Coronavirus live news: Americans warned not to take cruises; New South Wales-Victoria border to reopen Sunday night

1 week ago

FDA issues emergency use authorisation for Regeneron

The US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued emergency use authorisation for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s Covid-19 antibody therapy, an experimental treatment given to US President Donald Trump that he said helped cure him of the disease.

The FDA said the monoclonal antibodies, casirivimab and imdevimab, should be administered together for the treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 in adults and pediatric patients with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing and who are at high risk for progressing to severe Covid-19.

This includes those who are 65 years of age or older or who have certain chronic medical conditions.

The agency said the antibodies are not authorised for patients who are hospitalised due to Covid-19 or require oxygen therapy due to Covid-19. A benefit of casirivimab and imdevimab treatment has not been shown in patients hospitalised due to Covid-19.

England to enter stronger three-tier system after lockdown

England will enter a strengthened three-tiered system of local restrictions when the national lockdown ends on 2 December, Downing Street has said. Boris Johnson is expected to detail his plan for winter – which includes details on how families can see their loved ones at Christmas – to MPs on Monday.

Deserted nightspots on an empty street in Soho, London, on 21 November.
Deserted nightspots on an empty street in Soho, London, on 21 November. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

The “Covid winter plan” is expected to place more areas into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control to ensure further restrictions are not needed, No 10 said. And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.

The cabinet is expected to discuss and sign off the plan on Sunday before Johnson announces it to parliament the following day:

Updated at 9.13pm EST

Daniel Hurst

Australia’s finance and trade minister, Simon Birmingham, says he wishes the brief lockdown in his home state of South Australia had never occurred, but the few days of restrictions were “a damn sight better than a few months”.

Birmingham, who is a Liberal party senator, said the South Australian Liberal government had announced the six-day lockdown last week to quickly “manage what they saw the risk being at the time” and to avoid an extended lockdown as experienced in the state of Victoria.

The federal government has been highly critical of the Victorian Labor government’s handling of the second wave, but has sought to differentiate that from what occurred in SA.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Birmingham said he could “understand the rationale, particularly given that [SA] went from one case to 16 cases to 23 cases in the space of a couple of days, that they had some 5,000-plus people who are now in mandatory isolation as a result of the contact tracing activities”.

Finance and trade minister and Senate leader Simon Birmingham.
Finance and trade minister and Senate leader Simon Birmingham. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

“This instance proved to be false, but this claim that Covid had been contracted again off another touch point, off of a delivered pizza box, was a tipping point for them in terms of the potential number of contact tracing elements that they needed to chase down,” he said.

“So I of course would wish that the short but brief lockdown had never occurred. I wish even more that this guy had told the truth, whatever his motivations may be, but I do understand that a few days of intensive restrictions are certainly a damn sight better than a few months.”

Birmingham disagreed with calls from the NSW Liberal premier, Gladys Berejiklian, to open up a third of her state’s hotel quarantine slots to international students and skilled migrants as a boost to the economy.

While he could understand the viewpoint, and expressed hope of bringing back students as soon as possible, he said “the priority has to remain on returning Australians”.

Updated at 8.59pm EST

US president Donald Trump has come a step closer to admitting that coronavirus is infecting a staggering number of Americans each day after the country – the world’s worst-affected in terms of the number of coronavirus cases – confirmed nearly 200,000 cases in 24 hours.

Donald Trump at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling,Virginia, on 21 November, as the virtual G-20 summit was taking place.
Donald Trump at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling,Virginia, on 21 November, as the virtual G-20 summit was taking place. Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Trump tweeted a short while ago that the virus (which he called “Covid” in scare quotes) is “running wild all over the World, not just in the US”:

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

The Fake News is not talking about the fact that “Covid” is running wild all over the World, not just in the U.S. I was at the Virtual G-20 meeting early this morning and the biggest subject was Covid. We will be healing fast, especially with our vaccines!

November 21, 2020

Updated at 8.31pm EST

G20 leaders agree to fund fair distribution of vaccines

Leaders of the 20 biggest economies on Saturday vowed to ensure a fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, drugs and tests around the world and do what was needed to support poorer countries struggling to recover from the pandemic.

