of record coronavirus transmissions. The leaders agreed to urge Sapporo's residents to avoid travel to other areas of the prefecture, which today reported 189 new infections.

3:01 p.m. Cash remittances from Filipinos working abroad -- an economic lifeline for the Philippines -- climbed 9.3% to $2.6 billion in September from a year ago, according to the nation's central bank. Remittances from January to September were down 1.4% to $21.9 billion, better than the 5% full-year decline projected in May, suggesting other economies are recovering faster than expected.

3:00 p.m. Johnson & Johnson begins a new large-scale, late-stage trial to test a two-dose regimen of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine and evaluate potential incremental benefits for the duration of protection with a second dose. The drugmaker plans to enroll up to 30,000 participants for the study and run it parallel with a one-dose trial involving as many as 60,000 volunteers that began in September. The trial follows positive interim results from the company's ongoing early to mid-stage clinical study that showed a single dose of its vaccine candidate induced a robust immune response.

2:15 p.m. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is confident no meat products tainted with coronavirus were exported from her country, after Chinese authorities allege detecting it on frozen beef items from there. The Chinese city of Jinan said over the weekend it had found the virus in beef and tripe products, and on their packaging, from Brazil, Bolivia and New Zealand. Ardern said on Monday, "We were not advised that New Zealand products had themselves tested positive for COVID-19."

12:35 p.m. South Korea is to spend 800 billion won ($722 million) of taxpayer money to merge Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines as the country's two largest carriers struggle to survive the pandemic.

12:30 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga agrees with International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach that the Tokyo Olympics will be held as planned next summer, despite the ongoing pandemic. Suga and Bach, who is on a four-day visit to Tokyo that began Sunday, discussed preparations for the Summer Games as the number of novel coronavirus cases continues to rise across the world.

12:15 p.m. Thailand's economic contraction slowed in the third quarter as exports and tourism started picking up from the pandemic-induced slump, the economic planning agency says. Gross domestic product shrank 6.4% on the year for the three months ended September.

12:00 p.m. South Korea confirms 223 new infections, up from 208 a day earlier for the third consecutive day of more than 200 cases. The new cases brought the national total to 28,769. Health authorities warned of re-strengthening measures that were relaxed about a month ago to the lowest levels. "We are at a critical crossroads where we might have to readjust distancing," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said.

South Australia ended a months-long streak of no COVID-19 infections on Sunday, reporting three locally acquired cases, prompting other states to tighten their internal borders.   © Reuters

11:20 a.m. The state of South Australia reports 14 new coronavirus cases, a sharp increase from the previous day, prompting the country's other states to tighten internal borders. South Australia ended a months-long streak of no COVID-19 infections on Sunday, reporting three locally acquired cases after a worker from a quarantine hotel infected family members. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new South Australian infections were "a reminder, even after a lockdown, even after all this time, the virus hasn't gone anywhere."

11:10 a.m. China's industrial output rose by a faster-than-expected 6.9% in October from a year earlier, expanding for the seventh straight month as the economy quickly recovers from the coronavirus slump and global demand picks up. Meanwhile, China's retail sales rose 4.3% last month from a year earlier, missing analysts' forecast for 4.9% growth, compared with 3.3% in September.

10:40 a.m. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered a tightening of state emergency anti-coronavirus systems in the face of the pandemic as he presided over a meeting of the politburo of the ruling Workers' Party, state news agency KCNA says. North Korea had tested over 12,000 people and reported no confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as of early November, according to the World Health Organization.

9:20 a.m. China reports eight new COVID-19 infections for Sunday, down from 13 a day earlier. All new cases were imported. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed infections, rose to 14 from six a day earlier.

8:55 a.m. Japan's economy rebounded in the July-September period following a deep slump caused by the coronavirus outbreak, in the first expansion in four quarters, Cabinet Office data shows.

6:15 a.m. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating after coming into contact with someone who tested positive. Johnson met last week with a group of lawmakers at No. 10 Downing St. that included Lee Anderson, a Conservative Party member who subsequently developed COVID-19 symptoms and tested positive.

A health care professional walks past an ambulance in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Nov 13. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's top advisers on Sunday called for urgent action to address the nation's "deeply alarming" COVID-19 epidemic.   © Reuters

6:00 a.m. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's top advisers called for urgent action to address the nation's "deeply alarming" COVID-19 epidemic on Sunday, a day when total U.S. infections are likely to cross the 11 million mark just eight days after hitting 10 million. They warned that Republican President Donald Trump's transition delay could further jeopardize the battle against the rampaging virus.

"We are in a very dangerous period," Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of Biden's COVID-19 Advisory Board and director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told NBC News' "Meet the Press." Unless action is taken now, "we're going to see these numbers grow substantially," Osterholm warned.

Sunday, Nov. 15

7:10 p.m. Malaysia reports 1,208 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 47,417 infections. The health ministry also records three new fatalities, raising the total number of deaths from the pandemic to 309.

6:23 p.m. Indonesia reports 4,106 new coronavirus infections, bringing the case total to 467,113, data from its COVID-19 task force shows. It records 63 COVID-19 deaths, taking the number of fatalities to 15,211.

3:39 p.m. Six soccer players for South Korea and a staffer test positive for the new coronavirus before the team's 3-2 defeat by Mexico in an exhibition game Saturday, casting doubt over a game with Qatar on Tuesday. The Korea Football Association says in a statement that a game could go ahead as long as a team has 13 healthy players with at least one goalie.

10:15 a.m. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweets that he "most likely" has a moderate case of COVID-19 as he continues to question the accuracy of the tests. "Am getting wildly different results from different labs, but most likely I have a moderate case of covid," he writes. "My symptoms are that of a minor cold, which is no surprise, since a coronavirus is a type of cold."

10:00 p.m. South Korea reports 208 new coronavirus cases as of midnight Saturday, for eighth straight day of triple-digit increases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency says. This was slightly above the previous day's 205 new infections and the highest since early September.

6:08 a.m. Ukrainian Health Minister Maksym Stepanov says he had tested positive for COVID-19, shortly after announcing the country had posted a record number of new cases in a single day.

2:58 a.m. Austria orders a three-week lockdown in a last-ditch effort to bring surging coronavirus cases under control and relieve the stress on the health service in time for retailers to reopen in the run-up to Christmas, reports Reuters.

Saturday, Nov. 14

6:25 p.m. Indonesia records 5,272 new cases, taking the total infections to 463,007, data from its COVID-19 task force shows. It also reports 111 additional deaths, taking the total to 15,148.

5:17 p.m. Tokyo reports 352 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, topping the 300 mark for a fourth consecutive day, the first such streak since early August.

5:00 p.m. The Philippine Health Ministry reports 1,650 new infections and 39 more deaths. In a bulletin, the ministry says total confirmed cases have hit 406,337 while overall deaths have reached 7,791. The Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases and casualties in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

3:30 p.m. South Korea confirms 205 new cases, a daily rise above 200 for the first time since September, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency says. Of those, 166 were domestically transmitted and 39 imported. More than 65% of the locally transmitted cases are from Seoul and Gyeonggi province, a densely populated region near the capital.

2:10 p.m. Australia's state of Victoria, an epicenter of the virus surge in recent months, records its 15th consecutive day of no new infections and no related deaths -- two weeks after it eased one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns.

10:30 a.m. China reports 18 cases for Friday, up from eight a day earlier. All new infections were from overseas.

10:00 a.m. South Korea reports 205 cases as of Friday midnight -- topping 200 for the first time since September -- of which 166 were domestic and 39 imported. More than 65% of locally transmitted cases were from Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, a densely populated area surrounding the capital.

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

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