India’s daily number of COVID-19 cases today stood at 18,732 – the lowest in nearly six months. Up to 279 deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours, taking the overall count since the outbreak in January to 1,47,622. The country’s overall positive cases stood at 1,01,87,850, with 2,78,690 active cases.
- Maharashtra, with 19,16,236 cases and 49,189 deaths, overall, remained the worst-hit state. In the past 24 hours, it reported 2,854 news cases and 60 fatalities. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala were the other worst-five states in the pandemic’s context.
- India’s national COVID-19 task force met on Saturday over the new mutant strain traced in the UK and discussed surveillance strategies. Over 50 samples of people who have returned from the UK are currently being sequenced at six labs across the country to find out if they have the mutant strain. District surveillance officers are identifying passengers who have arrived from the UK in the past one month, officials said.
- Delhi recorded 655 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours – the lowest in over four months – bringing a much-needed relief for the capital that had seen a sharp spike in cases in November. The national capital registered 23 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total fatality count to 10,437. The total number of infections has climbed to 6,22,094 of which 6,911 are active cases.
- Delhi Police will start vaccinating its personnel against COVID-19 soon and details will be sent to them by SMS, the police said in an order to all district heads of the force today. “Vaccination for COVID-19 of Delhi Police personnel will start soon. The date, time and place of vaccination for each police personnel will be intimated to him/her on their mobile number by SMS,” senior police officer Muktesh Chander, who is also the nodal officer for COVID-19 action plan, said in the order.
- The Biraja Temple, one of the major “shakti peeths” in Odisha, will reopen for devotees from December 29, while residents of Puri were allowed inside the Lord Jagannath Temple from Saturday, officials said. The Biraja Temple will reopen following a decline in the number of fresh COVID-19 cases in Jajpur, District Collector Chakravarti Singh Rathore said. Mr Rathore said that devotees will be allowed entry to the temple between 6 am and 5 pm every day.
- The coronavirus crisis will not be the last pandemic, and attempts to improve human health are “doomed” without tackling climate change and animal welfare, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said. In a video message marking Sunday’s first International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, he condemned the “dangerously short-sighted” cycle of throwing cash at outbreaks but doing nothing to prepare for the next one.
- About 14 million Americans saw their jobless benefits expire on Saturday after US President Donald Trump refused to sign into law a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package, protesting that it did not do enough to help everyday people. Trump stunned Republicans and Democrats alike when he said this week he was unhappy with the massive bill, which provides $892 billion in badly needed coronavirus relief, including extending special unemployment benefits expiring on December 26, and $1.4 trillion for normal government spending. Thus, a partial government shutdown will begin on Tuesday unless Congress can agree a stop-gap government funding bill before then.
- The mutant coronavirus, first detected in England, had by Saturday been documented in several European countries, as well as Canada, Japan, Australia and Lebanon, despite efforts to curb its spread through massive global disruptions in travel and movement. It has also been detected in France, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. Fears over the fast-spreading variant come in sharp contrast to a wave of hope sweeping some countries and communities as vaccination programmes begin to be rolled out. Scientists do not think the British variant is more deadly or resistant to the current coronavirus vaccines.
- Premier League club Wolves have banned their players from shopping amid fears they could catch coronavirus with infections rising across England. Testing on players and staff in England’s top-flight is to double to twice a week in areas of the country under tier four restrictions. The latest round of testing in the Premier League revealed seven positive cases from 1,569 tests on Monday.
- A 101-year-old woman in an elderly care home became the first person in Germany to be inoculated against coronavirus on Saturday, a day before the official vaccination campaign was scheduled to get under way in both Germany and the EU. Edith Kwoizalla was one of around 40 residents and 10 staff in a care home in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt to receive a jab of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the home’s manager Tobias Krueger told AFP.