The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines

By Nectar Gan, Adam Renton, Kara Fox and Harry Clarke-Ezzidio, CNN

Updated 8:51 p.m. ET, December 31, 2020
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5:31 a.m. ET, December 31, 2020

Australian states will shut borders again as local transmission grows in NSW and Victoria

From CNN's Carly Walsh

New South Wales police officers guard an entrance as part of Covid-19 restrictions for New Year celebrations around Circular Quay in Sydney on December 31.
New South Wales police officers guard an entrance as part of Covid-19 restrictions for New Year celebrations around Circular Quay in Sydney on December 31. David Gray/AFP/Getty Images

Several Australian states moved to shut borders as cases stemming from an outbreak of Covid-19 in northern Sydney earlier this month continues to grow and take root in neighboring Victoria state. 

Interstate travel had largely been cut earlier this year during the country’s first wave.

Victoria, which reported three new locally transmitted cases Thursday, will close its borders with the state of New South Wales (NSW) starting Friday, according to public broadcaster ABC. As a result of the fresh outbreak in the state, new Covid-19 restrictions have been issued hours before New Year’s Eve celebrations, with gatherings of more than 15 people are no longer allowed and masks are now mandatory indoors.

The state of Western Australia said its restrictions -- which were described by acting Premier Roger Cook as “essentially a hard border ” -- were extended to the state of Victoria starting Friday. Western Australia travel restrictions on those from NSW have been in place since December 19. 

In the Northern Territories, Health Minister Natasha Fyles announced that from Friday, travelers from the greater Sydney area would have to go into quarantine in a designated facility. She added they were monitoring the situation in metropolitan Melbourne in Victoria state.

The ABC also reported that the state of South Australia will close its border with NSW from Friday but its border with Victoria will remain open.

The usual New Year's Eve fireworks display in Sydney has been shortened this year, with movement around the city restricted.

4:51 a.m. ET, December 31, 2020

Pakistan to buy 1.2 million doses of Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN’s Hira Humayun, Sophie Jeong and Sophia Saifi

A staff member inspects syringes of Covid-19 inactivated vaccine products at a packaging plant of the Beijing Biological Products Institute Co., Ltd, a unit of state-owned Sinopharm, in Beijing.
A staff member inspects syringes of Covid-19 inactivated vaccine products at a packaging plant of the Beijing Biological Products Institute Co., Ltd, a unit of state-owned Sinopharm, in Beijing. Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua/AP

Pakistan will purchase 1.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from China’s state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, Pakistani Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Hussain Chaudhry announced Thursday.

“The cabinet committee has decided that to begin with 12 lac (1.2mil) doses of vaccines will be bought from Chinese company Sinopharm, which in the first quarter of 2021, will be provided for free to front line workers,” Chaudhry tweeted.

China approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by Sinopharm for public use on Thursday. Beijing Biological Products Institute, a unit of Sinopharm’s subsidiary China National Biotec Group, announced on Wednesday that its Covid-19 vaccine is more than 79% effective.  

On Thursday, Pakistan reported 2,475 coronavirus cases for the previous 24 hours, bringing the country's total caseload to 479,715. It also reported 58 virus-related fatalities, for a total death toll of 10,105.

3:24 a.m. ET, December 31, 2020

South Korean prison battles coronavirus outbreak

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

A medical staff member takes a swab from a visitor to test for Covid-19 outside the City Hall in Seoul on December 28.
A medical staff member takes a swab from a visitor to test for Covid-19 outside the City Hall in Seoul on December 28. Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images

A prison in Seoul has recorded 792 Covid-19 cases since late November, Vice-Minister of Justice Lee Yong-gu said in a briefing Thursday.

The Dongbu detention facility, located in southeast Seoul, reported its first case after a staff member was believed to have contracted the virus from their family, according to Lee.

Of the 792 reported cases, 771 are inmates and 21 are staff, Lee said.

The minister said all prison facilities nationwide are now following the highest social-distancing measures, banning all visits except special lawyer-inmate meetings, and cancelling all work and classes from Thursday.

South Korea recorded 967 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, the nation’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said Thursday.

The national tally of confirmed cases now stands at 60,740, with 900 related deaths, according to KDCA.

2:30 a.m. ET, December 31, 2020

New Year's Eve fireworks are on in some places, but they'll look a lot different this year

From CNN's Lauren M. Johnson

New Year's Eve celebrations around the world will look very different this year as cities take precautions against the spread of Covid-19.

The best view of most major cities is going to be from your couch. Most of the large traditional displays of fireworks and celebrations globally have been canceled and replaced with smaller televised or streamed events.

Here are the places still holding events and where to watch the downscaled favorites.

London: London's iconic fireworks show over the River Thames is canceled this year, and much of England is now under tough stay-at-home restrictions. But there will be a special broadcast on the BBC for people to enjoy while they're inside.

New York: Yes, the ball will be dropping in Times Square and there will be some celebration, but the events are closed to the public. The show is going on for the annual national broadcasts on several stations, so even though no one is waiting for hours in the freezing cold, you can still see the events unfold as we count down to midnight.

Sydney: Sydney is forgoing its traditional public showstopping New Year's Eve events for smaller celebrations that will be publicly broadcast. Instead of a huge fireworks show, there will be a smaller display over the Sydney Harbour Bridge at midnight.

