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Covid-19 wrap: Global cases top 65m, WHO looks at e-certificates, hackers target vaccine supply chain

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Keeping you up to date on
the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

FOLLOW LIVE | Covid-19 in SA: Cases top 800 000 as death toll reaches 21 803

Coronavirus cases worldwide
top 65 million – AFP tally

Paris
– More than 65 million cases of the novel coronavirus have been detected
worldwide, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 07:50 (GMT)
on Friday.

In
total, 65 084 394 cases, leading to 1 504 984 deaths, have been recorded around
the world since the virus emerged in China late last year.

The
rise can be explained only in part by increased testing, with Europe and the
United States confronted by a major new wave of infections.

Europe,
with more than 19 million confirmed cases including 430 000 fatalities, remains
the region with the most infections.

Over
the past week, almost 1.7 million new infections have been recorded in 52
European countries, a similar level to the prior seven days.

The
United States has recorded over 14 million infections (including 276 000
deaths) – a fifth of the global total.

 – AFP


Moderna vaccine confers at
least 3 months immunity – study

Washington
– The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, which the company says was recently
demonstrated to have 94% efficacy, causes the human immune system to produce
potent antibodies that endure for at least three months, a study showed on Thursday.

Researchers
at the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which
co-developed the drug, studied the immune response of 34 adult participants,
young and old, from the first stage of a clinical trial.

Writing
in the New England Journal of Medicine, they said that the antibodies, which
stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from invading human cells, “declined slightly
over time, as expected, but they remained elevated in all participants 3 months
after the booster vaccination”.

The
vaccine, called mRNA-1273, is administered in two injections given 28 days
apart.

Even
though the number of antibodies in the study subjects faded over time, it is
not necessarily a cause for concern.

NIAID
director Anthony Fauci and other experts have said it is very likely that the
immune system will remember the virus if re-exposed later on, and then produce
new antibodies.

 – AFP


Moderna to supply up to 125
million Covid-19 vaccine doses globally in first quarter

Moderna
Inc said on Thursday it expects to have between 100 million and 125 million
doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine available globally in the first
quarter of 2021.

The
company said 85 million to 100 million of those doses would be available in the
United States, with 15 million to 25 million available outside the country.

The
first-quarter doses are within the 500 million to up to 1 billion doses the
company expects to manufacture globally in 2021, Moderna said.

Results
from an early-stage trial showed that the vaccine, mRNA-1273, produced high
levels of binding and neutralising antibodies that declined slightly over time,
but remained elevated in all participants three months after the booster
vaccination, the company said.

 – REUTERS


WHO looks at e-certificates
for Covid-19 vaccination

Copenhagen
– The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it was considering introducing
electronic vaccination certificates, as hopes for an end to the pandemic were
boosted after Britain became the first country to approve use of a Covid-19
vaccine.

“We
are looking very closely into the use of technology in this Covid-19 response
and one of them is how can we work with members states towards something called
an e-vaccination certificate,” WHO Europe expert Siddhartha Datta told an
online press briefing on Thursday.

Introducing
such a certificate, which would make it possible to identify and monitor people
who have been vaccinated, has not been finalised and would have to be drawn up
in accordance with national laws, Datta said.

It
would not be an immunity passport, which is supposed to assure that its carrier
is protected against the disease because they have been infected and recovered.

“We
do not recommend immunity passports,” said Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s
senior emergency officer for Europe.

 – AFP


US registers record of more
than 210 000 new Covid cases in 24 hours – Johns Hopkins

Washington
– The United States recorded more than 210 000 Covid-19 cases in 24 hours on
Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University, in an all-time high for the
country since the start of the pandemic.

The
number of new deaths over the same period was 2 907, the university said, one
of the worst US daily tolls yet according to figures recorded by AFP at 20:30
(01:30 GMT Friday).

 – AFP


Brazil Covid-19 death toll surpasses 175 000, with almost 6.5 million
cases

BRASILIA
– Brazil reported 50 434 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in
the past 24 hours, and 755 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said on
Thursday.

The
South American country has now registered 6 487 084 cases since the pandemic
began, while the official death toll has risen to 175 270, according to
ministry data. It is the world’s third worst outbreak outside the United States
and India.

