Novel coronavirus has infected over 85.4 million people globally and claimed more than 1.8 million lives. Here are the updates for January 4:

Britain's PM Boris Johnson looks on as Jennifer Dumasi receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine during his visit at the Chase Farm Hospital, in north London, Britain January 4, 2021.
Britain's PM Boris Johnson looks on as Jennifer Dumasi receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine during his visit at the Chase Farm Hospital, in north London, Britain January 4, 2021. (Reuters)

Monday, January 4, 2021

UK PM announces nationwide lockdown for England

Nearly 56 million people in England will return to a full lockdown, possibly until mid-February, to try to cut spiralling infection rates, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday. 

The measures, which include the closure of primary and secondary schools, will come into effect Wednesday, he said in a televised address, after Scotland announced similar measures to come into force from midnight (0000 GMT) on Tuesday.

Palestinians say aim to launch vaccinations next month

The Palestinians said that they expect to receive their first coronavirus vaccine doses next month, covering 20 percent of the population in the West Bank and Gaza, through an UN-backed programme.

"We have received an official letter from the World Health Organization which says the delivery of vaccines will begin next month to cover 20 percent of the population," a Palestinian Health Ministry official, Yasser Bouzia, told AFP news agency.

COVAX – supported by WHO, the European Commission, and other bodies – aims to help the world's poorest nations address the pandemic.

According to Bouzia, the cost of administering vaccinations for the first 20 percent of the Palestinian population will be covered by WHO.

COVAX will vaccinate in the West Bank, home to some 2.8 million Palestinians, and Israeli-blockaded Gaza, where around two million Palestinians live.

France's new cases sharply down, hospitalisations up

France has reported 4,022 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, a figure three times lower as Sunday's 12,489 but higher than last Monday's 2,960, and the number of people hospitalised for the disease was up for the third day running.

France, which is accelerating its Covid-19 vaccination roll-out after being criticized for a snail-pace start, has now 24,995 patients treated for the virus, a high since Dec 22.

France's cumulative total of cases now stands at 2,659,750, the fifth-highest in the world. The seven-day moving average of new infections stands at 13,872, a 10-day high.

The Covid-19 death toll was up by 378, at 65,415, the seventh-highest in the world, versus a seven-day moving average of 329.

BioNTech says no data to support delayed vaccine booster shot

BioNTech and partner Pfizer have warned that they had no evidence that their jointly developed vaccine will continue to protect against Covid-19 if the booster shot is given later than tested in trials.

"The safety and efficacy of the vaccine have not been evaluated on different dosing schedules as the majority of trial participants received the second dose within the window specified in the study design,” the companies said in a joint statement, referring to prime and a booster shots given three weeks apart.

"There is no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days."

Germany mulls delaying second vaccine shot

Germany is weighing whether to allow a delay in administering a second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer to make scarce supplies go further, after a similar move by Britain last week.

Separately, Denmark approved a delay of up to six weeks between the first and second shots of the vaccine.

In Berlin, the Health Ministry was seeking the view of an independent vaccination commission on whether to delay a second shot beyond a current 42-day maximum limit, according to a one-page document seen by Reuters on Monday.

The move came amid criticism of Health Minister Jens Spahn - including from his conservative political allies - that Germany has failed to procure enough vaccines and been too slow to ramp up its national inoculation campaign.

Over 13,000 new Covid-19 cases reported across Turkey

Turkey has reported over 13,000 daily infections, including asymptomatic ones, from the novel coronavirus.

According to Health Ministry data, the country confirmed 13,695 new cases, including 1,508 symptomatic patients. The tally of infections exceeded 2.26 million.

At least 197 people lost their lives due to the virus, causing the death toll to climb to 21,685.

As many as 9,896 more people recovered over the past day, bringing the total to over 2.16 million.

A total of 181,323 Covid-19 tests were done across the country over the past day, pushing the overall count to 25 million.

France to speed up vaccinations after slow rollout 'scandal'

France's government has promised to ramp up its vaccination campaign against Covid-19 after inoculating just a few hundred people in the first week, prompting accusations of a scandal.

