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Facebook Misinformation; Sweden Shuts Schools: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel extended the nation’s partial lockdown for three more weeks, with the daily death toll at its highest since April. Facebook Inc. said it will start removing false claims about the immunizations that have been debunked by public health experts.

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The number of coronavirus cases reported in Iran surpassed 1 million, the Middle East’s worst outbreak. Sweden will close all of its upper secondary schools for one month to curb the pandemic.

Covid patients occupied more than 14% of beds in U.S. hospitals on Nov. 30, the most on record, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Los Angeles ordered residents to stay home and businesses that require in-person work to cease operations. Worldwide, daily infections passed 700,000 for the first time.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases reach 64.6 million; deaths top 1.49 millionOperation Warp Speed and U.K. vaccine drive leave Europe behindU.S. Hot Spots: New York, California, Rust Belt drive death surgeThe U.K. has approved a vaccine. Here’s what happens nextVaccine Tracker: Covid-19 inoculations are about to beginThe best and worst places to be in the coronavirus era

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID



chart, histogram: U.S. records its deadliest day of the pandemic as virus fatalities top 2,600


© Bloomberg
U.S. records its deadliest day of the pandemic as virus fatalities top 2,600

Global Infections Top 700,000 in One Day (10:33 a.m. NY)

Daily infections reported worldwide reached a record 716,289 on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. It was the first time over 700,000. Daily cases recorded one month ago were 490,455.

Serbia Orders Partial Lockdown (10:19 a.m. NY)

Serbia ordered a partial lockdown for retailers and most services over the weekend, allowing groceries, gas stations and pharmacies to stay open, while also curbing working hours for non-essential business even during weekdays.

Infections and deaths from Covid-19 have soared since late October, with daily death tolls around 50 and new cases now persistently above 7,000 a day in the country of 7 million.

Maine Hits Record (10:15 a.m. NY)

Maine, which had largely been spared from the outbreak, hit a record 349 daily cases, the state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. That’s more than double the 153 infections reported a month ago, state data show. Cases began rising rapidly at the end of October, as did hospitalizations. Two more people died, for a total of 220 fatalities.

Fauci Says He Will Stay on Under Biden (10:10 a.m. NY)

Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-disease expert in the U.S., will continue at the National Institutes of Health under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, he told CBS in an interview.

Fauci also said he’ll take a Covid-19 vaccine in public after it has been approved by the FDA, adding he wished the U.K. had spent more time reviewing the Pfizer vaccine.

U.K.’s ‘Obscure’ PPE Process Challenged in Suit (9:13 a.m. NY)

A public-interest group told a London court that the U.K. wasted millions of pounds on Covid-19 personal protective equipment as it rushed into contracts at the start of the pandemic. Nearly 400 million pounds ($538 million) worth of protective gear, including masks and gowns, that were bought earlier in the year remain in storage and have never reached frontline doctors and nurses, the Good Law Project said in a court filing Thursday.

Facebook Will Take Down Covid Vaccine Misinformation (9 a.m. NY)

With vaccines against Covid-19 on the verge of being rolled out around the world, Facebook said it will start removing false claims about the immunizations that have been debunked by public health experts. The move announced Thursday adds to Facebook’s policy of taking down misinformation about the deadly virus that could lead to imminent physical harm.

Sweden Shuts Upper Secondary Schools (8:24 a.m. NY)

Sweden will close all of its upper secondary schools for one month as part of renewed measures to slow the spread of Covid-19. On Thursday, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven described the nationwide closure as necessary, saying “there will be a day when things return to normal, but that day isn’t here yet.”

The move to online education reverses a policy decision from May, when the government said that high school and university students could return as normal in the fall semester. It said at the time that people up to 19 years of age are less affected by the virus.

U.S. Covid-19 Hospitalizations Rose to 14.6%; Most on Record (8:15 a.m. NY)

More than 14% of hospital beds in U.S. hospitals were occupied by Covid-19 patients on Nov. 30, the most on record, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The hospitalization rate rose to 14.6% from 14.3% the day before and hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients totaled 102,579.

The U.S. hospitalization rate was 0.6 percentage points above the five-day average of 14%.

Indonesia’s Virus Cases Rise by Record (7:13 a.m. NY)

Indonesia added the highest number of new coronavirus cases since the outbreak began, with the province of Papua adding the most new infections compared to other regions.

The health ministry confirmed 8,369 new cases in the 24 hours through midday Dec. 3, beating the previous record of 6,267 on Nov. 29. That brings the country’s positivity rate to 18.4% on Thursday, considering 45,479 people were tested during the period.

WHO Plans Vaccination Dashboard (7:05 a.m. NY)

The World Health Organization plans to develop a dashboard that will measure the uptake of Covid-19 vaccinations, according to Siddhartha Datta, program manager for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization.

That’s critical both for planning purposes in various countries and for any mid-campaign changes to vaccination strategies, he said. The WHO is working with different member states to understand their preparedness and has set up a regional monitoring mechanism that allows countries to submit their status.

Covid Drugs Need U.S. Controls to Prevent Gouging (7 a.m. NY)

The U.S. government should set prices for coronavirus vaccines and therapies to prevent gouging, a coalition of companies and other employers said.

Medicare, the health program serving older Americans, should determine fair prices for Covid-19 drugs and inoculations that would also be paid by companies, organizations and individuals, Employers’ Prescription for Affordable Drugs said in a statement. The group cited Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir antiviral as an example of an overpriced therapy.

South Africa’s President to Address Nation (6:03 a.m. NY)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the country Thursday on his government’s response to the coronavirus after new cases surged to the most since August.

