The FTSE 100 posted its biggest one-day gain since March on Monday after the drug companies Pfizer and BioNTech said their prospective coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective.
The news jolted global stock market indices to record levels but it also highlighted the stark divergences in fortunes across sectors during the pandemic. Those companies who gained from people spending their work and leisure time at home were among the biggest losers on Monday, while the vaccine news offered some welcome relief to previously hard-hit sectors such as travel and events:
Joe Biden vowed on Monday to spare no effort in tackling the coronavirus pandemic as soon as he enters the White House and warned the US is “facing a very dark winter”.
Speaking in a televised address to the nation – little more than 48 hours after he was announced the winner of the presidential election – the Democrat said he was ready to get to work, laying out plans as the pandemic on Monday was approaching 10m cases.
The US has experienced record new infections in recent days, a figure expected to significantly worsen before the former vice-president’s inauguration on 20 January. According to Johns Hopkins university, as of Sunday the coronavirus had killed 237,570 people in the US and had infected more than 9.9 million.
While he welcomed Pfizer’s announcement earlier in the day that it has found a vaccine that it believes is 90% effective, he warned America could lose 200,000 more lives in the next few months before a vaccine becomes available:
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As the US passes 10m coronavirus cases, the highest in the world and a fifth of the global total of 50m, pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and BioNTech revealed interim results of large-scale trials which showed that its Covid-19 vaccine was 90% effective. World leaders and scientists reacted to the news with cautious optimism.
You can read Sarah Boseley’s analysis of the vaccine announcement here and a Q&A by Nicola Davis here. There is also this piece by Philip Oltermann on the husband and wife dream team behind BioNTech and how the news was a shot in the arm for Germany’s Turkish community.
Here are the key developments from the last few hours:
- Italy will ramp up coronavirus restrictions in Tuscany and four other regions from Wednesday to rein in the second wave of the pandemic, a health ministry source said on Monday. Last week, the government imposed nationwide curbs including a nightly curfew, and divided the country into three zones based on the intensity of their Covid-19 outbreaks, calibrating additional limitations accordingly.
- The US president-elect Joe Biden led the tone for much of the reaction from world leaders. He said it could be “many months” before the vaccine is widely available – providing it passes several more hurdles in the approval and distribution process – and warned Americans: “We’re still facing a very dark winter.”
- Sir John Bell, one of the UK’s most eminent vaccines experts, said he believed “with some confidence” that life should return to normal by spring next year following the Pfizer/BioNTech announcement. Bell went further than many of peers in the scientific community but his prediction carries significant weight given his role on the UK’s vaccines taskforce.
- A senior World Health Organisation official said a Covid-19 vaccine may be rolled out by March 2021 to the most vulnerable. Bruce Aylward told the WHO’s annual ministerial assembly that interim results from Pfizer’s late-stage vaccine trial were “very positive”.
- There was also positive news from Belgium, where health officials said a second wave of Covid-19 hospital admissions appeared to have peaked and would now begin to decline. About 400 people were hospitalised due to coronavirus complications on Sunday, compared with 879 on 3 November.
- Iran was one of a number of countries reporting a record rise in the daily number of coronavirus cases. It said the figure had reached 10,463 over the previous 24 hours, the first time the numbers for new infections had reached five figures. Russia also reported its highest 24-hour tally of new infections.
- Doctors in Italy have warned there will be an additional 10,000 Covid-19 deaths in a month in the country unless a national lockdown is imposed. As Italy edges towards a million coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic, 32,616 new cases were registered on Sunday, a more than sevenfold increase since 8 October
- The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has tested positive for coronavirus. Zelenskiy said he “feels good” and was self-isolating, adding on Twitter: “It’s gonna be fine!”