The French campaign had rolled out just over 500 doses as of January 1, with critics comparing that figure with the 200,000 people immunised in Germany in a similar timeframe after the EU-wide rollout began a week ago.

"What we have seen is a government scandal," Jean Rottner, the head of France's Grand Est eastern region, which has seen a particularly sharp rise in infections, told France 2 television.

Italy mulls new restrictions as 2nd wave bites

The Italian government is discussing new restrictions to fight the second wave of coronavirus that has pushed the national death tally above 75,000, the highest in Europe.

A Cabinet meeting will decide whether the new measures adopted for the holidays will be extended through mid-January or if regions with a lower infection rate will be allowed to relax the curbs.

The government is also insisting on plans of reopening schools starting this week, on January 7, but some regions – including the northern Veneto – have postponed restarting high school classes until the end of the month.

Italy reported 348 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, substantially stable from the day before, while daily new infections fell to 10,800 from 14,245, reflecting a much lower number of swab tests done during the weekend.

British, South African coronavirus mutations detected in Austria

Austria has found four cases of the coronavirus mutation first detected in Britain and one case of the South African mutation, Franz Allerberger of public health agency AGES told a news conference.

Both Britain and South Africa have discovered new, more infectious variants in the coronavirus in recent weeks that have driven a surge in cases.

Allerberger said the four cases of the UK variant had been found in an Austrian man who arrived from London on December 21, an Austrian 12-year-old girl who travelled from England on December 18, and two Slovak children who are siblings, while the South African variant had been detected in a 30-year-old Austrian woman who returned from a vacation in South Africa on December 6.

First person receives Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine in UK

Britain has begun rolling out the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, a possible game-changer in fighting the disease worldwide.

Britain started the new drive with 530,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as it struggled to control a severe wave of infections that has threatened to overwhelm the public health system and prompted the government to warn tougher curbs can be expected.

Brian Pinker, an 82-year-old retired maintenance manager and dialysis patient, received the first jab at Oxford's Churchill Hospital, NHS England said.

Pinker said he was so pleased and that he can “now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary with my wife Shirley later this year.”

Since December 8, Britain's NHS has been using a vaccine made by Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech to inoculate health care workers and nursing home residents and staff.

Russia reports 23,351 new cases

Russia has reported 23,351 newcases over the previous 24 hours, including 3,591 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 3,260,138.

Authorities said 482 people had died, taking Russia's official death toll to 58,988.

Cambodia reopens schools and museums

Cambodia has started reopening schools and museums as it relaxes a six-week lockdown following a coronavirus outbreak late last year.

The Southeast Asian country of just over 16 million people, one of the least impacted by the novel coronavirus with just 382 infections and no deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, saw a rare cluster of cases in November.

While private schools have started reopening this week, students at public schools are due to return next week.

Indonesia to start vaccinations programme next week

A senior minister has said thatIndonesia's mass vaccination programme is set to start next week, pending authorisation from the country's food and drug agency (BPOM), as about 700,000 doses of vaccines have already been widely distributed.

Currently battling one of Asia's most stubborn coronavirus epidemics, Indonesia has secured more than 329 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, most notably from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, and AstraZeneca.

Those to be used in the first phase are from China's Sinovac , which has named its vaccine CoronaVac.

Indonesia's state-owned drugmaker Bio Farma has already dispatched about 714,000 CoronaVac doses to the country's 32 provinces, it said in a statement on Monday. Indonesia has received 3 million doses of Sinovac's vaccine so far.

Beijing vaccinates thousands in jab drive

Thousands of people have lined up in Beijing to receive a Covid-19 vaccine as China races to inoculate millions before the Chinese New Year mass travel season in February.

More than 73,000 people in the Chinese capital have received the first dose of the vaccine over the last couple of days, including community workers and bus drivers.

Health authorities on New Year's Eve granted "conditional" approval to a vaccine candidate made by Chinese pharma giant Sinopharm, which the company said had a 79 percent efficacy rate.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China stands at 87,150, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Thailand confirms 745 new cases

Thailand has registered 745 new coronavirus cases, with a new death reported in Bangkok, where a semi-lockdown went into effect.

