• 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: Britain and United States to roll out vaccines, the possible secret behind super spreaders and the UN urges all countries to designate seafarers as key workers.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now passed 63.8 million globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 1.48 million.

Poland is set to surpass one million COVID-19 cases today, according to Health Minister Adam Niedzielski.

India's daily COVID-19 cases have stayed below 50,000 for the 25th straight day, with 36,604 new infections reported according to health ministry data.

The OECD's latest Economic Outlook highlights an improvement in the global economy, which is set to grow 4.2% next year and ease to 3.7% in 2022, after shrinking 4.2% this year.

The Netherlands has made masks mandatory in hopes of slowing the spread of coronavirus. With the country in a “partial lockdown” since 13 October, health authorities said new cases had fallen to 33,949 in the week ended 1 December, down slightly from 36,931 cases in the week ended 24 November.

Major energy companies have slashed the value of their oil and gas assets by around $80 billion, after revising the long-term outlook for fuel prices in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic and the energy transition.

Oil and gas lower prices COVID-19 coronavirus
Energy companies have written off $80 billion in value in recent quarters.
Image: Reuters

Authorities in South Korea have almost doubled the number of test venues for this year's nationwide university entrance exam for high school students, to allow more social distancing. The eight-hour test will take place at 31,291 venues on Thursday, after a delay of two weeks.

The United Nations has urged all countries to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers as COVID-19 travel restrictions have left hundreds of thousands stranded at sea for months.

2. Britain and United States prepare to deploy vaccine

Britain's health minister, Matt Hancock, announced that Britain will begin vaccinating people with the Pfizer vaccine next week, after the country's regulator approved the jab.

“From early next week we will start a programme of vaccinating people against COVID-19 here in this country,” he told Sky News.

Meanwhile, top US health officials announced plans to begin vaccinating Americans against the coronavirus as early as mid-December, as nationwide deaths hit the highest number for a single day in six months.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the United States
2,597 new deaths were reported in the United States on the 1st of December, 2020.
Image: Our World in Data

20 million people could be inoculated against COVID-19 by the end of 2020 and most Americans will have access to highly effective vaccines by mid-2021, the chief adviser of President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed programme said.

3. What makes a super spreader?

A new study from the University of Florida has identified two key features that could make it more likely for you to become a so-called 'super spreader'.

Using 3D modeling and computer simulations, researchers found that droplets in sneezes from individuals with a blocked nose and a full set of teeth, travelled 60% further.

“Teeth create a narrowing effect in the jet that makes it stronger and more turbulent,” said Michael Kinzel, study co-author and an assistant professor with UCF’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. "They actually appear to drive transmission. So, if you see someone without teeth, you can actually expect a weaker jet from the sneeze from them.”

Sneeze velocity for four different nose and mouth types. A is open nasal passage with teeth, B is open nasal passage without teeth, C is blocked nasal passage without teeth, and D is blocked nasal passage with teeth.
A visual representation of how germs can spread from different individuals.
Image: Fontes et al., Physics of Fluids 32, 111904 (2020)