Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
South Korea's COVID third wave may be largest if not curbed, says official
South Korea grappled with a resurgence in COVID-19 cases on Saturday, as a senior official warned it could be the country's largest wave of infections if the spread is not quickly contained. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 386 new daily coronavirus cases as of midnight on Friday, bringing total infections to 30,403, with 503 deaths. New cases topped 300 for the fourth day in a row, after Tuesday saw the highest since August.
South Australia emerges carefully from COVID-19 outbreak
South Australia was on track on Saturday to end its hard COVID-19 lockdown three days early, recording only one new infection, while other states marked weeks of no new cases or deaths related to the novel coronavirus. The lockdown, which kept people in South Australia at home and the majority of businesses shut, was imposed earlier this week after false information provided to contact tracers by a man who tested positive raised fears of mass infections.
Iran tightens COVID-19 restrictions, but some streets still busy
Iran introduced tougher restrictions on Saturday to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel curbs, but state media reported widespread flouting of the rules. "Tehran streets are crowded despite the restrictions," state TV said on Saturday morning. It said some non-essential businesses were open, but later showed mostly empty streets and shuttered shops.
New Trump Medicare drug-price rules denounced as political revenge by industry
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday announced two rules aimed at lowering drug prices for people 65 and older in the Medicare health insurance program, prompting a biotechnology industry group to accuse the president of seeking political revenge. Wall Street analysts said there was little chance the new rules would be put into place, in part because they expect legal challenges by pharmaceutical and pharmacy benefit manager trade organizations. The incoming Biden administration is unlikely to take up the rules, they said.
FDA panel to discuss emergency use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on December 10
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's outside advisers will meet on Dec. 10 to discuss whether to authorize the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech for emergency use, the agency said on Friday. The move comes after Pfizer applied for the authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine earlier in the day, the first such application in a major step toward providing protection against the new coronavirus.
Czech COVID-19 deaths double in three weeks, pass 7,000
The number deaths in the Czech Republic linked to COVID-19 doubled in November and passed the 7,000 mark, health ministry data showed on Saturday. Recorded fatalities reached 7,021 as of Saturday, compared with the 3,523 recorded by the end of October, according to the figures.
Eastern Europe crosses over 5 million COVID-19 cases: Reuters tally
The tally of coronavirus cases in the Eastern European sub-region passed 5 million on Saturday, a Reuters tally showed, as governments across Europe take measures to try to rein in surging cases. The region, which comprises Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine, has the highest count of reported COVID-19 cases in Europe.
Pfizer files COVID-19 vaccine application to U.S. FDA
Pfizer Inc applied to U.S. health regulators on Friday for emergency use authorization (EUA) of its COVID-19 vaccine, the first such application in a major step toward providing protection against the new coronavirus. The application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comes just days after Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE reported final trial results that showed the vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 with no major safety concerns.
AstraZeneca starts new COVID-19 prevention trials of antibody cocktail
AstraZeneca started late-stage trials on Saturday of an experimental long-acting monoclonal antibody combination drug it hopes could be used as a so-called prophylactic to prevent COVID-19 infection in at-risk people for up to 12 months. The Phase III international clinical trial will recruit a total of 5,000 people across countries in Europe and the United States to assess the safety and effectiveness of the antibody cocktail, known as AZD7442.
Wisconsin governor renews mask mandate despite court challenge as pandemic worsens
Wisconsin's governor on Friday extended a statewide mask mandate despite a legal challenge from conservatives, renewing an emergency health order requiring face coverings in public spaces to curb an alarming surge in COVID-19 infections. The new decree from Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, came six months after a coronavirus stay-at-home order issued last spring was invalidated by the state Supreme Court in a lawsuit that Republican lawmakers brought against the lockdown.