November 23 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds, Ed Upright, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020
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7:30 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

UNICEF organizing "mammoth operation" to deliver vaccines

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is planning a "mammoth operation" to deliver coronavirus vaccines to more than 90 low- and middle-income countries as soon as doses are available, it said on Monday.

UNICEF is working with more than 350 logistics partners, including major airlines, shipping lines and freight operators globally "to deliver life-saving vaccines as quickly and safely as possible," said Etleva Kadilli, director of the agency's supply division.

“This invaluable collaboration will go a long way to ensure that enough transport capacity is in place for this historic and mammoth operation. We need all hands on deck as we get ready to deliver COVID-19 vaccine doses, syringes and more personal protective equipment to protect front line workers around the globe,” she added.

UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week briefed airlines last week on the expected requirements and how almost 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine will be transported next year. A further 1 billion syringes will be transported by sea. 

“The procurement, delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is anticipated to be the largest and fastest such operation ever undertaken,” it said. 

The agency is the biggest single vaccine buyer in the world, obtaining more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response in almost 100 countries. It said it has vital expertise in supply chain management of temperature-controlled products like the coronavirus vaccines.

It is leading efforts to procure and deliver vaccines from manufacturers that have agreements with the COVAX Facility, it said.

UNICEF has worked with logistics operators to transport supplies during the pandemic, delivering more than $190 million worth of supplies such as masks, gowns, oxygen concentrators and diagnostic test kits.

7:55 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

UK regulator will make decision on Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in "shortest time possible"

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Lauren Kent

The first patient enrolled in Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial is pictured on May 4 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
The first patient enrolled in Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial is pictured on May 4 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. University of Maryland School of Medicine/AP

The UK medicine regulator said on Monday that it will make a decision on the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the "shortest time possible" now it has received further data.

"It is our job now to rigorously assess these data and the evidence submitted on the vaccine’s safety, quality and effectiveness," the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) chief executive June Raine said in a statement.

"As we have received this data through a rolling review, we have already started our analysis and will aim to make a decision in the shortest time possible, without compromising the thoroughness of our review," Raine added.

She said that the MHRA "will seek advice from the Government’s independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines. The Commission will critically assess the data too before advising the UK government on the safety, quality and effectiveness of any potential vaccine."

"The safety of the public will always come first. Our job is to work to the highest standards and safety is our watchword."

It comes as AstraZeneca/Oxford announced that another experimental coronavirus vaccine showed an average efficacy of 70% in large-scale trials and up to a 90% efficacy in one dosing regimen.

The UK government has ordered 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

6:38 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

France culls 1,000 mink after detecting coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

French authorities detected a Covid-19 outbreak on a mink farm in northern France and have subsequently culled all 1,000 animals on the premises, according to a government news release.

The other three mink farms in the country are also being tested, said the release from the French Agricultural Ministry. One mink farm has tested negative already, and two mink farm results are still outstanding. 

“Reinforced surveillance has been put in place for four people in connection with the contaminated farm and new analysis are underway,” the Agricultural Ministry said of the mink farm in question, which is in the Eure-et-Loir department. 

“Surveillance and enhanced biosecurity measures are maintained in the other three farms,” said the release.

6:23 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Hospitalizations and cases soar in the US, as it starts one of the busiest travel weeks of the year

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

A health care worker administers a Covid-19 swab test on November 13 in El Paso, Texas.
A health care worker administers a Covid-19 swab test on November 13 in El Paso, Texas. Mario Tama/Getty Images

From surging case numbers to record hospitalizations, the US is grappling with what experts long warned could be the biggest spike in the Covid-19 pandemic -- and it still has to get through the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Historically, the week of Thanksgiving is one of the busiest for travel. But with the US reporting its 20th day in a row of more than 100,000 new cases Sunday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against traveling for the holiday this year to decrease risk of spreading infections. 

As new cases spike, hospitalization rates have followed. At least 83,870 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized Sunday -- the 13th straight day the US has broken its hospitalization record, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Still, more than a million people passed through airports on Friday alone, according to the Transportation Security Administration. 

While people board airplanes and load cars to visit family, the US has reported a million infections in under a week. Since the pandemic began, more than 12.2 million people have been infected and 256,783 people have died of the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health experts have long worried that the colder months could drive people indoors, leading to a rise in infection rates. On Friday, the CDC said that 50% of cases are spread by people without symptoms. With just one infected person having the potential to cause an outbreak, experts worry that people traveling and gathering could prove dangerous to the American public that is still in the thick of the pandemic. 

Read the full story here:

6:46 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

UK hopes to start vaccinating people next month

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite, Naomi Thomas, Vasco Cotovio and Nadine Schmidt

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks to the media in London on November 23.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks to the media in London on November 23. George Cracknell Wright/LNP/Shutterstock

As AstraZeneca became the latest drugmaker to release encouraging Covid-19 vaccine trial results on Monday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that his government hopes to start vaccinating people in December, pending approval.

"Subject to that approval we hope to be able to start vaccinating next month. The bulk of the vaccine rollout programme will be in January, February, March, and we hope that sometime after Easter things will be able to start to get back to normal," Matt Hancock said on BBC Breakfast Monday.

