The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 59 million people and killed neary 1.4 million. Here are the updates for November 23:

Men sit at a bar in Campo dei Fiori square, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues, in Rome, Italy, on November 23, 2020.
Men sit at a bar in Campo dei Fiori square, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues, in Rome, Italy, on November 23, 2020. (Reuters)

November 23, 2020

Italy sees 630 new deaths, toll tops 50,000

Italy, the first European country to be hit by the global coronavirus pandemic, has passed the threshold of 50,000 deaths from Covid-19.

Most took place earlier this year, but around 15,000 deaths have been reported since the beginning of September.

The Health Ministry recorded 630 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 50,453. There were 22,930 new cases, to total more than 1.4 million.

Italy joins the United States, Brazil, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom in passing the symbolic 50,000-death mark.

UK reports 15,450 new cases

The United Kingdom has reported 15,450 new cases, bringing the total over the past seven days to 40,504, a 23 percent drop compared with the previous seven-day period.

Government data also showed that 206 new Covid-19 deaths were reported. The seven-day total of 3,084 deaths was up by 6 percent.

The United Kingdom has the highest death toll from the virus in Europe.

Turkey reports over 6,700 Covid-19 patients

Turkey has registered 6,713 more coronavirus patients over the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data released.

The new patients raised the overall count to 453,535.

As many as 3,254 patients also recovered over the past day, bringing the tally to 377,891, while the death toll rose by 153 to reach 12,511.

More than 161,000 Covid-19 tests were done across the country, bringing the total to over 17.4 million.

The number of patients in critical condition now stands at 4,409.

France's new cases slow again before possible lockdown loosening

French has reported 501 news coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours. 

France reported 4,452 new Covid-19 infections, the lowest daily tally since September 28, suggesting a second national lockdown is making its mark.

The lockdown, in place from October 30 and less stringent than the first one that ran from March 17 to May 11, has also helped lower hospitalisations, on a downward path again after peaking at 33,497 a week ago.

President Emmanuel Macron will give a speech to the nation on Tuesday when he may announce a relaxation of lockdown rules.

Spain to make coronavirus vaccination optional

Spain is unlikely to make vaccination against the coronavirus compulsory, at least initially, Health Ministry sources said.

Under Spanish law, vaccination is voluntary, although in some cases, such as an epidemic, the government could make it compulsory.

"There are instruments to make it so. But it is not the plan at the moment," one source said, while another said all vaccination was likely to remain optional.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Sunday that Spain would begin a coronavirus vaccination programme in January, covering a substantial part of the population within six months.

At least 59 million infected by Covid-19 globally

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases has surpassed 59 million, tracking website Worldometers and Corona Tracker showed. 

The death toll around the world stands at over 1,395,587 fatalities, with almost 41 million recoveries.

The United States has the highest number of total cases, followed by India and Brazil respectively.

GCC countries surpass 1 million cases

The six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have recorded more than 1 million cases of infection so far, according to a tally of data published by each government.

The tally in the energy producing region on Monday stood at 1,000,845 infections, with 9,160 deaths.

German states favour extending lockdown to boost Christmas prospects

Many of Germany's 16 federal states favour extending a partial shutdown meant to slow the spread of the virus and make family gatherings over Christmas possible, two state premiers said.

Germany, which is governed by a conservative-Social Democratic coalition, imposed a month-long "lockdown-lite" from November 2. 

Infection numbers have plateaued since but not declined.

"The November shutdown has brought something, the (infection) numbers are subdued but they remain high," Manuela Schwesig, premier of the northern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, told Deutschlandfunk (DLF) radio.

"For this reason, many states believe that the November shutdown must continue, especially in the risk areas," the Social Democrat said.

Swiss report almost 10,000 new cases in three days

Virus infections rose by 9,751 since Friday, data from Swiss health authorities showed.

The total number of confirmed cases in Switzerland and neighbouring principality Liechtenstein increased to 300,352 and the death toll rose by 213 to 3,788, while 410 new hospitalisations kept pressure on the health care system.

EU regulator could approve Covid vaccines ‘late 2020, early 2021

Europe's medicines regulator said that it could approve the first vaccines late this year or early next, as it evaluates the most promising candidates.

The clarification came after EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said last week that the watchdog could give the green light for vaccines tested by Pfizer-BioNTech and by Moderna before the end of December.

"It is difficult to predict timelines for the authorisation of vaccines precisely at this stage, as the data are still coming in and the rolling reviews are currently ongoing," the European Medicines Agency said.

"Depending on how the evaluation progresses, EMA could indeed be in a position to conclude evaluation for the most advanced candidates towards the end of this year or the beginning of next."

The Amsterdam-based EMA is carrying out "rolling reviews" designed to speed up vaccine approval times on three candidates: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford University-AstraZeneca.

Indonesia hits half-million virus cases 

Indonesia reached a grim milestone in surpassing more than half a million cases, as average new daily infections hit a record and hospitals in the country's most populated province edged closer to capacity.

Indonesia now has 502,110 infections and 16,002 deaths, the highest numbers in Southeast Asia, having struggled to contain the spread since its first case in March.

Health experts say shortfalls in testing and contact tracing and a consistently high positivity rate - the infection rate per person tested - indicate the real numbers are likely to be significantly higher.

