Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine 70% effective: Full trial data

UK starts rolling out COVID-19 vaccine as drug-maker Pfizer moves closer to approval in the hardest-hit United States.

A nurse administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, December 8, 2020. UK health authorities have rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine, starting a global immunisation programme that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval [Frank Augstein/AP Photo]

Oxford University and AstraZeneca became the first Covid-19 vaccine makers to publish final-stage clinical trial results in a scientific journal, clearing a key hurdle in the global race to produce safe and effective drugs for the new coronavirus.

A World Health Organization official warned only public health measures – not vaccines – can prevent a new surge of COVID-19 cases as the first vaccines are administered in the United Kingdom.

The UK started rolling out the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the first Western country to begin vaccinating its population against infection from the new coronavirus.

Here are the latest updates:

Pressure mounts on Hungary, Poland to unlock EU stimulus

The German presidency of the EU said that further delaying the European Union’s landmark 1.82 trillion-euro ($2.21 trillion) long-term budget and coronavirus recovery package would be “irresponsible” as diplomats envisage a solution without Poland and Hungary, the two EU states holding up the measure.

German European Affairs minister Michael Roth said the stimulus is crucial for many European countries whose economies have been devastated by the pandemic.

But Poland and Hungary, who agreed on the deal in July, are now vetoing the package because of a mechanism that would allow the EU to cut off funds to countries that violate the bloc’s democratic standards

French new coronavirus cases jump to 13,717

New confirmed coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours in France jumped to 13,713, from 3,411 on Monday and 8,083 last Tuesday, health ministry data showed.

On the 11th day after the government eased a nationwide lockdown, the number of people in intensive care however fell by 110 to 3,088, bringing it closer to a 2,500-3,000 government threshold that is one of the conditions for further lockdown easing.

Chef Louis-Philippe D’Introno serves customers outside the Cafe Le Bex in Paris, as the French government keeps bars and restaurants closed as part of the COVID-19 measures to fight a second wave of the coronavirus disease in France [File: Charles Platiau/Reuters]


Brazil governors demand diverse vaccine supply amid access concerns

Brazilian governors met with Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello on Tuesday to ensure broad access to COVID-19 vaccines amid concerns the government will fail to secure a diverse supply of potential shots.

After the meeting, Pazuello said in a statement the federal government would acquire any effective vaccine approved by the health regulator Anvisa. He added that Brazil’s vaccination program was expected to begin at the end of February.

Trump lawyer Giuliani has ‘improved significantly’, son says

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, hospitalized with the coronavirus, has improved significantly and continues to recover, Giuliani’s son said on Twitter.

“He’s improved significantly over the last 48 hours and continues to get better,” Andrew Giuliani said of his father. “I can’t get him off the phone for the last day; the man never stops working!”

Biden outlines COVID-19 vaccine goal: 100 million shots in 100 days

US President-elect Joe Biden said he would aim to get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses injected into Americans in his first 100 days in office, a key plank of his plan to fight the pandemic.

Biden also urged the US Congress to approve more funding to deal with the coronavirus health crisis.

Trump campaign attorney Ellis has contracted coronavirus -source

Jenna Ellis, an attorney helping lead President Donald Trump’s legal challenges to the results of the US presidential election, has contracted the coronavirus, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters news agency.

Ellis has been working side-by-side with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani trying to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s November election victory and last week sat next to Giuliani, who also has contracted COVID-19, during a Michigan state legislature hearing on the election where few people wore masks.

Jenna Ellis, right, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters [File: Jacquelyn Martin/AP]

Swiss sound alarm as Covid situation worsens

Switzerland said its coronavirus situation was taking an exponential turn for the worse, having stabilised at a high level despite restrictions to counter the pandemic.

The government said it wanted to bring in new nationwide measures from Saturday, including a 7pm closing time for shops and restaurants – with total closure an option down the line if the situation does not improve rapidly.

