December 14 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds, Ed Upright, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 4:06 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020
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8:51 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Pfizer CEO says he's not taken his firm's coronavirus vaccine yet

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, on December 14.
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, on December 14. CNN

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has not taken the company's Covid-19 vaccine yet, he told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Monday morning.

"No I haven't taken it yet and we are having an ethical committee dealing with the question of who is getting it," Bourla said in his first interview since his company's coronavirus vaccine was authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use.

Bourla gave a nod to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that the first vaccine doses should go to health care workers and long-term care facility residents.

"There are very strict allocation rules," he said. "We are very sensitive to not cut the queue."

1.3 billion doses next year: Bourla said there will be around 1.3 billion doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine manufactured globally next year.

"This year we will have around 50 million doses available, most of them have already been manufactured," Bourla told Gupta on Monday.

"Next year we will do 1.3 billion doses," Bourla said. "We are working very diligently to increase this number."

7:45 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Japan suspends travel scheme and boosts business support payments

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Japan will suspend its "Go To" travel subsidy as it battles a winter wave of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday.

Discounted travel to Tokyo and Nagoya provided by the Go To government campaign will be suspended immediately until January 11. Go To travel subsidies will be suspended nationwide from December 28 at least until January 11.

The Go To scheme offers travelers up to 50% discounts on transportation, hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and shopping, in an effort to encourage domestic travel during the pandemic downturn.

Suga said discouraging travel would help curb a current spike in cases.

"I decided to take the maximum measure to keep down the infection and alleviate the burden to the medical system, so that everyone in Japan can have a calm new year," Suga said.

He also announced a $11,500 per month support payment for hospitality businesses, to help owners comply with a shortening of trading hours. Doctors and nurses treating serious Covid-19 patients will receive a bonus payment of $50 per hour.

7:35 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Physicians' group recommends vaccines "should not be withheld from pregnant individuals"

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

A phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is pictured on December 8 in Cardiff, Wales.
A phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is pictured on December 8 in Cardiff, Wales. Justin Tallis/Pool/Getty Images

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that the newly authorized Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine “should not be withheld” from people who are pregnant and should be offered to those who are breastfeeding.

"While safety data on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy are not currently available, there are also no data to indicate that the vaccines should be contraindicated, and no safety signals generated from DART [Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology] studies for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine," ACOG said in an advisory statement on Sunday.

The physicians' group recommended that pregnant people should be able to make their own decision in conjunction with their clinical care team, adding that they would "otherwise be considered a priority population for a vaccine approved for use under EUA [Emergency Use Authorization]."

ACOG recommended that Covid-19 vaccines be offered to lactating individuals "when they meet criteria for receipt of the vaccine" based on the priority order outlined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

ACOG also recommended vaccination among people who actively trying to become pregnant or are thinking about pregnancy.

"Additionally, it is not necessary to delay pregnancy after completing both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine," said the statement.

UK regulators have said that until more evidence is available, people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to get pregnant within three months should delay their vaccination.

7:08 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Germany's situation is "dead serious," says President

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt in Berlin 

Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier gives a speech in Berlin on December 14.
Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier gives a speech in Berlin on December 14. Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Monday that tougher lockdown restrictions in Germany are vital to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country, calling the situation “dead serious.” 

“From Wednesday onwards, our public and private life will be more restricted than we have ever seen in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he said, adding: “The situation is dead serious.”

In a rare speech, the German president addressed the nation a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the country would return to tighter lockdown restrictions from Wednesday over the festive period. Non-essential retail and services as well schools and kindergartens will close down until January 10, 2021. 

“Thousands of deaths in a week, and an infection rate that threatens to get out of control. We cannot avoid drastic measures…. We can't risk a situation where the health system can't cope anymore," Steinmeier added.

He said he understood that people are beginning to show coronavirus fatigue but reiterated how vital it is that everyone sticks to the measures announced on Sunday and contributes to bringing down the high infection numbers. 

Germany recorded 16,362 new coronavirus infections on Monday -- 4,000 more than a week ago -- according to data from the Robert Koch Institute, the country's agency for disease control. The overall number of infected people stands at 1,337,078. The death toll rose by 188 to 21,975, data showed.

On Friday, Germany recorded nearly 30,000 new coronavirus infections and nearly 600 deaths within 24 hours in a record day for both daily infections and fatalities.

7:09 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Eswatini Prime Minister becomes first head of government to die after Covid-19 diagnosis

From CNN’s David McKenzie in Johannesburg and Philip Wang in Atlanta

Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, prime minister of Eswatini, speaks at the COP24 climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, on December 3, 2018.
Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, prime minister of Eswatini, speaks at the COP24 climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, on December 3, 2018. Lukasz Kalinowski/Shutterstock

The Prime Minister of the tiny African nation of Eswatini died while being treated for Covid-19 at a hospital in South Africa on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Monday.

