3.08am GMT
03:08

Australia’s mid-year budget review is due at some stage this week.

It comes just weeks after the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s 2020/21 budget was handed down in October, which was delayed from May due to the pandemic.

Even so, there has been some significant developments in that short space of time.

The economy’s rebound from recession has been stronger than expected, as has the rise in employment, while confidence among Australian and business confidence has gone through the roof – a key pointer to future activity.

2.57am GMT
02:57

In Australia, there are two key events before economists and investors start winding down for year-end – jobs figures and the mid-year budget review, AAP reports.

Thursday’s labour force report for November is not expected to be the blockbuster seen in the previous month, when there was a surprising 178,800 surge in the number of people employed, aided by a return to work in Victoria as its lockdown ended.

For November, economists’ forecasts centre on a 40,000 increase in employment.

The unemployment rate is expected to remain at seven per cent, still shy of the spike to 7.5 per cent seen in June and during the depths of the pandemic, which was the highest level in 22 years.

But this would still mean nearly a million people are without a job.

An analysis by the Reserve Bank last week warned that while the economic outlook remains highly uncertain, it is likely that the unemployment rate will remain elevated for a number of years.

“As such, some unemployed people are facing the prospect of a prolonged period of unemployment,” it says.

Currently around one in every five unemployed people has been jobless for more than a year, an increase from about one in every eight a decade ago.

2.41am GMT
02:41

African-American country singer Charley Pride, whose No. 1 country hits included “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)“ and “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin,’” died on Saturday at age 86 of complications from Covid-19, according to his website.

Pride, who died in Dallas, was not the first Black artist to make important contributions to country music, but he was a trailblazer who emerged during a time of division and rancour.

Country singer Charlie Pride waves to baseball fans during a pre-game ceremony honouring former Negro Leagues baseball players in San Diego. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

Between 1967 and 1987, Pride delivered 52 Top 10 country hits, won Grammy awards and became RCA Records’ top-selling country artist, according to the website.
“We’re not colour blind yet, but we’ve advanced a few paces along the path and I like to think I’ve contributed something to that process,” Pride wrote in his memoir.
The Mississippi native picked cotton, served in the US Army and played baseball in the Negro league before moving to Nashville, becoming the first Black country star. He joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000, Rolling Stone magazine said.

2.26am GMT
02:26

French theatres, cinemas and other venues said on Saturday they would go to court to force the government to allow them reopen, as the country emerges from partial virus lockdown on Tuesday, AFP reports.

The government announced on Thursday it would lift the six-week-long partial lockdown on December 15 and impose a night-time curfew instead.

But in a severe blow for the cultural sector, it said that museums, theatres, concert venues and cinemas would remain closed for three more weeks.

Nicolas Dubourg, president of a union representing 400 venues, said he would seek an urgent hearing on the matter at the Council of State, France’s highest administrative court.

“Our lawyers are busy compiling all the arguments,” he told AFP.

The government’s announcement forced venues into last-minute postponements of year-end productions and shows on which they had been relying to recoup some of their Covid-induced losses.

2.11am GMT
02:11

Panama registered a record 2,806 new cases of coronavirus infections on Saturday, taking the total number in the Central American country to 190,585, while deaths climbed by 22 to 3,331 overall, the health ministry said in a statement.

The record surpassed a previous high of 2,447 new cases reported by the Panamanian government earlier this month.

1.58am GMT
01:58

Mexico’s health ministry on Saturday reported 12,057 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 685 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 1,241,436 cases and 113,704 deaths.

The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Catholic faithful take pictures of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on its annual celebration in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, Mexico. Photograph: Ulises Ruiz/AFP/Getty Images

1.48am GMT
01:48

More on South Korea reporting a record case rise, from Reuters.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Saturday said further tightening social distancing restriction to the nation’s highest level would be inevitable if the spread continues, which would be practically a lockdown for the first time in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

South Korea was praised for its earlier success in containing the virus without a lockdown by relying heavily on contact-tracing and testing since the country’s first case was confirmed in January.