Other countries are also hoping to start rolling out vaccinations next month.

Moncef Slaoui, the head of the US government's effort to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, said the first Americans to receive a vaccine -- if all things go according to plan -- could be as early as the second week of December.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week that she expected a coronavirus vaccine to be approved in Europe in December or "very soon after the turn of the year."

The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, said on Friday that a “very substantial” part of the country’s population could be vaccinated in the first half of 2021. He said Spain would be the first European country, along with Germany, to have a vaccination plan.

6:13 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Job guarantees and free money: "Utopian" ideas tested in Europe during the pandemic

From CNN's Julia Horowitz

Christine Jardine in London in 2019.
Christine Jardine in London in 2019. Aaron Chown/PA/Getty Images

Christine Jardine, a Scottish politician who represents Edinburgh in the UK parliament, was not a fan of universal basic income before the pandemic hit.

"It was regarded in some quarters as a kind of socialist idea," said Jardine, a member of the centrist Liberal Democrats party.

But not long after the government shut schools, stores, restaurants and pubs in March with little warning, she started to reconsider her position.

Covid-19 has been [a] game changer," Jardine said. "It has meant that we've seen the suggestion of a universal basic income in a completely different light."

In her view, the idea -- sending cash regularly to all residents, no strings attached -- now looks more "pragmatic" than outlandish.

She isn't the only one to change her mind. As the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus drags on, support in Europe is growing for progressive policies once seen as pipe dreams of the political left.

In Germany, millions of people applied to join a study of universal basic income that will provide participants with €1,200 ($1,423) a month, while in the United Kingdom, more than 100 lawmakers -- including Jardine -- are pushing the government to start similar trials.

Austria has launched a first-of-its-kind pilot program that will guarantee paying jobs to residents struggling with sustained unemployment in Marienthal, a long-suffering former industrial town about 40 miles southwest of Vienna.

Read the full story here:

5:41 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Chaotic scenes at Shanghai airport after workers test positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Nectar Gan, Shanshan Wang and Shawn Deng

Shanghai's biggest international airport momentarily descended into chaos Sunday night, after authorities ordered a mass testing drive in response to a small outbreak of Covid-19 linked to several cargo handlers.

Since the beginning of November, seven cargo workers and their close contacts at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport have been diagnosed as confirmed coronavirus cases, including two reported on Sunday.

In a bid to contain the cluster, authorities ordered all cargo staff at the airport to undergo coronavirus tests overnight and set up a temporary testing site on the second floor of a parking garage, according to a statement from the Shanghai government.

Photos and videos circulating on Chinese social media show hundreds of people packed closely together inside the garage -- the opposite of social distancing -- with a line of people in hazmat suits trying to hold back crowds pushing forward.

But the chaos appeared to have calmed before midnight, when the airport police posted photos on Weibo showing workers lining up orderly for the tests.

As of Monday morning, 17,719 samples had been collected. Of the 11,544 samples that have been tested, all received negative results, officials said at a news conference.

While the initial chaos has drawn criticism on Chinese social media, the swift, drastic response over just a few cases highlights the length the Chinese government is willing to go to in order to stamp out any resurgence of the virus.

Read the full story here:

5:18 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Pakistan's "second wave" of virus shutters schools 

 From CNN’s Sophia Saifi in Islamabad

Pakistan will close all education institutions from Thursday through January 11 as Covid-19 cases mount in the country, according to education minister Shafqat Mahmood.

Home learning will be instituted between Thursday and December 24, when holidays begin, Mahmood announced Monday.

Health authorities in Pakistan have recorded 2,756 new cases of the virus over the past 24 hours. At the end of October, the country’s health ministry announced that Pakistan was officially in the midst of a “second wave” of the virus.

Pakistan has had 376,929 cases of Covid-19 with 7,696 deaths recorded since March, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.

5:07 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Oxford scientist shares excitement over vaccine results

From CNN's Schams Elwazer and Sharon Braithwaite

The chief investigator of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine trial said the fact that the candidate may be up to 90% effective is exciting news.

Results from clinical trials of this coronavirus vaccine show it has “an average efficacy of 70%,” with one dosing regimen showing an efficacy of 90%, pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca said in a Monday news release.

"Excitingly, we've found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply,” Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, said.

How AstraZeneca's statement explains the dosing regimens:

  • When the vaccine was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month apart, the efficacy was 90%.
  • When given as two full doses at least one month apart, the efficacy was 62%.
  • The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70%.

The clinical trials, conducted in the UK and Brazil, showed the vaccine was highly effective in preventing Covid-19 with no hospitalizations or severe cases of the disease reported, the statement said.

Sarah Gilbert, professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said that announcement the "takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by SARS-CoV-2."

"It has been a privilege to be part of this multi-national effort which will reap benefits for the whole world," she added.

The UK government has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine. AstraZeneca told CNN on Friday that the company had delivered four million vials of its coronavirus vaccine candidate to the UK government, with millions more frozen doses ready to be sent.

Read the breaking news story here: