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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Nov. 22 to Nov. 28, Malaysia and Thailand secure vaccines

North Korea said to ban fishing to keep virus out of seawater

James Teague, president of AstraZeneca Thailand, attends a signing ceremony at Government House in Bangkok on Nov. 27. Thailand on Friday signed a deal to procure 26 million doses of the company's trial coronavirus vaccine.   © AP

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

Global cases have reached 61,585,651, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 1,441,335.

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

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UPDATES CLOSED

Saturday, Nov. 28 (Tokyo time)

9:21 a.m. All public and private social gatherings of individuals from different households will be banned in Los Angeles County for at least three weeks starting Monday under new restrictions local health officials unveiled on Friday, citing a continued surge in COVID-19 infections.

The latest public health order, affecting some 20 million people living in and around the nation's second-largest city, specifically exempts religious services and protests as constitutionally protected rights.

4:50 a.m. Japan looks to begin distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by the March end of the fiscal year as clinical trials on a number of candidates move forward.

Tokyo aims to secure enough vaccine for the country's entire population by the first half of 2021. It is set to source doses for 145 million people from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna.

3:20 a.m. The World Health Organization's top emergency weighs in on the origins of the novel coronavirus.

"I think it's highly speculative for us to say that the disease did not emerge in China," Mike Ryan tells a virtual briefing in Geneva after being asked whether COVID-19 could have first emerged outside China.

"It is clear from a public health perspective that you start your investigations where the human cases first emerged," Reuters quotes Ryan as saying.

Investigating the origins of the novel coronavirus is a sensitive topic for both China and the WHO, which U.S. President Donald Trump has accused of being beholden to Beijing.

Trade between China and Australia soured after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an international inquiry into the emergence of the virus that causes COVID-19.

2:40 a.m. Thailand signs a $200 million deal to procure 26 million doses of a trial coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. It is expected to be delivered in mid-2021.

The doses would cover 13 million people in a population of about 69 million.

Now Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines have signed deals to secure COVID-19 vaccines.

2:00 a.m. Turkey's daily COVID-19 deaths hit a record high for a fifth straight day, reaching 177, Reuters reports, citing data issued Friday by the Health Ministry.

1:00 a.m. Construction of new villas in Bali is defying the steep economic downturn that the coronavirus pandemic has caused for the tourist hotspot.

The building of new villas is mainly for people from Australia, Europe and the U.S.

"We are receiving more inquiries from expats living in Indonesia than ever before -- people who out of the blue decided to invest. It has really surprised me," says Baptiste Dufau of Bali Sandstone Consulting.

Friday, Nov. 27

11:45 p.m. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered two people executed in recent months as the country copes with the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the nation's economy, a South Korean lawmaker says, citing a private briefing by the National Intelligence Service.

One of the executions, carried out in late October, was of a prominent money changer who was accused of being behind a plunging exchange rate.

North Korea has also banned fishing at sea and salt production to prevent seawater from becoming contaminated with the coronavirus, the lawmaker says.

11:25 p.m. Business travelers going from China to Japan will be required to isolate themselves for two weeks after returning to China, under guidelines set to take effect Monday.

This self-isolation rule applies to both Chinese nationals and Japanese businesspeople working in China, according to an outline of the guidelines published Friday by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Businesspeople traveling from Japan to China will not have to isolate for two weeks after returning to Japan as long as they avoid using public transport and limit the range of their activities, according to the outline.

Under the guidelines, travelers will not face a two-week quarantine upon arrival in either country if they submit evidence of negative COVID-19 test results and an itinerary for their stay.

China becomes the fourth country that has agreed to rules for restarting business travel to and from Japan during the coronavirus pandemic, following Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.

9:35 p.m. Malaysia has a deal to buy 12.8 million doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to secure a supply of a shot that, while reportedly 95% effective, requires ultra-cold storage to distribute, Reuters reports.

9:00 p.m. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to forgo calling an early election for Japan's lower house of parliament as the country faces a third wave of COVD-19 infections, Nikkei has learned.

There had been speculation that Suga would dissolve the House of Representatives in January next year. Instead, he will seek to do so next summer or later. Until then, his administration will focus on coronavirus countermeasures while working to revive the economy.

