World Coronavirus Dispatch: Only one intensive care bed left in Seoul

As temperatures drop drastically, the cases have been steadily increasing in South Korea since mid-November
Infections rising in Sweden, so are calls for a lockdown

Even with high fatality rates during the first wave, Sweden didn't follow the usual template of imposing sweeping restrictions across the country. The analysis was that the devastating effects of keeping people at homes will far outweigh the risks of a pandemic. But, the severe second wave is forcing authorities to rethink. With the country's intensive care units on the verge of breaking down, pressure to impose a tougher lockdown to contain the infections is mounting and officals fear the worse is not yet there. Given the limited powers of the government to issue stay-at-home orders, the government is planning an emergency law to change the same.

Let's look at the global statistics

Global infections: 74,210,350

Change Over Yesterday: 747,215

Global deaths: 1,648,956

Nations with most cases: US (16,964,180), India (9,956,557), Brazil (7,040,608), Russia (2,708,940), France (2,405,255).


US health worker had serious allergy after being administered Pfizer’s vaccine

After two people from Britain experienced allergic reactions to Pfizer vaccine, now a health worker in US, with no history of allergy, suffered a more severe reaction, according to this NYT story quoting people in the know. Government officials are trying to find out more about the case. Both the people from UK had a history of food and other types of allergies, Pfizer had said. The US drug regulator had earlier asked Pfizer to step up its monitoring for allergic reactions and submit data on it after the vaccine rollout.

Citi to offer workers a 12-week sabbatical

As business leaders around the world debate what the post pandemic workplaces will look like and re-evalute their relationships with employees, Citigroup is planning to offer its staff a 12-week sabbatical and extra vacation days annually. Employees, who have been with the bank for at least 5 years can avail the benefits, whenever they want and for whatever reasons, but will get only 25 per cent of their base pay during the time away. The bank is also considering flexibile work model, where most employees can chose to work from home even after the pandemic ends.

Sunny days ahead for Bolsonaro despite virus

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is enjoying massive popularity in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 180,000, a poll has found. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents feel his government has done a good job, the most popular he has been since he assumed office, while 32 per cent are not happy. An overwhelming 52 per cent of respondents say, it is not Bolsonaro's fault that people are dying due to virus. The approval ratings reinforce the theory that populists are enjoying widespread popularity despite sticky record in contaning the virus.

2021 to be equally bad for most nations

Having secured millions of doses of vaccines, the rich world is hoping for an end to the pandemic and looking forward to a much better 2021 and beyond. In striking contrast, the lasting effects of pandemic are likely to make things worse next year for many deveoping countries. Limited supply of vaccines mean the vast majority of these low-income and middle income nations will not be able to get the shots in 2021 and many more years ahead. That leaves the supply chains strained, dent the food security systems and more people will be away from hospitals, eradicating decades progress in various diseases, according to a report.

Seoul has only one ICU bed left

South Korea is seeing highest daily rise in infections since the pandemic began and the country is considering a lockdown for the first time. In the capital city of Seoul, only one intensive care bed is left and the rest are occupied. The country was realtively successful in containing the virus without imposing a harsh lockdown until now. Universal mask wearing and effective contact tracing made it possible to escape the first and second waves with less scars. As temperatures drop drastically, the cases have been steadily increasing since mid-November. Read here


Long Read: FT people of the year -- Couple behind Pfizer vaccine breakthrough

In January, when many were still in the unknown about a mysterious virus running riot in China's Hubei province, a German couple, Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin, moved to find a cure for it based on their years of established research. In what was nothing short of a medical miracle, the scientists developed a safe vaccine that triggered robust immune response in less than a year. The UK kick-started a mass immunisation drive with Pfizer-BioNtech shots last week. The vaccine uses an unconventional mRNA technology to prevent infections. At the heart of the shot is a messenger that creates virus-like protein spikes after the dose is administered. The immune system learns about the spikes and, in case of any actual infection, the response would be faster. Both, Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin feel vindicated as the technology they developed was once dismissed as "science fiction."

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