 – REUTERS


California to ban gatherings
and ‘non-essential’ activities

Los
Angeles – California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced new state-wide
bans on gatherings and “non-essential” activities, as hospitals in
the nation’s most populous state face being overwhelmed by record Covid-19
cases.

The
limits will come into effect once capacity in intensive care units hits 15% or
lower – a development expected in four of California’s five regions “as
early as the next day or two”.

“We
are announcing and introducing a regional ‘stay-at-home’ order in the state of
California, fundamentally predicated on the need to stop gathering with people
outside of your household,” said Newsom.

Once
a region is placed under the new limits, an “emergency brake” will
last for a minimum of three weeks, and the gathering of people from different
households will be banned.

Bars,
wineries and personal services such as hair salons will be temporarily closed.

“We’re
also establishing a framework where all non-essential travel is as well
temporarily restricted state-wide,” said Newsom.

 – AFP


Hackers targeting Covid-19
vaccine supply chain, IBM warns

New
York – With multiple vaccines close to becoming available in a world gripped by
the coronavirus pandemic, manufacturers have become the target of hackers
trying to steal trade secrets or disrupt supply chains.

IBM
warned on Thursday that it had uncovered a series of cyberattacks, potentially
carried out by state actors, against companies involved in the effort to
distribute vaccine doses, which must be kept cold.

IBM
said the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs
Union was one target of the attacks, as well as European and Asian companies
involved in the supply chain, whose names have not been disclosed.

“Our
team recently uncovered a global phishing campaign targeting organisations
associated with a Covid-19 cold chain,” Claire Zaboeva and Melissa
Frydrych, analysts for IBM X-Force, a cyber security working group, wrote in a
blog post.

The
purpose “may have been to harvest credentials, possibly to gain future
unauthorised access to corporate networks and sensitive information relating to
the Covid-19 vaccine distribution.”

It
was unclear if the attacks were successful, IBM said, and while it could not
identify those behind the attacks, the precision of the operation signals
“the potential hallmarks of nation-state tradecraft”.

 – AFP


Costa Rica signs Covid-19 vaccine deal with Pfizer and BioNTech

SAN
JOSE – Costa Rica has signed an agreement with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer
Inc and its German partner BioNTech SE for the manufacture and delivery of 3
million Covid-19 vaccines next year, the office of President Carlos Alvarado
said on Thursday.

Deliveries
will be made throughout the four quarters of 2021, as established in an initial
agreement announced on 1 October, the president’s office said in a statement.

The
deal will allow Costa Rica to provide two doses to 1.5 million people and
follows accords with AstraZeneca and the Covax mechanism backed by the World
Health Organisation. In total, the agreements should cover about 3 million
people, or almost 60% of the Costa Rican population.

The
Central American country has so far registered some 142 505 cases of
coronavirus and 1 757 related deaths.

 – REUTERS


Seoul to shut down most establishments at 21:00 to contain
coronavirus – official

South
Korea’s capital Seoul will require most establishments to close at 21:00 each
day, acting Seoul mayor Seo Jeong-hyup told a briefing on Friday, to prevent
the spread of coronavirus.

The
measure takes effect on Saturday and comes after Seoul alone reported 295 new
coronavirus infections as of midnight Thursday.

 – REUTERS


South Korea reports 629 new coronavirus cases, highest in nine
months

SEOUL
– South Korea reported 629 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number
in nine months.

Of
the new cases, 295 were from capital Seoul alone, the Korea Disease Control and
Prevention Agency reported.

 – REUTERS


India records 36 595 new coronavirus cases

MUMBAI
– India’s daily coronavirus cases rose by less than 40 000 for the fifth
straight day, health ministry data showed on Friday, with 36 595 new infections
reported in the last 24 hours.

India’s
daily rate has fallen since the south Asian nation reported the world’s highest
such tallies through most of August and September, despite a busy festival
season last month that experts had warned could trigger a spike in infections.

Its
tally is now at 9.57 million and remains the world’s second-highest after the
United States, where there have been nearly 14 million infections.

Deaths
in India rose by 540, the ministry said, with the total now at 139 188.

 – REUTERS


Germany’s
confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 23 449 – RKI

BERLIN
– The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 23 449 to 1
130 238, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases
showed on Friday.

