‘Healing is coming’ says first US citizen to receive Covid jab
An intensive care unit nurse who became the first person in the US to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Monday called it a sign that “healing is coming”.
Sandra Lindsay, who has treated some of the sickest Covid-19 patients for months, was given the vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the New York City borough of Queens, an early epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak.
“It didn’t feel any different from taking any other vaccine,” Lindsay said. “I feel hopeful today, relieved. I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history. I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe.”
She was applauded on a livestream by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who tweeted a picture of Lindsay, wearing a mask and staring resolutely ahead, as a doctor injected her in the arm, and said she was the first American to get vaccinated.
“This is what heroes look like,” Cuomo wrote.
Minutes after Lindsay received the injection, President Donald Trump sent out his own tweet: “First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!”
As of Monday, the United States had registered more than 16 million Covid-19 cases and was fast closing in on the grim milestone of 300,000 deaths from the virus.
That’s it from the WHO briefing. We will turn our attention now to Italy, which reported 491 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday against 484 the day before, the Italian health ministry said.
But the daily tally of new infections declined to 12,030 from 17,938.
The first western country hit by the virus, Italy has seen 65,011 Covid-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.
It has also registered 1.856m cases to date.
Patients in hospital with Covid-19 stood at 27,765 on Monday, up by 30 from the day before.
When Italy’s second wave of the epidemic was accelerating fast in the first half of November, hospital admissions were rising by about 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead, says there is no evidence so far that the new strain of Covid behaves differently.
She said the variant was being monitored by the Virus Evolution Working Group. “It’s come up in the context of mink variants identified elsewhere,” she said.
Here is our story about the new variant of coronavirus, which may be associated with the fastest spread of the virus in the south-east of England:
A Daily Telegraph reporter asks the WHO about the new strain of Covid-19 discussed by Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, today.
Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s emergencies programme, said it was aware of the variant.
This kind of evolution and mutations are actually quite common. The question, as we’ve had most recently with the mink variants in Denmark and previous variations, is: does this make the virus more serious? Does it allow the virus to transmit more easily? Does it in any way interfere with diagnostics? Would it in any way interfere with vaccine effectiveness? None of these questions are addressed yet.”
More on that reassuring news from the WHO that Father Christmas will not get stuck in quarantine when delivering presents this year:
Dr Maria Van Kerkoze stresses that even though Santa Claus is immune doesn’t mean that children can stay up late to see him on Christmas Eve:
It is very important that all children of the world understand that physical distancing by Santa Claus and also of the children themselves must be strictly enforced. So it is really important that the children of the world still listen to their moms and dads and guardians and make sure they go to bed early on Christmas Eve.
Santa Claus is immune to Covid-19 – WHO
First question at the WHO press briefing comes from a Mexican journalist asking if Santa Claus will be able to deliver presents this year, being “very old” and overweight.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for Covid-19, says:
I understand that concern for Santa because he is of older age … but I can tell you that Santa Claus is immune to this virus. We had a brief chat with him and he is doing very well. Mrs Claus is doing very well and they are very busy right now, but he is immune. We have heard from a number of leaders across the world who have told us that they have restricted, or relaxed, the quarantine measures for Santa to enter the airspace, so he will be able to deliver presents to children.
Ghebreyesus announced the launch of the Global Youth Mobilization for Youth Disrupted, a coalition of youth organisations coming together to examine how young people have been affected by Covid-19 worldwide.
Groups involved in the initiative include the YMCA, the Duke of Edinburgh award, Red Crescent and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Together, they represent 250 million people around the world.
WHO has given the new group $5m (£3.75m) to get started.
We are carrying a live feed, above, from the World Health Organization (WHO) Covid briefing.
Introducing the briefing, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, said 3% of the world’s population work in healthcare but account for 14% of all infections.
He points out that regular hand-washing is key to preventing infection but one in four healthcare facilities globally lack basic water services, in the world’s 47 less developed countries.
Netherlands heading for month-long lockdown
The Dutch prime minister is expected to impose a tough month-long coronavirus lockdown tonight in a speech to the nation after infection rates in the Netherlands rose sharply despite a two-month “partial lockdown”.
Dutch media, citing unnamed government sources, said the prime minister, Mark Rutte, will probably order schools to close beginning on Wednesday. Non-essential shops and businesses such as hair salons, museums and theatres will also close, starting Tuesday until 19 January, AP reported.
Bars and restaurants have been closed since mid-October. The partial lockdown initially slowed high infection rates, but they have been rising again in recent days.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the Netherlands has risen over the past two weeks from 29.22 new cases per 100,000 people on 29 November to 47.47 per 100,000 people on 13 December.
“It’s serious. It’s very serious,” health minister Hugo de Jonge said, ahead of a cabinet meeting to discuss action to rein in the spread of the virus. “We see the infection numbers rising sharply in recent days, we see that hospital admissions are increasing again, the pressure on the health care sector remains high.”
Rutte’s anticipated speech comes a day after neighbouring Germany announced similar coronavirus restrictions in an attempt to reduce its stubbornly high infection rates. Those measures also go well into January.
Ten thousand people in the Netherlands are confirmed to have died of Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak.
Austria’s mass testing programme has been running for two weeks. However, its critics suggest it has only been used by 22% of the population – far below the 60% the government intended.
“It’s a successful step to contain the pandemic in Austria,” health minister Rudolf Anschober said, saying that 2 million people across the country had taken part in tests leading to 4,200 cases being identified.
Christian Deutsch of the main opposition Social Democrats said the campaign was “amateurish” and said IT issues meant some test results had to be recorded with pen and paper.
A new round of mass testing is set to start around 8 January amid some reports the government could offer incentives to get tested.
- Coronavirus live news: US vaccine nearly 95% effective in trials; Germany could impose tougher curbs | World news
- Coronavirus live news: France unlikely to lift lockdown as planned; UK to start vaccinations on Tuesday | World news
- Coronavirus live news: Putin orders start of mass vaccinations; Germany inches towards tougher lockdown | World news
- Coronavirus live news: WHO warns Covid ‘not tired of us’ as top UK scientist says vaccine ‘feels like watershed moment’ | World news