US Presidential Election & Covid-19 updates: news summary for 1 December

News summary:

Electoral college votes (270 needed to win) 

Joe Biden: 306
Donald Trump: 232

US covid-19 cases: 13.57 million

US covid-19 deaths: 268,662  (Source: JHU)

- Covid-19 hospitalisations in the US hit new record high of 96,039 on Monday

- Trump campaign legal team launch four more lawsuits in Wisconsin

- Biden announces all-female senior White House communications team

- Scott Atlas, Trump's pandemic advisor, has resigned from the role

- Victories for Biden confirmed by electoral officials in Arizona and Wisconsin

- Biden announces picks for economic team, with Janet Yellen as treasury secretary

- Moderna vaccine shows 100% efficacy against severe covid-19

- Vaccine maker Novavax has pushed back the start of a US-based, late-stage trial

- Trump calls for Georgia Governor to 'overrule' Sec. of State, clinging to desperate 'fraud' claims

- Fauci warns of post Thanksgiving surge of cases: "There is almost certainly going to be an uptick"

Pfizer's covid-19 vaccine begins its journey to US from Belgium ahead of FDA approval

- Bill Gates warns of thousands of January and February deaths

- New York schools set to reopen next week confirms mayor De Blasio

Browse some of our latest related stories:


UK approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use, first in the world

Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use and said that it will be rolled out from next week. '

"The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use," the government said. "The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week." Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the programme would begin early next week. 


Trump doesn’t plan to attend inauguration 

It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, Trump who has shown himself to be the sorest of losers is not expecting to attend the inauguration of his successor Joe Biden. Trump never showed much interest in the job of being President which requires a form of dignity that he couldn’t muster over his four years in the office. 

The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of US democracy, the handing over of control of the government to another administration even if it is from another party. Instead of being gracious and presidential Trump plans to start campaigning to regain the White House. There is “preliminary planning” underway for a Jan. 20 event to kick off a new Trump bid. 

DOJ investigating pay-to-play White House pardon scheme

The Department of Justice is investigating a possible criminal scheme to secure a presidential pardon, according to a partially unsealed filing in D.C. federal court. The document is largely redacted, leaving it a mystery who investigators believe was hoping to receive the pardon in exchange for “a substantial political contribution.” The evidence of a potential bribery scheme was discovered after authorities raided an unidentified lawyer’s office over the summer. The filing was first reported by CNN. 

News of the alleged bribe-for-pardon scheme comes amid reports that Trump is planning a slew of pardons before he leaves office 20 January. Some of the names floated have included his children and Rudy Guiliani, including Trump pardoning himself. Last week, Trump pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. 

Pennsylvania GOP wants election results voided 

Pro-Trump Pennsylvania lawmakers have asked the Supreme Court to nullify Pennsylvania’s certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the state. The decision now rests with Justice Samuel Alito, who handles emergency petitions relating to Pennsylvania. Alito can reject the request outright, refer it to the full court, or issue a temporary order on the issue. 

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said prior to Thanksgiving that Trump would not concede the election until the Electoral College officially certifies Biden’s victory. The Trump campaign has until 8 December to finish any legal challenges before the Electoral College holds its official vote on 14 December. 

"It. Has. All. Gone. Too. Far."

Gabe Sterling a Georgia election official in an excoriating speech called on President Trump to call on his supporters to stop making threats against elections workers, the Georgia Secretary of State and his family and to condemn such actions. As well he called on Republican Senators to show some leadership and condemn the hostile language and actions that are being perpetuated.

"All of you that have not said a damn word are complicit in this."

Leaked documents reveal how China mishandled early covid-19 cases 

A whistleblower claiming to be from inside the Chinese health care system send CNN documents revealing how China underreported its covid-19 cases at the beginning of the epidemic in the country. The documents come from Hubei the epicenter of the initial outbreak of the world pandemic have been verified by half a dozen experts according to CNN. They show the missteps of the Chinese government in handling the outbreak. One reason for the gap in the official numbers was due to it taking on average three weeks to diagnose cases of the novel coronavirus. 

