Inoculations against Covid-19 are set to begin in the U.S. as early as Monday, as deaths in the country approached 300,000. The head of the government’s vaccine drive said as much as 80% of the population could be vaccinated by summer.

A U.S. decision on Moderna Inc.’s vaccine could come by the end of the week. Meanwhile, a shot from China’s Sinopharm faced contrasting developments, as Peru suspended trials after an “adverse event” while Bahrain became one of the first nations to approve the vaccine for widespread use.

South Korea reported a drop in new cases after posting a record of more than 1,000 infections on Sunday. New York City will halt indoor dining at restaurants and bars on Monday, while Germany is set to enter into hard lockdown Wednesday.

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  • Astra plots post-Covid future with $39 billion Alexion deal
  • U.S. lawmakers to unveil $908 billion pandemic relief plan
  • Pandemic woes bring U.S.-style gig economy to South Korea

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U.S. Set for Vaccines; South Korea Cases Ease: Virus Update

Pfizer May Offer Shots to Those Who Got Placebo (8:58 a.m. HK)

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE may soon allow participants in its Covid-19 vaccine trial to learn whether they received a placebo, rather than the real thing, and get the actual shot if they wish.

“Pending required approvals, Pfizer and BioNTech plan to provide an option for clinical trial participants who received the placebo to get the vaccine at scheduled time points in the study,” Pfizer said in an emailed statement. “This option will be voluntary and implemented in alignment with the regulatory authorities where the trial is being conducted.”

South Korea Confirms 718 More Infections (8:56 a.m. HK)

South Korea reported a drop in new cases — to 718 — after posting a record of more than 1,000 infections on Sunday. Health authorities announced it was setting up nearly 60 temporary testing centers at subway stations in Seoul to stem the latest spread.

Implementing the strictest level of social distancing measures is a last resort, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun said in a meeting.

London Set for Strictest Curbs: Telegraph (7:49 a.m. HK)

London will probably slip into England’s most restrictive Tier 3 coronavirus category because infection rates are rising so fast, while mayor Sadiq Khan has called for the government to shut the capital’s schools from Tuesday, the Telegraph reported.

Lawmakers from London and the surrounding areas are expected to be briefed Monday on data showing the infection rate doubling every four days, the newspaper said, citing health sources.

A spokesman for Khan told the newspaper the matter is a decision for the government and health officials.

Tokyo to Ask Stores to Reduce Opening Hours: NHK (7:12 a.m. HK)

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to ask stores to keep their reduced opening hours in place until Jan. 11, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reported, citing an unidentified person.

The Japanese government will hold a meeting as soon as Monday to discuss whether to exclude Tokyo and Nagoya cities from the “Go To” travel campaign, NHK said.

U.S. Leaders to Be Offered Vaccine Within Days (4:39 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump and other top U.S. officials will be offered the newly-approved coronavirus vaccine within days as part of a plan to ensure continuity in government amid the pandemic, people familiar with the effort said Sunday.

The vaccinations will be offered to critical personnel in all three branches of government deemed essential and could start as soon as Monday.

California Retreats From Record Cases, Deaths (2:05 p.m. NY)

California’s new cases and deaths dropped Sunday from a record the day before. The state reported 30,334 new infections, bringing the total to 1.6 million, while 122 new deaths were added for a total of 20,969.

U.S. Set for Vaccines; South Korea Cases Ease: Virus Update

Hospitalizations climbed to a new high, while the number of available intensive-care unit beds, still hovering near a record low, increased by 25 to 1,444. The state has imposed a stay-home order on about two-thirds of its residents over the holiday season as the supply of ICU beds dropped below its threshold.

French ICU Cases Rise After Weeks of Decline (2 p.m. NY)

Covid-19 patients in intensive-care units in France increased for the first time in almost four weeks, rising by 10 to 2,871, according to the Health Ministry. Hospitalizations for illness related to the virus, which include ICUs, climbed by 259, the most in three weeks.

