Spain vaccination plan, UK cases level off: COVID-19 daily bulletin
Updated 02:04, 21-Nov-2020
Andy Murray


· Italy has registered just under 37,250 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, up from just over 36,170 the day before. There were almost 700 coronavirus-related deaths, up from 653 on Thursday.

· Coronavirus infection rates are leveling off in England and Scotland and decreasing in Wales and Northern Ireland, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. Rates in school-age children are still rising, while falling in young adults. 

· Sweden, which was in the global global spotlight for its unorthodox pandemic strategy, has registered a record 7,240 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, plus a further 66 deaths. Sweden's fatality rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbors, but lower than some larger European countries.

· A substantial part of the Spanish population will be vaccinated in the first half of 2021, the Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has claimed. Sanchez is to unveil a plan next Tuesday after the government – which has set aside $1.2 billion for COVID vaccines next year – created a special committee to establish who would be vaccinated first once a jab is available.

· Madrid's regional government will close its borders with other regions between December 4 and 14 in an effort to stop transmission of the virus over the long bank holiday weekend, which begins on Friday and lasts until Tuesday. Travel into and out of the region will only be permitted on justified or emergency grounds.

· The European Union will pay more than $10bn for 425 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines being developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and CureVac, according to Reuters. The bloc has agreed to pay $18.34 per dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot and slightly less for the CureVac treatment.

· A further 23,648 people have tested positive in Germany, a new record-high, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. The death toll rose by 260.

· A new mutated strain of coronavirus from mink farms in Denmark is "most likely" extinct, the country's health ministry said, following a cull. Meanwhile, authorities in Ireland have recommended a cull of the animal to limit the risk of the mutation reaching its borders.

· The number of people allowed to meet in public in Finland's capital Helsinki will be limited to 20 under new rules announced on Friday. The country's 14-day average of coronavirus infections is the lowest in Europe at 58 cases per 100,000 people, but health authorities say that figure is almost twice as high in the capital.

· Irinej, the 45th patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox church, has died of COVID-19, President Aleksandar Vucic has announced. The 90-year-old cleric contracted the virus earlier this month after attending the funeral of Metropolitan Amfilohije, the church's most senior member in Montenegro, who also died from coronavirus.

· The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is preparing to open at least 42 mass-vaccination centers, in places such as conference centers, across England to vaccinate people against COVID-19. 

- Northern Ireland's regional government has ordered tougher coronavirus restrictions from November 27 – described as a "short, sharp circuit-breaker" – closing restaurants, non-essential shops and gyms for two weeks, many of which had only reopened on Friday morning for the first time since mid-October. Schools are to remain open.

· Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has warned the public they must shun "hugs and kisses" at Christmas. The country's health ministry has recorded 653 further coronavirus fatalities, taking its death toll to 47,870, the second-most in Europe.

· Russia has recorded its worst daily increase, with 24,318 new COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours, plus a further 461 fatalities. Some Russian hospitals are experiencing serious drug shortages and cannot restock because of panic buying, high demand and problems with a new labeling system.

· The developers of EpiVacCorona, Russia's second COVID-19 vaccine after Sputnik V, have said mass production will begin in 2021

- Ukraine has registered a record 14,575 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, breaking yesterday's daily high by nearly 1,000.

· Greek authorities are forcibly appropriating two private health clinics and their staff in the northern city of Thessaloniki as the region's public hospitals are under severe pressure from spiraling cases, the country's health ministry said.


Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says a substantial part of the country's population will be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the early part of 2021. /La Moncloa/Fernando Calvo/AFP

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says a substantial part of the country's population will be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the early part of 2021. /La Moncloa/Fernando Calvo/AFP



Jemima Walker in London

In the UK, the finance minister Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a pay freeze for public sector workers, excluding those in the National Health Service. 

It is thought he will say the move reflects the fall in private sector earnings. The freeze would affect many key workers such as soldiers and teachers. The announcement is expected to be made in Sunak's spending review next week.

Matt Hancock, the British health minister, says a vaccine rollout could begin "within weeks." The Derby Arena sports center in England's East Midlands has been identified as a possible mass-vaccination site, while it has also been announced that everyone over the age of 50 will be offered the flu vaccination for free.

Government borrowing has soared as the UK continues to support the economy during the pandemic. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said borrowing hit $29.6 billion last month, the highest October figure since monthly records began in 1993, and has reached $285.6 billion in the first seven months of the financial year.




Lucy Hough in Brussels

Belgium's coronavirus hospitalizations have continued to drop for the third day in a row. Between November 13 and 19, an average of 372.3 patients were admitted to hospital, down 25 percent from the week before.

The number of people admitted to intensive care is also starting to fall, down by 41 to 1,284. There are a total 2,000 ICU beds in Belgium. An average 4,353 daily new infections were reported, a 37 percent decrease from the previous week.

From Monday, Belgium will resume testing asymptomatic people as pressure on the testing system wanes.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has warned Belgians that Christmas will likely only be celebrated with immediate family members, with no major relaxation of the coronavirus restrictions planned.


We will have to spend the festivities in a more sober way. Big parties, kisses and hugs will not be possible
 -  Giuseppe Conte, Italy's prime minister


Trent Murray in Frankfurt

The latest data from Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) indicate there have been 23,648 new COVID-19 infections. It's the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic and shows the country is still struggling to contain the second wave. There have also been 260 deaths, the same number as recorded yesterday.

But Lothar Wieler, head of the RKI, says the overall data indicate case numbers may be starting to stabilize, although they remain too high. He told journalists in Berlin: "We do not see the number of cases falling yet, but I am optimistic that they will."

German policymakers hope the country's partial lockdown, which started almost three weeks ago, might soon start to yield serious results and contribute to a decline in numbers. The optimism, however, also comes with a warning that Germany's hospital system cannot afford any further major increases as ICU beds continue to be filled by sick coronavirus patients.


Danish authorities say a mink cull has rendered a COVID-19 mutation 'most likely' extinct. /Sergei Grits/AP

Danish authorities say a mink cull has rendered a COVID-19 mutation 'most likely' extinct. /Sergei Grits/AP


Ross Cullen in Paris

Olivier Veran, France's health minister, said: "In recent days, indicators have improved, but the pressure exerted by the epidemic on our health system and on our hospitals remains extremely high."

Business leaders are meeting ministers in the French finance ministry on Friday to discuss the potential reopening of non-essential shops next weekend, which would be the current planned end date of lockdown. 

The government is considering a reinforced sanitary protocol to allow non-essential shops to reopen, which would include a total number of people who are allowed in any shop at one time, based on the size of the premises. Mandatory masks, one-way walkways and hand sanitizer are already in place.

Amazon France has agreed to delay Black Friday by a week due to the pandemic and lockdown measures. The famous discount day is now set to take place on December 4.


Linda Kennedy in Budapest

Samples of the Russian-developed COVID-19 vaccine, known as Sputnik V, have arrived in Hungary. It's the first European country to receive the least-studied vaccine to protect against the virus. Doses arrived on a flight, with the temperature kept at -10 degrees Celsius.

More than 4,500 new cases of the coronavirus have been announced in Hungary, bringing the total to 161,461. There were 92 more fatalities, increasing the total death toll to 3,472. It's reported most of the deaths were among elderly patients.

Police have taken action against a further 309 people for violating the country's curfew, according to the deputy head of the coronavirus epidemic's on-call duty center.

Hungary's government is releasing new information videos on social media about the coronavirus restrictions. The videos are on topics from mask wearing to stopping events. The videos will also run on television and radio.





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Source(s): Reuters ,AFP