“We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members’ commitments to incentivise innovation,” they said in a draft G20 communique seen by Reuters.

“We recognise the role of extensive immunisation as a global public good.”

The twin crises of the pandemic and an uneven, uncertain global recovery dominated the first day of a two-day summit under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, which hands the rotating presidency of the G20 to Italy next month.

The Covid-19 pandemic which has thrown the global economy into a deep recession this year and efforts needed to underpin an economic rebound in 2021 were at the top of the G20 agenda.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, centre, during the virtual G20 summit via a videoconference from Planalto Palace in Brasilia on 21 November.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, centre, during the virtual G20 summit via a videoconference from Planalto Palace in Brasilia on 21 November. Photograph: Marcos Correa/AFP/Getty

“We must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples,” Saudi Arabia’s king Salman bin Abdulaziz said in his opening remarks.

G20 leaders are concerned the pandemic might further deepen global divisions between the rich and the poor.

“We need to avoid at all costs a scenario of a two-speed world where only the richer can protect themselves against the virus and restart normal lives,” French president Emmanuel Macron said.

To do that, the European Union urged G20 leaders quickly to put more money into a global project for vaccines, tests and therapeutics – called Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator – and its Covax facility to distribute vaccines.

“At the G20 summit I called for $4.5bn to be invested in ACT Accelerator by the end of 2020, for procurement and delivery of Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines everywhere,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter. “We need to show global solidarity.”

Updated at 8.27pm EST

That press conference is over. But in other New South Wales updates, this very good boy was spotted recently in a Sydney home:

Helen Sullivan (@helenrsullivan)

good vibes only

November 22, 2020

Back to New South Wales, Australia.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian thinks local councils should not be cancelling Australia Day (26 January) plans, but that they should put Covid-safe plans in place.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

She says:

We’re definitely modifying our plans as a state government but we are still recognising the importance of that day and I would encourage all councils, if they have any concerns to contact NSW Health or Service NSW and we can support you in having a Covid-safe Australia Day. I don’t want people to use Covid as an excuse not to celebrate an important day.

Updated at 8.08pm EST

US CDC advises against all cruise ship travel

Breaking for a moment from Australian news, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday it recommended that all people avoid cruise ship travel as the risk of Covid-19 on liners is very high.

It advised passengers who decide to go on a cruise to get tested three to five days after their trip and stay home for seven days after travel, even if they test negative.

Photograph: Weizhong/

Last month the agency issued a framework for a phased resumption of cruise ship operations after a no-sail order issued in March in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic was to expire.

The CDC said earlier that from 1 March to 28 September, data showed “a total of 3,689 confirmed cases of Covid-19 or Covid-like illness cases on cruise ships and 41 deaths”.

Updated at 8.10pm EST

Berejiklian is asked about her approach compared to that of other states. She doesn’t agree with lockdowns in response to a few cases.

We have obviously learned a lot about the virus and how we can handle the pandemic since March when we had the lockdown – February, March – when it first became apparent how serious the situation was. And certainly in the last months, we have learned a lot about our capacity to be resilient.

So it would really depend on the extent that other states were able to control community transmission and keep that down, but what’s been demonstrated to me is that other states are moving very quickly to shut down their entire economies when they have a couple of cases.

Now in that situation I don’t agree with that position, but in that situation it actually means we don’t need to close our borders because none of those communities are able to move around their own states anyway so they won’t be able to come here anyway.

But I want to give everybody certainty whether they’re families that need to see each other, whether they’re businesses that need to keep operating, I want people to feel confident that NSW has a strategy; we’re moving forward. We have a Covid recovery plan which is pretty obvious and I just think having that certainty and that strategy apparent to everybody is really important.

Updated at 8.10pm EST

Still in New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian has reminded people not to lower their guard over summer (I was at Bondi beach earlier this morning and officials were walking around in rashies bearing the cheerful slogan “Socially distanced in the sun”).

