Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
England back in lockdown
England wakes up on Tuesday to a new national lockdown to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatens to overwhelm parts of the health system before a vaccine programme reaches a critical mass.
Non-essential shops and hospitality remain closed, while primary and secondary schools close from Tuesday for all students except vulnerable children and those whose parents are key workers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if the vaccine rollout went as planned and the number of deaths responded to the lockdown measures as expected, it should be possible to start moving out of lockdown by the middle of February. However, he urged caution about the timetable and appealed to everyone to comply with the rules.
Decision on Japan virus measures ‘too little, too late’
A Japanese government decision on a state of emergency in and around Tokyo will be made this week, a top official said on Tuesday - a move derided by citizens as too little, too late, especially in a nation set to host the Olympics in under 200 days.
Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures, which have requested an emergency declaration, asked residents to refrain from non-essential, non-urgent outings after 8 pm from Friday until at least the end of the month, and said restaurants must close by that time.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Monday that “limited, concentrated measures” would be most effective, but details remained unclear, including whether sports venues, theatres and cinemas would close.
Most US COVID-19 vaccines sit unused
More than two-thirds of the 15 million coronavirus vaccines shipped within the United States have gone unused, US health officials said on Monday, as the governors of New York and Florida vowed to penalize hospitals that do not dispense shots quickly.
Medical authorities have confronted widespread distrust of immunisation safety, even among some healthcare workers, owing in part to the record speed with which COVID-19 vaccines were developed and approved, 11 months after the virus emerged in the United States.
But some US officials also have cited organizational glitches in launching the most ambitious mass inoculation campaign in the nation’s history in the year-end holiday season. “The logistics of getting it going into the people who want it is really the issue,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading US infectious disease specialist, told MSNBC. “We’re not where we want to be. No doubt about that. “I don’t think we can blame it all on vaccine hesitancy.”
Indonesia vaccinating its working population first
Indonesia’s mass vaccination programme is set to start next week, a senior minister said on Monday, pending authorisation from the country’s food and drug agency (BPOM), as about 700,000 doses of vaccines have already been widely distributed.
Its plan to prioritise working-age adults over the elderly, aiming to reach herd immunity fast and revive the economy, will be closely watched by other countries.
Professor Dale Fisher from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore said he understood the rationale of Indonesia’s approach. “Younger working adults are generally more active, more social and travel more so this strategy should decrease community transmission faster than vaccinating older individuals,” he said.