More than 71.15 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1,608,736 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
First U.S. vaccine shipments raise hopes
Cargo planes and trucks with the first U.S. shipments of coronavirus vaccine fanned out from FedEx and UPS hubs in Tennessee and Kentucky on Sunday en route to the first 145 of 636 distribution points, launching an immunization project of unprecedented scope and complexity.
The inoculations, seen as pivotal to ultimately halting a surging pandemic that is claiming more than 2,400 U.S. lives a day, could begin as early as Monday. Healthcare workers and elderly residents of long-term care homes will be first in line to get the inoculations of a two-dose regimen given about three weeks apart.
The United States expects to have immunized 100 million people with the coronavirus vaccine by the end of March, the chief adviser for the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine program said on Sunday. For the United States to get “herd immunity,” which would halt transmission of the deadly virus, it would need to have immunized about 75% or 80% of the population, he said, adding that he hoped to reach that point between May and June.
Seoul schools go online
South Korea ordered schools to close from Tuesday in the capital Seoul and surrounding areas as it battles its worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began, surpassing the previous peak in February.
The school closure is a step towards the imposition of Phase 3 social distancing rules, a move that would essentially lock down Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
The government launched a massive tracing effort involving hundreds of troops, police and officials to help track down virus carriers. Most of the new cases were in Seoul, the neighbouring port city of Incheon, and Gyeonggi Province, home to over 25 million people.
World’s largest glove maker reports first death in outbreak
Malaysia’s Top Glove Corp, the world’s largest glove maker, reported on Monday that one of its workers died after contracting COVID-19, the first death since an outbreak at its dormitories and factories. The company told Reuters in an email that the 29-year-old worker from Nepal passed away on Saturday due to COVID-19 pneumonia with lung fibrosis.
The outbreak at Top Glove’s facilities in which more than 5,000 workers tested positive, about 94% of them foreigners, is Malaysia’s largest cluster.
Workers told Reuters that social distancing during work was difficult to maintain and not consistently enforced. Dormitory conditions were also often cramped, with up to 20 people in some rooms.
Early next year for Trans-Tasman travel bubble
New Zealand agreed on Monday to allow quarantine-free travel with Australia in the first quarter of 2021, nearly a year after it locked down its borders to protect its population from the novel coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the cabinet had agreed in principle on a trans-Tasman, quarantine-free travel bubble pending confirmation by Australia’s cabinet and no significant change in circumstances in either country.
A trans-Tasman travel bubble has been under discussion for months and many Australian regions have allowed New Zealanders in without quarantine requirements since October, but New Zealand had not reciprocated.