Turkey’s daily COVID-19 deaths at record high 211 – ministry

Turkey’s daily coronavirus deaths rose to a record 211 in the last 24 hours, data from the Health Ministry showed on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 15,314.

Turkey also recorded 33,198 new coronavirus cases, including asymptomatic ones, in the last 24 hours, the highest number reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

Police officers check documents of foreign tourists at the entrance of the main shopping and pedestrian street of Istiklal?during a nation-wide weekend curfew which was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Istanbul, Turkey [Murad Sezer/Reuters]

Canada confident in vaccine deliveries even if US blocks exports

Canada is confident there will be no disruption of COVID-19 vaccine supplies even if the United States blocks their export.

Asked about the impact of any executive order by US President Donald Trump on deliveries, Dominic LeBlanc, minister of intergovernmental affairs, said Canada’s purchases are not tied to any one manufacturing site, and noted Pfizer is manufacturing in Europe as well as the United States.

“We’re very confident that Pfizer and other vaccine makers that are contractually obligated to deliver vaccine doses to Canada will be able to meet those obligations,” said LeBlanc.

Pfizer says could vaccinate a ‘couple of million’ Brazilians in first quarter

The chief executive of Pfizer Brasil, Carlos Murillo, said “a couple of million” Brazilians could receive the company’s COVID-19 vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 if Brazil authorizes emergency use.

Murillo said the terms of an agreement to sell Brazil 70 million doses of the vaccines could be settled this week.

Speaking remotely to a Congressional hearing on the pandemic, he explained Pfizer’s plan to use containers of dry ice to deliver the vaccine that needs to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures.


India minister: vaccine licences likely in next few weeks

India’s health ministry announced that some COVID-19 vaccines are likely to receive licenses in the next few weeks and outlined an initial plan to immunise 300 million people.

Health officials said three vaccine companies have applied for early approval for emergency use in India: Serum Institute of India, which has been licensed to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine, Pfizer Inc., and Indian manufacturer Bharat Biotech.

India says its initial immunization plan revolves around three priority groups: 10 million healthcare workers, 20 million front-line workers such as the police and military, and 270 million other people either above age 50 or who have diseases that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19’s effects.

Key workers given priority in Ireland’s vaccine rollout

Workers deemed essential to “societal and economic activity” in Ireland will be prioritised in the government’s planned COVID-19 vaccine rollout, behind only elderly care home residents, the over 65s and healthcare workers.

Key workers in environments where there is a high risk of exposure, such as food supply, public and commercial transport, will be placed ahead of those aged 55-64 years, alongside school and pre-school staff.

A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a man painting a mural, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Dublin, Ireland, August 20, 2020. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Workers deemed essential to ‘societal and economic activity’ in Ireland will be prioritised in the government’s planned COVID-19 vaccine rollout [File: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]

Oxford/Astra first to publish final-stage vaccine trial results

Results of a clinical trial of the vaccine produced by British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University became the first to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The vaccine AZD1222 was about 70-per-cent effective, scientist Andrew Pollard and his team wrote in the academic journal The Lancet, confirming findings the manufacturers had released in November.

Hello, this is Usaid Siddiqui in Toronto, Canada, taking over from my colleague Umut Uras.

Switzerland buys three million more Moderna vaccine doses

Switzerland has secured an additional three million doses of the Moderna vaccine as it tries to hedge its bets between rival coronavirus jabs.

Switzerland now has about 7.5 million doses of US biotechnology firm Moderna’s vaccine.

“Since the development and availability of COVID-19 vaccines is subject to a great deal of uncertainty, the government is pursuing various options,” the Federal Office of Public Health said in a statement.

The wealthy Alpine nation with a population of 8.6 million has secured about 15.8 million vaccine doses in total with additions from other companies.


Scottish health authorities begin mass vaccinations

Scottish health authorities have begun the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out.

The first 800,000 doses are going to people over the age of 80 who are either hospitalised or already have outpatient appointments scheduled, along with nursing home workers. Others will have to wait their turn.