China tests millions after coronavirus flareups in 3 cities

Chinese authorities are testing millions of people, imposing lockdowns and shutting down schools after multiple locally transmitted cases were discovered in three cities across the country last week.

As temperatures drop, large-scale measures are being enacted in the cities of Tianjin, Shanghai, and Manzhouli, despite the low number of new cases compared to the United States and other countries that are seeing new waves of infections.

Many experts and government officials have warned that the chance of the virus spreading will be greater during the cold weather.

Recent flareups have shown that there is still a risk of the virus returning, despite being largely controlled within China.

Russia reports record number of virus cases

Russia reported a record 25,173 new infections as the Kremlin said it was up to regional authorities to decide what measures needed to be imposed in their regions to curb its spread.

Russian authorities have said they will not impose nationwide lockdowns as they did earlier in the pandemic, stressing the importance of hygiene and targeted measures in certain regions instead.

Malaysia to shut some Top Glove factories in phases amid virus outbreak

Malaysia will close some of Top Glove's factories in stages as it moves to screen employees for coronavirus following a big jump in infections, a senior minister said.

The world's largest maker of latex gloves has racked up record profits this year on skyrocketing demand for its products and protective gear, thanks to the pandemic.

But as many as 28 of its network of more than 30 factories in the southeast Asian nation will be shut after 1,889 workers tested positive for the virus, from 5,794 screened, said Senior Security Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

It was unclear when the closures would begin, however.

Last week, the government ordered 14-day curbs through Nov. 30 in an area where Top Glove factories and dormitories are located. The company said the curbs would affect 5,700 workers, or more than a quarter.

AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine 'highly effective'

British AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have said their jointly-developed vaccine against Covid-19 has shown "an average efficacy of 70 percent" in trials testing two different dosing regimens.

"This vaccine's efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against Covid-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency," AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said in a statement.

AstraZeneca said its vaccine could be around 90 percent effective under one dosing regimen of the two tested which used a half dose before administering a full dose a month later. 

"This vaccine's efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against Covid-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency," Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's chief executive, said in a statement.

However, the vaccine has produced lower average efficacy compared with coronavirus vaccines produced by rivals Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna which have come in above 90 percent.

Shanghai airport mass testing staff after cases reported

Staff at Shanghai's biggest international airport are facing mass testing after a small outbreak in the city was linked to several cargo handlers, with plans underway to vaccinate high-risk workers.

Shanghai has reported six local infections linked to the airport this month, with most of the cases in the past few days.

Overnight Sunday into Monday, workers in full protective gear ushered Pudong International Airport staff into a multi-storey car park to have the virus test, with videos posted online by Shanghai health authorities showing scores of people filing into the facility.

More than 17,700 people had been swabbed by Monday morning in the drive to test airport cargo staff, the official Xinhua news agency reported, and results had come back negative on over 11,500 so far.

India records more than 44,000 new cases

India has recorded 44,059 new cases, taking its total to 9.14 million, data from the health ministry showed.

India has the second-highest number of infections in the world, after the United States, but the rate of increase in India has dipped since it hit a peak in September.

New daily cases have come in at fewer than 50,000 for more than two weeks, according to a Reuters tally.

Deaths rose by 511, according to the latest health ministry data, taking the total to 133,738.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 10,864

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 10,864 to 929,133, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 90 to 14,112, the tally showed.

South Korea reports more cases as tighter curbs to take effect

South Korea reported another daily rise of over 200 new cases, a day before tighter social distancing rules aimed at blunting a third wave of infections take effect.

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, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Officials have said the numbers tend to drop during the weekends due to less testing.

The government further strengthened distancing rules for the capital Seoul and nearby regions on Sunday, three days after re-imposing curbs ahead of an annual national college entrance exam scheduled for December 3.

The latest measure will close bars and nightclubs, limit religious gatherings and restrict on-site dining at restaurants and cafes from Tuesday.

Mexico reports 9,187 new cases

Mexico's health ministry has reported 9,187 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 303 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 1,041,875 and the death toll to 101,676.

Health officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases. 

UNICEF says to ship 2 billion vaccines to poor nations in 2021

Nearly 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be shipped and flown to developing countries next year in a "mammoth operation", the UN children's agency UNICEF said, 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 (WHO).

China reports 11 new virus cases 

China has recorded 11 new virus cases on November 22, down from 17 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that nine of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. The two local transmissions reported were in Shanghai.

The commission also reported 10 new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, compared with 11 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed virus cases in mainland China now stands at 86,442, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Germany may start vaccine programme in December

Germany could start administering shots of Covid-19 vaccines as soon as next month, Health Minister Jens Spahn was quoted as saying.

"There is reason to be optimistic that there will be approval for a vaccine in Europe this year," Spahn said in an interview with publishing group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland. "And then we can start right away."

Spahn said that he had asked Germany's federal states to have their vaccination centres ready by mid-December and that this was going well. "I would rather have a vaccination centre ready a few days early than an approved vaccine that isn't being used immediately."

UK to scrap self-isolation for contact with Covid-19 cases

The UK government will announce that self-isolation will no longer be required for those who have come into contact with people who have tested positive for the virus, the Telegraph reported.

Contacts of those who test positive will be asked to undergo daily tests for seven days, and will be allowed to go about their business in the meantime, the newspaper said.

Ministers will say that the current system of requiring people to stay at home for 14 days will be dismantled nationwide in January, if pilot schemes succeed, according to the newspaper. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies