While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for January 4

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First Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine given to patient in the U.K. Britain on Monday took another giant step in the fight against COVID-19, ramping up its immunization program by giving the first shots in the world from the vaccine created by Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

Dialysis patient Brian Pinker, 82, was the first to get the new vaccine shot, administered by the chief nurse at Oxford University Hospital. Pinker said he was so pleased and that he can “now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary with my wife Shirley later this year.”

Since Dec. 8, Britain’s National Health Service has been using a vaccine made by Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech to inoculate health care workers and nursing home residents and staff. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine boosts that arsenal and is cheaper and easier to use since it does not require the super-cold storage needed by the Pfizer vaccine.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was being administered at a small number of U.K. hospitals for the first few days so authorities can watch out for any adverse reactions. But hundreds of new vaccination sites — at both hospitals as well as local doctors’ offices — will launch this week, joining the more than 700 already in operation, NHS England said.

U.S. death toll hits 350,000. The COVID-19 death toll in the United States has surpassed 350,000 as experts anticipate another surge in coronavirus cases and deaths stemming from holiday gatherings over Christmas and New Year’s.

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. passed the threshold early Sunday morning. More than 20 million people in the country have been infected. The U.S. has begun using two coronavirus vaccines to protect health care workers and nursing home residents and staff but the rollout of the inoculation program has been criticized as being slow and chaotic.

4 million vaccinated in the U.S. The U.S. ramped up COVID-19 vaccinations in the past few days after a slower-than-expected start, bringing to 4 million the number of Americans who have received shots, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.

The government’s top infectious-disease expert also said on ABC’s “This Week” that President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to administer 100 million shots of the vaccine within his first 100 days in office is achievable. 

And he rejected President Donald Trump’s false claim on Twitter that coronavirus deaths and cases in the U.S. have been greatly exaggerated.

“All you need to do … is go into the trenches, go into the hospitals, go into the intensive care units and see what is happening. Those are real numbers, real people and real deaths,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Travel restrictions spread in Australia. More Australian states and territories are reimposing travel restrictions to prevent the spreading of the coronavirus from new outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria states.

The Australian Capital Territory has shut out non-residents who have been on the northern beaches of Sydney, where the outbreaks are most concentrated, Greater Sydney and other smaller centers, unless they have an exemption.

The island state of Tasmania has barred anyone directly linked to the latest Victorian cases, listing exposure sites where confirmed cases are known to have been. The move followed Tasmania’s declaration of Greater Sydney and the Wollongong area south of Sydney as medium-risk zones, requiring travelers to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, while those from Sydney’s northern beaches are barred from entering.

Victoria reported three new cases of community transmission on Sunday, down from Saturday’s 10. In total, there have been 21 locally acquired Victorian cases over recent days, all linked to the New South Wales outbreak.

Victoria’s border is now closed to all travelers from New South Wales.

On Sunday, New South Wales recorded eight new local cases. There are 161 active cases in the state, most of them in the northern beaches of Sydney, and 13 emanating from liquor store that are not connected to the beaches cluster.

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