The United States' top infectious diseases expert says he's worried that crowding at US airports from Thanksgiving travel could lead to a perilous situation as Covid-19 cases surge.
Dr Anthony Fauci told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday that the "people at airports" despite federal guidance to avoid travel "are going to get us into even more trouble than we're in right now".
He noted that new Covid-19 cases from Thanksgiving won't become evident till weeks later, making it "very difficult" as the virus spirals out of control heading into colder weather and the December holiday season.
Fauci said a substantial portion of people being admitted to hospitals for the virus are now between the ages of 40 and 59, as well as the elderly and vulnerable.
He stressed that vaccines should become available in the coming months, but said Americans will need to "hang in there" in the meantime by taking precautions to stem the spread. That includes limiting holiday gatherings to people in the same household if possible, wearing masks, socially distancing and washing hands.
Meanwhile, the head of the US effort to produce a coronavirus vaccine says the first immunisations could happen on December 12.
A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee is set to meet December 10 to discuss Pfizer's request for an emergency use authorisation for its developing Covid-19 vaccine.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech recently announced that the vaccine appears 95 per cent effective at preventing mild to severe Covid-19 disease in a large, ongoing study.
Dr Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, the coronavirus vaccine programme, says plans are to ship vaccines to states within 24 hours of expected FDA approval.
Slaoui told CNN he expects vaccinations would begin on the second day after approval, December 12.
In other global Covid-19 developments, Turkey experienced a record number of people diagnosed with Covid-19 for the second day running on Sunday as 6017 new symptomatic patients were documented, the health ministry said.
The number of new daily cases has surpassed the outbreak's previous peak in April.
Evening lockdowns were introduced over the weekend for the first time since June, with businesses such as restaurants and bars ordered to close.
The ministry said 446,882 patients with symptoms have been identified since the country's first recorded case in March. Turkey does not publicly report confirmed coronavirus cases in people without Covid-19 symptoms, a policy that has been criticised for masking the true scope of the national outbreak.
Turkey recorded 139 Covid-19 deaths over the previous 24 hours, taking the country's total to 12,358, the health ministry reported.
Italy's daily new caseload of confirmed Covid-19 cases dropped by several thousand on Sunday, but nearly 50,000 fewer swab tests to detect the virus were conducted than on the previous day, according to the Health Ministry.
Italy added 28,337 confirmed cases, raising to 1,408,868, the country's total in the pandemic.
Weekends usually mean a drop in number of tests performed. In the last 24 hours, 562 deaths of persons with Covid-19 were registered, increasing to 49,823 Italy's known death toll.
Meanwhile, the autonomous Alpine province of Bolzano said that more than 320,000 residents had turned out for voluntary mass Covid-19 screening in a three-day-long campaign, with some 3000 testing positive. Local officials hope the high turnout for screening among its 520,000 residents and the low percentage of positives will better position the province to be ready again for tourism, a mainstay of the local economy.
In Sudan, a minister on Sunday tested positive for the coronavirus, the prime minister's office said, the latest in a string of senior officials to be infected as the country shows an increase of confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Omar Bashir Manis, minister of cabinet affairs, was in good health after testing positive for the virus, the prime minister office said in a statement.
Over the past month, acting ministers of finance and health, the central bank governor and two associates to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok have tested positive.
Sadiq al-Mahdi, head of the National Umma party, Sudan's largest, tested positive for the virus last month and was taken to the United Arab Emirates where he was still being treated.
Sudan has reported more than 15,830 confirmed cases, including 1193 deaths. The actual Covid-19 tally is believed to be higher given the country's limited testing.
In France, authorities ordered the culling of all minks in a farm after analysis showed a mutated version of the coronavirus was circulating among the animals.
The French government said in a statement Sunday that about 1000 minks have been culled and all animal products have been eliminated in the farm located west of Paris.
France counts four mink farms on its territory. Authorities are still awaiting results for two of them. No virus has been found in the last one, the government said.
The move follows virus developments in mink farms in Denmark and other countries including the Netherlands, Sweden and Greece.
In Denmark, a mutation of the virus had been found in several people infected by minks, according to the government which ordered the cull of all 15 million minks.
So far French farmers in contact with minks have been tested negative to the virus, the French government said.
In South Korea, officials will impose stricter social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area to fight a coronavirus resurgence, as the country registered more than 300 new virus patients for a fifth consecutive day.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said Sunday the ongoing outbreak is "extremely grave and serious" as infection routes have been too diverse. He says authorities have found 62 clusters of infections over the past two weeks.