Paris: There will be no public events held for those celebrating the new year in Paris, but there will be a livestreamed concert in Notre Dame Cathedral by composer and performer Jean-Michel Jarre for everyone to watch.

Read more:

1:30 a.m. ET, December 31, 2020

US adds record number of daily Covid-19 deaths for second straight day

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 3,744 additional coronavirus deaths on Wednesday -- a single-day record high for the second consecutive day, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

The previous record of 3,725 fatalities was recorded on Tuesday.

JHU also recorded 229,042 new Covid-19 cases nationwide on Wednesday.

At least 19,740,468 total cases and 342,312 deaths have now been recorded in the US, according to JHU.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.  

At least 12,409,050 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 2,794,588 doses administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

CNN is tracking US cases:

1:19 a.m. ET, December 31, 2020

Japan may consider declaring a state of emergency to counter rising Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Shoppers stand outside stores at the Ameya Yokocho market in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, December 30.
Shoppers stand outside stores at the Ameya Yokocho market in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, December 30. Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Japan's government may consider declaring a state of emergency if Covid-19 continues to spread further, a minister in charge of the country's coronavirus response said on Twitter Wednesday.

"We have to curb the spread of coronavirus at any cost," Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said in a tweet.

Tokyo recorded 944 new Covid-19 cases for Wednesday -- the highest daily increase in infections since the pandemic began. The total number of people to have been infected in Tokyo now stands at 58,840, according to the Japanese Health Ministry.

Overall, Japan reported 3,851 new coronavirus cases and 65 virus-related deaths on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said. It added that 668 patients were in serious condition on Wednesday, down by seven from the previous day. 

The total number of confirmed cases nationwide now stands at 231,016, while the death toll has reached 3,427.

12:36 a.m. ET, December 31, 2020

Brazilian health agency modifies emergency vaccine authorization rules for Pfizer vaccine

 From CNN's Taylor Barnes

A vial of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine that received emergency use authorization is seen at George Washington University Hospital on December 14, in Washington, DC. 
A vial of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine that received emergency use authorization is seen at George Washington University Hospital on December 14, in Washington, DC.  Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images

The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) has modified its guide for emergency vaccine use after the pharmaceutical company Pfizer said it could not provide some of the information required by the Brazilian government to gain authorization.

Top officials from Anvisa met with representatives from Pfizer to discuss the emergency use rules on Wednesday, according to a news release from the health agency.

Among information Pfizer could not provide was a timeline for the number of doses that would be provided to Brazil, according to the release.

Anvisa said it would not require Pfizer to submit clinical data specific to trials in Brazil but that the health agency will evaluate “all of the clinical data presented in different populations.”

Some context: Earlier this week, Pfizer had announced that it would not seek emergency authorization in Brazil due to some of the rules put in place by Anvisa.

Brazil has recorded more than 7.5 million Covid-19 cases and its death toll is nearing 200,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

12:02 a.m. ET, December 31, 2020

Australia's Victoria state reports fresh Covid-19 outbreak after 2 months of no cases

From Pauline Lockwood and Ben Westcott 

Shoppers walk along Bourke Street Mall during Boxing Day sales on December 26, in Melbourne, Australia. 
Shoppers walk along Bourke Street Mall during Boxing Day sales on December 26, in Melbourne, Australia.  Naomi Rahim/Getty Images

Australia’s state of Victoria reported three locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on Thursday, breaking a 61-day streak of no community infections.

As of Thursday morning, Victoria has a total of 10 active cases, the state's Department of Health spokesperson Graeme Walker told CNN.

Among them, six cases are in quarantine from inbound travel, and another is a teenage girl isolating at home after contracting the virus in the state of New South Wales.

"We are aware of an additional three cases and will have more information on these new cases throughout the day," Walker said.

As a result of the fresh outbreak in the state, new Covid-19 restrictions have been issued hours before New Year’s Eve celebrations. Gatherings of more than 15 people are no longer allowed and masks are now mandatory indoors. 

11:48 p.m. ET, December 30, 2020

China has administered 3 million doses of coronavirus vaccines since December 15

From CNN's Nectar Gan

A staff member tests samples of the Covid-19 inactivated vaccine at a China National Pharmaceutical Group plant in Beijing, on April 11, 2020. 
A staff member tests samples of the Covid-19 inactivated vaccine at a China National Pharmaceutical Group plant in Beijing, on April 11, 2020.   Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua/Getty

China has drastically scaled up its emergency use program in recent weeks, officials revealed Thursday as they announced the approval of the country's first homegrown coronavirus vaccine, developed by Sinopharm.

Since December 15, the country has administered more than 3 million doses of coronavirus vaccines on "key groups" in the population, Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of China's National Health Commission, said at a news conference Thursday. He did not identify who those groups were.

That's on top of the more than 1.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines administered to "high-risk groups" as of the end of November, Zeng added.

Among those who have been inoculated, fewer than 0.1% developed a light fever, and about two people per million developed "relative serious adverse reactions" such as allergies, according to Zeng.

China rolled out its controversial emergency use program in July, inoculating hundreds of thousands of people with experimental vaccines that did not have their safety and efficacy proven in clinical trials. People who received the vaccines include healthcare workers, border control personnel and state-owned company employees who needed to travel overseas.