Mnuchin and Pelosi are speaking again 

Two of the top negotiators in the capitol spoke Tuesday about funding the government to reach a deal before the 11 December deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

Before the conversation Mnuchin said he expected stimulus to come up, but that the focus will be on spending and averting a shutdown of the federal government. Republicans expressed concerns about the two negotiating coronavirus relief, fearing that their conversations could make reaching a deal harder. Republicans fret that Mnuchin is not hawkish enough in the negotiations and gives too much to the Democrats.

Stimulus talks have stopped and started multiple times since July with both sides deadlocked on another package since Congress passed $2 trillion in emergency relief in March. News of the Pelosi-Mnuchin discussion comes amid renewed pressure from rank-and-file members on their leadership to pass some form of stimulus as the country faces a cliff at the end of the year when multiple provisions will expire. 

Canadian PM extends travel ban with US again 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the ban on nonessential travel with the United States will not be lifted until covid-19 is significantly more under control around the world. The current closure was through at least 21 December, it has been extended every month since it was put in place in March. 

About 400,000 people crossed the Canadian-US border each day before the pandemic and about 75% of Canada's exports go to the US. "We are incredibly lucky that trade in essential goods, in agriculture products, in pharmaceuticals is flowing back and forth as it always had," Trudeau said. "It's just people not travelling, which I think is the important thing." 

Dentists are seeing the stress of 2020 in patients' teeth 

In a year of unprecedented anxiety unleashed by a global pandemic, a contentious presidential election and renewed calls for racial justice, dentists across the nation are reporting a striking increase in jaw and muscle pain and broken teeth in their patients.  

A September poll by the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute showed that since the onset of COVID-19 in the United States, dentists reported seeing a 59% increase in grinding and clenching, a 53% increase in both chipped and cracked teeth and symptoms of TMD (temporomandibular disorder), which include jaw pain, headaches, ear ringing and jaw clicking or popping. The poll also revealed a 30% rise in periodontal disease and a 27% increase in cavities

“The pandemic, the elections, the racial tensions in this country — there are so many things that make this point in history a stressful time, and one of the manifestations of stress is tooth grinding. In time, with enough grinding, teeth start to break.” periodontist Dr. Michael Seda, In San Rafael, California. 

Krebs considers legal action after threatening remarks from Trump lawyer 

Trump campaign lawyer Joe diGenova on Monday said Christopher Krebs “is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.” 

DiGenova made the comment during an interview with conservative radio talk show host Howie Carr, whose show is also aired on Newsmax, one of the president’s preferred media outlets. Newsmax has been criticized for airing unconfirmed voter fraud claims, and the media outlet’s CEO has even suggested that it’s been good for ratings.

In an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show, host Savannah Guthrie asked Krebs about the comments he said “It's certainly more dangerous language, more dangerous behavior. And the way I look at it is that we are a nation of laws, and I plan to take advantage of those laws. I've got an exceptional team of lawyers that win in court, and I think they're probably going to be busy.” 

Christopher Krebs, the former head of CISA, the agency which oversaw election cybersecurity, was fired by Trump for defending the integrity of the 3 November election by saying it had been "the most secure in American history." In 60 Minutes interview on Sunday Krebs express distress about Rudy Guiliani’s recent press conference at RNC headquarters saying “It didn't make sense. What it was actively doing was undermining democracy. And that's dangerous.” 

Surprise, Bill Barr does not find election fraud 

"To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election," said US Attorney General William Barr in an interview with the AP. His comments go counter to President Trump's repeated claims that the election was stolen. Trump still hasn’t conceded despite 30 states have now certified their election results and continued defeats in court.   

Since the vote on 3 November, Trump has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, and members of his legal defense team have spoken of an alleged international plot to hand Biden the win. Barr said FBI agents and US attorneys have been following up on specific complaints and information they've received. However, they've uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election. 

Reacting to his comments, Trump campaign lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said in a joint statement: "With the greatest respect to the Attorney General, his opinion appears to be without any knowledge or investigation of the substantial irregularities and evidence of systemic fraud." According to news reports, Trump has been complaining privately about the lack of support he's received from Barr and the FBI in his attempts to attribute his defeat to fraud. He is already feuding with Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia for failing to echo his concerns. 

McConnell looking to tie in relief bill with government funding bill 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will start circulating a new coronavirus relief proposal that could gain support from the White House among Senate Republicans on Tuesday. During a weekly press conference, McConnell said he had been speaking with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about what President Trump could sign.  

