November 25 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:59 a.m. ET, November 27, 2020
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8:32 a.m. ET, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving air travel expected to remain strong despite CDC warning

From CNN’s Pete Muntean

Travelers walk at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on November 24.
Travelers walk at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on November 24. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Thanksgiving week air travel is expected to remain strong enough to set a pandemic era-record, despite urging from federal health officials to spend the holiday at home, according to Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Andy Post.  

The agency receives passenger information from the airlines as part of its screening responsibilities, and the data do not show widespread cancelations in recent days, Post said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last week that Americans do not travel for Thanksgiving to prevent coronavirus spread.

Approximately 4.8 million people have boarded airplanes since that warning. More than 900,000 passed through security at America’s airports on Tuesday, the TSA said.  

Officials still expect Sunday – when everyone heads home from their holiday travels – to be the busiest day travel since the pandemic began.

8:32 a.m. ET, November 25, 2020

Fauci says he's worried about what US Covid-19 case numbers will look like 3 weeks after Thanksgiving

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Europe has been a couple of weeks ahead of the US at every phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday.

 “So, what happens now that they start to plateau, so they’re pulling back down on their lockdowns,” Fauci said on Good Morning America. “We will almost certainly, may already start seeing it, for those areas, those states, those cities that are fully mitigating with the things I just mentioned – you’ll start to see a plateauing hopefully to come down.”

“The one thing we do not want is if we get a surge now, George, over Thanksgiving, we’ll have that slope up, plateau, and then slope up again that we’ll see in three weeks,” he said.

This is why Fauci and others in the administration are trying to so hard to get the message out that people need to be safe and careful over Thanksgiving, he said.

8:25 a.m. ET, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Here's Dr. Fauci's final message to Americans.

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci attends a news conference at the White House on November 19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci attends a news conference at the White House on November 19. Susan Walsh/AP

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, offered a final message to Americans before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The final message is to do what really we’ve been saying now for some time, is to the extent possible, keep the gatherings – the indoor gatherings – as small as you possibly can," he said.

“We all know how difficult that is, because this is such a beautiful, traditional holiday,” Fauci added on Good Morning America on Wednesday. “But by making that sacrifice, you prevent people from getting infected.”

He said that people with no symptoms can innocently go to a party or gathering that is indoors, let their guard down, and have to take a mask off if eating or drinking. “Try to avoid that as much as possible,” he said.

“A sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter as we get through this,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “Because, George, we’re going to get through this.”

“What we don’t want to see is yet another surge superposed upon the surge that you just described,” Fauci said. “Which we’ll realize three, three and a half weeks from now, if we don’t do these public health things.”

Last week, Fauci said his three adult daughters, who live in separate parts of the country, decided that they did not want to put him, as an elderly person, at risk. Fauci is 79 years old. 

He and his wife will have a meal and Zoom with his daughters to spend time with them.

8:45 a.m. ET, November 25, 2020

Countries around the world are getting ready to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz, Kara Fox, David Wilkinson, Sharon Braithwaite, Amy Cassidy and Claudia Rebaza

A trial volunteer in Oxford, England, is administered a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
A trial volunteer in Oxford, England, is administered a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. John Cairns/University of Oxford/AP

A handful of countries have announced their coronavirus vaccine distribution plans, with some prepping for as early as mid-December.

Here's where each stand:

AUSTRIA:

Austria became the latest country to announce a plan for distribution when Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced today that the country was hoping to roll out the vaccine to the elderly, carers and medical workers by January.

Speaking at a press conference in Vienna, Kurz thanked the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for procuring vaccines for European countries, calling them a “game changer.”

The European Union has signed deals for the supply of millions of vaccine doses with multiple drugmakers, including AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer.

Kurz said he believes that Austria will return to “normalcy” by next summer.

ITALY:

On Monday, Italy also announced that it hoped to start distributing the vaccine by the end of January.

Speaking on the on Italian television channel La7 on Monday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the vaccine will be available first to the "fragile and most exposed to danger.”

