Thu. Jan 21st, 2021


The latest figures come as president-elect Joe Biden embarks on his election promise to tackle the global pandemic, even as Donald Trump refuses to accept defeat and continues to challenge the election results in court.

Earlier this week, the first steps were put in place when Biden announced the members of his coronavirus advisory board, which is made up entirely of doctors and health experts.

A medical worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) registers a person in a vehicle at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in El Paso, Texas.

A medical worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) registers a person in a vehicle at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in El Paso, Texas.Credit:Bloomberg

Another breakthrough also occurred with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announcing that a vaccine it had been developing with German partner BioNTech SE was 90 per cent effective against COVID-19, based on early results from its latest trial.

The vaccine still has a number of challenges – including the fact that it needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius or less.

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Nonetheless, health experts expect that, if approved by the FDA, the Pfizer vaccine could be rolled out by Christmas to “high priority” patients such as the elderly, while the general US population could have access by April.

However, as cases continue to soar, local leaders are at loggerheads over what to do to tackle spikes in their cities and states, especially when it comes to lockdowns.

Texas in particular has struggled with this issue for months: when The Age visited the battleground state earlier this year to talk to voters, cases had soared during the first wave after Republican Governor Greg Abbott rushed to reopen the economy and initially refused to mandate masks.

Testing and tracing was also a problem, with no requirement to self isolate after being tested for the virus.

Asked about his views on lockdowns during an interview with ABC’s 7.30 Report last night, infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci said: “I would like that to be almost the last resort because we know there is a considerable amount of COVID-19 fatigue globally and certainly in the United States.”

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However, he highlighted Australia as “an example of a very successful result of a lockdown.”

“They locked down for a period of time. They got down to zero and now they are at a very, very good baseline, which means, getting back to your prior question, that it is much easier to identify, isolate and contact trace when you start off with virtually no infection in your population,” Fauci told presenter Leigh Sales.

Texas’ 1 million cases is not the only grim milestone reached this week. On Monday, the US surpassed 10 million known cases and according to the New York Times database, it is now averaging a record of more than 111,000 new cases a day.

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