“Any of us who were around in March or April would have given anything to think we would be at this point where we have an incredibly effective vaccine. It’s an absolute turning point for everyone and I’m delighted to be here to see it happening in Scotland,” said Dr Nicola Steedman, the interim deputy chief medical officer.

Gaza: EU delegation pledges to provide COVID-19 tests, vaccine

EU representatives have promised to help the Gaza Strip with its fight against the coronavirus during a visit to the beleaguered Palestinian enclave.

The Israel-Egypt blockaded strip ran out of COVID-19 tests days ago. The WHO supplied 19,500 tests to the health ministry on Monday, which is sufficient for eight days.

The number of infections recently spiked in Gaza, where two million people live in cramped conditions with dilapidated infrastructure.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine has warned the strip’s health system could collapse if the number of cases continues to rise with hospitals overwhelmed.

‘End in sight’: UK health minister says fight back against COVID-19 under way

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the launch of a vaccination campaign against COVID-19 marked “the start of the fight back against our common enemy, coronavirus”.

Hancock told members of Parliament “help is on its way and the end is in sight”. But he added while there was now a route out, “there’s still a long march ahead. Let’s not blow it now”.

The British minister pointed to increasing virus cases in parts of the country such as London, Kent and Essex to stress restrictions needed to be followed over the coming weeks and months, “to keep people safe and make sure we can get through this safely together”.

The UK is the first Western country to start a mass vaccination programme.

Dutch health authority reports ‘worrying rise’ in infections

The Netherlands has reported a “worrying rise” in the number of coronavirus infections as the government prepared to announce whether it will allow any relaxation over the Christmas holidays of its partial lockdown.

The health institute said the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by more than 9,000 to 43,103 in a week. The total death toll is approaching 10,000.

The Netherlands has been in a partial lockdown since mid-October when the country was recording some of Europe’s highest infections rates. The closures of all bars and restaurants along with restrictions on the number of people who could gather at home and outdoors brought the infection rate down, but the decline has stagnated in recent weeks.

Quantities of COVID-19 tests insufficient for mass testing: Roche

Quantities of COVID-19 tests are insufficient to cope with current global demand and ensure mass testing successfully, Roche’s Chief Executive Severin Schwan said.

“For the time being demand for tests is higher than the industry can provide for,” Schwan said at a briefing.

“It very important that testing is prioritized. I can see in the mid-term an opportunity to open up the economy by testing much more broadly. But for the time being the quantities [of diagnostic tests] are simply not available for that.”

He added: “We still have little information about duration and efficacy of vaccines … so diagnostics will remain very important, not only for the months to come but the years to come.”

Mexico aims to begin vaccinating 125,000 health workers by year-end

Mexico aims to begin the COVID-19 vaccination process for 125,000 people in December, apparently scaling back its earlier plan to apply the first vaccine doses for 250,000 people by end of the year.

Mexico’s Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez Gatell said Mexico will prioritise health workers and elderly people to receive the first doses of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine.

The second phase of Mexico’s vaccination programme is slated to begin in February.

Mexico aims to begin the COVID-19 vaccination process for 125,000 people in December [File: Victoria Razo/Al Jazeera]

US gov’t passed up chance to lock in more vaccine doses

President Donald Trump’s administration faces new scrutiny after failing to lock in a chance to buy millions of additional doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. That decision could delay the delivery of a second batch of doses until Pfizer fulfils other international contracts.

Under its contract with Pfizer, the Trump administration committed to buying an initial 100 million doses, with an option to buy as many as five times more.

But this summer, the White House opted not to lock in an additional 100 million doses for delivery in the second quarter of 2021, according to people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss it publicly.

Dr Moncef Slaoui, who is leading the government’s vaccine effort, noted the Trump administration was looking at a number of different vaccines during the summer. He told ABC’s Good Morning America “no one reasonably would buy more from any one of those vaccines because we didn’t know which one would work and which one would be better than the other”.

