November 20 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Sebastian Shukla and Angela Dewan, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, November 21, 2020
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6:34 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Russia breaks another record for daily infections as officials are accused of underplaying the death toll

From CNN's Zahra Ullah, in Moscow

Medical workers treat a patient inside a temporary Covid-19 hospital at the Krylatskoye Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, November 17.
Medical workers treat a patient inside a temporary Covid-19 hospital at the Krylatskoye Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, November 17. Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Russia reported a new record of daily coronavirus infections Friday, confirming 24,318 new cases, according to data from the country's coronavirus response center.

The data shows that Moscow is the worst affected city, with 6,902 cases, which is also a new record. The center also reported the overall death toll to be 35,311.

A CNN investigation earlier this week, however, revealed that official Russian coronavirus death figures may be grossly understating the real toll by excluding people whose cause of death is attributable to other conditions. Most countries count a death from other conditions, such as pneumonia, as a Covid-19 death if the coronavirus infection triggered the person's deteriorating health.

Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted on Wednesday that the coronavirus situation in the country remains “challenging but controllable” and urged regional governors not to “conceal" the real scale of the problem.

5:32 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Serbia’s leading religious figure dies with Covid-19 infection after attending funeral in Montenegro

From CNN's Martin Goillandeau in London

In this file photo, Serbian Patriarch Irinej speaks during a statement with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade, Serbia, on March 15.
In this file photo, Serbian Patriarch Irinej speaks during a statement with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade, Serbia, on March 15. Darko Vojinovic/File/AP

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, died in a Belgrade hospital on Friday after contracting coronavirus, according to a statement by the church. 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić confirmed the death on Instagram, posting a photo of Irinej with the caption: “I was honored to know you. People like you never depart.”

Irinej was admitted to hospital on November 4 after he tested positive for Covid-19. An earlier statement from the Serbian Orthodox Church said he was intubated after his condition deteriorated Thursday. 

He had been at the funeral of the late Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, Amfilohije Radović, in Podgorica, Montenegro, on November 1, who also died of coronavirus-related ailments.

According to CNN affiliate N1 Serbia, Radović's body was in an open casket during the service before being interred in the crypt of the church. N1 reported that a large crowd gathered in front of the crowded church, with few of the people in the church and none of the priests wearing masks.

Born Miroslav Gavrilović on August 27, 1930, Irinej was enthroned as the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Serbs in 2010.

4:35 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Swedish alcohol curfew set to go into effect

From CNN’s Phil Black, Mick Krever, and Per Nyberg in Stockholm

People pass by a restaurant in central Stockholm, Sweden, on November 12.
People pass by a restaurant in central Stockholm, Sweden, on November 12. Amir Nabizadeh/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images

Starting today, restaurants and bars in Sweden will no longer be able to serve alcohol after 10 p.m. local time.

The measure, announced last week, is an effort to tamp down a spike in coronavirus cases.

Sweden has now recorded more than four times as many Covid-19 deaths than its three Nordic neighbors combined -- 6,340 as of Thursday.

But the Swedish government has largely relied on recommendations, not rules, to promote social distancing measures and coronavirus restrictions.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said this week: “Don’t go to the gym, don’t go to the library, don’t have dinner, don’t have parties. Cancel.”

4:38 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

"Encouraging signs" in the number of new UK coronavirus cases, health secretary says

From CNN's Simon Cullen in London   

Health Secretary Matt Hancock holds a virtual press conference on the latest coronavirus (Covid-19) developments at Downing Street  in London, on November 16.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock holds a virtual press conference on the latest coronavirus (Covid-19) developments at Downing Street in London, on November 16. Stefan Rousseau/WPA/Getty Images

There are “encouraging signs” the number of coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom are starting to flatten, the country’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

But he warned it won’t be a normal Christmas.

The four nations of the UK have all tightened restrictions in recent weeks as a second wave of infections took hold.

“There are encouraging signs that the number of cases is starting to flatten, and that the lockdown that we brought in earlier this month is working,” Hancock told Sky News on Friday.
“We’ve all been looking for the way out -- the exit strategy,” he said, but added that it’s still important for people to stick to the restrictions and stay home if possible.

Asked about plans to ease restrictions for Christmas, Hancock said the government was hoping to come up with a uniform set of rules across the UK.

“It of course won't be like a normal Christmas, there will have to be rules in place. But we hope that they'll allow for a bit more of that normal Christmas that people really look forward to,” he said.

The UK has recorded more than 1.4 million virus cases and 53,870 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

4:42 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Germany's Merkel says vaccine could be approved in Europe by next month

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media following a virtual meeting with the European Council in Berlin, on November 19.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media following a virtual meeting with the European Council in Berlin, on November 19. Andreas Gora/Pool/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expects a coronavirus vaccine to be approved in Europe in December or "very soon after the turn of the year."

Following a virtual meeting with European Union leaders late Thursday, Merkel told journalists that the Commission asked all members to make their vaccination plans available.