Conte also said that the vaccine would be administered on a voluntary basis for now.

When asked if he would get vaccinated, Conte said he "will definitely do it," because when it will be distributed it will be "absolutely safe".

GERMANY:

German Health Minister Jens Spahn is optimistic a vaccine could be available by December.

"There is reason to be optimistic that a vaccine will be approved in Europe this year. And then we can start with the vaccinations immediately,” Spahn said on Monday, according to CNN affiliate NTV.

Spahn also said that he had asked the country’s 16 regional states to establish immunization centers by mid-December in anticipation of the vaccine approval.

SPAIN:

Spain’s health minister, Salvador Illa said that he expects to receive the country's first coronavirus vaccine doses in January. 

During a press conference on Tuesday, Illa presented the government’s plan that will prioritize the most vulnerable, which includes about 2.5 million people. Nursing home residents and staff will be first, followed by the disabled and general health workers, he said.

Spain’s strategy aims to vaccinate a significant part of the population within the first six months of 2021, with the plan expected to be completed in three stages.

The first one will begin in January until March with a limited number of doses available, followed by a second stage from March until June, when authorities expect to increase the number of vaccinations with a final stage starting in June, which is expected to cover a wider segment of the population.

The health minister also said he was confident his government’s plan will be able to provide vaccines for the whole country, noting that they had signed agreements that should allow for 140 million doses to

“According to the agreements we have signed, we estimate that Spain will receive 140 million doses to immunize approximately 80 million people, obviously this (number) is higher than our country’s population”

He said that the vaccine won’t be mandatory and will be available free of charge.

US:

The first Americans could receive a coronavirus vaccine by December 11, according to Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head of the government's effort to develop a vaccine against Covid-19.

On Friday, Pfizer submitted an application to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, and an FDA vaccine advisory committee is slated to meet December 10.

Slaoui told CNN that means, if approved, the vaccine could be rolled out the next day.

"Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours from the approval, so I expect maybe on day two after approval on the 11th or the 12th of December," he said.

UK:

The UK’s Health Screechy Matt Hancock said in a statement on Monday that its national health service would be “ready to deliver” the Covid-19 vaccine following regulatory approval.

“The NHS has vast experience in delivering widespread vaccination programs and an enormous amount of work has taken place to ensure we have the logistical expertise, transport and workforce to roll out a vaccine according to clinical priority, at the speed at which it can be manufactured," Hancock said.

Britain is expected to receive a total of 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the end of 2021 -- which is "enough to vaccinate up to a third of the population, with the majority of doses anticipated in the first half of next year," according to a statement from the Department of Health on Monday.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will only be authorized for supply by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) "if it meets strict standards of quality, safety, and effectiveness, and if they are satisfied the vaccine can be consistently manufactured," it said.  

11:48 a.m. ET, November 25, 2020

Christmas this year will be different for many Europeans

From CNN's James Frater, Pierre Bairin, Lindsay Isaac, Fred Pleitgen and Amy Cassidy

A Christmas tree illuminates a street in London on November 19.
A Christmas tree illuminates a street in London on November 19. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

As many European countries prepare to relax coronavirus restrictions for the upcoming Christmas holidays, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has called on EU leaders not to ease measures too quickly:

“I know that shop owners, bartenders and waiters in restaurants want an end to restrictions, but we must learn from the summer and not repeat the same mistakes,”

Addressing the European Parliament in Brussels, von der Leyen said, “Relaxing too fast and too much, is a risk for a third wave after Christmas.” 

EU countries are taking differing approaches for the Christmas holidays. Here's a look at what some of them are doing:

Today, the Irish government announced that it will ease restrictions for nearly two weeks around the Christmas period and is considering allowing up to three household to gather for the holidays, deputy premier Leo Varadkar told state broadcaster RTE on Wednesday.

"We know people are going to do it anyway, so it's better we provide for it in a safe way,” Varadkar told RTE.

The country has been under the strictest “Level Five” restrictions since October, which prohibits social gatherings at homes or in gardens — with restaurants, cafes and bars only open for takeaway. 

