UK govt under lens for £17 bn Covid contracts: Britain’s public spending watchdog has criticised the government for a series of failures when it awarded more than £17bn of contracts to private companies to tackle the coronavirus crisis, including a lack of transparency, errors and potential conflicts of interest. The National Audit Office said the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health and Social Care had failed to explain why some companies with government connections or poor due diligence records were chosen to provide crucial services during the pandemic, such as supplying personal protective equipment or consulting and policy advice.
Pfizer to work with four states for vaccine distribution: Drug maker Pfizer said it will work with four states — Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico, and Tennessee — to refine their plans for delivering and administering its Covid-19 vaccine before the vaccine receives its expected authorization. The step reflects the complexity of distributing on a large scale a vaccine that requires ultracold storage. Read on...
All of Switzerland’s intensive care beds are full: Switzerland has reached capacity in its intensive care wards, a national medical association said Tuesday. The group urged people who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus to consider writing a living will, specifying whether they would want to be put on life support. The country, with a population of 8.5 million, has seen new infections explode recently, with more than 83,500 reported since 3 November. Read more here
New cases in Russia exceed 22,000 a day: The country’s anti-coronavirus crisis centre reported 22,410 cases of Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, the Tass news agency reported. Russia’s cumulative case total stands at 1,971,013, it added. However, Tass said, the number of active cases fell for the first time since September 17, declining from 461,265 to 461,178 people receiving hospital treatment. Read more here
South Australia announces a six-day lockdown: South Australia announced a six-day lockdown to help contain a growing cluster of Covid-19 infections, imposing the nation’s strictest state-wide stay-at-home orders since the pandemic began. From midnight, only one person from each household will be allowed to leave home each day, and only for specific purposes, authorities said. Schools, universities, cafes and restaurants will close and mask-wearing will be mandatory. Read more here
Covid shots barrel toward finish line in 300-day science feat
Bringing a conventional vaccine from inception to market takes more than a decade on average, and less than one in five that enters human trials gets to the finish line. A Merck & Co mumps vaccine that was developed in 1967 has the record for speed: four years. There are still many questions to be answered, including how long protection from the vaccines will last and how they’ll hold up under the scrutiny of regulators. They have to be manufactured and distributed to billions of people, in some cases under extreme conditions. Read more here
US FDA authorizes the first at-home coronavirus test
The test, developed by California-based company Lucira Health, requires a prescription from a health care provider. People under the age of 14 also can’t perform the test on themselves. But with a relatively simple nasal swab, the test can return results in about half an hour, and is projected by the company to cost $50 or less, according to the product’s website. linicians can also run the test on their patients, including children under the age of 14, potentially delivering answers during a single visit to a care center or pharmacy, instead of routing a tough-to-collect sample through a lab. A handful of other tests have been cleared by the FDA for at-home collection of samples, which are then shipped to a lab for processing. But Lucira’s test is the first to remove the need for an intermediary. Read more here
World’s busiest airline routes during Covid times
Asia is a standout, home to all 10 of the world’s busiest domestic routes this month, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide. South Korea has the busiest by far, between its capital Seoul and the island Jeju. See all here