A sunset run on Bondi beach in Sydney, Australia.
A sunset run on Bondi beach in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters


I know that the residents of NSW will continue to be Covid safe, that’s what sets us apart from the rest of the country – our QR codes, our social distancing, you know, all of us in NSW are really making the effort not to let our guard down and that’s what will continue to keep us safe, and with this border opening we need to be mindful of that even more, not to let our guard down, especially over summer when people are getting together for Christmas and New Year’s, social gatherings will be more frequent. We just have to stay on high alert, but appreciate we have freedoms here in our state ...

Updated at 8.12pm EST

More on the scale of that operation: there were 100,000 police shifts and 40,000 defence shifts.

Between 650 and 800 police and defence personnel were working at any time.

Updated at 7.46pm EST

New South Wales reports local cases; Victoria border to reopen at midnight

In Australia, New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian is speaking.

She says there have been zero new local coronavirus cases overnight, and 11 in hotel quarantine. 12,000 tests were done.

The border between NSW and Victoria will open at midnight.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller. Photograph: James Gourley/AAP

Commissioner Mick Fuller has said that 5m cars crossed the border while it was closed. He said:

It’s been a three-month operation, one of the biggest in NSW police history. We had 36 hours to establish border control and that was all about protecting the people of NSW from the virus. In the last three months, with the partnership with defence and other government agencies, I think we have done an outstanding job ...

We had more than 5m cars cross through the border checkpoints. Nearly 500,000 heavy vehicles. We have had, you know, a million permits handed out. We only had a handful of people doing the wrong thing in terms of Covid, but we did see over 1,000 arrests for criminal and other bad behaviour.

Updated at 7.49pm EST

Helen Sullivan

Hi, Helen Sullivan joining you now.

This is the place to be for global pandemic news – including Australian updates.

You can contact me – with questions, comments and stories from your part of the world – on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

I am going to hand you over to Helen Sullivan now.

South Australia’s chief health officer Prof Nicola Spurrier has revealed the estimated reproduction number was sitting at above two and could have been as high as four.

“So that meant to me that every one of our cases had passed it on to at least two other people, if not four other people,” she said. “And in fact at that time and based on that information we had a 99% chance that the wave that was starting off in South Australia was not going to be just a little blip, but it was going to be a very significant wave.”

South Australia’s chief health officer Nicola Spurrier.
South Australia’s chief health officer Nicola Spurrier. Photograph: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

She said it would have meant South Australia would have 200 cases a day by mid-December.

That was before they believed the state had got on top of it.

There are hundreds of people in quarantine still, as close contacts and close contacts of contacts, and Spurrier believed in the next few days there would be more cases among those people.

She said she would feel confident the second wave has been stopped in a couple of weeks.

Updated at 7.26pm EST

SA opposition calls for end to hotel quarantine

The South Australian Labor leader Peter Malinauskas has written to the premier Steven Marshall calling for an end to medi-hotels for returned travellers – what SA calls hotel quarantine – until a safer solution is found.

South Australia’s Labor leader Peter Malinauskas.
South Australia’s Labor leader Peter Malinauskas. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

The Peppers medi-hotel was the source of the Parafield cluster of cases, which stands at 26 cases.

Malinauskas suggested the federal government should look at potentially having purpose-built facilities for returned travellers, staffed by non-casual workers.

Peter Malinauskas (@PMalinauskasMP)

Below is my letter to Steven Marshall calling for an end to medi-hotels in their current form.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have provided bi-partisan support to the Government on the handling of the health response.


November 21, 2020

Updated at 7.14pm EST

South Australia reports one new Covid-19 case.

South Australia reported one new case of Covid-19, but it wasn’t associated with the Parafield cluster, which stands at 26 cases. The new case is a woman in her 20s in hotel quarantine.

South Australian premier Steven Marshall.
South Australian premier Steven Marshall. Photograph: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

The South Australian premier Steven Marshall provided an update as the state came out of its lockdown overnight:

I know that many South Australians would be absolutely delighted that the stay-at-home order has now been released. This was taken off as of midnight ... but I do need to emphasise we still do have high-level restrictions in place over and above where we were at this time last week.

They’re going to be in place through to 1 December, so we need people to listen, know those restrictions and abide by them very strictly through to the 1 December and any restrictions that might be in place thereafter. I have got to say that we are still not out of the woods.

He says there were 77,000 Covid-19 tests in South Australia this week.

Updated at 7.17pm EST

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