“I must say that the news in recent days about a vaccine is very positive and we think that there will be vaccine approvals by December or at least at the very beginning of next year and then of course vaccinations can begin,” she said.

Merkel added that the ethical basis of vaccinating is being discussed among all EU member states, adding that “vaccination priorities are similar in most member states -- first medical staff, then vulnerable persons, and I think the EU path will be similar.”

3:25 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

South Australia clarifies easing of restrictions after lockdown lifted early

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

South Australia Police have clarified what restrictions will be eased after the state's premier said a six-day lockdown would be lifted early.

South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said on Friday that the statewide lockdown would be lifted on Saturday -- a few days before it was originally scheduled to -- after health authorities found that a person lied to contact tracing officials.

"We understand this may cause some confusion and we'll endeavour to provide you with information as it becomes available," South Australia Police said in a Facebook post.

Here's what they said:

  • As of 12 p.m. Friday November 20, people can exercise outside of their home with members of their household.
  • Masks are not mandatory but are encouraged.
  • Schools will reopen on November 23.
  • Police will review measures with the aim to open the borders to Victoria state on December 1, as originally planned and further open the state by reducing restrictions.

As of 12:01 a.m. on November 22, South Australia will revert back to similar restrictions that were in place before the six-day lockdown.

That includes:

  • One person per 4 square meters will apply.
  • No dancing.
  • Onsite purchase and consumption of food and beverages -- 100 people maximum and no more than 10 people at each table.
  • A maximum of 50 people can attend funerals and 150 people maximum can attend weddings.
  • Other religious ceremonies can include a maximum of 100 people.
  • 50 people can attend private gatherings together but 10 people if it's a private residence.
  • All food and beverages must be consumed while seated.
  • Personal care workers must wear masks. Gyms are permitted to reopen.
3:05 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Top Pentagon official Anthony Tata tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Ryan Browne

Retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, a top US Pentagon official, has tested positive for Covid-19 after meeting with the Lithuanian minister of defense, according to a Pentagon statement.

Tata will isolate at home for the next 14 days.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement that Tata met with Lithuanian Minister of Defense Raimundas Karoblis last Friday. Karoblis has since tested positive for Covid-19 and the Lithuanian Embassy told the Pentagon on Thursday of his infection.

"Mr. Tata was tested today and has tested positive for Covid-19 on two successive tests. He will isolate at home for the next 14 days in accordance with Center for Disease Control protocols," Hoffman said.

Karoblis also met with multiple senior Pentagon leaders, including acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, the secretaries of the Army and Air Force and the secretary of the Navy. Each of those officials have been tested since their meeting, Hoffman said. He did not say how those leaders had tested.

Read the full story:

4:46 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Germany reports highest rise in Covid-19 infections

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Germany reported 23,648 new Covid-19 cases for the past 24 hours in its highest daily increase to date, according to data from the country's infectious disease agency, the Robert Koch Institute.

That's 1,039 more cases than the previous day and it also overtakes the previous daily high of 23,542 cases announced last Friday.

Germany's official death toll also increased by 260, bringing the nationwide total to 13,630, the tally showed. The country's total coronavirus case count now stands at 879,564. 

According to the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (DIVI) the number of patients in intensive care is now 3,588 -- the highest number since the pandemic began. 

Around 57% of patients in ICUs need ventilation, the data showed. When taking into account patients admitted to ICUs in Germany for other diseases, 21,934 intensive-care beds in the country are currently occupied; 6,273 intensive-care beds are vacant. 

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to discuss further measures to curb the spread of the virus next Wednesday in a meeting with the leaders of the country's 16 federal states.

2:29 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Keep schools open because kids need to be in class, Fauci says

From CNN Health’s Shelby Lin Erdman

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases looks on during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Thursday, November 19 in Washington.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases looks on during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Thursday, November 19 in Washington. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Schools need to remain open, even amid the surging coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday.

It’s important to be sensitive about the safety and the health of the children, he said, but it’s also important to keep children in school, Fauci told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

“You want to make sure you're sensitive and you do whatever you can to protect the children and protect the teachers because then indirectly you're protecting other people,” Fauci said. “Having said that, my feeling is the default position (is) keep the schools open, if you possibly can.”

New York City just closed down its school system to in-person learning and others have, too, as coronavirus cases spike again.

Fauci said he and many of his colleagues believe schools need to remain open despite the pandemic.

Part of the problem in trying to have a uniform policy for handling US schools during the pandemic is the vastness of the country and the cultural and geographical differences, the White House Coronavirus Task Force member said. Earlier Thursday, the task force held its first public briefing since July and members stressed that the official federal policy is to keep schools open.

Fauci said the patchwork of policies seen across the US, with some school systems closed and others open, does not help.

“Everybody's got to be in it together. You’ve got to pull together. We can't have people doing this this way, that that way. It doesn't work,” he said. “We've got to do it in a unified way,” he added.