China’s health regulator granted “conditional” approval for a COVID vaccine 12 months after the virus was initially detected in Wuhan city. The vaccine, which is 79% effective, was developed by state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm.
The United States has recorded its highest daily death toll from COVID as the world prepares to turn the page on a grim year defined by the pandemic.
New Years Eve marks a year since the WHO first mentioned a mysterious pneumonia in China later identified as COVID-19, which in 2020 killed more than 1.79 million people and devastated the economy world in an unprecedented way.
International efforts have made it possible to develop vaccines in record time. The UK on Wednesday approved a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, making it the third to gain approval in the Western world, after the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
Meanwhile, pandemic restrictions are silencing New Year’s celebrations for billions of people eager to say goodbye to 2020.
From Sydney to Rome, fireworks, pyre fires and live performances will be watched online or on TV – if they haven’t been completely canceled.
Here are the latest updates:
China grants ‘conditional’ approval to its first COVID vaccine
China has granted “conditional” marketing authorization for a Sinopharm vaccine with a reported efficacy of 79%, health officials said Thursday, a major step towards inoculating the world’s largest population.
The Sinopharm jab, which outperformed a series of Chinese competitors in phase three trials, has a lower efficacy rate than competing jabs developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – with 95 and 94 percent rates, respectively.
Authorities say about 4.5 million doses of the largely unproven emergency vaccines made in the country have already been administered to health workers and other workers destined for overseas jobs.
China confirms first case of British coronavirus variant
China has confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus, a potentially faster variant, which was recently detected in Britain, health officials said.
The new strain has resulted in UK travel restrictions by more than 50 countries, including China. The first patient in China with the new variant is a 23-year-old woman from Shanghai, who arrived from Britain on December 14, the China Center for Disease Control said in a research note released Wednesday.
She presented with mild symptoms and was hospitalized upon arrival. Health experts carried out genetic sequencing of her test samples on Dec. 24 “due to travel history from the UK and abnormalities in nucleic acid test results,” the Chinese CDC said.
Tokyo COVID case record, heavy snowfall cuts New Year’s celebrations in Japan
New coronavirus infections in Tokyo have reached a record high of more than 1,300, raising fears of an explosion in cases, local media reported, and the New Year’s celebrations have been halted as the country battles a third wave of the pandemic.
Many flights have also been canceled as heavy snowfall hit parts of Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga urged people to quietly celebrate the New Year and avoid non-essential outings amid the double crisis.
South Africa reports one-day record of nearly 18.0000 COVID cases
South Africa reported a record increase of 17,710 coronavirus infections in one day, surpassing the previous high of around 14,500 several days ago.
“To date, the cumulative total of identified COVID-19 cases is 1,039,161 with 17,710 (33 percent positivity rate) cases identified since the last report,” the Department of Health said in a statement. “The positivity rate, being an indicator of the speed of the spread, remains a major concern,” the ministry said.
The positivity rate is the percentage of people who tested positive out of the total number of people tested.
Indonesia receives 1.8 million additional doses of Sinovac COVID vaccine
Indonesia has received its second batch of coronavirus vaccines from Chinese company Sinovac, the country’s foreign and health ministers said, as the world’s fourth most populous country prepares a mass vaccination program which should take over a year.
The government has taken delivery of 1.8 million doses of the Chinese vaccine, in addition to the 1.2 million it received on December 6, and aims to vaccinate its population of 267 million people for free, starting with frontline health workers.
In total, Indonesia has obtained 329 million doses of vaccine, including about 125 million from Sinovac, 50 million from Novavax and 54 million from the global COVAX vaccination program.
Philippine Islands self-isolate after discovery of new variant of COVID in Malaysia
The islands that make up a southern Philippine province will close for the first two weeks from Monday to prevent the entry of a new variant of COVID found in neighboring Malaysia, its governor said.
Sulu, home to more than 900,000 people, currently has only two known active cases of the coronavirus, up from 242 recorded so far in the country, of which 12 were deaths.
“This is to protect our coasts from the COVID-19 strain reported in Sabah, Malaysia, given that we are so close,” Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan told ANC news channel on Thursday.