‘Relieved’: US health workers start getting COVID-19 vaccine

The largest vaccination campaign in US history got underway as health workers in select hospitals rolled up their sleeves for shots to protect them from COVID-19 and start beating back the pandemic.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was expected to announce a tough month-long lockdown, including the closing of schools and shops, according to broadcasters NOS and RTL, as his government tries to slow soaring COVID-19 infections.

Meanwhile, London is likely to be placed into the toughest tier of COVID-19 restrictions following a sharp rise in coronavirus rates, the BBC reported.

In Asia, South Korea ordered schools to close from Tuesday in the capital Seoul and surrounding areas as it battles its worst outbreak of novel coronavirus since the pandemic began, surpassing the previous peak in February.

US COVID-19 deaths top 300,000 just as vaccinations begin

The US death toll from the coronavirus topped 300,000 Monday just as the country began dispensing COVID-19 shots in a monumental campaign to conquer the outbreak.

“The numbers are staggering – the most impactful respiratory pandemic that we have experienced in over 102 years, since the iconic 1918 Spanish flu,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, said days before the milestone.

The US crossed the threshold on the same day health care workers rolled up their sleeves for Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot, marking the start of the biggest vaccination campaign in American history.

If a second vaccine is authorized soon, as expected, 20 million people could be immunized by month’s end.

Canada turns a corner in pandemic as first COVID-19 vaccines administered

Canada kicked off its inoculation campaign against COVID-19 on Monday by injecting frontline healthcare workers and elderly nursing home residents, becoming just the third nation in the world to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The first dose broadcast on live TV went to Anita Quidangen. The personal support worker at the Rekai Centre, a non-profit nursing home for the elderly in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, said she was “excited” to have been first in line.

Healthcare workers in masks and white coats applauded after she was injected.

“Today really we turn a corner,” said Dr. Kevin Smith, president and chief executive of the University Health Network’s Michener Institute, where the shot was administered.

“She has worked tirelessly to care for some of our most vulnerable, both throughout this pandemic and since her first days as a personal support worker in 1988,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said of Quidagen.

Kids and COVID isolation & stress: What parents need to know

Five-year-old Andy wants a Nintendo Switch for Christmas to share with his three-year-old brother. “I know it is a lot of money so its [sic] ok if we don’t get one,” Andy writes to Santa. “I wish COVID was over so we can hug.”

Kimberly, 13, tells Santa this year has been tough on her family of six due to the pandemic. “I will gladly appreciate it if you can bring Christmas home,” she writes.

Savannah, who wants Lego sets, concedes in the postscript of her letter to Santa, “I’m sorry if I’ve been bad. It’s really hard because of COVID-19 and online school (school in general) I’m trying to be good. Hope you understand.”

UK says no evidence symptoms worse or different with new COVID-19 variant

There is no evidence that a new variant of the coronavirus identified in England causes worse or different symptoms, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said.

“There are many variants. It just happens that this one has quite a few more mutations than some of the other variants, so that’s the reason why we’ve taken it particularly seriously,” Whitty said.

“But there’s nothing to suggest that the symptoms are different, that the testing is different, or that the clinical outcome is different for this variant,” he said during a news conference.

Dutch PM Rutte: lockdown measures will last for period of at least five weeks

The Netherlands will go into a tough second lockdown, with the  closure of all schools and shops for at least five weeks, in a government-led push to fight the coronavirus, the government said..

Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the measures in a rare television address, broadcast from his office.

US lawmakers urge Trump administration to extension tariff exclusions for PPE

A bipartisan group of 75 lawmakers is urging the Trump administration to extend exclusions from import tariffs on medical products imported from China, including face masks, hand sanitizing wipes and examination gloves, that expire on December 31.

In a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the lawmakers said failure to extend the exclusions would hurt small businesses already suffering from stay-at-home orders aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus.

They said they recognized that the exclusions were granted in part to give US companies more time to diversify their supply chains out of China. But companies needed more time to complete those efforts given continuing travel restrictions, they said.

“Extending exclusions before they expire will help with pandemic response, and it will save jobs, businesses and livelihoods. We strongly urge you to extend all active exclusions before they expire at the end of this year,” the lawmakers said in the letter, which was dated Friday.

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