On Saturday, South Korea reported 950 new infections, prompting President Moon Jae-in to order the mobilisation of police, military personnel and public medical doctors to block the spread, which he called an “emergency.”

Greater Seoul is under level 2.5 restrictions. Raising that to 3, the highest of the five levels, would require schools to switch to remote learning, allow only essential workers in offices and ban gatherings of more than 10 people.

1.40am GMT
01:40

From canoeing and caving to mountaineering and axe-throwing, outdoor adventures are being banished from the childhood memories of a generation because of coronavirus regulations.

In the UK, outdoor centres that provide environmental education for young people from inner cities, including those who may be deprived or disabled, are warning that they face collapse due to a lack of government support.

Residential outdoor centres – many of them charities, not-for-profit or small, family-run businesses – have been closed since March and will not open again until April 2021 at the earliest, under Department for Education guidelines. Of the 15,000 teachers and instructors employed in the sector, about 6,000 have lost their jobs and several centres have permanently closed:

1.33am GMT
01:33

Brazil releases vaccination plan that covers a quarter of population, no start date

Brazil’s government has presented a Supreme Court justice with a coronavirus immunisation plan that provides initially for only enough shots for about a quarter of the population and does not indicate a start date, AP reports.

The document, which was made public Saturday, was submitted by President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration the previous night to judge Ricardo Lewandoswki, who had ordered the report after an opposition political party filed a lawsuit seeking information on the government’s immunisation plans for the pandemic.

The plan calls for the government to provide immunisation shots for priority groups that amount to about 51 million people, just under 25% of Brazil’s 212 million people. The first of four phases for vaccinating those groups include health workers, people older than 80 and Indigenous peoples.

People wearing face masks walk the busy shopping streets of downtown Sao Paulo on December 10, 2020 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. According to the state of Sao Paulo, the risk of Covid-19 transmission is greater in December than in July during the first peak of the pandemic. Photograph: Rodrigo Paiva/Getty Images

Signed by the Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, the document says, however, that “the interruption of the circulation of Covid-19 in the national territory depends on a highly effective vaccine” being administered to more than 70% of the population.

No date is given for starting to give out immunisation shots. Brazil’s health regulator, Anvisa, has not yet approved the use of any coronavirus vaccine in the country.

In addition, the plan says that to avoid the collapse of Brazil’s health services, it may be necessary to “maintain social distancing measures for 1 to 2 years” — the type of pandemic restriction that often criticised by Bolsonaro, who argues that economic damage from lockdowns and other pandemic strictures will cause more harm to the country than the illnesses and deaths from the virus.

1.20am GMT
01:20

Germany to tighten restrictions

Germany will close shops from the middle of next week in a tightening of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

The decision came ahead of a meeting planned for Sunday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders.

Germany has been in partial lockdown for six weeks, with bars and restaurants closed, while stores and schools have remained open. Some regions have already imposed tougher measures.

1.02am GMT
01:02

US deaths nearing 300,000 after another record day

The United States hit a record 16 million Covid-19 cases on Saturday afternoon, with deaths closing in on the 300,000 mark, after reporting another daily toll of over 3,000. even as millions of doses of a new vaccine were expected to start rolling out across the nation on Sunday.

Reuters: The first vaccine was approved late on Friday by the US Food and Drug Administration and is expected to touch off a mass-inoculation campaign of unparalleled dimension to end the pandemic that has upended daily life and devastated the US economy.

“FDA APPROVES PFIZER VACCINE FOR EMERGENCY USE!!!” President Donald Trump announced on Friday night on Twitter. He promised Americans the vaccinations would begin in less than 24 hours.

But US Army General Gustave Perna said on a Saturday news call that the first shipments will begin on Sunday and will be delivered to 145 locations around the country on Monday.

The remainder of the 636 delivery locations selected by states and US territories will receive doses on Tuesday and Wednesday, he said, adding that Pfizer will have more doses ready every week for distribution and administration.