Varadkar told RTE these restrictions would be eased “in phases” and would only be put back in place in January "if the virus is taking off again."

The number of Covid-19 infections in Ireland has steadily declined in the last two weeks, according to government data, with six deaths and 226 cases confirmed in the 24 hours up to Tuesday. 

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday night a relaxation of lockdown measures in the country. France's lockdown could be lifted on Dec. 15, if the daily number of cases drops under 5,000 and there are only 2,000 to 3,000 patients in ICUs. There were 4,438 patients in ICUs as of Monday.


“We will therefore once again be able to travel without authorization, including between regions, and spend Christmas with our family,” he said.

In Britain, up to three households will be allowed to gather in the days around Christmas in an easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the UK government said Tuesday. Those households will be allowed to form a "Christmas bubble" and mix indoors, outdoors and in places of worship from Dec. 23 to 27 in all four nations of the UK.  There will be no restrictions on travel across the country for that time period, even if some areas are under tighter measures under a tiered system than others. 

Poland has taken a more cautious line, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki urging people not to make any trips nor visit any attractions during the holidays. He said in a press conference at the weekend that a maximum of five people would be allowed to meet indoors, with those who live together not included in that limit.

Similarly, in Germany, people will be allowed to gather in groups of up to five from two households. The country is to announce a more detailed plan in the next few days.

Italy is adopting a careful approach, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte saying the "upcoming Christmas season will need tailored measures" because the country cannot allow itself to repeat what happened during the summer.

In Spain the government and regions are discussing plans but no consensus has yet been reached.

Belgium’s Consultative Committee — made up of leaders from the three regional governments and federal government — is due to meet on Friday to assess the coronavirus measures currently in place and how the country would be able to celebrate Christmas. 

8:14 a.m. ET, November 25, 2020

Belgium risks becoming “an island of bankrupt shops”

 From CNN's James Frater in London

Shops are closed in Brussels, Belgium, on November 2.
Shops are closed in Brussels, Belgium, on November 2. Zheng Huansong/Xinhua/Getty Images

As Belgium’s neighbors begin opening up their stores, the Belgian federation of commerce and services Comeos has warned the country “will not become an island of closed shops but rather an island of bankrupt shops, while Belgian money is spent abroad.” 

“Figures show that 1 in 3 Belgian families cross the border no less than nine times a year to make purchases. It is a billion euros less each year and this, without coronavirus,” said Dominique Michel, CEO of Comeos in a statement. “If everything remains closed with us, everyone will go across the border also for their Christmas shopping,” he said.

According to Comeos, which represents 18 business sectors in Belgium and over 400,000 employees, half of all Belgians live within 50km of an international border.

Earlier this week, the Belgian National Crisis Centre urged Belgians not to travel abroad over Christmas and New Year, warning trips to neighboring countries would “cancel out our efforts” in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

Belgium’s Consultative Committee -- made up of leaders from the three regional governments and federal government -- is due to meet Friday to assess the coronavirus measures currently in place and discuss ways the country would be able to celebrate Christmas. 

All non-essential retail has been closed since the end of October, when the national lockdown was announced; it is scheduled to end on December 13. When announcing the lockdown, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said a decision would be made by December 1 regarding a possible re-opening of shops and services.   

There have been 561,083 Covid-19 infections in Belgium so far and 15,938 deaths. The country’s head virologist, Steven van Gucht, says Belgium is "on the right track" in reducing coronavirus infections.

After the exponential rise with a peak around the end of October, we have seen an equally rapid decline since then...So, we are on the right track. But, still a long way from the safe harbour."  Deaths have continued to decline and are now 15% lower than the week before. On average, there were 162 deaths per day in the past week.
5:58 a.m. ET, November 25, 2020

A poodle in Hong Kong tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Chandler Thorton

A poodle in Hong Kong has tested positive for Covid-19, Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said Wednesday.

The dog was sent to quarantine on November 20 after its owner had been in close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case, the AFCD said.

