(NEW YORK) — A novel coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide.

Over 55.6 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some national governments are hiding or downplaying the scope of their outbreaks. The criteria for diagnosis — through clinical means or a lab test — has also varied from country to country.

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the virus has rapidly spread to every continent except Antarctica. The United States is the worst-affected nation, with more than 11.3 million diagnosed cases and at least 248,687 deaths.

Nearly 200 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are being tracked by the World Health Organization, at least 10 of which are in crucial phase three studies. Of those 10 potential vaccines in late-stage trials, there are currently five that will be available in the United States if approved.

Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:

Nov 18, 6:57 am
Pfizer vaccine 95% effective in final analysis, plans to seek emergency authorization ‘within days’

Pfizer and partner BioNTech announced Wednesday that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate is more than 95% effective in the final analysis of its massive Phase 3 trial and has reached a key safety milestone that will allow the company to apply for authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “within days.”

If the FDA gives the vaccine the green light, Pfizer will likely make history as the first company with an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine. It has plans to start delivering millions of doses of the potentially lifesaving vaccine to the most vulnerable overnight once the government gives a green light, possibly before the end of 2020, the company said.

Just last week, Pfizer and BioNTech announced their vaccine was more than 90% effective, according to a preliminary analysis based on the first 94 patients to develop symptomatic COVID-19 in a trial of more than 43,000 volunteers.

But with the pandemic raging in the United States and across the globe, it didn’t take long for even more volunteers to become infected, quickly bringing Pfizer’s trial to 170 COVID-positive cases — exceeding the threshold needed for a “final” analysis on the vaccine’s effectiveness.

In a press release, delivered before the stock market opened, Pfizer announced that among the 170 volunteers to develop COVID-19 in the clinical trial, 162 had been given placebo shots, while only eight volunteers to become infected were given the real vaccine.

This means Pfizer’s vaccine is roughly 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. The updated efficacy data follows news from competitor Moderna, which announced earlier this week that its vaccine was 94.5% effective in its own preliminary analysis.

It’s not known yet what level of immunity or how long the immunity lasts after receiving the vaccines. Trial volunteers will be followed for two years to answer questions like durability of protection.

Pfizer also announced another major milestone Wednesday — enough safety data to merit FDA authorization. The FDA requires at least two months of safety data among at least half of the trial volunteers before it will consider granting a limited emergency authorization. Pfizer has now hit key milestones that will allow the company to apply for this limited authorization, which could happen in the coming days.

Nov 18, 6:02 am
Tokyo reports highest daily increase in cases

Tokyo confirmed 493 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest single-day tally for Japan’s capital since the pandemic began.

According to local media reports, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is preparing to raise the COVID-19 alert level to the highest of four ranks and is also considering asking bars and restaurants to shorten their hours again as part of efforts to curb the rising infection rate.

Meanwhile, Japan confirmed more than 2,000 new cases on Wednesday for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Overall, the East Asian country has reported more than 120,000 cases including just under 2,000 deaths, according to the latest figures from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

The recent surge in infections comes amid the Japanese government’s controversial “Go to Travel” campaign, which encourages domestic travel to help boost the economy by providing residents with subsidies of up to 50% on hotels, restaurants and transportation within Japan.

Nov 18, 5:24 am
Russia sees record-high deaths for second straight day

Russia registered 456 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, setting a new single-day record for the second straight day.

An additional 20,985 new cases of COVID-19 were also confirmed nationwide over the past day. Russia’s cumulative total now stands at 1,991,998 cases with 34,387 deaths, according to the country’s coronavirus response headquarters.

Moscow remains the epicenter of the country’s outbreak and recent surge. Nearly 20% of the newly confirmed cases — 4,174 — and more than 16% of the new deaths — 76 — were reported in the capital, according to Russia’s coronavirus response headquarters.

Despite the growing number of infections and deaths, Russian authorities have repeatedly said they have no plans to impose another nationwide lockdown.

The Eastern European country of 145 million people has the fifth-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world, behind only the United States, India, Brazil and France, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Nov 18, 5:06 am
France becomes first country in Europe to reach two million cases

France’s tally of COVID-19 cases has hit the two million mark, becoming the first country in Europe to do so and the fourth in the world.

French Director General of Health Jerome Salomon announced Tuesday evening that the country had reached the grim milestone of 2,036,755 confirmed cases, along with an “unprecedented number of hospitalizations” of over 33,000.

“Whether in cities or in rural areas, all regions, all metropolitan departments are affected,” Salomon said. “This second wave, which we are all facing, is massive, deadly and is straining all of our caregivers and our health system as a whole.”

French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday that while the country was regaining control over COVID-19, it’s still too soon to lift the second nationwide lockdown, which was imposed on Oct. 30 to contain the spread of the virus.

The French government has set a Dec. 1 deadline for ending the lockdown but said it could extend it if case numbers don’t decline fast enough.

Nov 18, 4:27 am
US reports over 150K new cases for fifth straight day

There were 161,934 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States on Tuesday, according to a real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It’s the fifth day in a row that the country has reported over 150,000 newly diagnosed infections. Tuesday’s count is slightly less than the all-time high of 177,224 on Nov. 13.

An additional 1,707 fatalities from COVID-19 were also registered nationwide on Tuesday, the highest since mid-May but still under a peak of 2,609 new deaths on April 15.

A total of 11,359,804 people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 248,687 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

Much of the country was under lockdown by the end of March as the first wave of pandemic hit. By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up and crossing 100,000 for the first time on Nov. 4.

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