Coronavirus updates, November 24: Latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic from Pakistan and around the world

Nationwide confirmed cases jump past 379,800; death toll crosses 7,740; global death toll tops 1,395,000

Web Desk

Pakistan's COVID-19 tally rose to 379,883 on Tuesday after 2,954 new cases emerged in the past 24 hours across the country.

The province-wise break up of the total number of cases as of 9:00 am, November 24, is as follows:

Total confirmed cases: 379,883

• Sindh: 164,651

• Punjab: 115,138

• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 44,932

• Balochistan: 16,846

• Islamabad Capital Territory: 27,555

• Gilgit-Baltistan: 4,558

• AJK: 6,203

Deaths: 7,744

• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 1,330

• Punjab: 2,879

• Sindh: 2,845

• Balochistan: 163

• Gilgit-Baltistan: 95

• Islamabad Capital Territory: 285

• AJK: 147

More than 59,128,645 infections have been confirmed globally with over 1,395,658 deaths, according to the John Hopkins University tally.

End of live updates for November 24

11:57pm — Moscow, Russia  — Russia discusses possible production of Sputnik V vaccine in Germany: IFX

Russia is discussing possible production of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in Germany, Interfax news agency quoted Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund, as saying.

Dmitriev also said RDIF expected a visit by a delegation from France this week, Interfax added.

11:49pm — Paris, France — Coronavirus new cases and hospital numbers again drop sharply

The number of new coronavirus infections and the number of people in hospital with the virus in France again dropped sharply as a national lockdown went into its fourth week.

The health ministry reported the number of new cases rose by 9,155 to 2.15 million, compared to 4,452 on Monday - when numbers are usually low due to weekend reporting lags - and compared to 45,522 last Tuesday.

10:30pm Karachi, Pakistan — Shopping mall at Tariq Road sealed for violating coronavirus SOPs

A shopping mall located at Karachi's Tariq Road area was sealed by authorities on Tuesday after it was found violating the coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs).

According to Assistant Commissioner Ferozeabad Arsalan Saleem, the mall was sealed and the management was fined as the shopping mall violated the SOPs by remaining past the time limit prescribed to it by authorities.

Karachi's major markets near MA Jinnah Road, Light House, and Liaquatabad were found violating the Sindh government's earlier orders that called on business centres to close businesses by 6:00 pm.

Read complete story here

9:56pm — Ankara, Turkey — Daily COVID-19 deaths hit a record high of 161

Turkey's daily death toll from the coronavirus hit a record high of 161 on Tuesday, according to data from the Health Ministry, after the country introduced nationwide measures last week amid a surge in cases.

The data showed 7,381 new COVID-19 patients were recorded in the country, while the overall death toll rose to 12,672. Since July, Ankara has only reported symptomatic COVID-19 patients, a move critics say hides the true scale of the outbreak.

9:22pm — Shanghai, China — 22 new coronavirus cases reported as Tianjin flags 'pig head' link

China recorded 22 new COVID-19 infections on November 23, up from 11 a day earlier, the country's health authority said, while an official from the city of Tianjin said two confirmed cases this month caught the virus from pig heads from North America.

The National Health Commission said on Tuesday 20 of the new cases were imported infections that originated overseas. One local transmission was reported in Shanghai and another in Tianjin.

The Shanghai case together with a second one reported earlier in the city have been traced to a container from North America, which the two men cleaned when it arrived at an airport, according to the Shanghai Daily.

The latest infection in Tianjin was previously an asymptomatic case, according to state media.

8:43pm — Zurich, Switzerland — Swiss on way to halving COVID-19 infections every two weeks

Switzerland is on its way towards halving the number of new COVID-19 infections every two weeks thanks to strict measures in the country's west that was particularly hard hit by the second wave of the virus, officials said.

Martin Ackermann, head of the COVID-19 science task force, told a media briefing a national reproduction rate at 0.7 to 0.8 meant the number of new infections was being cut in half every fortnight. A value below 1 means that statistically one infected person passes the virus on to fewer than one other person.

"We see differences between the regions at the moment (...) We currently have the lowest reproduction rate in the French-speaking cantons that took additional measures. They are contributing to (us) reaching the milestone of halving (the number of new cases) every two weeks," Ackermann said.

Switzerland had seen a rapid surge in infections since October, with 1,040 deaths in the last two weeks alone.