“I think we have a sense of what that is. ... We’re going to send that out to all the offices and get some feedback to see how our members react. We don’t have time for messaging games. We don’t have time for lengthy negotiations,” McConnell said. 

Congress is quickly running out of time to pass lame-duck legislation with the House poised to leave as soon as next week. Congress faces a Dec. 11 government funding deadline and If Congress is going to pass additional relief, McConnell expected it would be folded into that must-pass government funding bill.   

McConnell's decision to offer a new proposal comes as months of talks with the White House and Democratic leadership over a fifth coronavirus bill have failed to get results, despite cases climbing across the country.  McConnell previously twice offered a roughly $500 billion coronavirus relief bill that was rejected by Democrats. 


US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks as she and President-elect Joe Biden announce nominees and appointees to serve on their economic policy team at Biden's transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday.

(REUTERS/Leah Millis)


Yellen says urgent action needed to prevent self-reinforcing economic downturn

President-elect Joe Biden's treasury secretary nominee Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that the US is facing a historic crisis from the pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout.

"It's an American tragedy and it's essential that we move with urgency. Inaction will produce a self-reinforcing downturn, causing yet more devastation," Yellen said.

(Reuters; photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

Biden introduces economic team

In an event in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, President-elect Joe Biden has introduced his economic team, including treasury secretary pick Janet Yellen, the former US Federal Reserve chair.

Other picks include Cecilia Rouse, an economist at Princeton University, as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; economists Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein as council members; and Neera Tanden, chief executive of the Center for American Progress think tank, as head of the Office of Management and Budget.

(Reuters contributed to this post).

Biden economic team press conference:

Covid tracker shows hospital admissions hits new peak

In recent weeks the number of covid-19 patients in hospitals has risen sharply, with close to 100,000 currently hospitalised. November was the worst month on record in terms of the total number of new cases, with over 100,000 positive tests recorded for 27 consecutive days. 

These figures are expected to rise in the coming weeks as the consequences of increased travel over Thanksgiving begin to materialise. 

Dr Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, told CBS News that they are worried about a substantial increase: "Now we're entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four and 10 times as much disease across the country," she said. "We are deeply worried".

Biden to confirm cabinet picks with one controversial inclusion

US President-elect Joe Biden will formally introduce his top economic policy advisers on Tuesday as his administration prepares to take power amid a slowing economic recovery hampered by the resurgent coronavirus pandemic. Biden will appear at an event in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, alongside his selections for senior roles, including his nominee for U.S. Treasury secretary, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

The team's makeup reinforces Biden's view that a more aggressive approach to the pandemic is required. The advisers have all expressed support for government stimulus to maximize employment, reduce economic inequality and help women and minorities, who have been disproportionately hurt by the economic downturn.

Other picks include Neera Tanden, chief executive of the Center for American Progress think tank, as head of the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden is Biden's only controversial nomination to date and she is expected to face a tough hearing from Republican Senators. Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said Tanden's tweets are "Filled with hate & guided by the woke left" and tweeted, "she's unfit to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate."

First Lady-elect is counting the days until the White House

President-elect Joe Biden's wife, Jil, is clearly eager to take up their new residence and has noted on Twitter that they are now just 50 days from Inauguration Day. Jil Biden is expected to be the first First Lady to retain her 'normal' job, having already expressed a desire to continue her work as an English professor. 


Trump and Pence to attend covid-19 vaccine summit

The US government has invited vaccine manufacturers, drug distributors and government officials to a "Covid-19 Vaccine Summit" next week, Stat News reported on Tuesday, citing an invitation obtained by the news organization. The meeting which is scheduled for 8 December will feature President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and private-sector executives, the report said.

Little is known about exactly what will be discussed at the summit, but industry officials familiar with plans have interpreted it as "an opportunity for the White House to pressure the FDA to quickly issue emergency authorizations for the first two vaccines candidates to be reviewed". 

The two vaccines currently awaiting approval for emergency use authorization are produced by Pfizer and Moderna, who have hearings with the FDA on 10 December and 17 December, respectively. 

Georgia Senate runoff races could decide the new stimulus package

The Senate has prevented the Democrats from passing the HEROES Act for months, but wins in the Georgia runoff races would allow Biden to pass a new economic relief package that includes another round of stimulus checks.

