A nurse prepares to administer a polymerise chain reaction (PCR) test to detect the presence of the COVID-19 antigen, at a testing site affiliated with the Methodist Health System, in Omaha, Neb., Friday, April 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) - Sputnik International

Live Updates: Pompeo Closely Monitored in Quarantine After Contact With COVID-Positive Person

The global death toll from the coronavirus infection has topped 1.634 million, over 73.4 million cases have been detected, and more than 41.5 million have recovered, according to Baltimore, Maryland's Johns Hopkins University, which tracks and compiles data from national and local authorities, the media and other sources.

The United States, India and Brazil top the list in terms of the number of registered coronavirus infections; the largest number of COVID-19-related deaths has been observed in the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The United States, which has begun the vaccination process, has the highest case count in the world, with 16,570,694, including 302,046 fatalities. The US government has also approved the first diagnostic test for the novel coronavirus that can be purchased over the counter and used privately at home, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced.

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00:10 GMT 17.12.2020

DOHA (Sputnik) – Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa has become one of the first citizens of his country who got vaccinated against the coronavirus, Bahraini media reported.

The king pointed out Bahrain's commitment to respect all the precaution measures and medical instructions, which allowed the country to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Bahrain News Agency reported on late Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the Bahraini authorities issued a permit for the use of the vaccine developed by the US company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

23:46 GMT 16.12.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The worldwide number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has surpassed 74 million, Johns Hopkins University says.

The exact number of the coronavirus cases stood at 74,087,090 as of 23:45 GMT on Wednesday. More than 1.64 million people have died of the disease, the university added.

22:45 GMT 16.12.2020

TORONTO (Sputnik) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that he will not receive the coronavirus vaccine in order of priority.

"When there’s a time for healthy people in their forties to get their vaccine - when it’s our turn - I will be as close to the front of that line as I can get," Trudeau said in an interview with a federal television morning show.

Trudeau also said he is "super enthusiastic" about being immunized against the novel coronavirus.

22:40 GMT 16.12.2020

ROME (Sputnik) - Italy will distribute over 1.8 million doses of Pfizer vaccine during the first phase of national vaccination, the press service of Domenico Arcuri, Italy's special commissioner for the healthcare emergency, said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Italy and other seven European states agreed on a start date of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, saying that it would start in December, after the European Medicines Agency approved the use of the vaccine developed by Pfizer.

"The first phase of mass vaccination will cover the group of citizens that the government has designated as prioritized: health care workers, personnel of public and private hospitals, patients and staff of homes for elderly people," the press service said.

According to the statement, the majority of vaccines will be sent to five regions: 304,995 doses to the region of Lombardy, 179,818 to the region of Lazio, 170,995 to the region of Piedmont, 164,278 to the region of Veneto and 135,890 to the region of Campania.

22:35 GMT 16.12.2020

PARIS (Sputnik) - French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Wednesday that his country would receive more than a million doses of the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine against coronavirus by December 30.

"By December 30, 1,160,000 doses of vaccine will be delivered to France," the prime minister told parliament during a presentation of the government's vaccination strategy.

An extra 677,000 doses will be delivered around January 5-6 and further 1.6 million in February. A total of 200 million doses have been pre-ordered, which is enough to vaccinate 100 million people twice.

21:37 GMT 16.12.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brazil has increased by 70,574 to 7,040,608  within the past 24 hours, the national Ministry of Health said on late Wednesday.

The death toll has risen by 936 to 183,735 people within the same period of time. The number of recovered patients has exceeded 6.1 million.

18:19 GMT 16.12.2020

The UK has reported 25,161 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with 612 new fatalities, official data shows.

18:04 GMT 16.12.2020

US President-elect Joe Biden said on Wednesday that his team is working on a plan to get publically vaccinated against the novel coronavirus so that the American people can witness it.

Asked when he will get the vaccine, Biden said, "We are working on that right now."

Biden said he wants to ensure his vaccination will demonstrate to the American people that the vaccine is safe.

"They are working on that plan right now. And when I do it, I’ll do it publicly so you all can actually witness my getting it done," he said.

On Tuesday, Biden announced that he will publicly get vaccinated and noted that he had been advised by Dr. Anthony Fauci to do so sooner rather than later.