8:15pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Administration seals several shops due to violation of coronavirus SOPs

Karachi's administration has sealed several shops in the metropolis citing violation of coronavirus safety measures.

The Deputy Commissioner Central took action against shops in Nazimabad, North Nazimabad, Gulberg, New Karachi, and other places. 

In Dolmen Mall and North Nazimabad 53 shops, whole 320 shops were sealed in a mall, the deputy commissioner said.

7:41pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh closes shrines till January 31

The Sindh government has decided to close the doors of the shrines across the province as the coronavirus situation worsens.

7:20pm — France, Paris — Airlines set to lose $157 billion amid worsening slump: IATA

Airlines are on course to lose a total $157 billion this year and next, their main global body warned on Tuesday, further downgrading its industry outlook in response to a second wave of coronavirus infections and shutdowns afflicting major markets, Reuters reported.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which in June had forecast $100 billion in losses for the two-year period, said it now projects a $118.5 billion deficit this year alone, and a further $38.7 billion for 2021.

The bleak outlook underscores challenges still facing the sector despite upbeat news on development of COVID-19 vaccines, whose global deployment will continue throughout next year.

"The positive impact it will have on the economy and air traffic will not happen massively before mid-2021," IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac told Reuters.

6:48pm — Warsaw, Poland — Eight coronavirus cases found in farmed mink

Polish scientists have identified the first cases of COVID-19 in mink at a farm in the north of the country, the Medical University of Gdansk said, Reuters reported.

Poland, a major producer of mink fur, started coronavirus tests among its farmed mink and checks on workers this month after a mutated virus was found in farmed mink in Denmark, leading to a nationwide cull there.

No coronavirus cases among mink had previously been discovered in Poland.

Veterinary and sanitary authorities said last week that 18 coronavirus cases had been identified among mink farm workers since the start of the pandemic, but it was unlikely that they were infected by the animals.

The University of Gdansk said in a statement that scientists tested 91 mink for coronavirus and eight turned out positive.

6:25pm — Karachi, Pakistan — 13 die, 1,382 more infected in Sindh

The coronavirus has taken the lives of 13 more people and infected another 1,382, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said in a press release.

The chief minister said that the death toll had reached 2,858, while the overall cases stood at 166,033.

6:05pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — NCC approves education ministers' recommendation

Federal planning minister Asad Umar said that the recommendations that were laid down by the state's education minister were approved by the National Coordination Committee.

Addressing a presser alongside PM's aide on health Dr Faisal Sultan, he said: "Schools will continue and a mechanism will be set up for education to move on uninterrupted. Provinces will take measures according to their feasibility."

The planning minister also said that schools would reopen after winter vacations on January 11, if the government could control the second COVID-19 wave.

5:53pm — Biden transition and vaccine hopes drive up stocks, oil and bitcoin

Stocks, oil and risk currencies, including bitcoin, gained as US President-elect Joe Biden got the formal go-ahead to begin his transition to the White House, Reuters reported.

The world's most popular cryptocurrency rose 3% to near its record high, leading a surge in risk appetite as the European STOXX 600 index climbed 0.6% and Brent crude rose to its highest level since March at $46.52 a barrel. Safe-haven assets such as gold fell.

After weeks of legal challenges to the election results, US General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy wrote to Biden on Monday informing him the formal handover process could begin.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he had told his team "do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols", an indication he was moving towards a transition.

"Markets have been constrained by very high levels of uncertainty on the US political front and around vaccines for weeks, so with those two going away investors are considering the prospect of a return to normality in 2021," said Emmanuel Cau, head of European equity strategy at Barclays.

5:21pm — EU has deal with Moderna for supply of COVID-19 vaccine candidate- von der Leyen

The European Union has reached a deal with US biotech firm Moderna for the supply of up to 160 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, the president of the European Commission said, Reuters reported.

The deal will be formally approved by the EU executive on Wednesday, Ursula von der Leyen said.

4:54pm — Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan — Daily situation report

4:29pm — Moscow, Russia — Russia's Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine to cost less than $20

Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine will cost less than $20 per person on international markets and Moscow aims to produce more than a billion doses at home and abroad next year, its backers and developers say.

The Sputnik vaccine is administered in two shots, each of which will cost less than $10 each, according to the official Sputnik V Twitter account. For Russian citizens, vaccination will be free of charge.