South Africa recorded 4,173 cases on Wednesday, lifting the number of infected to more than 796,000, with the coastal Eastern and Western Cape provinces the hardest hit in the latest spike. The country’s National Coronavirus Command Council has agreed to impose a 10 p.m. curfew and restrictions on alcohol sales in virus hotspots, News24 reported Wednesday, citing people it didn’t identify.



Cyril Ramaphosa wearing a suit and tie: Interview with South Africa's President Ramaphosa


© Bloomberg
Interview with South Africa’s President Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president.

Unknown Nation-State Attacking Vaccine Cold Chain (6 a.m. NY)

Nation-state hackers have been masquerading the past few months as one of the world’s largest cold-chain providers in a global email phishing scam seemingly aimed at spying on entities essential to the global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, researchers said.

X-Force, a digital security unit at International Business Machines Corp., discovered an email operation in which hackers claimed to represent Qingdao Haier Biomedical Co., a China-based company and one of the world’s largest cold-chain suppliers, making equipment to store and deliver materials at cold temperatures. In at least one copy of the spam email, the fake Haier representative sought to purchase about 500 vaccine refrigerators to bolster their temperature-controlled logistical services.

Pandemic Pushed 32 Million Into Extreme Poverty (6:47 p.m. HK)

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the world’s poorest countries, pushing millions into extreme poverty, according to a United Nations report.

More than 32 million additional people in the poorest countries in the world now live on less than $1.90 a day — a direct result of the outbreak, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said Thursday.

Moscow to Begin Mass Vaccinations Saturday (6:46 p.m. HK)

Moscow will begin giving high-risk workers Covid-19 vaccinations on Saturday after President Vladimir Putin called for authorities to roll out a mass inoculation program. The first doses will be for teachers, health care workers and city social services employees, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on his blog. The list of eligible people will be expanded as more supplies arrive, he said.

Russia has the world’s fourth-highest number of cases globally, with almost 2.4 million. On Wednesday, Putin said more than 2 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine will be ready for use in the coming days.



Phase III Trials of Russia's 'Sputnik V' COVID-19 Vaccine


© Bloomberg
Phase III Trials of Russia’s ‘Sputnik V’ COVID-19 Vaccine

A health worker administers a Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine shot during a trial at the City Clinic #2 in Moscow, on Nov. 26.

Greece Extends Lockdown for a Week (6:43 p.m. HK)

Greece extended its lockdown until Dec. 14, said Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman. “Certain types of economic activity are simply not going to operate until we have a vaccine,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday.

Iran Surpasses 1 Million Covid Cases (6:30 p.m. HK)

The number of coronavirus cases reported in Iran surpassed 1 million on Thursday, underlining the virus’s persistent spread in the Middle East’s worst outbreak. The Health Ministry announced 13,922 new cases in the country of about 80 million, above the seven-day average of 13,598.

While new infections have leveled out in the past week, the daily death toll has fallen from a record high of 486 on Nov. 16 to 358 on Thursday. Some 49,348 people have so far died from the disease.

U.K. Won Vaccine Race Because It’s a ‘Better Country’ (6:12 p.m. HK)

A minister in Boris Johnson’s government said the U.K. won the race to approve a coronavirus vaccine because it’s a “better country,” threatening to amplify a row over Britain claiming credit for the shot.

“We’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulator, much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have,” Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told LBC Radio on Thursday. “That doesn’t surprise me at all because we’re a much better country than every single one of them.”

Hungary Reports Record Number of Deaths (5:15 p.m. HK)

Hungary reported a record 182 covid deaths, with the daily toll having stayed consistently above 150 for almost a week. There were 7,693 coronavirus patients in hospital, including 663 on ventilators, the government said Thursday. Officials have been bracing for a surge into at least early December because of the delayed effect of lockdown restrictions imposed last month.

The nation may see the rate of infections and deaths start to fall this month, Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas told reporters.

Study Shows Economic Gains From Sharing Vaccines (5 p.m. HK)

Ten of the world’s biggest economies would get a combined boost of at least $153 billion through next year if Covid-19 vaccines are shared on an equitable basis with low- and medium-income countries, according to a report by the Eurasia Group commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That would rise to $466 billion through 2025, compared with the $38 billion estimated cost of the ACT Accelerator, a program to develop vaccines and treatments.

The pandemic could push the number of people living in extreme poverty to more than 1 billion by 2030, the United Nations Development Program said in a separate report.

Italian Cabinet Approves New Restrictions (4:21 p.m. HK)

The Italian government approved a new restriction plan for the Christmas and New Year holiday season, banning movements between regions from Dec. 21 to Jan. 6. Movements between different towns will also be banned on Dec. 25, Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, according to a statement from the cabinet.

High schools would reopen on Jan. 7, and cruises would be banned, according to a draft of a new decree seen by Bloomberg, which is being finalized by the administration of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The draft is subject to change, with measures due to come into force on Friday.

Germany Extends Virus Curbs Into 2021 (3:36 p.m. HK)

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will extend its partial lockdown by three weeks as the country struggles to regain control of the coronavirus spread. Bars, gyms and cinemas will remain closed until Jan. 10 and the government will reconvene with regional leaders on Jan. 4 to reassess the restrictions, Merkel said late Wednesday after talks with the premiers of Germany’s 16 states.

The country’s infection rates are still far too high and need to come down faster, Merkel said in Berlin. “We have to bemoan a very high number of deaths every day, which shows the amount of responsibility that we have.”



a group of people sitting on the side of a building: Germany Maintains Semi-Lockdown In Effort To Rein In Coronavirus Infections


© Photographer: Maja Hitij/Getty Images Europe
Germany Maintains Semi-Lockdown In Effort To Rein In Coronavirus Infections

BERLIN, GERMANY – NOVEMBER

Visitors walk past a shuttered Berlin restaurant. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

(An earlier version was corrected to the right time stamps)

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