Pfizer is involved in a massive effort to get millions of doses of its coronavirus vaccine -jointly developed with Germany’s BioNTech - out after the shots became the first immunization against the coronavirus approved by US authorities over the weekend.

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton announced earlier this month their intention to get vaccinated during a live television broadcast. Following their lead, Biden said he too would take a vaccine on camera.

The Pfizer vaccine is being administered first to healthcare workers and long-term residents of nursing homes. While some 100 million Americans are expected to be immunized by spring, resistance is also anticipated from at least half of the population fearing the vaccine’s safety and more than 20 potential side effects.

16:19 GMT 16.12.2020

The US government has allocated 2 million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to jurisdictions in the United States and almost 6 million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine in case it receives the necessary authorization, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said a press briefing on Wednesday.

"For next week, we have allocated another approximately two million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine for jurisdictions to use," Azar said. "And if Moderna’s vaccine is authorized by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] in the coming days, we have allocated nearly 5.9 million doses of that product."

Earlier this week, healthcare workers have started giving initial shots of the Pfizer vaccine to volunteers after the Food and Drug Administration provided emergency use authorization.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve a second vaccine developed by Moderna later this week. Both vaccines, which require two doses spaced weeks apart, have proved about 95 percent effective in clinical trials, but with side effects such as headaches, fever and fatigue.

Azar said earlier this week that vaccinations should be available to every American who wants to receive one by the end of June.

15:01 GMT 16.12.2020

Mike Pompeo has tested negative for coronavirus after coming into contact with a COVID-positive person, his spokesman said. 

However, he is being closely monitored and will stay under quarantine in accordance with CDC guidelines, the spokesman added. 

14:27 GMT 16.12.2020

The World Health Organization on Wednesday warned about a possible spike of COVID-19 early next year because of the holiday season and proposed measures to prevent it from happening.

"Annually across Europe, we see a massive increase in gatherings that bring together people of all ages, including families, religious groups and friends. This brings a significant risk of increased COVID-19 transmission during the upcoming holiday season ... There is a high risk of further resurgence in the first weeks and months of 2021, and we will need to work together if we are to succeed in preventing it," the WHO Regional Office for Europe said in a statement.

The organization recommended countries with ski resorts to adopt a setup of seasonal activities to prevent potential crowding. The WHO also advises to postpone or cancel mass gatherings as well as take measures to unload public transport and major transportation hubs. It also proposed to hold either religious service outside or have them limited in duration and size as well as with all necessary precautions in mind.

"Gatherings should be held outside if possible, and participants should wear masks and maintain physical distancing. If held indoors, limiting group size and ensuring good ventilation to reduce exposure risk are key. It may feel awkward to wear masks and practise physical distancing when around friends and family, but doing so contributes significantly to ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy," the organization added.

The WHO also advised those who have to travel for holidays to avoid transportation that could be crowded.

As winter holidays like Christmas and New Year are approaching, experts are concerned that they would boost the spread of the disease through people traveling and spending a lot of time indoors accompanied by groups of friends and relatives.

14:26 GMT 16.12.2020

Japan's pharmaceutical company Shionogi (Shionogi & Co) on Wednesday announced the launch of clinical trials of its prophylactic vaccine candidate against COVID-19.

"Shionogi & Co., Ltd ... today announced that Shionogi has initiated a Japanese Phase 1/2 clinical trial of a prophylactic vaccine candidate for COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infection, and the first dose has been administered successfully," the company said in a press release.

According to the statement, since April 2020, Shionogi has been pursuing the discovery and development of a recombinant protein vaccine against COVID-19, using a unique technology, dubbed BEVS, established by UMN Pharma Inc., a subsidiary of Shionogi.

"The recombinant protein vaccine contains a purified target antigen protein, produced using genetic information from the virus ... the recombinant protein vaccine needs a certain development period for antigen expression and purification before initiating dosing trials," the company said.

The clinical trials will involve 200 Japanese adults, who will be given two doses of the vaccine with an interval of three weeks to determine an optimal dose. The participants of the trials will be monitored for a year after vaccination.

Earlier in December, Japan's AnGes biopharmaceutical company started phase 2 clinical trials of its DNA vaccine against the coronavirus involving 500 volunteers.

Last week, UK-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced it had reached a final agreement with the Japanese government to provide the country with 120 million doses of the vaccine based on results of clinical trials.