The pricing announcement comes as Russia looks to scale up distribution and production. Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund, said Moscow and its foreign partners had capacity to make more than a billion doses starting from next year, enough to vaccinate over 500 million people.

The international market price for Sputnik V unveiled on Tuesday is cheaper than some other Western rivals such as a vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, which costs 15.5 euros per shot, but more expensive that a vaccine produced by AstraZeneca which will be sold in Europe for around 2.5 euros per shot.

4:00pm — Italy, Rome — PM Conte tells Italians to avoid skiing at Christmas due to COVID-19 risk

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has warned Italians not to ski during the Christmas holidays to help curb a second wave of the new coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 50,000.

Italy's ski resorts earn annual revenues of about 11 billion euros, one third of which comes from the days Italians usually spend on the Alps and Dolomites at Christmas and New Year.

But Conte said this year it would not be possible "to allow holidays on the snow. We cannot afford it".

Italy reported 630 COVID 19-related deaths on Monday, becoming the sixth nation in the world to surpass 50,000 deaths, and the second in Europe after Britain.

3:45pm — Moscow, Russia — Russia reports record 491 coronavirus deaths, 24,326 new infections

Russia reported a record 491 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the official death toll to 37,031.

Authorities also reported 24,326 new coronavirus infections in the space of 24 hours, including 5,838 in the capital Moscow, bringing the national cumulative tally to 2,138,828.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova on Tuesday said the coronavirus situation was becoming more complicated with the onset of autumn and winter, Russian news agencies reported.

3:30pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Nine cops test positive for COVID-19 

Nine cops have tested positive for the coronavirus, confirmed a spokesperson of the Sindh Police.

According to the spokesperson 3,591 officials have tested positive for the virus out of which 3,467 have recovered. He also added that 74 Sindh Police officials are currently being treated for the coronavirus.

The spokesman said that 20 police officials have lost their lives due to coronavirus.

3:15pm — London, UK — England to use testing to shorten quarantine for incoming passengers

England will introduce a new system on Dec. 15 allowing passengers arriving from high-risk countries to take a COVID-19 test after five days of quarantine and to be released from any further self-isolation if they test negative.

Airlines and other companies in the travel and tourism industries had been calling for such a scheme for months, having suffered devastating consequences from a 14-day quarantine rule that has deterred people from travelling.

England's current lockdown bans most international travel but when it ends on Dec. 2, people will be free to go abroad whatever restrictions are imposed in their local area, transport minister Grant Shapps said on Tuesday.

"You can go abroad but of course there's a penalty to pay for that in terms of having a potential quarantine period when you come back," he told BBC radio, when asked about the end of lockdown.

3:00pm — Dublin, Ireland — EU drug regulator could rule on COVID-19 vaccines by year end: report

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) could produce a scientific opinion on COVID-19 vaccines seeking regulatory approval by the end of the year in a best case scenario, the regulator's new chief was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca followed rivals Pfizer and Moderna on Monday in publishing successful pivotal trial data for its COVID-19 vaccine, giving the world's fight against the pandemic a third new weapon.

"Assuming everything is positive — and we have to look at the data to be sure — but best case, we could have a scientific opinion by the end of the year," EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke told the Irish Independent newspaper in an interview.

"These have been developed very quickly, which is very promising from a scientific perspective, but it means there is a lot of attention on the results and we have to make sure we evaluate those as efficiently as we can without compromising our usual scientific standards."

2:45pm — Hong Kong to shut bars, nightclubs for third time as new COVID-19 cases jump

Hong Kong will close bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues for the third time this year, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Tuesday as authorities scramble to tackle a renewed rise in coronavirus cases.

Authorities are also reopening a temporary COVID-19 treatment hall near the city's airport.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong reported 80 new coronavirus cases, taking the total since late January to 5,782 COVID-19 infections and 108 deaths.

"There are multiple transmission chains in the community," Chan told a news conference.

"We need to tighten all social distancing measures, because the pandemic is severe."

Bars and nightclubs, as well as other types of venues such as karaoke and dance halls, will be closed initially for seven days until at least Dec. 3. They were first closed for several weeks in April and again from mid-July to mid-September, before restrictions were gradually eased again.

2:30pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh govt makes masks mandatory at vegetable markets 

Sindh Government has made it mandatory for people to wear masks at all vegetable markers in the province, confirmed Agricultural Minister Ismail Rahu.

