5.53am GMT

Australia will be among the first countries to conditionally approve the Pfizer vaccine for Covid-19, following a decision to bring forward the rollout to early March, AAP reports.

The Morrison government had previously set a target date of late March for the first vaccinations but has now received fresh advice early March is achievable.

“As data and regulatory guidance have been provided we have progressively been able to bring forward our provisional rollout from mid-year to the second quarter to late March and now early March,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Wednesday.

He said comparable countries with strong records on dealing with the virus – such as New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan – were all on similar time frames for the rollout.

Setting October as a target for broad community vaccination, Mr Hunt said the first round would include frontline workers such as those involved in hotel quarantine and border control, as well as health workers and aged care residents.

“It’s a very common-sense approach – you simply follow the vulnerability and the risk of either transmission or the consequence of infection,” he said.

Pfizer is working with the Therapeutic Goods Administration, providing data for safety and efficacy as part of the approval process.

It is one of four vaccines the Australian government has purchased for a total projected supply of 134.8 million units.

5.20am GMT

Tokyo sees record new coronavirus cases

Tokyo’s new daily coronavirus cases topped 1,500 on Wednesday to a fresh record, local media reported, as Japan braces for a renewed state of emergency for the Greater metropolitan area.

The previous record for the capital was 1,337, set on 31 December.

5.00am GMT

In Australia, the state of Victoria is unlikely to lift its hard border with New South Wales until at least the end of the month, as the number of stranded people seeking permission to enter the state passes 3,000.

The state’s health minister, Martin Foley, said on Wednesday that on current projections the hard border was “unlikely” to be removed “before the end of January”:

4.51am GMT

Thailand reported 365 new coronavirus infections and one new death on Wednesday, bringing its total to 9,331 cases and 66 fatalities since it first detected the virus early last year.

Employees of the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority clean and disinfect the Yodpiman Flower Market in Bangkok on 6 January 2021, after the government imposed further restrictions due to the recent Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. Photograph: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

The new infections included 16 cases imported from abroad and found in quarantine, the government’s Covid-19 taskforce said at a news briefing.

4.38am GMT

South Korea rolls out mass testing for 70,000 prisoners and staff

South Korea rolled out mass testing for 52 prisons in the country after a massive prison outbreak and may extend flight suspensions from Britain in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus cases, the health minister said on Wednesday.

Over half of the total 2,292 inmates and personnel in a prison in southeastern Seoul were tested positive after a first cluster infection was reported within the prison last month, Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, told a briefing.

The justice ministry is separating the confirmed inmates by transferring them to a designated hospital, said Yoon.

Authorities will complete mass testing on some 70,000 prison inmates and staff nationwide, as the number of confirmed cases linked to prisons throughout the country surged to 1,191.

A health worker (rear) collects swabs from a citizen for coronavirus testing at a makeshift clinic outside the Seoul city hall in Seoul, South Korea, 5 January 2021. Photograph: Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

The health authorities will also decide whether to extend flight suspensions from Britain after at least 12 cases of a new strain of the coronavirus had been found, said Yoon.

The country had already extended a ban on direct flights from Britain until Jan. 7, and required any passengers arriving from that country or South Africa to undergo testing before departure.

The country reported 840 new cases as of midnight on Tuesday, a slight uptick from 1,029 a day before, bringing the national tally to 65,818 infections with 1,027 deaths.

The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus in South Korea passed 1,000 on Tuesday.

4.26am GMT

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 21,237 to 1,808,647, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.

The reported death toll rose by 1,019 to 36,537, the tally showed.

4.08am GMT

Anonymised Facebook data on people’s travels could be used to identify the spread of Covid-19 in locations where health officials are not yet aware of it, a new Australian study has found.

Published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface on Wednesday, University of Melbourne researchers analysed anonymised population mobility data provided by Facebook as part of its Data for Good program to determine whether it could be a useful predictor in determining the spread of Covid outbreaks based on where people were travelling:

3.27am GMT

Brazil’s syringe manufacturers said on Tuesday they will supply 30 million syringes and needles for the country’s Covid-19 vaccination program after the government said it would requisition surplus supplies.

Executives of the three main manufacturers met with President Jair Bolsonaro at the Health Ministry and it was agreed that each would supply 10 million syringes to cover the initial stages of the vaccination plan.

Nurses transport a patient infected with coronavirus to the 28 de Agosto Hospital, in Manaos, Brazil, 4 January 2021. Photograph: Raphael Alves/EPA

The government has not approved any vaccine yet and hopes to start inoculating priority groups with imported vaccines before the end of the month, well behind some of Brazil’s neighbors such as Argentina and Chile.

“There will not be any shortage of syringes for the vaccines that will arrive in the country,” said Paulo Henrique Fraccaro, head of Brazil’s medical supplies and equipment industry lobby group ABIMO.

Brazil has the world’s second deadliest outbreak after the United States and its president, who has downplayed the severity of coronavirus, is facing criticism for not organizing an effective response to the pandemic.

3.08am GMT

Once Mexico has vaccinated its frontline medical workers, the government will turn its attention to the elderly living in its most remote places, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday.

AP: Ten thousand brigades made up of medical personnel and health promoters with security provided by the National Guard will target 3 million senior citizens in rural areas. The brigades will work back from isolated areas to towns and cities.

The plan will hinge on Mexico’s approval of the Chinese CanSino vaccine, which only requires a single dose and doesn’t require ultra-cold storage. So far, Mexico has approved only vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Health workers unload part of the first batch of vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech against COVID-19 in Saltillo, in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, 5 January 2021. Photograph: Miguel Sierra/EPA

Mexico reported a near-record 11,271 new coronavirus cases Tuesday and 1,065 deaths. Mexico has now seen almost 1.47 million cases and 128,822 deaths in total. The highest one-day case report was 12,511 in mid-December.

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