8:00 p.m. Five COVID-19 patients were killed in a fire earlier today at a hospital in the Indian city of Rajkot, in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat, Reuters reports. The blaze in the coronavirus ward is believed to have been caused by a short circuit. The country has seen at least four fires at coronavirus hospitals, including another in Gujarat that killed eight in August. The Supreme Court has demanded that federal and state governments explain the recurring incidents.

Indonesia reached a new record high of coronavirus cases on Friday, with 5,828 new cases and 169 deaths.   © Reuters

6:00 p.m. Indonesia reports a new record high with 5,828 new infections in the past 24 hours, and its deadliest day since the beginning of the pandemic with 169 deaths. Cases reach 522,581 in total, including 16,521 fatalities.

5:24 p.m. The Philippines, through private companies, has made its first vaccine procurement -- over 2 million doses from the team of AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The first deliveries are expected by May.

3:23 p.m. Japan's ANA Holdings says it will issue new shares to raise up to 332 billion yen ($3.2 billion) to pay for Boeing 787 jets it has ordered and help weather a plunge in air travel. The country's biggest airline has asked staff to take furloughs or accept pay cuts.

3:07 p.m. Tokyo sets another daily record with 570 new infections, up from 481 a day earlier. The metropolitan government has asked restaurants serving alcohol to shorten business hours starting from Saturday in a bid to slow the third wave of the outbreak.

A third wave of coronavirus infections has slammed Tokyo as the metropolitan government tries to stem the tide with new guidelines. (Photo by Taro Yokosawa)

1:20 p.m. India reports 43,082 cases in the last 24 hours, lower than 44,489 the previous day, pushing the country total to over 9.3 million. The death toll jumped by 492 to 135,715.

12:10 p.m. South Korea's intelligence agency foiled North Korean attempts to hack into companies developing vaccines, the country's News1 agency reports, citing a member of a government intelligence committee. No details were provided about which drugmakers were targeted. Last week, Microsoft said hackers working for Russia and North Korea have tried to break into the networks of seven pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers in South Korea, Canada, France, India and the U.S.

11:00 a.m. The core consumer price index in Tokyo -- which includes oil products but excludes fresh food prices -- fell 0.7% in November from a year earlier, government data shows, marking its biggest annual drop in more than eight years. The slump in fuel costs and the impact of a government campaign offering domestic travel discounts weighed on prices. It followed a 0.5% drop in October.

10:50 a.m. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he will not take a COVID-19 vaccine, the latest statement he has made expressing skepticism about vaccines. Brazil has the second-highest number of virus-related deaths in the world but Bolsonaro has continually played down the seriousness of the pandemic despite having been infected in July.

10:00 a.m. South Korea reports 569 cases, down from 583 a day ago, bringing the country total to 32,887 with 516 deaths. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun asked people to stay home over the weekend to stop the outbreak.

7:30 a.m. Deliveries of coronavirus vaccines in the U.S. will begin next week, President Donald Trump tells overseas troops in a video address to mark the Thanksgiving holiday. The vaccine initially will be sent to front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens, he says.

Front-line workers and medical personnel will be among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccine deliveries in the U.S., President Donald Trump says.    © Reuters

6:20 a.m. AstraZeneca is likely to hold another global trial to test the efficacy of its vaccine at a lower dosage, CEO Pascal Soriot said, according to Bloomberg. The news comes amid questions over its late-stage study. Instead of adding the trial to an ongoing U.S. process, the company might launch a fresh study to evaluate a lower vaccine dosage that performed better than a full one. "Now that we've found what looks like a better efficacy ... we need to do an additional study," he said.

6:00 a.m. China's vaccine diplomacy faces a setback as questions arise about the efficacy and safety of its coronavirus inoculations while the country speeds a large-scale rollout despite the candidates remaining in the clinical trial phase.

4:50 a.m. The Brazilian state of Sao Paulo could roll out the COVID-19 vaccine candidate from China's Sinovac Biotech even without approval by the South American country's health regulator, Gov. Joao Doria says. The candidate could be used if approved in the U.S., Europe and Asia, he says. Doria and other critics of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro allege that the health regulator's independence is threatened by the anti-China leader.

4:35 a.m. Developers of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine say AstraZeneca should try combining its experimental shot with the Russian candidate to boost efficacy. Russia maintains that Sputnik V is 92% effective at protecting people from COVID-19, based on interim trials, while the British company says its candidate was 70% effective in pivotal trials and could be up to 90% effective. Russia has 2.19 million infections, the fourth highest after the U.S., India and Brazil.

