China has recorded its highest daily increase of new coronavirus infections since last July after a recent cluster of cases in northern Hebei province.
The National Health Commission reported 115 new cases on Tuesday, with 90 cases located in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing. The commission also said 107 of the new cases were local transmissions — the highest daily jump since July 30.
Officials in Hebei province have ordered a lockdown of several cities, while authorities in northeastern Heilongjiang province, which posted 16 new cases, have declared an “emergency state” for the entire province and its 37 million residents.
Meanwhile, Brazilian researchers say a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech was shown to be just over 50% overall effective after large-scale human trials in that country, far below the 78% efficacy rate against mild-to-severe cases announced just last week.
Researchers said the most recent data included results from a group of participants who reported “very mild” cases of infection, which explains the huge discrepancy between the two figures.
The Sinovac vaccine has been approved for emergency use by Indonesia, where President Joko Widodo received the very first inoculation Wednesday. The shot launched the Southeast Asian nation’s drive to vaccinate its 181 million citizens, who are spread out across the vast archipelago. Indonesia has one of the region's worst COVID-19 outbreaks, having recorded 858,043 total infections, including 24,951 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Wednesday the government is expanding a state of emergency to seven other prefectures in central and western Japan to curb an escalating surge of new coronavirus cases. The new decree, which takes effect Thursday and remains in effect until February 7, will cover Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Tochigi.
Wednesday’s declaration comes more than a week after Prime Minister Suga issued an emergency declaration for Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa. Japan has recorded a total of 302,740 total infections, including over 4,000 deaths.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that international travelers will have to prove they have tested negative for COVID-19 before flying to the United States.
Under the new rules that will take effect on January 26, travelers will have to test negative within three days of their departure.
Cable business channel CNBC reported Tuesday that Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief advisor to the Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s COVID-19 rapid vaccine development program, has resigned his post at the request of the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Sources say Slaoui will remain in the role for a month after Biden takes office on January 20 to help with the transition.
Slaoui’s resignation comes as the Trump administration is changing strategies in distributing the available vaccines, announcing Tuesday that it will release millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses it was holding back for use as second shots to inoculate Americans older than 65, as well as Americans with underlying health conditions.
The U.S. set another single-day record in coronavirus deaths Tuesday with 4,327, increasing the nation’s overall death toll to a world-leading 380,670 people. The U.S. also leads in the overall number of COVID-19 infections with 22.8 million out of the world’s 91.5 million total cases, including 1.9 million deaths.