Rahu also stated elderly citizens will also be banned from entering the vegetable markets. He also directed all committee chairmen to install sanitizer gates at the markets and warned them that if SOPs are not followed then the markets will be sealed.

2:15pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — US has assured Pakistan support over coronavirus vaccine: PM Imran  

PM Imran Khan on Tuesday said that the US has assured Pakistan that it will assist the country in obtaining the coronavirus vaccine.

“The United States has agreed to cooperate in the development of the coronavirus vaccine in Pakistan,” said PM Imran in a letter sent to the health ministry. He added that the US will first distribute the vaccine to its citizens first and then help the allies.

“The United States has assured full cooperation in vaccine development. All stakeholders and private sector should be consulted for vaccine development in Pakistan,” said PM Imran in the letter. He added that the advice should be sent to him as soon as the consultations are held.

1:45pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Traders reject Sindh govt's latest coronavirus measures

The Karachi Electronics Dealers Association on Tuesday rejected Sindh government's latest coronavirus measures to contain the outbreak.

The provincial government has restricted markets and business centre opening hours to 6:00am to 6:00pm on weekdays and ordered it to remain shut on weekends.

However, the association's president, Muhammad Rizwan Irfan, pointed out that opening up shops at 6:00am would not be feasible for the owners and asked the government to change the timing to 10:00am to 8:00pm instead.

Stressing that the business community was cooperating with the authorities, Irfan said the new timings will do more than the previous lockdown. He said the government should fulfil its responsibility but not take away the trader's right to employment. 

Read more here.

1:30pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — PM Imran Khan to take nation into confidence  

Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to take the nation into confidence over the government's latest coronavirus measures.

The premier will address the nation after chairing the National Coordination Committee (NCC) today. Amid deteriorating situation of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, PM Imran Khan is reviewing the national strategy to curb the spread of the virus.

1:00pm — As virus surge, Japan to suspend domestic travel campaign in two cities

The Japanese government is preparing to pause its domestic travel campaign in two cities following sharp rises in COVID-19 cases, the minister handling the government’s coronavirus response said on Tuesday.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said he hoped a final decision on the temporary exclusion of western Osaka city as well as Sapporo in northern Japan could be made later in the day.

“Infections are spreading and medical care is becoming tense, so I think it’s good to act as soon as possible,” Nishimura told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

12:33pm — Brazil has enough infection data to analyse Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine: officials

Brazil has gathered enough infection data from a late-stage trial of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech and expects to have interim results on its efficiency in early December, trial organisers said on Monday.

According to Reuter's report, Dimas Covas, director of Butantan biomedical research institute that is running the late-stage trial of the Sinovac vaccine in Brazil, said it now has 74 confirmed cases among its trial participants, above the 61 initial milestones set for interim efficiency analysis.

12:00pm — Over 10,000 health professionals affected by coronavirus in Pakistan so far

More than 10,000 healthcare workers have been infected with the deadly coronavirus in Pakistan to date, a sign of the threat the virus poses to doctors and nurses who are on the front lines.

This comes at a time when Covid-19 cases in Pakistan have again picked up the pace, as health officials warn of a second wave gripping the country. There are now more than 370,000 cases of the coronavirus and 7,700 deaths. 

Globally, Pakistan is the 28th most impacted country by the pandemic, in terms of cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

11:25am — Japan's ramen bars struggle to stay open as COVID hammers small firms

TOKYO: Sixty-year-old Yashiro Haga is folding his Tokyo noodle ramen shop after 15 years in December, unable to overcome the prospect of a lasting customer slump due to the coronavirus crisis.

“The flow of people has changed due to the coronavirus,” Haga told Reuters, standing behind the counter of his ground-floor shop, Shirohachi. “Customers aren’t coming in and queuing up outside shops any longer.”

The pandemic is damaging Japan’s “mom-and-pop” restaurants - including noodle shops like Haga’s - at a growing rate, despite the evidence, the government’s massive effort to stave off bankruptcies is working in other sectors of the economy.

11:05am — WHO says poorest must not be trampled in vaccines stampede

With Covid-19 vaccines on the horizon, the planet's poorest must not be trampled as countries scramble to get their hands on them, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

According to an AFP news report, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the latest batch of promising results from final-phase candidate vaccine trials showed there was light at the end of the "long dark tunnel" of the coronavirus pandemic.

But he said the world had to ensure they were distributed fairly across the globe. "Every government rightly wants to do everything it can to protect its people," Tedros told a virtual press conference.

10:45am — Shares in world's top latex glove maker plunge as workers test positive for COVID

KUALA LUMPUR: Shares in Top Glove Corp plunged on Tuesday after Malaysia said it would close some factories of the world’s biggest rubber glove maker as more than 2,000 of its workers had tested positive for COVID-19, Reuters reported.

Top Glove’s shares were down as much as 7.5% by late morning after the government said 28 factory buildings will be shut in phases, although it did not provide a timetable.

10:30am — UK's Johnson says there will be no compulsory COVID vaccination

Britain’s government will not force people to have vaccinations against COVID-19, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday as reported by Reuters.

“There will be no compulsory vaccination. That’s not the way we do things in this country,” Johnson told a news conference.

“We think it (vaccination) is a good idea, and you know I totally reject the propaganda of the anti-vaxxers, they are wrong,” he said. “Everybody should get a vaccine as soon as it is available.”

10:15am — Curtailed Christmas could be 'safest bet': WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday that avoiding family gatherings would be "the safest bet" over Christmas, insisting there is no zero-risk option for traditional holiday merry-making during the coronavirus pandemic, AFP reported.

The WHO officials said it was down to governments to weigh up the economic and social benefits of loosening pandemic restrictions over the festive period, while individuals would have to decide whether they might be putting more vulnerable relatives at risk.

10:05am — Karachi, Pakistan — Markets in Sindh allowed to remain open from 6am to 6pm

Markets and business centres will be allowed to stay open 6:00am to 6:00pm on weekdays and remain closed on weekends, Sindh Home Department said in a notification on Monday.

The development comes as the Sindh government attempts to contain rapidly increasing coronavirus infections across the province.

9:55am — US posts sharpest weekly rise in COVID-19 deaths since August

The United States recorded its biggest weekly rise in COVID-19 deaths since August, increasing 32% from the previous week to average about 1,500 people per day, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county reports.

New cases rose 13% in the week ended Nov. 22, or an average of more than 168,000 per day

Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday, at least 23 states have announced new restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus but so far only New Mexico has issued a stay-at-home order.

9:40am — Pakistan reports 48 new deaths in last 24 hours

ISLAMABAD: A total of 2,954 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing the tally to 379,883. With 48 new deaths, the country's coronavirus death toll reached 7,744. 

So far, a total of 331,760 people have recovered from the virus while the active number of cases stands at 40,379.

9:30am — London, England — England to use testing to shorten quarantine for incoming passengers

England will introduce a new system on Dec. 15 allowing passengers arriving from high-risk countries to take a COVID-19 test after five days of quarantine and to be released from any further self-isolation if they test negative, Reuters reported.

Airlines and other companies in the travel and tourism industries had been calling for such a scheme for months, having suffered devastating consequences from a 14-day quarantine rule that has deterred people from travelling.

9:15am — Peshawar, Pakistan — Multiple marriage halls, restaurants sealed over SOPs violation

Authorities in Peshawar sealed multiple marriage halls, restaurants, banks, and shops for violating coronavirus SOPs onTuesday.

According to district authorities, four marriage halls located on Peshawar’s Ring Road and GT Road were sealed. They added that the functions at the halls were ongoing despite the ban placed on them and the managers were arrested as well.

The officials also shared that they have also sealed more than 10 restaurants, cafeterias, and related food points in Hayatabad. They also sealed two banks for violating SOPs.

The district authorities have also sealed more than 1,000 shops located in different areas of Peshawar. They appealed to the traders and people not to rush the marketplaces.

9:00am — Islamabad, Pakistan — PM Imran Khan convenes NCC meeting to review coronavirus strategy

Amid deteriorating situation of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan has convened an important meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) to review the national strategy to curb the spread of the virus.

According to sources, the meeting will be attended by officials from the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) and the Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination. They will discuss the growing trend of COVID-19 infections across the country.

The premier will be briefed on the measures taken to contain the spread of coronavirus and will give the final approval on the closure of educational institutions, which was announced earlier by Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood.

Sources revealed that important decisions are expected to be taken in the NCC meeting which can include more smart lockdowns in different parts of the country.

Read more here.