3:11 a.m. Though fewer Americans than normal are expected to travel this year for the Thanksgiving holiday, millions still made their way to family gatherings despite pleas from state officials and health experts to stay home because of the spiraling infection rate. U.S. daily deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 2,000 on Wednesday, and hospitalizations reached a record of more than 89,000.

0:30 a.m. Japan's Imperial Household Agency has cancelled an annual New Year's event set for Jan. 2, at which Emperor Naruhito and other imperial family members were to greet well-wishers, because of the coronavirus pandemic. "We have decided not to hold (the event) from the viewpoint of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus," the agency said on its website.

Thursday, Nov. 26

8:29 p.m. Thailand's prime minister says the country is set to sign a purchase agreement for AstraZeneca's potential COVID-19 vaccine this week -- the nation's first coronavirus vaccine deal. "Tomorrow, we will sign a further agreement on the purchase of vaccines," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha says in a statement, adding that he expects it to be verified and ready for use by the middle of next year.

Thailand is set to sign a purchase agreement for AstraZeneca's potential COVID-19 vaccine on Friday.   © Reuters

7:40 p.m. Vietnam Airlines will likely make losses of $604-$647 million this year due to the pandemic, the government says. It would take up to three years for local airlines to fully recover from the crisis, the government says in a statement.

6:00 p.m. Tokyo reports 481 new cases as the number of seriously ill patients rises to 60, up six from a day earlier and the highest level since late May. On Wednesday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike requested restaurants serving alcohol to shorten their operating hours from Saturday through Dec. 17.

4:38 p.m. The Asian Development Bank approves a $250 million loan to help finance the government of Papua New Guinea's response to the pandemic.

4:07 p.m. Hong Kong says nearly three thousand people taking COVID tests received erroneous results via text messages, with six infected persons being informed that they had tested negative for the virus.

3:40 p.m. Walt Disney says it will lay off 32,000 workers, primarily at theme parks -- an increase from the 28,000 it announced in September -- as its parks struggle with low attendance. The layoffs will be in the first half of 2021. Earlier this month, Disney said it was furloughing additional workers from its southern California location due to uncertainty over when the state would allow parks to reopen.

3:11 p.m. Malaysian lawmakers pass the government's budget, propelling Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin over a crucial hurdle for remaining in power.

The record 322.5 billion ringgit ($78.8 billion) budget for 2021 was approved in a voice vote. For weeks, the vote has been anticipated as a test of Muhyiddin's disputed legitimacy. The result comes as a relief to the prime minister.

Mickey Mouse has been welcoming far fewer visitors at Disney theme parks since the pandemic struck and Walt Disney now says it will lay off 32,000 workers, primarily staff at those attractions.    © AP

2:30 p.m. The U.S. Supreme Court backs Christian and Jewish groups who challenged New York state's restrictions on gathering at places of worship. The ruling marked one of the first actions by the court attended by conservative appointee Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast a deciding vote in favor of the groups. It overturned an Oct. 6 decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to limit gatherings at religious institutions to no more than 25 people.

1:36 p.m. India reports 44,489 new cases in the last 24 hours, marginally up from 44,376 the previous day, bringing the national tally to 9.27 million. The death toll jumped by 524 to 135,223. Of the total confirmed cases, 4.88% are active and the patient has recovered in 93.66%. India's COVID-19 mortality rate stands at 1.46%, according to the health ministry's latest update.

1:00 p.m. Japan's Aichi Prefecture will ask Nagoya bars and restaurants serving alcohol to shorten their business hours in a bid to contain the outbreak. Tokyo has already asked eateries to close earlier for three weeks starting from Saturday.

10:40 a.m. Beijing's Xinfadi market, which was linked to a coronavirus outbreak in June, has suspended sales and storage of cold-chain and aquatic products, state-backed Beijing News reports. Several infections in recent months in the cities of Qingdao and Tianjin involved handlers of imported frozen food. Refrigerated meat, seafood and frozen products in the market were disposed of, and the market has disinfected over a hundred cold storages and shut down their power.

A banner for an enhanced social distancing campaign is displayed at Seoul City Hall on Wednesday.   © AP

9:30 a.m. South Korea reports 583 new cases, up from 382 a day ago and the highest number since March 6. Total infections reach 32,318, with 515 deaths. Small groups are becoming new epicenters of the "third wave" outbreak as COVID-19 patients are confirmed at schools, tutoring institutions, churches and nursing homes.

8:00 a.m. AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Wednesday acknowledged a manufacturing error that is raising questions about preliminary trial results for their experimental COVID-19 vaccine. Oxford said some of the vials used in the trial didn't have the right concentration of vaccine, so some volunteers got only half a dose. The statement describing the error came days after the company and the university described the shots as "highly effective."

5:00 a.m. Japan's coronavirus advisory panel has urged residents to avoid traveling to and from hard-hit parts of the the country for three weeks -- a period seen as the make-or-break point to prevent an explosion of new cases. "The next three weeks will decide whether we can keep new infections under control," says Yasutoshi Nishimura, the government's coronavirus point man. If the government fails to contain the virus, "we will have to consider declaring another state of emergency," Nishimura says.

Medical workers prepare to treat patients suffering from COVID-19 at a hospital in New Delhi.   © Reuters

4:30 a.m. Cumulative COVID-19 cases have surpassed 60 million worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center. Deaths stand at more than 1.41 million, while more than 38 million people have recovered.

3:00 a.m. Turkey has signed a contract to buy 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech. Turkey's health minister said they would be delivered "in the months of December, January and February." Sinovac's experimental vaccine CoronaVac triggered a quick immune response in preliminary trials but the level of antibodies produced was lower than in people who had recovered from the virus.

1:45 a.m. A World Health Organization expert in animal diseases says he would like to return to food markets in Wuhan in China to do a follow-up study on early cases of COVID-19 in the city. Peter Ben Embarek tells a WHO social media briefing he wants to re-interview early COVID-19 patients, according to Reuters.

Wednesday, Nov. 25

11:30 p.m. Fewer Americans are traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday this year as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.

The AAA automobile group forecasts a 10% overall decline in Thanksgiving travel from last year, the largest year-on-year decrease since the recession of 2008. But the drop is smaller, around 4.3%, for those traveling by car, who make up a huge majority of the roughly 47.8 million people who plan to travel.

The number of virus-related deaths in the U.S. exceeded 2,200 on Tuesday alone, the highest daily total since May 6. The country's seven-day average for new cases has also exceeded 175,000 for the first time.

9:40 p.m. Jobless claims rise for the second straight week, to 778,000, in a sign the nationwide surge in virus cases is starting to weigh on the labor-market recovery.

8:37 p.m. Japan's new ambassador to China, Hideo Tarumi, will be quarantined for two weeks in his residence in Beijing as ordered by the Chinese government, Japanese Embassy officials say. Tarumi arrived in the eastern port city of Qingdao by civil aircraft earlier in the day. After being tested for the coronavirus, he will travel eight hours by chartered car to Beijing on Thursday. His quarantine is scheduled to end Dec. 10.

8:00 p.m. Iran registered a daily record 13,843 new coronavirus cases, the health ministry said, pushing the national tally to 894,385 in the Middle East's worst-hit country. Ministry's spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that the death toll rose by 469 in the past 24 hours to 46,207.

7:00 p.m. All Nippon Airways announced that it will restart once-a-week flights from Narita Airport near Tokyo to Shenzhen, beginning Dec. 14.

Women in protective masks stroll through the Tanah Abang textile market in Jakarta, as a drinks vendor awaits custom. Indonesia has the highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in Southeast Asia.   © Reuters

6:29 p.m. Indonesia reported a record daily rise of 5,534 new cases, bringing its total to 511,836. There were 114 new deaths reported, bringing total fatalities to 16,225. The Southeast Asian country has the region's highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths.

5:50 p.m. BioNTech and Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical said they would launch a Phase II clinical trial of BioNTech's experimental vaccine in China. The vaccine, known as BNT162b2, will be tested on volunteers at the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention to assess safety and immunogenicity, eyeing future approval in China, the two companies said in a statement.

4:31 p.m. Tokyo reports 401 cases, up from 186 a day earlier, and 54 patients in serious condition, up by three and the most since a state of emergency was lifted in May. The metro government once again requests restaurants serving alcohol to shorten operating hours for about three weeks to help arrest an upswing in transmissions.

Bars and restaurants in Tokyo will again be asked to shorten business hours as daily infections have soared above 500 on several days recently. (Photo by Yuki Nakao)

2:55 p.m. China's Sinopharm has submitted an application to the country's National Medical Products Administration to commercialize its vaccines, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday. Sinopharm was conducting Phase 3 clinical trials in over 10 countries, inoculating nearly a million people under emergency use with no serious adverse reactions.

2:24 p.m. A senior leader of India's Congress party has died of coronavirus-related complications, his family said. Ahmed Patel was the second lawmaker from the opposition party to die from the virus in recent days, as the country case total reached 9.2 million. Patel, who was close to the Gandhi family, was diagnosed with COVID-19 a month ago and died of organ failure, his family said in a statement.

1:56 p.m. Philippine Airlines is poised to seek court protection for its debt restructuring as the flag carrier fights for survival, Nikkei Asia has learned. The company, which is cutting around 2,700 jobs, a third of its workforce, is also looking to return around 20 of its leased aircraft to relieve a financial burden amounting to at least $1 billion. It also seeks to raise $505 million "for post-restructuring liquidity requirements."

1:35 p.m. Tokyo will urge bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors to operate shortened hours, Nikkei has learned. The metro government will ask these establishments to close by 10 p.m. for 20 days beginning Saturday. Businesses that abide are to receive a maximum of 400,000 yen ($3,800) in cooperation funds. Japan's capital had new daily infection totals over 500 for several days recently, and the number of serious cases reached 51 on Tuesday, the most since a state of emergency was lifted in May.

1:22 p.m. India reports 44,376 cases for the past 24 hours, up from 37,975 the previous day, bringing the country total to 9.22 million. The death toll jumped by 481 to 134,699.

10:18 a.m. South Korea confirms 382 new daily cases, up from 349 a day ago. Total infections reach 31,735, with 513 deaths. Celltrion shares jump 5.8% in the morning as the drugmaker announced it completed Phase 2 clinical tests for a COVID-19 antibody treatment.

10:02 a.m. Australia's most populous state will ease social distancing restrictions after recording nearly three weeks without any local transmissions, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday. Restaurants, pubs and cafes in New South Wales will be allowed to increase capacity on Dec. 1. Two weeks later, companies will no longer be obligated to allow remote work.

9:34 a.m. China recorded five cases on Nov. 24, down from 22 a day earlier. All infections originated overseas. The country also reported six asymptomatic infections -- which China does not classify as confirmed cases -- compared with eight a day earlier. The total number of cases in mainland China stands at 86,469 with 4,634 deaths.

6:30 a.m. Asia's pandemic response has in many ways transformed the image of Asian governance -- at least when compared to the lackluster records of many previously admired nations in Europe and North America. The question now is whether the pandemic might transform Asia's governments as well. Read more in this week's Big Story.

6:20 a.m. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may shorten its recommended self-quarantine period for people suspected of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

"Let me confirm that we are constantly reviewing the evidence and we are starting to have evidence that a shorter quarantine complemented by tests might be able to shorten that quarantine period from 14 days to shorter days," a top U.S. health official says in a call with reporters.

5:54 a.m. France's President Emmanuel Macron announces a three-stage easing of coronavirus-related restrictions in the coming weeks, saying a second wave of infections appears to have already peaked.

Restrictions on activities outside the home introduced in late October will end on Dec. 15, the president says in a televised address in which he says the nation's efforts to fight the spread of the virus have borne fruit.

A medical worker stands outside a hospital for patients infected with COVID-19 in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Nov. 24.   © Reuters

3:50 a.m. Global COVID-19 deaths have reached 1.4 million as cumulative cases near 60 million, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows.

3:30 a.m. Officials from the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed vaccine program say they plan to distribute 6.4 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the initial nationwide release after a candidate is approved for emergency use.

The officials stuck by a target of 40 million doses distributed by the end of 2020, Reuters reports.

1:00 a.m. General Electric says it may cut more jobs at its aviation unit owing to the lasting impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the airline industry.

"As we continue to closely monitor market conditions, we are examining a range of options to appropriately scale our business to match the realities of the global airline industry recovery from the severe impacts of COVID-19," the company says in a statement reported by Reuters.