The size and scale of the next coronavirus stimulus package could hinge on the results in Georgia on 5 January. 

Bipartisan effort to find agreement on covid-19 financial support

With the Senate Republicans and House Democrats still unable to find an agreement on the next stimulus package, a bipartisan group of Senators have offered a solution. Senators Joe Manchin, Susan Collins, Mark Warner, Bill Cassidy, Jeanne Shaheen, Lisa Murkowski, Angus King, Mitt Romney and Maggie Hassan have announced what they call a bipartisan and bicameral covid-19 emergency relief framework.

Exact details are still unconfirmed but the $908 billion 'framework' would last until 1 April 2021 and includes a payment protection and an extended unemployment benefits provision. However, it does not include a second round of stimulus payments.

When asked about their motivation, Mark Warner said: “It’s not going make everybody happy but there's been an enormous amount of work done." He continued, “It would be stupidity on steroids if Congress left for Christmas without doing an interim package as a bridge." 

Trump campaign launches another lawsuit in Wisconsin

They just keep coming! President Trump's legal team have filed another four lawsuits, this time in Wisconsin, accusing the state of: "illegally altering absentee ballot envelopes, counting ballots that had no required application, overlooking unlawful claims of indefinite confinement, and holding illegal voting events called Democracy in the Park."

Again, no evidence has been offered to support these claims and all of Trump's major legal battles have been dismissed. Yesterday, Wisconsin’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul said: “There’s no basis at all for any assertion that there was widespread fraud that would have affected the result."

Wisconsin's election results were only certified yesterday after the Trump campaign paid $3 million for a recount, that only increased Biden's margin of victory. 

Biden decries "politics of intimidation and xenophobia" in Trump's Supreme Court bid

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday said he hopes the US Supreme Court rejects a plan by President Donald Trump's administration to exclude immigrants living illegally in the United States from population counts used to allocate congressional districts to states.

"We can't keep rewriting history, scrambling norms, and ignoring the Constitution and the precedents we abide by. It is my hope the Supreme Court does the right thing" and rules that "everyone in America" be counted, Biden said in a statement.

The court heard arguments on Tuesday in the administration's bid to fend off a legal challenge to the plan, which is one of Trump's hardline policies toward immigration being pursued in his final weeks in office.

The court's 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump. The court's conservative justices on Tuesday appeared reluctant to block the plan - still vaguely defined - to exclude these immigrants from the calculations used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives.

Biden, set to become president on Jan. 20, blamed "the partisan politics of intimidation and xenophobia" for attempting to "exclude specific groups of people from being counted."


Giuliani to receive presidential pardon from Trump?

As Trump's time in office draws to a close rumours of pardons for his top advisors continue to circulate. Last week the President pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, despite having fired him after less than a month for lying to the FBI and to Vice President Mike Pence.

This time it's Trump's long-term legal advisor Rudy Giuliani who is apparently in line for a pardon, with a report by the NYT claiming that the two men have discussed "the possibility of [Giuliani] receiving a pre-emptive pardon before Mr. Trump leaves office".

It is not clear what a pardon would clear Giuliani of, but he was implicated in the investigation into the Trump campaign's links with Russia.


US ready for 'immediate mass shipment' of Covid-19 vaccines

The US Transportation Department said Tuesday it has made preparations to enable the 'immediate mass shipment' of Covid19 vaccines and completed all necessary regulatory measures. The department said U.S. agencies have been coordinating with private sector companies that will carry vaccines from manufacturing facilities to distribution centers and inoculation points. It added it has established 'appropriate safety requirements for all potential hazards involved in shipping the vaccine, including standards for dry ice and lithium batteries used in cooling.'

California ICUs could be overwhelmed by Christmas Eve

By the end of the weekend, 51 of California's 58 counties were classified purple, or "widespread," the state's highest risk-level assessment. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti estimates that more than 4,000 residents could die in the next five weeks if the virus's spread isn't slowed, with the state's intensive care units already under great strain. A total of 8,578 patients are being treated for Covid-19 in California's hospitals with 75% of ICU beds occupied. According to Gov. Gavin Newsom, that figure could rise to 112% by 24 December. California is the third most affected state with 19,214 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.