The first batch of shots is expected to be aimed largely at health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

12.50am GMT
00:50

South Korea reports record daily case rise of 1,030 infections in 24 hours

South Korea reported a record daily increase in novel coronavirus cases for a second straight day with 1,030 new infections, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Sunday.

Of the new cases, 1,002 were locally transmitted, which bring the total tally to 42,766 infections, with 580 deaths.

On Saturday, South Korea reported 950 new infections, and the authorities warned they may tighten social-distancing restrictions to their strictest level.

12.41am GMT
00:41

Australian state of New South Wales marks nine days with no new cases

The Australian state of New South Wales has recorded a ninth straight day without a local Covid-19 case and removed the final restrictions for South Australians entering the state.

The zero locally-acquired infections in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday were accompanied by three cases found in returned travellers in NSW hotel quarantine.

NSW Health on Sunday said in a statement that orders barring entry to those connected to SA’s Parafield cluster were now lifted. NSW is now open to all people in Australia and New Zealand.

However authorities say they remain concerned with falling Covid-19 test numbers, with 9133 tests conducted in the 24-hour reporting period.

They again encouraged NSW residents to seek Covid-19 testing with even the mildest of respiratory symptoms.

People wear Santa hats at a bar and eatery in the city centre following further easing of coronavirus restrictions in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

“With restrictions eased, borders having reopened and Christmas just two weeks away, it is important we do not drop our guard against the virus,” NSW Health’s Dr Chatu Yapa said on Sunday.

“Don’t wait until Monday to see if your runny nose or sore throat goes away.”

NSW has now marked nine consecutive days of zero locally-acquired cases since a hotel quarantine cleaner last week picked up the virus.

Prior to that diagnosis, NSW went 26 days without a local case, which prompted the opening of the Queensland and WA borders for NSW residents.

NSW Health also on Sunday again implored those in Batemans Bay and southwest Sydney to come forward for testing with even the mildest of symptoms after fragments of the coronavirus were found in sewage.

No Covid-19 patients in NSW are currently in intensive care.

12.38am GMT
00:38

Australian state of Victoria records 1 new case in hotel quarantine

In Australia, the state of Victoria has recorded one new case of Covid-19 in its revamped hotel quarantine system but no new cases in the community. The case in quarantine, which was acquired overseas, is a boy under the age of five whose parents have also been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Victoria has now reached hit 44 days without local Covid-19 transmission.

The hotel quarantine case is the sixth recorded Covid-19 case since the Victorian government resumed its hotel quarantine programme earlier this week. Five of those Covid-19 cases were reported on Saturday, from a total of 6,233 tests.

12.34am GMT
00:34

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

I’ll be bringing you the latest developments from around the world.

As usual, you can get in touch with me on Twitter @helenrsullivan with questions, comments, or something that might make our readers smile during what is likely to be a very dark day of news.

Germany will close shops from the middle of next week in a tightening of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

The decision came ahead of a meeting planned for Sunday between German chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders.

Meanwhile the US has again broken its daily death toll record, confirming 3,309 dead and more than 231,000 cases in 24 hours.

Italy on Saturday became the European country with the highest official number of Covid fatalities, as its new total of 64,036 deaths overtook the UK toll of currently 64,026 reported deaths.
The United States reported 244,011 new cases on Saturday, the highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic, while the number of deaths rose by 3,013 to 294,535.
The share of Brazilians unwilling to take any Covid-19 vaccine grew to 22% this week, from 9% in August, and most said they would not accept one made in China, as president Jair Bolsonaro’s comments stoked wider scepticism in the badly hit country with, as of Saturday, 179,765 deaths, the second-highest in the world.
France recorded 13,947 new coronavirus infections in the 24 hours to Saturday, while the Covid-19 death toll rose by 199, compared with Friday’s 304 deaths. France currently has the third-highest overall death toll in Europe.
The US Food and Drug Administration said on Saturday that most Americans with allergies should be safe to receive the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, which will have been distributed to 145 locations across the country by Monday morning.
The UK recorded 21,502 new Covid-19 infections on Saturday and 519 deaths, compared with Friday’s 21,672 new cases and 424 deaths.



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