A medic at a regional hospital in Tver, Russia, receives the Sputnik-V vaccine shot against the coronavirus on Oct. 12.   © Reuters

Tuesday, Nov. 24

11:50 p.m. The government of Japan's Osaka Prefecture has put forward a simulation showing that if new COVID-19 cases grow by 50% compared with the previous week, severe cases will exceed the upper end of hospital bed availability on Dec. 10.

10:30 p.m. Low-cost carrier AirAsia says it has halved its fixed costs and is exploring its options to raise working capital, including selling spare aircraft engines, as the airline continues to struggle because of travel bans imposed in key markets Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

9:48 p.m. The Spanish government is to propose a "different" Christmas and New Year under coronavirus restrictions, with just six people permitted to gather together, El Mundo newspaper reports.

9:35 p.m. Thailand plans to borrow more from international lenders while its public debt level is below its limit, the country's finance minister says, as the government tries to revive the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

9:07 p.m. The European Union has reached a deal with U.S. biotech company Moderna for the supply of up to 160 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, says.

9:00 p.m. Airlines are on course to lose a total of $157 billion this year and next, their global body the International Air Transport Association says, further downgrading its industry outlook in response to a second wave of coronavirus infections and shutdowns affecting major markets.

8:05 p.m. AstraZeneca must prove its claim that its potential COVID-19 vaccine has the lowest price of the main candidates so far, non-governmental organization Medecins Sans Frontieres says, urging the company to make public its supply contracts. The British pharma company said on Monday that its vaccine was 70% effective in pivotal trials and could be up to 90% effective, giving the world's fight against the global pandemic a third new weapon that can be cheaper to make, easier to distribute and faster to scale up than rivals.

8:00 p.m. Japan and China have agreed to continue communications on issues around the East China Sea where the two countries are in dispute, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said. Motegi made the comment after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Tokyo.

7:42 p.m. Russia's two-shot Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine will cost less than $20 per person on international markets and will be free of charge for Russian citizens, Reuters reports, citing a statement on the official Sputnik V Twitter account. Moscow is aiming to produce more than 1 billion doses for use at home and abroad next year.

7:21 p.m. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warns his people not to ski during the Christmas holidays to help curb a second wave of the new coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 in the country.

7:00 p.m. Southeast Asia's largest unicorn Grab has not changed its thinking on a future initial public offering because of COVID-19, says Ming Maa, president of the Singapore-based company.

6:20 p.m. Bars, nightclubs and saunas will be closed in Hong Kong from midnight Thursday as the city has recorded hundreds of new coronavirus infections during the past week. This will be the third time this year that such entertainment venues will be closed. Companies are encouraged to adopt work-from-home arrangements, government officials suggested. On Tuesday, Hong Kong reported 80 new cases of COVID-19, taking the total since late January to 5,782 infections and 108 deaths. Over 180 of the latest cases are linked to dance clubs.

5:02 p.m. In an exclusive interview with Nikkei, World Bank President David Malpass predicted that it would take several years for the global economy to recover to pre-crisis levels.

4:30 p.m. China reports two new cases, in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin. In Shanghai, the mass testing of 17,719 workers at the city's Pudong airport found one infection. In Tianjin, where 2.3 million people had been tested as of Monday, the city reported one case. China does not include people without symptoms in its confirmed case count.

4:10 p.m. South Korean shares end at a record high, with Samsung Electronics leading gains. COVID-19 vaccine developments and U.S. President-elect Joe Biden receiving formal approval for his White House transition boosted sentiment. The KOSPI closed up 0.58%, at 2,617.76, extending its rally to a fourth day.

3:20 p.m. Tokyo reports 186 cases, down from 314 a day earlier. The metropolitan government remains cautious as the number of patients in serious condition rose by 10 to 51, the highest since Japan lifted the state of emergency in May.

Restaurants and other premises in Hong Kong have been mandated by the territory's Chief Executive Carrie Lam to sign up for its coronavirus contact-tracing app.   © Reuters

1:51 p.m. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam says the government will mandate that restaurants and other premises sign up for its coronavirus contact-tracing app; authorities could eventually require all customers to take part in the tracking system. Meanwhile, the annual Hong Kong Book Fair, originally scheduled for December, will be postponed for a second time, to July, as the city faces a surge in COVID-19 infections.