The death appears to make Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini the first head of government confirmed to have died after a Covid-19 diagnosis. He was 52 years old. 

In a statement, Ramaphosa offered his condolences to the family and friends of the late Prime Minister, the Swazi Royal Family, the government of the Kingdom, and the nation at large.

6:53 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Ohio and Michigan hospitals confirm vaccines about to arrive

From CNN's Samantha Guff, Sara Sidner and Jack Hannah

Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared for shipment at the Pfizer manufacturing plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on December 13.
Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared for shipment at the Pfizer manufacturing plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on December 13. Morry Gash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center expects the first doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to be delivered between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m. ET this morning, hospital spokesperson Alexis Shaw told CNN in a statement.  

Once the vaccine arrives, Shaw said, they plan to begin vaccinating about 20 to 30 of the hospital’s “prioritized, high risk frontline healthcare workers” within 1-1.5 hours.

The University of Michigan Hospital is expecting to receive its first doses of the shot at 8:45 a.m., a hospital spokesperson told CNN.

Distribution begins: Thousands of vials of the vaccine were collected for distribution across the country Sunday after it passed its last regulatory hurdle. Los Angeles International Airport tweeted just before 10 p.m. local time that it had received its first batch.

Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said on Saturday that 145 administration sites across all the states were expected to receive the vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday, and the final 66 sites on Wednesday.

Read more here:

6:13 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

London Mayor presses for tighter Covid restrictions and school closures as cases spike

From CNN's Mia Alberti and Sharon Braithwaite

London Mayor Sadiq Khan makes a statement to media in the city on September 25.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan makes a statement to media in the city on September 25. Victoria Jones/Pool/Getty Images

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has criticized the UK government’s current Covid-19 restrictions and asked for tighter measures, such as school closures.

"Given the surge in cases in London, and in neighbouring counties of Kent and Essex, further urgent government action is needed to ensure we regain control of the virus... We are therefore calling on you to take further urgent measures, on the back of public health advice, to prevent a continued increase in cases," Khan wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"With significant outbreaks among 10 to 19-year-olds, the Government must consider asking schools and colleges to close early and re-open later in January," Khan said.

In London, 17 local authorities have registered a 7-day case rate higher than 200 cases per 100,000 people. Khan told the government it should consider moving London from Tier 2 to Tier 3 of restriction levels, putting the city on "very high alert." This would also allow authorities to introduce more restrictions.

On Sunday, local authorities in the London borough of Greenwich announced the closure of all its schools from Monday until the end of the term.

That decision challenges the central government's policy to keep schools open.

"Our overall message is that we want to keep the schools open. For young people, for students, the best thing we can do, to support them is to keep them in education, because there are negative consequences when that doesn't happen," UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said in an interview with Sky News on Monday.

Sharma said 99% of schools across the UK have remained open since the beginning of the school year, and the government will talk to local authorities to discuss changes in restrictions "on a case by case basis."

5:59 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Singapore approves Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine with first shipments expected by end of year

From CNN's Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

Singapore has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine and is expecting the first shipments to arrive by the end of December, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Friday.

“I am very happy to tell you that after studying the scientific evidence and clinical trial data, the Health Sciences Authority has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for pandemic use, the first shipment should arrive by the end of this month,” Lee announced in a televised address to the nation. 

“We also expect other vaccines to arrive in Singapore in the coming months; if all goes according to plan, we will have enough vaccines for everyone in Singapore by the third quarter of 2021,” Lee said. 

Shots will first be administered to those at “greatest risk,” including healthcare workers, frontline personnel, and the elderly population, according to the Prime Minister. 

Vaccines will be free of charge to all Singaporeans and permanent residents, but will not be compulsory, Lee said.

Lee also announced that Singapore will start "Phase 3" of reopening and a further relaxation of coronavirus restrictions starting on December 28. 

Under the relaxed restrictions:

  • Groups of up to eight will be allowed to meet in public, up from current limit of five.
  • Capacity limits will be eased in public places e.g. shopping malls and places of worship.

As of December 13, Singapore has reported 58,325 cases of coronavirus and 29 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

5:06 a.m. ET, December 14, 2020

Germany's CureVac enrols first participants in vaccine study

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German biotech company CureVac announced Monday that it had taken a step forward in the development of its coronavirus vaccine. 

The Tübingen-based company said it has started a Phase 3 clinical trial with an expected enrolment of more than 35,000 participants at sites in Europe and Latin America. 

We have reached another important milestone in the development of our vaccine candidate, CVnCoV," CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas wrote in the statement.

The vaccine candidate uses mRNA technology, like the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna shots.

Following completion of the trial, subjects will continue to be monitored in a one-year extension study, which will collect additional data to evaluate long-term safety, persistence of antibodies and the duration of efficacy.