The US Food and Drug Administration said any changes to vaccine dosing would be premature. Global coronavirus infections climbed above 85 million, after daily cases in the US soared to a record of nearly 300,000 following the New Year holiday.

Reports that unauthorised vaccines may have been used in the Philippines spurred fallout as the health secretary proposed an investigation and President Rodrigo Duterte pushed back.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a national lockdown in England starting from Monday night until mid-February to prevent a surge in coronavirus from overwhelming the National Health Service.

Israel plans to vaccinate 70% to 80% of its population by April or May. South Korea’s death toll rose above 1,000.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 85.5 million; deaths exceed 1.85 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 13 million shots given worldwide
  • US Hot Spots: Cases inch back toward peak after holiday slump
  • Video: US needs private-public vaccine plan, Johns Hopkins says
  • France’s slow vaccine start sparks crisis for Macron
  • US risks years of higher mortality on Covid’s economic fallout
  • Why the UK’s mutated coronavirus is fanning worries: QuickTake

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Germany May Extend Curbs (2:51 pm HK)

Germany is poised to extend its lockdown beyond Jan 10 as Chancellor Angela Merkel discusses the curbs with regional officials on Tuesday. Europe’s biggest economy added 12,320 new infections in the 24 hours through Tuesday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It recorded an additional 957 deaths.

Tokyo’s ‘Serious Cases’ at Record (2:27 pm HK)

Tokyo confirmed 1,278 new virus cases Tuesday, the second-highest on record, as the government prepares to declare a state of emergency for the city and its neighbouring prefectures following a meeting by a committee of virus experts. The capital’s total serious cases to 111, the highest ever, taking up half the available beds.

Singapore Travel Talks; Thai Spread (1:25 pm HK)

Singapore is in negotiations to establish potential travel lanes with Vietnam, Thailand and France, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing wrote in reply to a parliamentary question.

Separately, Thailand will curb travel between regions seen at higher risk from a new wave of coronavirus infections and will extend a nationwide state of emergency to contain the virus spread till the end of February.

Thailand reported 527 new virus cases on Tuesday, taking its total to 8,966. A majority of the new cases in recent weeks were tied to a seafood market in Samut Sakhon province near Bangkok and local transmissions have now been reported from 56 provinces, an official said.

Qantas Expands Ticket Sales (11:30 am HK)

Qantas Airways has started taking bookings for international flights from July 1. Ticket sales for Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, which had been set to start in March, have been pushed back to July, while other destinations like London have been brought forward from October, Australia’s national carrier said. New Zealand is the only overseas destination to which Qantas is currently flying.

South Korea Says Virus Has Peaked (10:02 am HK)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in says the spread of coronavirus is being slowly contained after reaching a peak considering the reproduction rate is falling.

Earlier, the country reported 715 new cases over the past 24 hours versus 1,020 the previous day, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s website. Total deaths passed the 1,000 mark, reaching 1,007.

US Says Too Early for Dose Changes (8.58 am HK)

US FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said suggesting changes to the FDA-authorised dosing or schedules of Covid-19 vaccines at this time is “premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence.” The FDA has been following discussions about reducing doses, extending the length of time between them and other potential changes, he said in a statement.

“However, at this time, suggesting changes to the FDA-authorised dosing or schedules of these vaccines is premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence. Without appropriate data supporting such changes in vaccine administration, we run a significant risk of placing public health at risk, undermining the historic vaccination efforts to protect the population from Covid-19.” -- Stephen Hahn

Australia Tests in the Outback (8.36 am HK)

Australian authorities appear to be on top of controlling virus clusters in its two-most populous states, for now. New South Wales on Tuesday recorded four new locally acquired cases from the day before, while Victoria had three.

Still, New South Wales authorities are concerned after an 18-year-old Sydney man tested positive after traveling to Outback areas including Broken Hill for a camping trip. Testing clinics are being set up in the remote towns he visited.

Minnesota to Relax Restrictions (7.40 am HK)

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz will announce a loosening of virus restrictions on indoor dining and other settings Wednesday, according to a report from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that cited the governor’s spokesman. The statement cited an improvement in case numbers “following the pause on activities around the holidays.”

Duterte Warns on Vaccine Probe (7.30 am HK)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he will not allow members of his security team to face a congressional probe for their use of an unauthorised vaccine, warning legislators of a “crisis” if they push through with an investigation.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque earlier in the day said his agency will investigate how unauthorised Covid-19 vaccines were given to Duterte’s security team and reportedly to thousands of Chinese workers. Duque was reacting to a media report that around 100,000 Chinese nationals working in the Philippines have been vaccinated as early as November even as regulators have yet to approve any vaccines for use in the Philippines.

Texas Sees Surge in Hospitalisations (6.45 am HK)

Coronavirus hospitalisations in Texas climbed to 20% of capacity on Monday as 12,961 Texans, another record, sought medical care.

Eighteen of the state’s 22 trauma-service areas reported hospital occupancy rates of more than 15%, a threshold set by Governor Greg Abbott for potentially imposing more lockdown measures. Seven of the areas are reporting fewer than 10 available intensive-care beds, with two saying they have none left.

Monday saw 15,978 new virus cases, short of last week’s record of more than 26,000.

New York has case of virus variant (5.15 am HK)

New York State has found its first case of the UK variant of coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

A man in his 60s who lives in Saratoga County in upstate New York tested positive for the B117 variant, Cuomo said. The man had not traveled recently, which suggests it was the result of community spread, Cuomo said on a conference call.

The state has done about 5,000 tests looking for the new strain, Cuomo said. The new strain is more transmittable, he said, which could be a problem as the state deals with rising hospitalisations.

Johnson Hits England With Full Lockdown (4.10 am HK)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a third coronavirus lockdown across England, shutting schools and ordering the public to stay at home, amid dire warnings that the National Health Service is being pushed to breaking point.

The full emergency lockdown will start immediately and last until at least Feb 15, potentially devastating retail and hospitality businesses and threatening to push the economy into a double-dip recession, as medics try to get a grip on the pandemic.

In a televised address to the nation, the prime minister insisted he had no option but to close down all social activities, education and non-essential travel in the face of a sudden and severe surge in infections.

The UK reported an increase of 58,784 new coronavirus cases on Jan 4, the most on record. The total currently stands at 2.71 million. It also reported 407 deaths, compared with a seven-day average of 604.

EU’s Moderna Decision May Come This Week (3.45 am HK)

The European Union’s drug regulator said a decision on the safety and efficacy of Moderna Inc’s Covid vaccine would come on Wednesday at the earliest. There had been speculation that a decision would come during a meeting Monday, but a spokesman for the European Medicines Agency said the discussion had not concluded and will continue Wednesday.

Approval would give the EU a second cleared shot, after one from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE got the go-ahead in December.

Moderna Lifts Vaccine Output Outlook 20% (3.40 am HK)

Moderna Inc said it will make at least 600 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in 2021, with a goal of finishing the year with as many as 1 billion doses produced. The shares rose.

The announcement increased the bottom end of the company’s production forecast by 100 million doses. Moderna is “continuing to invest and add staff” to produce the two-shot vaccine, according to a statement by the Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech company on Monday.

Ireland to Suspend Some Hospital Services (2.45 am HK)

Ireland will start suspending non-essential hospital services, in an effort to preserve capacity to handle surging coronavirus cases. The country reported a record 6,110 new cases Monday, with six deaths.

“This is a really serious situation that demands immediate action,” Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan told reporters in Dublin.

People with flu-like symptoms should now assume they have Covid-19, he said, while the positivity rate is now at about 20%. The government may delay reopening schools until the end of January, state broadcaster RTE reported. Schools are due to open on Jan 11.

Cuomo Calls for Speedier Vaccinations (1.05 am HK)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the state’s public and private hospitals to administer coronavirus vaccines more quickly, warning of fines of as much as US$100,000 ($131,858) for those who don’t comply.

The 194 hospitals in the state have received about 46% of the state’s total vaccine allocation, he said at a briefing Monday. “I need those public officials to step in and manage those systems. You have the allocation; we want it in people’s arms as soon as possible.”

The state health department this week notified providers that if they don’t use the allocations they already have by the end of the week, they will be fined up to US$100,000.

NYC Ramps Up Vaccination Program (11.42 pm HK)

New York City aims to materially speed up the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations, expanding the groups of people it gives the shots to beyond health-care workers to include educators and first responders in the next few weeks, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a briefing Monday.

De Blasio said he expects the city to administer 400,000 vaccinations a week at 250 sites by the end of January. The city has only administered around 100,000 doses since it began vaccinating residents about three weeks ago.

The city will also make new groups eligible beginning Jan 11, including home-care workers, hospice employees and more nursing home staff. The city will also open up three new vaccine hubs later this week, and will add two new pop-up clinics and five new vaccination sites. “I want to go 24-7, seven days a week,” de Blasio said, noting that it was important to proceed with caution at the beginning of the vaccine rollout. “Getting it right gave confidence; now it’s time to sprint.”

Pfizer Offers Discount to South Africa (11.17 pm HK)

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE offered to supply South Africa with their Covid-19 vaccine at a discounted US$10 a dose, yet the president’s office still described the cost as prohibitive. The discount reflects South Africa’s status as a middle-income country and the site of a vaccine trial being conducted by the companies, the person said. The price is about half the cost of a shot in the US.

Scotland Moving Into Lockdown (10.20 pm HK)

Scotland will implement another lockdown from midnight, including keeping schools closed and ordering people to largely remain at home.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was no choice but to take more drastic action as hospital admissions reached levels not seen since the previous peak of the pandemic in April. School closures will be reviewed in the middle of January.

Israel Surges Ahead With Vaccination (10 pm HK)

Israel plans to vaccinate 70% to 80% of its population by April or May, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Monday. The inoculation drive, which leads efforts around the world on a per capita basis, has already administered first doses of the Pfizer Inc shot to about 1.2 million residents, or more than 12% of the population.

“I hope that in several weeks we’ll be ready to report that the majority of the at-risk population got two doses of the vaccine,” he said.

North Korea Requests Vaccine, WSJ Says (7.20 pm HK)

North Korea asked for virus vaccines from the main global alliance helping lower-income countries fight the pandemic, the Wall Street Journal said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Gavi, the international vaccine alliance, declined to comment on North Korea’s application, the WSJ said. North Korea has reached out to several European embassies, asking how the country might get vaccines, the newspaper said.

Germany Set to Extend Stricter Lockdown (7 pm HK)

Germany is poised to extend stricter lockdown measures beyond Jan 10 amid criticism over alleged failures in the nation’s vaccination program. Authorities agreed to continue curbs until Jan 31, Bild newspaper reported.

Germany’s daily tally of virus cases and deaths reached record numbers last week, before falling back over the New Year.