1:45 p.m. Malaysia says it will close some Top Glove factories now that more than 2,000 workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Shares in Top Glove, the world's largest maker of rubber gloves, were down as much as 7.5% by late morning after the government said 28 factory buildings will be shut in phases. No timetable was provided.

1:30 p.m. India reports 37,975 new cases for the last 24 hours, down from 44,059 the previous day, bringing the country total to 9.18 million. The death toll climbed by 480, to 134,218.

12:00 p.m. The Japanese government is preparing to pause its Go To Travel subsidies for two cities following sharp rises in COVID-19 cases, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura says. A final decision on three-week exclusions of Osaka and Sapporo from the campaign could be made later in the day.

Sharply rising infection numbers have persuaded Japan's government to take Osaka and Sapporo out of the Go To Travel campaign. (Photo by Yoshiyuki Tamai)

10:58 a.m. South Korea's daily new cases jump to 349 from 271 a day ago. Total infections reach 31,353, with 510 deaths. Meanwhile, the Kospi benchmark index is up 0.72% in the morning, after hitting a record high of 2,602.59 on Monday, buoyed by an upbeat outlook for the chip industry.

9:45 a.m. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average surged on Tuesday, at one point jumping over 2% as investors welcome progress in the development of a vaccine. The rally followed news from drugmaker AstraZeneca that its vaccine could be around 90% effective without serious side effects.

9:10 a.m. Australia's state of Queensland will lift border restrictions on the country's two most populous states from December, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says. Queensland, a popular holiday destination, closed its borders to travelers from New South Wales and Victoria in August following outbreaks. Restrictions on arrivals from Sydney will be eased on Dec. 1. Residents of Victoria will also be welcomed if the state does not record any cases on Wednesday.

8:25 a.m. The head of the U.S. general services administration, Emily Murphy, sends President-elect Joe Biden a letter saying the presidential transition can begin. This authorization gives Biden access to government buildings as well as $7.3 million in transition funds. President Donald Trump said he had given Murphy the go-ahead despite plans to continue legal challenges.

Australian airline Qantas will allow only previously vaccinated passengers on international flights.   © Reuters

8:10 a.m. Australian airline Qantas will insist that international travelers are vaccinated before they fly. "We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say, for international travelers, that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft," CEO Alan Joyce told local media. "Whether you need that domestically, we will have to see what happens with COVID-19 in the market. But certainly, for international visitors ... we think that's a necessity."

5:43 a.m. Japan and the country's top drugmaker have turned to a type of antibody treatment derived from the plasma of recovered patients, rather than the lab-made varieties used on U.S. President Donald Trump. An alliance that includes Takeda Pharmaceutical is conducting a Phase 3 clinical trial for an immunoglobulin-based treatment in multiple countries. Results may become available within weeks.

5:30 a.m. The U.S. government will start distributing Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' COVID-19 antibody treatment on Tuesday, a health official says. Regeneron expects to have enough doses of the treatment, which received emergency use authorization on Saturday, for 80,000 patients by the end of November.

4:50 a.m. The World Health Organization has had assurances from China that an international field trip to investigate the origins of the new coronavirus will be arranged as soon as possible, its top emergency expert says.

3:30 a.m. The Philippines is close to an agreement with AstraZeneca for at least 20 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine, according to the official in charge of Manila's coronavirus strategy.

1:30 a.m. Brazil is expected to approve the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac by January after late-stage trials there reached the necessary number of cases, Sao Paulo's health secretary says.

Monday, Nov. 23

6:00 p.m. The Thai cabinet decides to extend an emergency decree aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The state of emergency was first declared in March, and extended by the government every month since. The latest extension means the state of emergency will last until Jan. 15.

Police officers at the Sanam Luang park guard an area before a mass rally to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's government and reforms in the monarchy, in Bangkok on Sept. 19.   © Reuters

4:07 p.m. AstraZeneca says its vaccine for the novel coronavirus could be around 90% effective without any serious side effects. The vaccine developed by Oxford University was 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 when it was administered as a half dose followed by a full dose at least one month apart, according to data from the late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil.

Another dosing regimen showed 62% efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart and the combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70%. All results were statistically significant.

