Coronavirus Government Global Briefing: December 2

By Chris Woods

December 2, 2020

Welcome to Coronavirus Government Global Briefing, Mandarin Premium’s coverage of local and global COVID-19 policy news.

Global cases surge ahead of year’s end

As we head into the final month of 2020, global COVID-19 cases have exceeded 63 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, and official deaths have eclipsed the 1.47 million mark.

Cases continue to climb at an exponential rate, with a Reuters analysis demonstrating it took just 17 days for the global caseload to jump from 50 to 60 million, compared to the 21 days it took to move from 40 to 50 million.

The past few weeks have seen spikes in not just those countries that had initially failed to suppress the virus — notably the US, where the latest CDC report shows that weekly hospitalisation rates are higher now than at any other time during the pandemic — but previously successful countries such as South Korea, which recorded a nine-month high of 569 new cases last Friday due to a widespread third wave across Seoul and surrounding areas; as CNA reports, young people are at the centre of this surge, with health authorities estimating asymptomatic patients now account for 40% of total infections, up from 20-30% in June.

According to Johns Hopkins, countries with the highest average daily caseloads as of December 1 include:

  1. The US: 164,489
  2. India: 38,256
  3. Turkey: 33,777*
  4. Brazil: 32,914
  5. Russia: 23,628
  6. Italy: 22,920
  7. Ukraine: 14,147
  8. United Kingdom: 13,826
  9. Iran: 13,431
  10. Germany: 13,020

*As AP explains, Turkey’s “curve” may look a little disjointed due to the fact President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government last week resumed reporting all positive cases instead of just the number of patients being treated for symptoms.

Source: Johns Hopkins University, December 1.

Vaccine roll-out wrap

Following promising final phase test results in November from three candidates — Pfizer-BioNTech (95% efficacy), Moderna (94.5%, based on interim analysis) and the more-easily distributed AstraZeneca-Oxford (70% or, according to researchers, 90% when a person is only given an initial half-dose before their second full dose) — we are seeing a slew of news and analysis on how vaccines will be rolled-out globally:

  • After final analysis of its phase three study demonstrated 94%.1 efficacy, Moderna has applied for emergency licences in the US, UK and Europe. Britain has also asked its medical regulator to assess the AstraZeneca-Oxford candidate for temporary supply.
  • As Germany awaits regulatory approval for the vaccines, Berlin is rushing to open six mass vaccination centres capable of handling up to 4,000 people per day by mid-December.
  • Science writer Elie Dolgin has explored known (i.e. vaccine efficacy) and unknown (i.e. T-cell responses and duration of antibodies) qualities of several candidates at Nature; for example, the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine might have a slight edge in terms of immune response and minor safety concerns such as fatigue and muscle pain, while Moderna could have the upper hand in distribution and storage infrastructure.
  • In a new piece at The Diplomat, Melbourne-based political analyst Grant Wyeth argues that Australia could expand on pledges to guarantee vaccine access to Pacific Island neighbours and assist with roll-outs throughout Southeast Asia by partnering with India, which has unmatched medical manufacturing capacities.
  • Nature has published a guide to how vaccines have been secured up by world governments; for example, Canada, perhaps surprisingly, leads the world in terms of doses secured per capita.
  • Finally, public health physician Vageesh Jain has explored at the Center for Global Development how low-and-middle income countries will have to determine who gets vaccination with COVAX-guaranteed supplies of just 20%-per-population.

On the home front: borders begin to fall

As the ABC reports, the Western Australian government yesterday announced plans to lift its borders to Victoria and NSW from 12.01 am Tuesday, December 8, although it still considers South Australia a “medium risk” state and will continue to require fourteen-day quarantines from residents until at least December 11.

Premier Mark McGowan labelled it a “remarkable achievement” for Victoria to pass WA’s benchmark of 28 days without community spread, and he expected New South Wales will reach the same milestone on Friday.

The announcement came as South Australia, which has now clocked in two days of no new cases, opened its border to Victoria. The state’s chief public health officer, Nicola Spurrier, earlier this week apologised to a 30-year-old infected man falsely accused of breaching quarantine; while still potentially contagious at the times he visited local shops, the man was only listed as a close contact of a COVID-19 patient and had no obligation to remain in quarantine after initially testing negative.

State authorities continue to urge anyone on SAHealth’s contact tracing list to be tested, including calls for anyone who visited sites named by the aforementioned man to be tested and isolate regardless of symptoms:

  • Flinders University Sturt Campus, Bedford Park – 13 to 28 November (Intensive English Language Institute attendees and household members must quarantine – see more information)
  • Big W Brickworks, Torrensville – Sunday 22 November 12.15 pm – 12.50 pm
  • Foodland Norwood, Norwood – Sunday 22 November 1.20 pm – 2 pm
  • Kmart, Kurralta Park – Sunday 22 November 2.45 pm – 3.10 pm
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