"Samples collected from the dog by the department tested positive for the COVID-19 virus," AFCD added.

The poodle, who lives in Hong Kong's Tsuen Wan district, is not showing any symptoms at the moment.

The AFCD said that it would continue to "closely monitor the dog and conduct repeat testing."

The department added that it was urging pet owners to adopt good hygiene practices and avoid kissing their animals, but emphasized that there is currently "no evidence to show that pets are playing a role in the spread of infection with the COVID-19 virus among humans."

But scientists say continued testing is one way to remain vigilant in the face of a previously unknown pathogen.

In the US, the vast majority of the tests have been in household cats and dogs with suspicious respiratory symptoms. In June, the United States Drug Administration reported that a pooch in New York was the first pet dog to test positive for the coronavirus after falling ill and struggling to breathe. The dog, a 7-year-old German Shepherd named Buddy, later died.

Officials determined he'd contracted the virus from his owner.

5:14 a.m. ET, November 25, 2020

Hong Kong sees another rise in Covid-19 cases as new restrictions set to begin

From CNN’s Jadyn Sham in Hong Kong

Workers wearing Personal Protection Equipment(PPE) are seen attending to people waiting for a test at a Covid-19 testing center  in Hong Kong, on November 24.
Workers wearing Personal Protection Equipment(PPE) are seen attending to people waiting for a test at a Covid-19 testing center in Hong Kong, on November 24. Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Hong Kong reported 85 Covid-19 cases from Tuesday, another highest single-day increase in cases since August 7, health authorities said on Wednesday.

  • Among the new cases, 68 were locally transmitted, of which 63 were related to a recent dance studio cluster, while 16 cases were untraceable, according to Dr Chuang Shuk Kwan of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP).
  • To date, a total of 250 cases are related to the dance studio cluster.
  • The total number of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong is at 5,867.  

Starting on Thursday, all bars, karaoke centers, public bathhouses, night clubs and party rooms will have to be closed for a week after the recent spike in cases, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said during a press conference on Tuesday.  

Earlier Wednesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam ruled out the possibility of a citywide lockdown as it will likely take at least four weeks to test 7 million people based on the last timeline when the city carried out the universal community testing scheme. During the city's last universal testing scheme, 1.3 million people were tested within two weeks. She added that

"as a financial hub, it's not possible for [Hong Kong] to not do businesses and for the public to stay home for that long."

Lam said in her policy address on Wednesday that a certain amount of vaccines developed or produced in China will be reserved for use by Hong Kong people when necessary.

Covid-19 cases in Asia are rising but compared to the West they are still much lower.

 

5:40 a.m. ET, November 25, 2020

Europe is still the largest contributor to new Covid-19 cases and deaths, WHO says

From Sharon Braithwaite in Pisa, Italy

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images
Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

As the global acceleration in Covid-19 cases slowed down over the past week -- with around four million new cases reported -- death rates continue to increase, with over 67,000 new deaths reported across the world, the World Health Organization reported on Tuesday.

Europe is still the largest contributor to those cases and deaths. Here's the breakdown of those numbers from the European Region over the past week:

  • Europe accounted for 44% of global new cases and 49% of global deaths (32,684 new deaths)
  • The number of new cases reported in Europe declined by 6% to 1.77 million, after a decline of 10% in the previous week
  • Italy reported the highest number (235,979) of new cases in Europe, and the third-highest globally -- but still saw a slight decline of 3%
  • The number of new deaths in Italy increased by 26% to 4578 new deaths
  • In the UK, there’s been a 13% decrease of new cases (149,027) from last week, while the number of new deaths remained similar
  • This decrease in new cases in the UK is the first weekly decline since late August

The WHO said on Tuesday that the data indicates “that the re-introduction of stricter public health and social measures in a number of countries over the last few weeks is beginning to slow down transmission.”

In Africa, while cases numbers remain relatively low, the continent reported the highest increase in new cases (15%) and deaths (30%) this week, according to the WHO's COVID-19 weekly report.

The highest new case and death counts were reported in South Africa, Algeria and Kenya.