3:05 p.m. Tokyo reports 314 new cases, down for a second day after hitting a record 539 on Saturday

2:50 p.m. Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and its capital Sapporo are making preparations to accept a halt in new bookings to the city under the state-run "Go To Travel" subsidy program given the high number of coronavirus cases there, local government sources say. The move comes after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Saturday that Japan will suspend the program in areas with a high number of coronavirus cases.

1:40 p.m. India records 44,059 new coronavirus infections, taking its total to 9.14 million, data from the health ministry show. India has the second-highest number of total cases in the world after the United States, but its rate of increase has dipped since hitting a peak in September.

11:00 a.m. South Korea reports another daily rise of more than 200 new cases, a day after it tightened social distancing rules as it battles a third wave of infections. The daily tally of 271 new cases fell from 330 reported on Sunday after hovering above 300 for five straight days, a level not seen since August.

An internally displaced woman helps a girl put on a face mask distributed by UNICEF, at a makeshift camp, amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on June 22.    © Reuters

9:39 a.m. The Singaporean government expects a return to solid growth next year, officially forecasting gross domestic product to expand in the 4% to 6% range in 2021 after this year's third quarter turned out better than initially thought.

9:10 a.m. China reports 11 new infections for Sunday, down from 17 a day earlier. Nine of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. The two local transmissions reported were in Shanghai.

9:00 a.m. Nearly 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be shipped and flown to developing countries next year in a "mammoth operation", the U.N. children's agency UNICEF says, as world leaders vowed to ensure the fair distribution of vaccines. UNICEF said it was working with over 350 airlines and freight companies to deliver vaccines and 1 billion syringes to poor countries such as Burundi, Afghanistan and Yemen as part of COVAX, a global COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan with the World Health Organization.

4:30 a.m. The first Americans could receive a coronavirus vaccine as soon as Dec. 11, the chief U.S. scientific adviser says.

"Within 24 hours from the approval, the vaccine will be moving and located in the areas where each state will have told us where they want the vaccine doses," Moncef Slaoui, part of the "Operation Warp Speed" vaccine program, tells NBC's "Meet the Press."

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

Sunday, Nov. 22

6:23 p.m. Japan reports 2,159 new daily cases of the coronavirus infection, topping 2,000 cases for a fifth straight day, with a senior official saying the government will try to unveil in the next few days the specifics of how its "Go To Travel" subsidy program will be suspended in areas with high infection numbers.

5:22 p.m. South Korea will tighten coronavirus social distancing rules for the capital Seoul and nearby areas, Yonhap News Agency reported. The prime minister said earlier that officials would consider preemptively tightening some social distancing rules.

3:16 p.m. Guitar Center, the largest U.S. retailer of music instruments and equipment, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Saturday, as music lovers moved their shopping online during the coronavirus pandemic.

11:18 a.m. South Korea reports more than 300 new coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day, as officials warned that stricter rules could be imposed if the trend continues to threaten the highly populated capital of Seoul and surrounding areas.

10:33 a.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency use authorization for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' COVID-19 antibody therapy, an experimental treatment given to U.S. President Donald Trump that he said helped cure him of the disease.

10:26 a.m. China reports 17 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, up from 16 the previous day, with three cases of local transmission and nine cases originating overseas, the National Health Commission says. It has so far reported an accumulated total of 86,431 COVID-19 cases, with the official death toll at 4,634.

9:15 a.m. - Moderna will charge governments between $25 and $37 per dose of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, depending on the amount ordered, Chief Executive Stephane Bancel told German weekly Welt am Sonntag.

8:47 a.m. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it recommends that all people avoid cruise ship travel as the risk of COVID-19 on ocean liners is very high.

8:00 a.m. U.S.-based Moderna will charge governments between $25 and $37 per dose of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, depending on the amount ordered, CEO Stephane Bancel tells German weekly Welt am Sonntag.

6:53 a.m. The cumulative U.S. case count passes 12 million on Saturday, even as millions of Americans were expected to travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, ignoring warnings from health officials about furthering the spread of the infectious disease.

Saturday, Nov. 21

7:07 p.m. Hong Kong and Singapore delay the launch of an "air travel bubble" for two weeks, just hours after saying it would go ahead on Sunday, as the former faces a modest but unsettling jump in cases.

4:41 p.m. Japan suspends a domestic travel campaign in areas where cases are especially high. In Tokyo, daily infections reach a record 539 cases.

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

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