COVID-19 Live Updates: Pfizer Asks U.S. For Antiviral Pill Approval

Live Updates

Pfizer has urged the U.S. to approve its new experimental COVID-19 pills that can be taken at home to prevent a rising number of virus patients in hospital this winter.

A Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) panel is due to meet this Friday to consider approving booster shots for all American adults, with some states already making the move ahead of the decision, but Pfizer is hopeful the group will make a decision on its experimental COVID drug before then.

Meanwhile, lockdowns have been announced in several countries that target the unvaccinated to reduce the impact of an expected new wave of infections over Christmas and New Year. Infections have been rapidly rising across Europe in recent weeks.

Live updates have now ended

Live updates have now ended

What are '2G' restrictions in Germany and Austria?

Austria has introduced the so-called "2G" measures for unvaccinated people nationwide and Germany has implemented the same on local areas, including its capital Berlin.

The regulations are designed to restrict the most infectious people who want to visit restaurants, museums, theatres and other cultural institutions, by asking them to provide either proof that they are either fully vaccinated (geimpft in German) or recovered from the virus (genesen).

Variations of the rules - including 2G Plus and 3G - which apply to other settings such as schools and workplaces. The restrictions have sparked a heated debate across Europe about whether or not to restrict the daily lives of people who have yet to be fully vaccinated against COVID - something extremely unlikely to happen in the U.S.

Fauci: 'I think by the spring we can have pretty good control of this'

Speaking during a Reuters Total Health conference, the top White House doctor and COVID adviser said the U.S. needs to "get the level of infection so low that it does not have an impact on society" if it wants the virus to become endemic.

People will still get infected. People might still get hospitalized, but the level would be so low that we don't think about it all the time and it doesn't influence what we do.

He appeared to back the idea of booster shots for all over-18s - something the FDA is currently debating and will decide on Friday.

Look what other countries are doing now about adopting a booster campaign virtually for everybody. I think if we do that, and we do it in earnest, I think by the spring we can have pretty good control of this.

FULL STORY: Fauci Says End of Pandemic Could Come Soon, But Warns About Current Surge

Schools mask mandate legal battle rages on in Pennsylvania

Commonwealth Court Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon has ruled that an order which requires masks inside K-12 schools and childcare facilities must end by December 4.

It comes a week after her court threw out the statewide mask mandate and lifts the automatic suspension of that decision granted when Governor Tom Wolf's administration appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Cannon's ruling, in theory, gives time for the state Supreme Court to take up the case, or for Wolf's administration to enact a new mask mandate through emergency regulations.

White House announces plans to boost vaccine manufacturing for poorer regions - reports

The Biden administration is set to give a major uplift in spending to COVID vaccine manufacturing to reach a billion doses a year target.

The White House plans to spend billions of dollars expanding infrastructure in the U.S. and boosting supplies delivered to the developing world, according to reports in the New York Times.

It comes as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken concludes his visit to Kenya - a country severely impacted by the pandemic - whose officials have been received billions to help tackle COVID since the outbreak began.

Black Friday sales expected to exceed pre-COVID levels

Figures from Mastercard have revealed this Black Friday is set to be the biggest since November 2019 - but mostly online - with internet-bought clothing sales set to boom by 71 per cent.

Online sales are set to climb by 35 per cent in November and December in the U.K., which Mastercard's Divisional President, Kelly Devine, says means shoppers are looking to spend more this year than before the pandemic.

The weeks leading up to Christmas have always been key for retailers. According to our SpendingPulse forecast this window in 2021 is set to bounce back strongly for U.K. shops. Hopes of a more normal festive period brings an air of excitement as people start to get into the holiday spirit and look forward to in-person events that most were unable to enjoy last year.

Black Friday/Christmas sales to exceed pre-COVID levels
Black Friday and Christmas sales are expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

How many take-at-home pills have been made so far?

Pharmaceutical firms have been working on new - and old - remedies for COVID patients to break the chain between infection and hospitalization, with two revealing their findings in the past several weeks.

Pfizer is now pushing the U.S. to approve its drug, an oral medication which is part of a family of antivirals that revolutionized the treatment of HIV and hepatitis C. The drug blocks a key enzyme that viruses need to multiply in the human body and was revealed to reduce hospitalizations by around 89 per cent.

A similar pill from Merck, however, triggers tiny mutations in the coronavirus cells until the point that it can't reproduce itself inside the body. Results found that it reduces hospitalizations in around 50 percent of newly infected people.

The FDA and CDC are yet to make a decision on either pill being rolled out in the U.S., pending outside advice from across the medical and scientific sectors.

Upper Midwest states experience case rate surge

Hospitals in Michigan and Minnesota reported a major influx of COVID patients yesterday as the state struggles with what appears to be a new wave of infections.

Michigan reported just over 3,000 virus patients in hospitals this week - the highest amount since spring - while all of Minnesota's hospital beds are now full. Both states are heading for infection rates larger than last winter, prompting Minnesota officials to suggest rolling out booster doses for over-18s before the FDA makes its decision on Friday.

Nationwide hospitalizations, meanwhile, have stabilized in recent weeks at around 40,000 - down from over 90,000 at the height of the Delta variant wave earlier this year.

FULL STORY: COVID Cases Surge in Michigan and Minnesota as Upper Midwest Flares Into a Hotspot

Pfizer 'will not receive royalties on sales in low-income countries' - CEO

Albert Bourla has confirmed that all Pfizer-made treatments will be sold at cost in developing countries - but only while COVID remains a 'Public Health Emergency of International Concern' by the World Health Organization.

India announces new lockdown - but not for COVID

Health officials have closed schools, told people to work from home, and are banning non-essential traffic from entering New Delhi - not to curb COVID, but smog.

The Indian capital is one of the world's most polluted cities and struggles with a thick blanket of smog created by vehicles and factories during the winter months.
Five of the city's coal power plants have also been shut down, while "anti-smog guns" spray water to temporarily clear the air in pollution hotspots.

The orders, from the Commission for Air Quality Management for Delhi, have been put in place "until further notice".

New Delhi shut down due to smog
New Delhi shut down due to smog
New Delhi shut down due to smog

New COVID pill needed 'keep people out of the hospital', says Pfizer CEO

Albert Bourla has said his company's PAXLOVID pill, which can be taken at home by those who test positive for COVID, will add to the "urgent need for life-saving treatment options" to reduce hospital admissions and deaths from the virus.

The overwhelming efficacy achieved in our recent clinical study of PAXLOVID, and its potential to help save lives and keep people out of the hospital if authorized, underscores the critical role that oral antiviral therapies could play in the battle against COVID-19. We are moving as quickly as possible in our effort to get this potential treatment into the hands of patients, and we look forward to working with the U.S. FDA on its review of our application, along with other regulatory agencies around the world.

The FDA is expected to make the decision by Friday's meeting of the advisory panel, which will decide whether to roll out the Pfizer boosters to all over 18s.

Biden pledges to 'rebuild the economy from the bottom up and middle out'

Off the back of signing the historic infrastructure bill, the president hopes he can meet his "Build Back Better" pledge to revitalize the U.S. economy post-COVID.

Over 500,000 jobs were added last month, in a sign that mass unemployment brought on by the pandemic - and its devastating side effects - will soon be reversed.

NYC to put on 'full strength' New Year's Eve celebrations with tight COVID measures

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the festivities will return to relative normality this year after celebrations last year were primarily viewed virtually. Only a few hundred people attended in person, marking the first time since 1907 that the event did not have a large crowd of spectators.

Those who do attend this year's celebration will need to show proof of vaccination and photo ID, or provide a negative COVID-19 test and wear a mask. Children under five also need to be in the company of a vaccinated adult.

FULL STORY: NYC New Year's Eve Will Be 'Full Strength', With Vaccination, Testing, Mask Requirements

New Yorkers to get full stregnth NYE
New Yorkers to get full stregnth NYE
New Yorkers to get full stregnth NYE
New Yorkers to get full stregnth NYE
New Yorkers to get full stregnth NYE

States approve vaccine rollout for all adults ahead of FDA decision

Several U.S. states have decided to roll out the vaccine for all Americans over 18 despite the FDA not yet meeting to decide on the measure.

So far California, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Colorado have decided to make the move, as well as New York City.

The rollout of Pfizer boosters is expected to be approved nationwide on Friday and the final step — the CDC's official recommendation — could come soon after the meeting.

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

States that have not yet approved the vaccine rollout for all adults are awaiting a crucial decision from the FDA, while Pfizer waits for the agency to approve its new experimental take-at-home pill.

Follow Newsweek's liveblog throughout Wednesday for all the latest.