CDC Gives Formal Vaccine Signoff (1:10 p.m. NY)

CDC Director Robert Redfield said he signed an advisory panel’s recommendation to use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in people 16 and older, a formality required to kick off the U.S. vaccine drive. Vaccinations are “set to start as early as Monday,” Redfield said in a statement Sunday.

U.S. Set for Vaccines; South Korea Cases Ease: Virus Update

Ireland Infections Quicken After Lockdown (12:46 p.m. NY)

Ireland’s pace of Covid-19 infections is increasing and a cause for concern, two weeks after the government rolled back a nationwide lockdown, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said.

The rolling five-day average of cases is back to more than 300 after declining for weeks, he said. Ireland reported 429 new cases Sunday, “a large number by the standard of recent weeks,” Holohan said.

U.S. Hospital Strain Seen Peaking in January (12:04 p.m. NY)

A slowing of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. Midwest and West offers “hopeful signs,” even as infections on the east and west coasts are accelerate, former Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Even with the imminent start of vaccinations in the U.S., “we need to keep the health-care system from getting maxed out,” Gottlieb said. “They’re not going to see peak burden on hospital resources probably until mid January, late January.”

U.S. Set for Vaccines; South Korea Cases Ease: Virus Update

New Jersey Shots to Start Tuesday, Murphy Says (12:03 p.m. NY)

New Jersey’s coronavirus cases passed 400,000 on Sunday with another 4,170 positive tests reported. An additional 24 people in the state died of illness related to Covid-19, bringing the toll to 15,883, which is the nation’s fifth-highest.

The first vaccines in New Jersey will be administered on Tuesday, according to Governor Phil Murphy.

NYC Remains Above Positive-Test Threshold (11 a.m. NY)

With indoor dining at New York eateries due to halt on Monday, the positive-test rate remained higher than the 5% benchmark that helps determine virus-related restrictions by the city, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

While bars and restaurants are being restricted to outdoor and takeout service under an order by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the city’s “vaccine command center” is due to open on Monday.

New York reported more than 10,000 new virus cases statewide for the fifth consecutive day.

Most of U.S. to Be Vaccinated by June: Slaoui (9:30 a.m. NY)

As many as eight in 10 people in the U.S. could be vaccinated by next summer, according to Moncef Slaoui, who heads the government’s push to approve and distribute vaccines.

After the FDA authorized emergency use of the the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, a Moderna Inc. vaccine “likely will be approved by Friday,” Slaoui said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“We need to have immunized about 75% to 80% of the U.S. population before herd immunity can really be established,” he said. “We hope to reach that point between the month of May and the month of June.”

Abu Dhabi to Reopen to Foreign Tourists (9:26 a.m. NY)

Abu Dhabi is planning to reopen for international tourists by early January as it eases restrictive measures, looking to recover from the pandemic. The capital of the United Arab Emirates will allow visitors from a group of countries it deems safe, and that list will be updated every two weeks, according to an official at the Department of Culture and Tourism.

Half of Brazilians Wouldn’t Take Chinese Vaccine (9:22 a.m. NY)

Half of Brazilians wouldn’t take the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. with Instituto Butantan in Sao Paulo, a Datafolha poll shows.

U.S. Set for Vaccines; South Korea Cases Ease: Virus Update

The Chinese vaccine, known as CoronaVac, has the highest rejection rate among those polled, at 50%, according to data published Saturday by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.

More than a third wouldn’t take a vaccine developed by Russia and a quarter would reject one produced by the U.K. The lowest rejection rate, of 23%, is for a U.S.-developed vaccine.

Kuwait Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine (7:50 a.m. NY)

Kuwait authorized the use of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, while nearby Bahrain registered one made by China’s Sinopharm.

EU’s Michel Sees Vaccine Approval ‘in Coming Weeks’ (7:46 a.m. NY)

European Council President Charles Michel said he expects the first Covid vaccines to be approved in the EU “in the coming weeks, maybe even before the end of the year.”

The bloc has decided to follow its regulatory process and “not to play” with approval, Michel said. European countries are working on a simultaneous vaccination drive, to avoid some countries falling months behind others, Michel said in an interview with France Inter radio Sunday.

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