Los Angeles shuts restaurants as virus surges
A restaurant dining ban in Los Angeles was due to come into force Wednesday as officials warned Americans to stay at home for the Thanksgiving holiday, while parts of Europe eyed looser lockdowns over the festive season.
The three-week order in America’s second-biggest city will begin as California faces record Covid-19 cases, and its health secretary urges people to avoid large family gatherings.
"It's as important to say no even when it comes to the closest people in our family," Dr Mark Ghaly said Tuesday, adding he had barred his own mother from his planned celebration.
The US government's health protection agency has for the first time called on Americans not to travel for the annual holiday, which will see families get together Thursday over turkey, yams and cranberry sauce.
With the US confronted by soaring numbers of deaths and new cases, plans to deliver a vaccine to Americans are accelerating.
More than six million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine will be available in the first week after it is cleared for emergency use, which is likely next month, according to officials.
General Gustave Perna, chief operations officer for the government's Operation Warp Speed, told reporters some 40 million doses of vaccine would be ready by the end of December.
There were more than 86,000 coronavirus hospitalisations in the US on Tuesday, a record number. Latest figures showed that the country recorded over 2,000 deaths and 167,000 new cases in the last 24 hours.
"We are on fire with Covid," Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear told CNN, as he advocated for stricter lockdown measures.
-- Europe and Australia ease --
As America grappled with its crisis, European nations were slowly relaxing measures ahead of their own Christmas holidays, as a second wave of infections slowed following weeks of lockdowns on the continent.
In a televised address late Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced shops could reopen on Saturday and nationwide stay-at-home orders would be lifted from December 15.
"We will be able to travel without authorisation, including between regions, and spend Christmas with our families," Macron said, while warning that some restrictions would stay in place to avoid a third wave.
British authorities also announced restrictions on social mixing and travel would be eased across the UK over Christmas.
In Australia, the country’s most populous state, New South Wales, eased social distancing measures and allowed companies to bring employees back to work, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced Wednesday after three weeks without a locally transmitted Covid-19 case.
-- Tempered optimism --
There are now several possible vaccines internationally that have undergone or are undergoing clinical trials, with candidates from Moderna, AstraZeneca/Oxford University and Pfizer-BioNTech leading the pack.
Several European countries -- including Britain, France, Austria and Spain -- have pledged to begin vaccinations in early 2021 at the latest.
Even once a vaccine becomes available, any return to normality for a global economy ravaged by the pandemic seems a long way off.
But optimism sparked by the vaccines has given a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe in recent days, as well as pushing up stock markets.
Asian markets rallied Wednesday following a blockbuster performance on Wall Street as vaccine successes and easing US political uncertainty after Joe Biden's presidential election win boosted investor confidence.
However, still-high death numbers and a pick-up in new cases in several Asian nations tempered the excitement.
More than 1.4 million people have died worldwide and the global caseload is edging towards 60 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.