The
reported death toll rose by 432 to 18 034, the tally showed.

 – REUTERS


Mexico reports 11 030 new coronavirus cases, 608 more deaths

MEXICO
CITY – Mexico’s health ministry on Thursday reported 11 030 new confirmed cases
of coronavirus infection and 608 additional fatalities, bringing the total in
the country to 1 144 643 cases and 108 173 deaths.

The
government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly
higher than the confirmed cases.

 – REUTERS


Russia reports 27 403 new coronavirus cases, 569 deaths

MOSCOW
– Russia reported 27 403 new coronavirus cases on Friday, including 6 868 in
Moscow, taking the national total to 2 402 949 since the pandemic began.

Authorities
also confirmed 569 deaths related to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, pushing the
official national death toll to 42 176.

 – REUTERS


Mainland
China reports 17 new Covid-19 cases vs 16 a day earlier

SHANGHAI
– Mainland China reported 17 new Covid-19 cases on 3 December, up from 16 cases
a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Friday.

The
National Health Commission, in a statement, said 15 of the new cases were
imported infections originating from overseas. There were also two locally
transmitted infections in the Inner Mongolia region, the commission said.

The
number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed
cases, rose to 12 from five cases a day earlier.

The
total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mainland China now stands at 86 584,
while the death toll remained unchanged at 4 634.

 – REUTERS


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Riot police squads intervene as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash in Montreal

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People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.


People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

  • Violence
    between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Montreal’s
    city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
    heightened and clashes broke out.
  • Israeli
    strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
    toll in almost a week of clashes.

Montreal
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
Montreal.

The
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.

Israeli
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.

Speaking
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.

While
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.

Earlier
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

‘Protesting is a right’

Although
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

The
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

The
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.

Following
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.

She said:

Montreal is a city of peace.

Several
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.

“Terrorist
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.

Pro-Palestinian
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.


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Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do

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“How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person’s life?” asks the BBC.

“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

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Sandpapergate will haunt Australia cricket forever: ex-bowling coach

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Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach - Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach – Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach David Saker said on Monday.

Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft suggesting that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.

Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.

While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.

“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.

However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.

Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.

No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.

“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.

Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.

“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”

In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.

Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”

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Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned Miss Universe

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Miss Universe Andrea Meza


Miss Universe Andrea Meza

UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 IS ANDREA MEZA FROM MEXICO:


UPDATE:

THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 5:

1. Mexico

2. India

3. Brazil

4. Dominican Republic

5. Peru


UPDATE:

HERE ARE THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 10 CONTESTANTS:

1. Jamaica 

2. Dominican Republic 

3. India

4. Peru 

5. Australia 

6. Puerto Rico

7. Thailand

8. Costa Rica

9. Mexico

10. Brazil


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21 IN SWIMWEAR:


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21: 

1. Columbia

2. Peru 

3. Australia 

4. France

5. Myanmar

6. Jamaica 

7. Mexico 

8. Dominican Republic 

9. USA

10. Indonesia 

11. Argentina 

12. India

13. Curaçao

14. Puerto Rico

15. Phillipines 

16. Brazil

17. Great Britain

18. Nicaragua

19. Thailand 

20. Costa Rica

21. Vietnam


 UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE SOUTH AFRICA NATASHA JOUBERT WALKS THE STAGE AT MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021:


74 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Universe on 16 May in Hollywood, Florida. 

The Miss Universe pageant takes place on 16 May in the US (02:00 to 05:00 on 17 May SA time). The show will be broadcast live on 1 Magic (DStv Channel 103) with a repeat at 21:30. 

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor at the end of the event.

Representing South Africa is Natasha Joubert, and South Africans are hoping for the “magic double” – back-to-back consecutive wins, which has only happened once before in the pageant’s history.

Natasha wowed crowds at the national costume competition last week and on Friday impressed during the preliminary round

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Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe 2021

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By AFP Time of article published 16m ago

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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.

Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.

Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.

Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.

Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”

Natasha Joubert, Miss Universe South Africa 2020 competes on stage in Ema Savahl swimwear during the MISS UNIVERSE® Preliminary Competition.

She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.

Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.

Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.

The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”

The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.

In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.

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