UK: Vaccine patient thought being 1st was ‘a joke’

Margaret Keenan, 90 – the first UK citizen jabbed in the initial phase of a mass vaccination programme – thought “it was a joke” when told she would be the first recipient of the COVID vaccine.

The first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were delivered to about 80,000 UK hospitals on Sunday. But the 800,000 doses are only a fraction of what is needed.

The vaccine cannot arrive soon enough for the United Kingdom, which has more than 61,000 COVID-19-related deaths – more than any other country in Europe. The UK has more than 1.7 million cases.

The government is targeting more than 25 million people, or about 40 percent of the population, with the vaccine.

Trump seeks to secure vaccine supply as US death toll surges

The Trump administration will seek to shore up the US vaccine supply as the coronavirus pandemic killed 15,000 people in the United States last week alone and has overwhelmed hospitals.

Outgoing President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Tuesday to ensure priority access for COVID-19 vaccines procured by the US government is given to the American people before assisting other nations.

The signing follows a New York Times report that Pfizer may not be able to provide more of its vaccine to the United States until next June because of its commitments to other countries. The Washington Post also reported the Trump administration months ago passed on the chance to buy twice as many as the 100 million they agreed to.

US: FDA staff backs Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine data

Pfizer cleared the next hurdle in the race to get its COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released documents that did not raise any new issues about its safety or efficacy.

Data on the vaccine submitted to the agency was in line with its guidance on emergency use authorisation, FDA staff said in documents released ahead of Thursday’s meeting of outside experts.

A two-dose vaccination was highly effective in preventing confirmed cases of COVID-19 at least seven days after the last dose, FDA staff said.

The FDA said there was currently insufficient data to make conclusions about the safety of the vaccine in those less than 16 years of age, pregnant women and those whose immune systems were compromised. The FDA is expected to decide on whether to authorise the vaccine within days or weeks.

Morocco to kick off mass vaccination plan with Chinese drug

Morocco is gearing up for an ambitious COVID-19 vaccination programme aiming to vaccinate 80 percent of its adults in an operation starting this month that is relying initially on a Chinese vaccine that has not yet completed advanced trials to prove it is safe and effective.

The first injections could come within days, a health ministry official said. Facing a public sceptical about the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness, medical experts and health officials have appeared on television in recent weeks to promote the COVID-19 vaccines and encourage Moroccans to get immunised.

The WHO has said new vaccines should first be tested in tens of thousands of people to prove they work and do not cause worrisome side effects before being rolled out broadly.

UK’s initial AstraZeneca shots will come from Europe, task force says

The UK’s initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University will come from Europe rather than a domestic supply chain, the country’s Vaccine Taskforce said.

The “vast, vast, vast majority” – more than 80 percent – of the 100 million doses AstraZeneca will produce for the UK will be made there, Ian McCubbin, manufacturing lead for the Vaccine Taskforce, said, but this year’s first batches will not.

“The initial supply and it’s a little bit of a quirk of the programme actually comes from the Netherlands and Germany,” he told reporters, adding: “But once that’s supplied, which we expect will be all by the end of this year, then the remainder of the supply will be a UK supply chain.”

Study links Japan’s domestic travel campaign to increased COVID-19 symptoms

Researchers in Japan have found a higher incidence of COVID-19 symptoms among people who have participated in a domestic travel campaign promoted by the government, suggesting it is contributing to a spread in the virus.

The findings will make dismal reading for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has defended the travel campaign, saying it was needed to stop many small businesses in the hospitality sector from going bust due to the lack of customers as a result of the virus scare.

High fever was reported by 4.8 percent of users of the Go To Travel campaign compared with 3.7 percent for non-users, according to a preprint of a study that examined data from an internet survey of more than 25,000 adults. Participants also had higher rates of throat pain, cough, headache, and a loss of the sense of taste or smell.

South Korea to buy millions of coronavirus vaccine doses

South Korea says it has signed deals to provide coronavirus vaccines for 44 million people next year but it will not hurry inoculation to allow more time to observe potential side effects.

Its cautious approach comes as the country of almost 52 million people battles surging COVID-19 infections that health authorities say threaten to overwhelm the medical system.

Other countries are moving ahead to grant emergency use approval for the vaccines in a bid to contain virus transmission.

A medical worker takes samples from a woman during the COVID-19 testing at a makeshift clinic in Seoul [File: AP]

Israel to get initial Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shipment on Thursday: Minister

Israel will receive one of the first shipments of Pfizer Inc coronavirus vaccines and will administer them to the elderly and other high-risk groups, a cabinet minister said.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech last month agreed to provide Israel with eight million doses of the vaccine, which the UK became the first country to administer.

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen confirmed media reports that a first batch would be flown to Tel Aviv from Chicago on Thursday.

India may authorise some COVID-19 vaccines in weeks: Health secretary

India’s government regulator could grant a license to some developers of COVID-19 vaccines in the next few weeks, the country’s top health official has said.

Six vaccines, including Astra Zeneca’s Covidshield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, are in trial stages, Federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan told a news conference.

Bhushan said Bharat Biotech had sought emergency-use authorisation from India’s drug regulator for its COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer and Astra Zeneca have already applied for emergency-use authorisation in India.

WHO says immune barrier from vaccines ‘still far off’

A WHO official says only public health measures, not vaccines, can prevent a new surge of COVID-19 cases.

“Vaccines are a great tool, they will be very helpful, but the effect of the vaccine in providing some kind of immune barrier is still far off,” said Dr Margaret Harris in response to a question at a Geneva briefing about whether the vaccines would come in time to prevent a third wave of cases in Europe.

“The things that must be done to prevent an increase, an uptick, a surge or whatever you want to call it are the public health measures,” she added.

A nurse administers the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London [Reuters]

Japan sends military nurses to Hokkaido to cope with coronavirus: Media

Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi ordered the country’s Self Defense Forces to send nurses to a city in northern Hokkaido prefecture that was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, media said.

Kishi ordered the dispatch of two teams of five Self Defense Force nurses to hospitals in the city of Asahikawa, public broadcaster NHK said.

Poland has bought more than 60 million COVID-19 vaccine doses: PM

Poland has bought more than 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from six producers, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

“We are secured – and now is the time for a great challenge, which is the implementation of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Bio Farma: Interim data for Sinovac vaccine shows up to 97 percent efficacy

Indonesia’s state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma has said interim data on trials it was conducting on vaccines produced by the Chinese company Sinovac showed up to 97 percent efficacy.

“Our clinical trial team found, within one month, that the interim data shows up to 97% for its efficacy,” said Iwan Setiawan, a spokesman for Bio Farma, at a news conference.

He did not elaborate whether the interim result was from a late-stage clinical trial, but another Bio Farma spokesman told the Reuters news agency later the company is still gathering data on efficacy from the ongoing phase three trial.

An employee works on the production line of COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines at the Bio Farma Pharmacy [AFP]

UK’s Hancock hopes to start lifting COVID curbs from spring

British health minister Matt Hancock says he hopes life will get back to normal from the spring of next year, following the start on Tuesday of the roll-out of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

“Because we’ve been able to get this vaccination programme running sooner than anywhere else in the world, we will be able to bring that date forward a bit. I have great hopes for summer 2021 and I hope we can lift restrictions from the spring,” Hancock told the BBC.

Hong Kong to limit dining, close gyms and beauty salons

Hong Kong has said the city would once again ban dining in restaurants after 6pm (10:00 GMT) and close all gyms and beauty salons, to curb a rise in coronavirus cases in the densely packed financial hub.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the government would also study additional relief measures for the industries affected by the latest restrictions that take effect on Thursday, having been enforced and lifted repeatedly this year.

“The situation is very worrying. This wave is more complicated and more severe than the last wave. The confirmed cases are widely spread out,” Lam told reporters at a weekly media briefing. “If we don’t control it strictly, there will be bigger risks. This time we will roll out suppressing measures aimed at limiting foot traffic flow on the streets.”

