• This daily round-up brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Top stories: US cases pass 15 million; WHO warns vaccine not ready to replace public health measures; Switzerland introduces new restrictions.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now passed 68.2 million globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 1.55 million.

South Korea has reported its second-highest daily total for new COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic, with 686 cases.

The Pfizer/BioNTech has cleared another hurdle to get approval in the United States, after the country's Food and Drug Administration released documents that raised no new issues about safety or efficacy.

The United Kingdom has begun a mass COVID-19 vaccination programme. Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, was the first to receive the vaccine. “It will gradually make a huge, huge difference. But I stress gradually, because we’re not there yet. We haven’t defeated this virus yet,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

New confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped in France from 3,411 on Monday to 13,713 yesterday. The number of people in intensive care with the virus fell by 110 to 3,088.

Switzerland has announced increased restrictions in an effort to slow rising COVID-19 cases. Measures include a ban on almost all public events and a further limit on private gatherings. Train services between Italy and Switzerland have also been suspended.

COVID-19

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2. US cases pass 15 million

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States have passed 15 million. The pandemic has also killed 15,000 Americans in the last week alone, reports Reuters.

Health officials are warning of further spread as people gather for the end-of-year holiday. “We’re in for a very challenging period,” top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told a virtual summit on Tuesday.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in the United States
Cases continue to rise in the United States.
Image: Our World in Data

It comes as President-elect Joe Biden laid out a plan to fight the pandemic during his first 100 days in office. His administration will vaccinate 100 million Americans, push to reopen schools and strengthen mask requirements, he said.

“In 100 days, we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better,” said Biden, who takes office on 20 Jan. “Whatever your politics or point of view, mask up for 100 days.”

3. WHO on vaccines, public health measures

The WHO has warned that only public health measures - not vaccines - are currently capable of stopping case surges.

“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.

“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.