Covid live: Germany warned of ‘really terrible Christmas’ without new measures; Russia sets new deaths record


RKI director: Germany is ‘heading toward a serious emergency’ and ‘a really terrible Christmas’


China making example of jailed Wuhan Covid journalist, says lawyer

The detention of Zhang Zhan, the Chinese journalist jailed after reporting on the Covid pandemic in Wuhan, is intended as a “warning to others”, her former lawyer has said, as calls grow for her emergency release on medical grounds.

Hundreds of Chinese human rights lawyers and citizens have put their names to an open letter calling for immediate medical care for Zhang, who her family fear is close to death. Zhang has been on a hunger strike for more than a year in protest at her persecution for reporting on the Wuhan lockdown in early 2020.

Her reports challenged official claims about the Wuhan lockdown and the outbreak, which authorities had attempted to cover-up. On Thursday she was awarded the Reporters Without Borders’ 2021 Press Freedom award for courage.

Zhang, a 38-year-old former lawyer, was sentenced in December last year to four years in jail on charges of disseminating false information in her video and blog reports from Wuhan and in interviews with foreign press. She was first arrested in May of that year, accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – an accusation commonly used against dissidents, activists and journalists.

Read more of Helen Davidson’s report from Taipei: China making example of jailed Wuhan Covid journalist, says lawyer

From Washington, David Smith brings us this report about hard-hitting Covid-19 documentary The First Wave:

It is tempting to suggest that the Covid deniers, the hoaxers, the hucksters, the anti-vaxxers, the flat earthers, the merchants of disinformation and the crackpot conspiracy theorists be strapped into a chair and force fed The First Wave, a harrowing documentary about the early toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid-19 has never been a “media-friendly” story: death and suffering happen in intimate spaces behind closed doors, where few cameras or reporters are permitted. It is therefore less spectacular news than the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, even though the current loss of life in the US is still equivalent to a 9/11 every three days.

This relative invisibility was surely a factor in allowing disinformation to thrive in Donald Trump’s White House and rightwing media and social media. But The First Wave offers the kind of vivid, visceral, gut-wrenching account of tragedy up close that is as undeniable as a plane crash.

Read more of David Smith’s piece about the documentary here: ‘We were in a war’: behind 2021’s most devastating Covid-19 documentary

Russia sets new record for official Covid daily deaths at 1,251

UK under-18s with Covid advised to wait 12 weeks for vaccine dose

Third athlete tests positive at Beijing Winter Olympics test event


A steep rise in Covid-19 cases in Europe should serve as a warning that the US could also see significant increases in coronavirus cases this winter, particularly in the nation’s colder regions, scientists say.

“I do expect to see cases increasing – we’ve started to see this in the last week or so,” said Dr David Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University. “I don’t think what we’re seeing in Europe means we’re in for a huge surge of serious illness and death as we [saw] here in the US,” last winter.

In the last three weeks, new cases have increased in several cold weather states across New England and the midwest. However, vaccines remain roughly 85% effective at preventing hospitalization and death.

“Even if cases go up this winter, we’re very unlikely to see the overcrowded [intensive care units] and morgues of a year ago,” said Dowdy.

Vaccine-conferred immunity against infection may allow cases to rise, he said, but far fewer people will need hospitalization. The vast majority of people who were hospitalized or died from Covid-19 this summer, more than 90% in one CDC study, were not fully vaccinated.

“People can still get Covid, there can still be breakthrough infections, but the great news is if you have been vaccinated you are very much less likely to be hospitalized or have severe infection,” said Rupali Limaye, an associate scientist at Johns Hopkins University and an expert in vaccine communication.

Read more of Jessica Glenza’s report here: ‘Zero-Covid is not going to happen’: experts predict a steep rise in US cases this winter

Fears for Australia’s Indigenous communities amid NT Covid outbreak

Indigenous health workers in the Northern Territory town of Katherine say they fear for vulnerable community members – including many living on the streets or in severely overcrowded homes – as authorities scramble to contain a Covid outbreak.

The Northern Territory recorded no new Covid cases on Thursday, but the chief minister, Michael Gunner, says concern remains for “large vulnerable households” in Katherine and the tiny remote community of Robinson River.

Our reporter Ben Smee has the latest.

South Korea sees record jump in infections


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