People wearing face masks against coronavirus shop at a local market in Hong Kong [AP]


UK minister says he will have the COVID-19 jab when appropriate

British health minister Hancock says he will have the COVID-19 vaccine when it is appropriate.

“I’m looking forward to having it, I’ll have it when it’s appropriate,” Hancock told LBC radio.

When asked if London would soon be moved into the top tier of coronavirus restrictions, he said case numbers were going up in parts of London and Londoners should respect current rules.


Fauci warns of post-Christmas COVID-19 surge in the US

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, has warned that the upcoming holiday season may be even worse than Thanksgiving in terms of spreading the coronavirus.

Fauci told CNN that because the traditional Christmas season is an extended period that stretches into New Year’s, the prospects for spreading the virus as people travel “may be even more compounded than what we saw at Thanksgiving”.

After millions ignored expert advice and travelled for the Thanksgiving holiday in November, Fauci anticipated Americans would once again behave recklessly during Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities.

Turkey could start Chinese COVID-19 vaccination this month: Report

Turkey could start administering China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month after analysis for domestic licensing is complete, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca was quoted as saying by Sozcu newspaper.

Koca said shipments of Sinovac’s Coronavac vaccine will arrive after December 11. The vaccine, which has been undergoing phase three trials in Turkey and other countries, will need another two weeks of testing and analysis, the paper said.

In November, Turkey signed a contract to buy 50 million doses of Coronavac, to be delivered in batches between December and February.

ANKARA, TURKEY - MARCH 11: Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca speaks during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey on March 11, 2020. Turkish minister says first case of coronavirus confirmed in the
Koca says shipments of Sinovac’s Coronavac vaccine will arrive after December 11 [AA]


UK’s Johnson thanks health workers after COVID vaccine launch

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has welcomed the start of a COVID vaccination programme and thanked health workers, scientists and people who had volunteered for testing.

“We will beat this together,” Johnson said in a message on social media and urged the public to continue to follow guidance aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

British grandmother is the first person to get Pfizer vaccine outside trial

Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old grandmother from Britain, has become the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine outside of a trial following its rapid clinical approval, Reuters reported.

Keenan received the jab at her local hospital in Coventry, central England, on Tuesday morning at 06:31 GMT, a week before she turns 91.

“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Keenan.

India reports lowest daily rise in COVID-19 cases since July

India has reported 26,567 new coronavirus infections, data from the health ministry showed, the lowest daily increase since July 10, according to a Reuters tally.

Daily cases have been falling in India since hitting a peak in September. The country has 9.7 million cases, the second-highest caseload in the world after the US.

Deaths rose by 385, the health ministry said, with the total now at 140,958.

A health worker collects a swab sample from a woman to test for COVID-19 by a roadside in Jammu, India [AP]

Australia’s western state removes quarantine requirements for more travellers

The state of Western Australia has begun allowing travellers from Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) to enter without having to quarantine for the first time in eight months, the latest sign the country is returning to some kind of normalcy.

Passengers on a Qantas flight arrived in Perth, the capital of Western Australia, from Sydney to emotional scenes of families reuniting after months of separation.

The move comes as Australia’s two most populous states have seen little to no new cases in recent weeks, and underscores Australia’s success in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide.

Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 14,054: RKI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 14,054 to 1,197,709, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases show.

The reported death toll rose by 423 to 19,342, the tally showed.

Japan unveils $708bn in fresh stimulus for COVID-19 recovery

Japan has announced a fresh $708bn economic stimulus package to speed up recovery from the country’s deep coronavirus-driven slump, while targeting investment in new growth areas such as green and digital innovation.

The new package will include about 40 trillion yen ($384.54bn) in direct fiscal spending and initiatives aiming to reduce carbon emissions and boost the adoption of digital technology, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a meeting with ruling party executives.

Policymakers globally have unleashed a wall of monetary and fiscal stimulus to prevent a deep and prolonged recession as the coronavirus closed international borders and sent millions out of work.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies