Coronavirus update: COVID-19 vaccine candidate approved for emergency use in China

China has approved an experimental vaccine being developed by a state-owned pharmaceutical giant for emergency use in high-risk groups such as medical staff.

Meanwhile, Berlin police have disbanded a mass protest against coronavirus curbs after marchers in the German capital failed to keep their distance and wear masks.

This story will be regularly updated throughout Sunday.

Sunday’s key moments:

Coronavirus vaccine candidate approved for emergency use in China

Sinovac Biotech’s coronavirus vaccine candidate CoronaVac has been approved for emergency use as part of a programme initiated in July in China to vaccinate high-risk groups such as medical staff.

China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a unit of state-owned pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), said on social media platform WeChat that it had obtained emergency use approval for a coronavirus vaccine candidate.

CNBG, which has two vaccine candidates in phase 3 clinical trials, did not reveal which of its vaccines had been cleared for emergency use.

China has been giving experimental coronavirus vaccines to high-risk groups since July, and a health official told state media that authorities could consider modestly expanding the emergency use programme to try to prevent possible outbreaks during the autumn and winter.

State media reported in June, prior to the emergency use programme, that employees at state firms travelling overseas were allowed to take one of the two vaccines being developed by CNBG, while China’s military had also approved the use of CanSino Biologics’ vaccine candidate.

Seven vaccines against the coronavirus are in final trial stages around the world including four from China.

But no vaccine has yet passed the final stage of trials proving it is safe and effective.

Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 24.77 million

a man wearing a mask has his temperature tested with a device by a person wearing protective equipment
Infections are being reported in more than 210 countries and territories.(AP: Marco Ugarte)

More than 24.77 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and 837,879 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

India has reported 76,472 new coronavirus cases, extending a run that has made the country’s outbreak currently the world’s worst.

South Korea has recorded its 16th consecutive day of triple-digit rises in new cases, extending a second wave of infections that is fanning concerns about a shortage of hospital beds in Seoul.

Berlin police disband protest against coronavirus curbs

Thousands pictured in protest in Berlin, Germany.
Police say they had no choice but to disband the protest.(AP: Michael Sohn)

Berlin police have disbanded a mass protest in the German capital against coronavirus curbs a few hours after it had begun after marchers failed to heed their orders to keep their distance and wear masks.

The protest came after infections rose across Europe, with similar protests during the day in Paris and elsewhere.

“Unfortunately, we have no other option,” Berlin police said on Twitter.

Police, who deployed 3,000 officers to control crowds estimated at 18,000, had been preparing for possible violence as activists opposed to the anti-virus measures urged social media followers across Europe to arm themselves and gather in Berlin.

Earlier this week, the city banned the protest but a German regional court overnight gave the final go-ahead by overruling the earlier decision.

Until now, Germany has managed the coronavirus crisis better than many of its European counterparts, with rigorous testing helping to hold down infections and deaths.

But new daily infections have accelerated in recent weeks.

COVID-19 unlikely to stop Tour de France, says minister

The chances of the Tour de France not being completed because of the COVID-19 crisis are very slim, French sports minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said.

“On every subject, whether it’s the Tour or anything else, we have to be able to adapt, to be able to make decisions depending on the situation,” Mr Blanquer told reporters ahead of the first stage.

“That type of thing could happen but of course I hope that it won’t and I think that it won’t because the Tour organisers have done an extraordinary job.

“The chances [of the Tour not reaching Paris] are very slim.”

The number of daily cases in France has been rising steadily in recent weeks, casting a shadow over the three-week event, which is starting nine weeks later than originally scheduled.

French health authorities on Saturday (local time) introduced stricter regulations for exclusions from the Tour in the event of coronavirus cases.

Until now this year’s race had been operating under International Cycling Union (UCI) guidelines which said teams should be excluded if two or more riders were to test positive over the same period.