The Centre of Covid-19 Situation Administration said that the new infections bring the total number since last January to 8,439, while the death toll has climbed to 65.

The agency said the number included 152 Thais and 577 migrant workers in Samut Sakhon, the province next to Bangkok that is the epicenter of the new outbreak.

The country will receive its first Covid-19 vaccines in February from China's Sinovac Biotech and will have the capacity to produce 200 million doses a year locally of the AstraZeneca vaccine, senior officials said.

Thailand in November signed an agreement for 26 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be produced by local firm, Siam Bioscience, with its first batch to be ready by May, Supakit said.

Japan PM weighs state of emergency

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said he is considering declaring a state of emergency in the greater Tokyo area over a "very severe" third wave of coronavirus infections.

Speaking at a regular new year press conference, Suga also said he hoped vaccinations would begin in Japan in late February, adding that he would be among the first to receive one.

He urged people to avoid non-essential outings, and said the government would introduce legislation to penalise businesses that flout requests to shorten hours or close, as well as provide incentives to those who abide by such calls.

Suga also insisted the government was still committed to holding the virus-postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics this summer, saying the Games would be "proof that mankind overcame the virus".

Germany's virus cases rise by 9,847

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany has increased by 9,847 to 1,775,513.

The reported death toll rose by 302 to 34,574, the data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

Mexico reports 362 new deaths

Mexico's health ministry reported 362 new coronavirus deaths on Sunday, bringing the country's total confirmed death toll to 127,213.

Australia's largest state reports zero cases

Australia's most populous state New South Wales (NSW) on Monday reported zero local coronavirus cases for the first time in nearly three weeks, as Sydney battled multiple outbreaks and authorities urged tens of thousands of people to get tested.

NSW daily testing numbers have dropped to around 20,000 in the last two days from a peak of about 70,000 recorded on Christmas Day, December 25. The overwhelming majority of tests are in the state capital Sydney.

"The numbers are far too low... if we're going to succeed in staying ahead of the Covid pandemic, testing is crucial in large numbers so we can be confident of the data when we're making decisions," NSW Acting Premier John Barilaro told reporters.

Authorities have imposed mandatory masks in indoor spaces and on public transport from Monday for Sydney's five million residents or face a spot fine of $154 (A$200).

Scotland to enter another effective national lockdown 

Scotland will enter another effective national lockdown on Monday, likely to last until spring, The Times newspaper reported.

Scottish government leader Nicola Sturgeon said earlier her cabinet would meet on Monday to discuss possible further steps to limit the spread of the virus, and ordered Scotland's parliament to be recalled.

It is expected the reopening of schools will be pushed back beyond January 18, the newspaper reported.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday tougher lockdown restrictions were probably on the way as Covid-19 cases keep rising.

Johnson sets policy for England, with rules in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales set by their devolved authorities.

Covid-19 cases in Britain are at record levels and the increase in numbers is fuelled by a new and more transmissible variant of the virus.

Britain recorded 54,990 new cases of the virus on Sunday and has registered more than 75,000 deaths from the pandemic. 

Japan may declare state of emergency for Tokyo area 

Japan is considering declaring a state of emergency for capital Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures as early as this week, Fuji TV reported on Monday, as coronavirus cases climb.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is due to hold a news conference to mark the start of 2021 at 11 am (0200 GMT). 

Hernandez tests positive for Covid-19, out of UFC card

Anthony Hernandez announced over social media that he has tested positive for Covid-19 and will bow out of his scheduled middleweight bout against Rodolfo Vieira.

That bout was part of the UFC Fight Night 184 on January 16 in Abu Dhabi. Per Hernandez's post on Instagram, the bout is being rescheduled to February 13.

"Happy New Year! Good news is that #teamFluffy is safe and gear goes out next week," Hernandez wrote. "bad news is the fights delayed - 2020 left me with the covid. I'm good tho - and rescheduled for 2/13."

Hernandez's lone fight in 2020 was a loss to Kevin Holland.

Brazil reports 17,341 new cases, 293 more deaths

Brazil recorded 17,341 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 293 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

Brazil has registered more than 7.7 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began 10 months ago, while the official death toll has risen to 196,018, according to ministry data. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies