This year has upended so much in modern life that even New Year’s Eve celebrations tonight will be different, downscaled or canceled due to Covid-19 precautions. From London to Rio de Janeiro, large firework displays have been substituted with special at-home broadcasts. Australian police will conduct spot checks of New Year’s Eve parties in New South Wales, while Delhi has installed a curfew to limit celebrations. There are, however, some outliers: Everything is go in Dubai — with health and safety measures in place.
The largely subdued celebrations reflect this devastating year. In the United States, more people have died from Covid-19 in 2020 than were killed in battle in World War II and Vietnam combined. And the outlook remains grim for the first few months of next year. A new forecast projects more than 80,000 could die from the virus in the next three weeks in the US. In England, “it is a pretty grim and depressing picture at the moment,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam told a Wednesday press conference.
Vaccines may have brought a spark of optimism to this quieter holiday season, but hiccups may lie ahead. The vaccine rollout in the US is falling behind schedule, while the Covid-19 immunization shopping spree by rich nations means poorer countries will take longer to emerge from the crisis.
Despite the gloom, there have been triumphs: Polio was eradicated from Africa in 2020, and the pandemic prompted a historically speedy vaccine that rewrote all the rules about how quickly such a shot could be produced, Rob Picheta writes. Then there are the countless stories of human resilience, especially from frontline workers, who continue to risk their health to save lives and keep economies running during this unforgettable year.
We’re off tomorrow, but will be back with the briefing on Monday, January 4. Have a happy New Year and keep safe.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: How does the US’s Covid-19 vaccination rate compare to other countries?
A: To put the pace of vaccination efforts in the United States in context, CNN compared the daily per capita rate of doses administered in the US to that of four other countries: Bahrain, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom.
In the US, 161,820 doses administered per day in a country of 328,239,520 people scales to about 49 doses per 100,000 people each day.
The daily rate of vaccines administered per 100,000 population averages 608 in Israel, 263 in Bahrain, 60 in the UK and just 10 in Canada.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Covid-19 numbers keep rising in the US as more cases of the new variant are picked up
The US reported a record death toll for the second day in a row, with more than 3,740 Covid-19 fatalities Wednesday, Christina Maxouris writes. The country also reported a record high of more than 125,200 Covid-19 hospitalizations nationwide. Meanwhile, two states have now found the Covid-19 variant that was first identified in the UK. Health officials announced Wednesday the variant had been detected in a 30-year-old San Diego man, who is not hospitalized and had very few social interactions during his potential contagious period.
There is no evidence the variant causes more severe symptoms, and the good news is the vaccines that are being distributed across the country will likely protect against the variant, Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir told CNN Wednesday.
China approves Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine
Chinese regulators have approved the country’s first homegrown coronavirus vaccine, developed by state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, officials announced Thursday. The approval comes a day after Sinopharm said its vaccine is 79.34% effective, citing interim analysis of Phase 3 clinical trials. No detailed efficacy data for the vaccine has been released though.
This comes as Japan’s government said it may consider declaring a state of emergency if Covid-19 spreads further after it reported 3,851 new cases and 65 virus-related deaths. In Australia, a number of states have shut borders in response to an outbreak in northern Sydney, which has taken root in neighboring Victoria.
Pfizer says it has no data to support UK’s vaccination plan
Pfizer says it has no data to demonstrate that just a single dose of its Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine would provide protection against the disease after more than 21 days. This comes the day after the UK government announced it plans to widen intervals, between the first and second jabs, up to 12 weeks.
In a statement, the pharmaceutical giant explained that it did not evaluate different dosing schedules because “the majority of trial participants received the second dose within the window specified in the study design.”
ON OUR RADAR
- Florida’s county-by-county plan to vaccinate its elderly population has created a mass scramble for a limited number of doses, leading to hours-long lines at vaccination sites and overwhelmed county hotlines and websites.
- Dawn Wells, who played the lovable castaway Mary Ann Summers on “Gilligan’s Island,” died in Los Angeles on Wednesday from Covid-19 complications at the age of 82.
- Around the world, many furloughed employees are toughing out the coronavirus pandemic by taking second or third jobs. This group of staff members at Japan Airlines have been dispatched to work in Shinto shrines during the New Year’s period.
- You’d struggle to find anyone in Europe who will be unhappy to see the back of 2020. Covid-19, Brexit and the international political carnage of this year have hammered the continent and exacerbated tensions that have blighted the European Union for years. But those problems are not going anywhere in 2021.
This New Year’s Eve, enjoy a simple celebration at home
It’s not too late to come up with a New Year’s Eve plan. With big parties out of the question (really, please don’t) it’s time to celebrate the end of 2020 the way we’ve marked most major occasions this year: at home. Here’s what you can do.