Biden to introduce top economic advisers as pandemic threat worsens

Joe Biden will formally introduce his top economic policy advisers on Tuesday as his administration prepares to take power amid a slowing economic recovery hampered by the resurgent coronavirus pandemic. Biden will appear at an event in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, alongside his selections for senior roles, including his nominee for US Treasury secretary, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

The team's makeup reinforces Biden's view that a more aggressive approach to the pandemic is required. The advisers have all expressed support for government stimulus to maximize employment, reduce economic inequality and help women and minorities, who have been disproportionately hurt by the economic downturn. Other picks include Cecilia Rouse, an economist at Princeton University, as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; economists Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein as council members; and Neera Tanden, chief executive of the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, as head of the Office of Management and Budget.


White House communications team will be entirely female

President-elect Joe Biden will have an all-female senior communications team at his White House, reflecting his stated desire to build out a diverse White House team as well as what’s expected to be a return to a more traditional press operation. Biden campaign communications director Kate Bedingfield will serve as Biden’s White House communications director. Jen Psaki, a longtime Democratic spokeswoman, will be his press secretary. Four of the seven top communications roles at the White House will be filled by women of color, and it’s the first time the entire senior White House communications team will be entirely female.

In a statement announcing the White House communications team, Biden said: “Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better.”

Trump critics call Dr Scott Atlas a "mass murderer"

Critics of Donald Trump were in triumphant mood after it was announced that taskforce member as special adviser Dr. Scott Atlas had resigned from the White House late last night. Atlas, who is trained as a neuro-radiologist but has no formal experience in infectious diseases, controversially criticized lockdowns and questioned the effectiveness of wearing face masks to stop the spread of Covid-19. Dr Rob Davidson tweeted, "After contributing to over 100,000 deaths, Scott Atlas is out! Possibly the most deadly voice in the US response to Covid-19" while author Don Winslow wrote: "What university wants a mass murderer on their faculty?".


Sean Hannity: Trump should pardon himself when he leaves the White House

Fox News host Sean Hannity hopes that Donald Trump will pardon himself and his family before he leaves the White House next month. "The president out the door needs to pardon his whole family and himself, because they want this witch hunt to go on in perpetuity. They're so full of rage and insanity against the president. I assume that the power of the pardon is absolute, and that he should be able to pardon anybody that he wants to?" he said. 


Mark Kelly to be sworn in as senator tomorrow

Senator-elect Mark Kelly (Arizona) will be sworn in on Wednesday, according to a senior Democratic aide. The swearing-in of Kelly will narrow the Senate GOP majority from 53-47 to 52 Republican seats to the Democrats' 48.


EU Commission to authorise Covid-19 vaccines days after regulatory approval

The European Commission is likely to give the final authorisation for the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines days after the EU drug regulator approves them, a spokesman for the EU executive said on Monday. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said earlier on Monday it planned to decided on whether to approve the vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech by 29 December and by 12 January the shot being developed by Moderna. Under EU rules, EMA recommends the authorisation of a drug or vaccine and the EU Commission authorizes them on the basis of the EMA's scientific advice.

European agency to decide on Pfizer's vaccine by 29 December, Moderna's by 12 January

The European Medicines Agency said on Tuesday that if its experts have received enough data from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna about their candidate vaccines against the coronavirus, the agency would complete its reviews by 29 December and 12 January, respectively, at latest. The companies said earlier on Tuesday that they had submitted approval requests for their vaccine candidates to the European drugs regulator.



European agency to decide on Pfizer's vaccine by 29 December, Moderna's by 12 January

The European Medicines Agency said on Tuesday that if its experts have received enough data from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna about their candidate vaccines against the coronavirus, the agency would complete its reviews by 29 December and 12 January, respectively, at latest. The companies said earlier on Tuesday that they had submitted approval requests for their vaccine candidates to the European drugs regulator.


Little or no proof in  Trump's Georgia election fraud lawsuit, says judge

US District Court Judge Timothy Batten Sr. claims there was “precious little proof” in a lawsuit filed last week by Sidney Powell, a former Donald Trump team lawyer. Powell is seeking an emergency order demanding that the state decertify the already certified election results which awarded Biden the state’s 16 electoral college seats and for all voting machines in the state to be impounded. 

What have Republicans said about a second stimulus check?

The GOP's Senate majority has blocked the HEROES Act, but with only weeks of his presidency remaining will Trump persuade McConnell to strike a deal?


Moderna, the second company to request FDA authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate

Moderna has applied to the US Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, following positive trial results.  The drugmaker is the second company to request authorization from the federal government following Pfizer/BioNTech's. According to latest results, of 196 people in the clinical trial who caught Covid-19, 185 of them had received the placebo, while only 11 received the active vaccine - an effectiveness rate of over 94%. Of the 30 participants who suffered severe symptoms, all were in the placebo group, which suggests the vaccine can prevent both mild and serious symptoms. One participant who was given the placebo died.

China gave Covid-19 vaccine candidate to N.Korea's Kim - US analyst

China has provided North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his family with an experimental coronavirus vaccine, a US analyst said on Tuesday, citing two unidentified Japanese intelligence sources. Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert at the Center for the National Interest think tank in Washington, said the Kims and several senior North Korean officials had been vaccinated.

It was unclear which company had supplied its drug candidate to the Kims and whether it had proven to be safe, he added. "Kim Jong Un and multiple other high-ranking officials within the Kim family and leadership network have been vaccinated for coronavirus within the last two to three weeks thanks to a vaccine candidate supplied by the Chinese government," Kazianis wrote in an article for online outlet 19FortyFive. Citing US medical scientist Peter J. Hotez, he said at least three Chinese companies were developing a coronavirus vaccine, including Sinovac Biotech Ltd, CanSinoBio and China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), an unlisted Beijing-based company.

Sinopharm says its candidate has been used by nearly one million people in China, although none of the firms have unveiled results of Phase 3 clinical trial of their experimental Covid-19 vaccines, which are under way outside China. Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, neither denied nor confirmed when asked about the reported vaccines for North Korea at a regular briefing, saying she had not heard about them.

Some experts doubted that Kim would use an experimental vaccine. "Even if a Chinese vaccine had already been approved, no drug is perfect and he would not take that risk when he has numerous shelters which can ensure almost complete isolation," said Choi Jung-hun, an infectious disease expert who defected from North Korea to the South in 2012. Mark Barry, an East Asia analyst and associate editor of the International Journal on World Peace, said Kim would prefer proven European vaccines to one supplied by Beijing. "The risk is too great. But he's happy to get Chinese personal protective equipment," Barry said on Twitter. North Korea has not confirmed any coronavirus infections, but South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) has said an outbreak there cannot be ruled out as the country had trade and people-to-people exchanges with China - the source of the pandemic - before shutting the border in late January.

Microsoft said last month that two North Korean hacking groups had tried to break into the network of vaccine developers in multiple countries, without specifying the companies targeted. Sources told Reuters they included British drugmaker AstraZeneca. The NIS said last week it had foiled North Korea's attempts to hack into South Korean Covid-19 vaccine makers.


Pfizer-BioNTech apply for EU emergency authorization for Covid-19 vaccine

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech have applied to the European drugs regulator for conditional authorization of their Covid-19 vaccine, following similar steps in the United States and Britain, the companies said on Tuesday. The application to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) comes after the companies applied for US approval on 20 November, taking them a step closer to launching their vaccine.

In their pursuit of a European launch, potentially this year, the partners are neck-and-neck with rival Moderna , which said on Monday it would ask the EU regulator to recommend conditional approval for its shot. US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech reported final trial results on Nov. 18 that showed their vaccine candidate was 95% effective in preventing Covid-19, with no major safety concerns, raising the prospect of US and European approval as early as December. The European filing completes the so-called rolling review process, which was initiated with the EMA on 6 October. The British government said last week that the US-German partners had reported the data from their clinical trials to the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

US election and coronavirus: latest news

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of everything surrounding the US elections, with all the ongoing reaction, breaking news and regular updates of the fall-out from the historic election on 3 November, of which there is plenty.

We'll also be keeping you updated on all the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic, which is the number one priority for President-elect Joe Biden who is already getting to work on how he plans to govern a very divided United States with Donald Trump still yet to recognise or acknowledge defeat.

The incumbent has, however, instructed the General Services Administration to start the transition process.