He says the toughened guidelines will begin Tuesday and go for two weeks. Under it, nightclubs and other high-risk entertainment facilities must shut down and a late-night dining at restaurants will be banned. Customers aren't allowed to drink or eat inside coffee shops, internet cafes or fitness centers, while sports attendance will be limited to 10 per cent of the stadium's capacity.
South Korea has been experiencing a spike in fresh infection since it relaxed coronavirus restrictions last month. Earlier Sunday, South Korea added 330 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national tally to 30,733 with 505 deaths.
In Sri Lanka, authorities said Sunday that more than 600 Covid-19 cases have been detected in Sri Lanka's highly congested prisons.
A total of 652 cases have been found in five prisons in different parts of the Indian Ocean island nation. Of them, 609 are inmates and 43 are prison officers.
Sri Lankan prisons are highly congested with more than 26,000 inmates crowded in facilities designed for 10,000.
Sri Lanka has experienced a fresh outbreak of the disease since last month when two clusters — one at a garment factory and other at a fish market — emerged in the capital Colombo and it's suburbs. Confirmed cases from the two clusters have grown to 16,251.
In Pakistan, amid defiance of the directive to wear masks and avoid large public gatherings, the nation reported 59 more deaths and 2665 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday.
The country's tally reached 374,173 confirmed cases. Among those being treated for the virus, 1653 are critical.
On Saturday, tens of thousands attended the funeral of a radical cleric in the eastern city of Lahore, and on Sunday, an alliance of opposition parties holds a rally in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Both events ignore directives of the military-backed National Command and Operation Center, a body assigned the task of controlling the spread of the virus, for people to wear masks, maintain physical distance and avoid large gatherings.
In China, authorities are conducting mass testing and shutting down schools after three new domestically transmitted cases were reported in the past 24 hours — two in northern Inner Mongolia province and one in Shanghai.
The city of Manzhouli, in Inner Mongolia, will start testing all its residents for Covid-19 on Sunday, a day after the two cases were discovered. The city has suspended classes and shut public venues, telling residents to not gather for dinner banquets.
Local authorities in Shanghai found one more case Saturday after testing 15,416 people following recent locally transmitted cases. The city is not shutting down its schools, but has locked down specific facilities such as a hospital. It is also testing all residents in the Pudong New Area district.
China is already conducting mass testing for up to 3 million residents in the northern city of Tianjin after five cases were found there earlier in the week. The total number of confirmed cases in China is 86,431.
In Japan, the daily tally of reported Covid-19 cases hit a record for the fourth day in a row, with 2508 people confirmed infected, the health ministry said Sunday.
Japan has had fewer than 2000 coronavirus-related deaths so far, avoiding the toll of harder hit nations. But fears are growing about another surge. A flurry of criticism has erupted, from opposition legislators and the public, slamming the government as having acted too slowly in halting its "GoTo" campaign, which encouraged travel and dining out with discounts.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the decision Saturday. But many people had already made travel reservations for this three-day Thanksgiving weekend in Japan.
Airports and restaurants have been packed. Some said the government should have offered to pay for cancellations, or stepped up more on PCR testing instead, if the goal is to keep the economy going amid a pandemic. Tutorials are circulating online on the proper way to eat and drink at restaurants, while wearing masks.
Back in the US, the Texas National Guard has sent a 36-member team to El Paso to assist morgues in the border region with the number of dead as a result of Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Statewide, the Texas health department on Saturday reported a one-day high of 12,597 new virus cases, nearly 20,500 dead since the pandemic began and more than 8200 virus hospital admissions.
"The Texas Military will provide us with the critical personnel to carry out our fatality management plan and we are very grateful to them for their ongoing support," El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said late Friday when the deployment was announced.
The pandemic is blamed for 853 deaths in El Paso County, including more than 300 since October. Jail inmates are being paid to move bodies and county leaders are offering $27 an hour for morgue workers.
County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, in a letter to Governor Greg Abbott asking for support for a 10pm.-5am curfew in the county, said mortuaries are being overwhelmed. He wrote that the local medical examiner's office reported that 234 bodies were being held at the main morgue and nine mobile morgues.
President-elect Joe Biden says all Americans should be able to attend religious services during the pandemic — as long as they do so safely.
Biden made the statement in response to a reporter's shouted question as he was walking out of church Saturday evening in Delaware.
Specifically, Biden was asked whether all Americans should be able to attend religious services during the pandemic. He responded, "Yes, safely." He did not answer a follow up question about whether indoor services should be allowed.
Some in-person church services across America have been closed as state leaders grapple with social distancing safeguards as the pandemic surges. -AP