13:09 GMT 16.12.2020
12:35 GMT 16.12.2020
12:17 GMT 16.12.2020
12:09 GMT 16.12.2020

The European Union will authorize its first vaccine against the coronavirus disease this week, planning to start immunization immediately, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the European Parliament Plenary, the president said that the commission had acquired a wide portfolio of vaccine candidates.

"And finally, within a week, the first vaccine will be authorised, so that vaccinations can start immediately. And more will follow in the new year," von der Leyen, said.

Earlier in the month, Emma Cooke, the head of the European Medicines Agency, said that her agency was studying vaccines by Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as Moderna.

According to the European Commission, it had secured 1.2 billion doses of various vaccine candidates, including BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi-GSK, CureVac and Moderna. Negotiations with other companies are underway.

11:49 GMT 16.12.2020
11:33 GMT 16.12.2020

King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said on Wednesday that the Gulf country would soon begin a nationwide campaign for providing a free COVID-19 vaccine for all citizens and residents, noting that vaccination will be voluntary.

Bahrain has officially approved two vaccines against the coronavirus, including the one developed by the Pfizer and BioNTech and the vaccine produced by Chinese company Sinopharm.

"We would like to announce that Bahrain will soon start implementing its national campaign to provide a safe and licensed vaccine to combat the virus, and we have directed that it be available free of charge to every citizen and resident, provided that it is optional for those who wish to take it, and we all hope that we will soon return to normal life, even better than it once was," the king said, as quoted by the BNA state news agency, in his Wednesday address to the nation on the country's national days running from 16-17 December.

The king also ordered the creation of a national medal named after Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for medical merit, which is awarded to health specialists, including doctors, nurses and those who died while performing their medical duties throughout the pandemic.

On behalf of the country, the ruler expressed gratitude and appreciation "for the constant efforts of all frontline workers facing the pandemic, as they are the ones who have shown clear perseverance, courage and patience to overcome difficulties for the sake of a better tomorrow, which will lead to the road of recovery."

To date, the Bahraini Ministry of Health has confirmed 89,444 COVID-19 cases, including 348 fatalities and more than 87,400 recoveries.

10:03 GMT 16.12.2020

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday received the first shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine approved by the country’s Food and Drug Authority last week, Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah has said.

"I am pleased to announce to citizens and residents the arrival of the first batch of the coronavirus vaccine this [Wednesday] morning. … I hope that it will mark the beginning of the end of the crisis," the minister said when addressing the Saudi Budget Forum 2021.

The distribution of the vaccine will start in the next three days, the minister added, noting that 150,000 people have already applied to receive the vaccine via the "Sehhaty" (My Health) app since the start of registration on Tuesday.

The Saudi Ministry of Health earlier stated that the vaccination would take place in three stages, with each of them targeting specific groups of people.

The first stage focuses on citizens and residents over 65 years old, people who are vulnerable due to their occupation, and those who have immune deficiency, or two or more chronic diseases.

The second phase targets people who are over 50 years old, as well as the rest of medical specialists and those who have one chronic disease, while the third all citizens and residents who want to receive the vaccine.

The vaccine is free of charge for all citizens and residents.

09:01 GMT 16.12.2020
08:56 GMT 16.12.2020

Japan so far has shown no interest in foreign-made Covid-19 vaccines, including Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, as the country continues to make efforts to develop proprietary vaccines against the disease, the country's health ministry said.

The ministry stressed that it was unaware of any companies that were planing to file a request to use Russian-made vaccines in the country.

"Currently, we do not have information about companies that have showed interest in the Russian vaccine," the ministry's department for international health services strategy said.

The ministry noted that a study of a vaccine's effectiveness and safety among Japanese is required to import to Japan or manufacture vaccines that are developed and approved abroad, including in Russia.

"Japanese companies are doing everything to develop their own vaccines, and cooperation with new partners seems difficult at present," the ministry explained.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia has been at the forefront of vaccine development with two of its products, Sputnik V, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, and EpiVacCorona, developed by the Siberian research center Vector, already in the Phase 3 trials. Another vaccine, by the Chumakov research center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, will begin Phase 3 trials early in 2021.

08:24 GMT 16.12.2020

Russia has registered 26,509 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, down from 26,689 the day before, bringing the total to 2,734,454, the federal response centre said on Wednesday.

"Over the past day, 26,509 coronavirus cases were confirmed in 85 regions, including 4,715 cases (17.8 percent) without clinical symptoms," the centre said, adding that the cumulative case count has now reached 2,734,454, with the rate of increase at 1 percent.

Moscow has confirmed 5,028 new coronavirus cases over the given period, down from 5,418 the day before. The Russian capital was followed by St. Petersburg with 3,758 cases, down from 3,765 the day before, and the Moscow region with 1,477 new cases, up from 1,392 the day before.

The response center reported 596 coronavirus fatalities, up from 577 the day before, raising the country's death toll to 48,564.

Total recoveries count 2,176,100 after 26,490 more people were discharged from hospitals over the past day, up from 24,813 the day before.

07:46 GMT 16.12.2020

French company Valneva announced on Wednesday that it is starting the clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine candidate in the United Kingdom.

"Valneva SE, a specialty vaccine company focused on prevention against diseases with major unmet needs, today announced the initiation of a Phase 1/2 clinical study for its inactivated, adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001 ... The VLA2001-201 study is a randomized, double blind and placebo-controlled trial evaluating the safety and immunogenicity for three dose levels in approximately 150 healthy adults. The study will be conducted in study sites across the United Kingdom and is supported by the National Institute for Health Research," the company said in a press release.

According to Valneva, 150 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 will be recruited for the studies. If the trials prove vaccine efficacy, additional trials will be launched, involving over 4,000 volunteers.

"While conducting our first clinical trials, we are already ramping-up our manufacturing capacities and commencing production at full-scale so that we can make the vaccine widely available across the world assuming the vaccine is safe and effective," Valneva CEO Thomas Lingelbach said, as quoted in the press release.

According to Sky news, the vaccine is being developed at Valneva's facility in Livingston, Scotland.

07:22 GMT 16.12.2020
07:10 GMT 16.12.2020
06:37 GMT 16.12.2020
06:27 GMT 16.12.2020
06:07 GMT 16.12.2020

The Omani Ministry of Health has issued a license to import the coronavirus vaccine jointly developed by the US' Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech pharmaceutical companies to start mass vaccination in the country.

Oman has joined its neighbors — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain — that authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use earlier in December.

"The Ministry of Health, represented by the Directorate General of Pharmaceutical Affairs And Drug Control, has issued a license to import the vaccine against coronavirus of the US company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for emergency vaccination against the coronavirus of the population of over 16 years old," the ministry wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Oman has registered a total of 126,240 cases of the coronavirus, including 118,048 recoveries and 1,471 deaths, according to the ministry.

05:53 GMT 16.12.2020
05:39 GMT 16.12.2020

The Costa Rican Ministry of Health has authorized the use of the coronavirus vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, with deliveries and mass vaccination scheduled for the first quarter of the next year, a Costa Rican news outlet reported.

According to the Costa Rica Hoy portal, the authorization is subsequent to the US Food and Drug Administration's decision to authorize emergency use of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.

Despite the Costa Rican government's confirmation of readiness to start the immunization campaign, and the agreement on deliveries of 3 million doses of the vaccine (which will be sufficient to vaccinate 1.5 million citizens), the exact dates of supplies start and vaccination program launch remain uncertain. The government intends to launch vaccination in the first quarter of 2021.

According to the latest update by Costa Rica's health ministry, the Central American country has registered over 154,000 COVID-19 cases, of which 1,149 were confirmed in the past 24 hours. The coronavirus death toll has reached 1,956 after growing by 10.

05:07 GMT 16.12.2020
05:06 GMT 16.12.2020

Panama's government has approved the emergency use of the vaccine produced by US company Pfizer and German company BioNTech, the delivery of the first batch is expected in the first quarter of 2021, the country's Health Ministry said.

"The national government has approved the emergency use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine," the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

Panama expects to receive the first shipment of vaccines in the first quarter of next year and to begin immunizing the population, starting with healthcare workers, the elderly and security personnel.

According to the ministry, the country with a population of 4.2 million people has registered 194,619 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the epidemic, including 3,382 deaths.

04:52 GMT 16.12.2020
04:33 GMT 16.12.2020
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