SA has recorded no new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours


The doctor who picked up the first Parafield cluster patient, which prompted South Australia’s second wave of coronavirus and a strict lockdown, has spoken for the first time.

The 81-year-old woman was attending a consultation with Dr Dharminy Thurairatnam for separate health concerns, when the doctor noticed she had a cough.

Dr Dharminy Thurairatnam the doctor who identified the first patient in the Parafield cluster, has spoken out for the first time. (9News)
Dr Thurairatnam said she tested the elderly woman on 13 November as a mere precaution after months of the state being COVID-free.

“I wasn’t expecting her to come back COVID-positive because we had no community transmission at the time,” Dr Thurairatnam said.

She was shocked by the result.

“Oh my god, are you pulling my leg,” Dr Thurairatnam said to her colleagues when the positive test result was revealed.

“I thought it may have been a lab error, but we re-tested her, and sure enough, she was positive.”

People are seen queuing up at the Parafield Gardens COVID testing centre on November 17, 2020 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by David Mariuz/Getty Images)
South Australians queued for hours at the Parafield Gardens COVID-19 testing centre at the start of the second wave. (Getty)

After two weeks of quarantine and being cleared of coronavirus, today is the first time Dr Thurairatnam has spoken about her efforts.

Despite being labelled a hero, the doctor turned her attention to the people of South Australia.

“Me a hero? No. I am very humbled by the response,” she said.

“I feel like I’m in a dream.

“We would not have achieved what we have without (South Australians) coming forward and cooperating.”

SA Health Minister Stephen Wade used Dr Thurairatnam’s actions as a reminder to thank all health workers in the state.

“Today is a day to celebrate, to celebrate 45,000 health personnel in SA,” Mr Wade said.

Medical staff talk to people at a walk in station at Parafield Airport in Adelaide during day one of total lockdown across the state to fight COVID-19 coronavirus on November 18, 2020. (AFP via Getty Images)

South Australia has recorded no new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, SA Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier announced this morning.

This comes as the number of coronavirus tests reached 6736 overnight.

The total number of active cases in the state remains at 10.

“This is very good news for South Australia,” Professor Spurrier said as the number of South Australians in quarantine dropped to 1000.

SA Chief Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier provides COVID-19 update, Wednesday 2 December, 2020. (9News)

“I was very pleased to speak to this person and for him to accept my apology,” Professor Spurrier said.

She expressed her empathy for the man and the ridicule he received on social media.

“I’d be happy to meet with him once he finishes quarantine,” she said.



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February 8 start date, players allowed to train for five hours daily in quarantine according to L’Equipe report


When quarantine ends, L’Equipe reported the players and would be able to move freely in Melbourne, but noted negotiations were ongoing between the government and organisers.

The Australian Open was originally scheduled to begin on January 18 but it appears almost certain to be delayed.

The Australian Open will be held from February 8-21, according to a French media report.Credit:AP

On Tuesday morning, tournament boss Craig Tiley made comments at a private business function in Melbourne, where he reportedly said there was a chance the Open could still be cancelled.

As reported by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald last week, the ATP has told players they would be able to practise during a two-week quarantine period.

Tennis Australia said on Tuesday in a statement that the safety of the Victorian community was of paramount concern in the confidential discussions with the government.

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“We are also in constant communication with the global tennis community, including the tours, the players and their teams, as we consult with them on plans for the event and how players can safely practise and prepare for a grand slam tournament under the Victorian government’s proposed quarantine conditions,” Tiley said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

“Understandably there has been public speculation on the various plans under consideration as well as the many confidential conversations that have taken place and our position remains clear – everything will require approval and agreement from the Victorian government before it can be confirmed.

“The protection and safety of the community remains paramount in the discussions.”



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Vendee Globe: Kevin Escoffier had ‘no doubts’ he would survive despite 11 hours adrift at sea | World News


The French yachtsman rescued after more than 11 hours adrift in stormy seas has said he had “no doubts” he would survive the ordeal.

Kevin Escoffier was taking part in a round-the-world race when his boat split in two around 840 nautical miles southwest of Cape Town.

He was plucked from a life raft by compatriot and fellow Vendée Globe competitor Jean Le Cam after more than 11 hours adrift at sea.

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Mr Escoffier at the start of the Vendee Globe on 7 November

“It all happened so fast, I had literally a minute or two to activate the distress beacon, get into a survival suit and jump into the raft,” he told Sky News after his dramatic rescue.

“It was just amazing. The wave was about 5.5m (18ft) high and very fast, and at the end of the wave I went [sailed] into the water maybe too deep.

“The water was pouring in so fast. It was overwhelming, it was halfway up the door frame.

“The first thing was to get into the survival suit because in that kind of weather, I would have been finished without it.”

With the alarm raised via the distress beacon, Mr Escoffier knew that every yacht in the vicinity would be instructed to search for him.

Skipper Jean Le Cam of France looks on just before leaving Les Sables d'Olonne, on France's Atlantic coast, to start in the Vendee Globe sailing race
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Jean Le Cam rescued Mr Escoffier after more than 11 hours adrift

“I felt calm, I wasn’t worried. I knew that there was a supply of emergency food in the raft.

“I knew I could last three or four days. Then the wind died down a bit. You’re going through a lot of emotions, but I wasn’t scared.”

His rescuer, Jean Le Cam, made up to half a dozen circles of the remote area before finally seeing his light and getting him onto his vessel and to safety.

Mr Escoffier’s boat was destroyed on day 22 of the Vendée Globe – a solo, non-stop yacht race that takes place every four years.

It begins and ends at Les Sables d’Olonnes on France’s Atlantic coast after an epic journey of 21,638 miles and competitors are not allowed to touch land.

His yacht was a new type of “flying boat” that lifts out of the water on foil in high winds, something that Mr Escoffier says now maybe needs to be “looked at”.

“I wasn’t pushing hard like I had been in other races,” added Mr Escoffier. “I just wanted to get the boat back to Les Sables. But I have no regrets.”



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Election officials faced long hours, then a tide of threats and abuse


Gerald Lawrence takes copious notes as public comments submitted to the Delaware County Board of Elections in Pennsylvania are read out loud.

Some are congratulatory, thanking Mr. Lawrence and his colleagues for running a safe and secure election during a pandemic.

The vast majority, however, are not. 

A voter named Richard tells the board he believes there was serious fraud. Greg and Renee claim their votes weren’t counted. “Delaware County deserves a free and fair election, and I, for one, have zero confidence that this was the case,” asserts a voter named Robert. “Please do not certify this election.”

Mr. Lawrence patiently addresses the accusations one by one, trying his best to assure his constituents that claims of widespread fraud simply aren’t valid.

Typically, these certification meetings last 20 minutes and are unremarkable, sparsely attended affairs. Monday’s event was unlike anything Mr. Lawrence has experienced in his more than 15 years on the board. Streamed live on YouTube, it took nearly three hours.

“It’s gratifying to see so many people have a passionate interest in the political process and democracy this year,” says Mr. Lawrence. “But it’s disheartening that some in the community circulate misinformation in an attempt to mislead people.”

The past few weeks have thrust previously obscure election officials into the spotlight in ways few could have imagined. Working long hours to finalize vote counts amid unprecedented scrutiny and new levels of partisan distrust, they’ve endured criticism and death threats, along with grateful praise. And while it’s not over yet, the fact that the nation seems to have made it through this latest test is in some ways testament to the strength of its decentralized system – with scores of largely unknown officials, from county clerks to city commissioners, emerging as unsung heroes on the front lines of American democracy.  

Garrett Dietz, Philadelphia’s supervisor of elections, reports the election results to the Philadelphia City Commissioners while formally announcing the results of the computation of the ballots for the general election, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Nov. 17, 2020, in Philadelphia.

Michigan and Pennsylvania’s certification of their results this week dealt a serious blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, and the president announced on Twitter Monday night that his administration will begin a formal transition process with President-elect Joe Biden’s team. Still, Mr. Trump has not formally conceded – and later tweeted that he is “moving full speed ahead” with legal cases against “the most corrupt election in American political history.”

The president has not produced any concrete evidence of widespread voter fraud. A letter penned by 59 of the country’s top election security experts stated there is “no credible evidence” that the results in any state were compromised.

But Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations have impacted local officials in every battleground state. After the Trump campaign filed for a partial recount in Wisconsin, reports from a Milwaukee conference hall depicted a chaotic scene, with pro-Trump observers and tabulators clashing in heated disputes. In Michigan’s Wayne County, hundreds of voters participated in a virtual public comment session, condemning the County Board of Canvassers after its two Republican members initially declined to certify the results. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has received threats of violence, as has Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a self-described conservative Republican.

“I’d like to remind voters that the people who administer elections – from the poll workers at the precinct, to the county and state-level officials – they are people,” says Forrest Lehman, director of elections in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. “They are not taking sides. They are trying to run a free and fair election, and follow the laws. People should not be so quick to engage in a level of distrust and disrespect that seems to be so prevalent right now.” 

Robin Buckson/Detroit News/AP

Wayne County Board of Canvassers, from left, Republican member William Hartmann, Republican chairperson Monica Palmer, Democratic vice chair Jonathan Kinloch, and Democratic member Allen Wilson discuss a motion to certify election results during a board meeting in Detroit on Nov. 17, 2020. The two Republicans initially declined to certify the results, then voted in favor, but later said they wanted to rescind their votes.

“Everything is a plot”

Many election officials note that claims of fraud impugn not just them, but the entire network of employees and volunteers who make elections happen.

In Delaware County, outside Philadelphia, five community members in each of the county’s 428 precincts monitor the election, and they all take an oath before doing so.

“So what you are saying is that those 2,000 people don’t have good character and did not act with integrity,” says Mr. Lawrence, the county board member. “All the people who work so hard to make sure that democracy happens.” 

In a meeting last week, Pennsylvania’s Bucks County Commissioner Robert Harvie recalled an exchange he had with an employee early in the morning the day after the election. She had been working for almost 24 hours straight.

“She said, ‘You know, every American should have to come and take part in this process at one point, just to see everything that goes on to make an election happen,’” says Commissioner Harvie. “And I think she’s right.”

Local officials interviewed by the Monitor say they’ve been especially dismayed by how many voters seem to automatically assume malfeasance when something goes wrong. 

“We have people reporting every single minor [problem] they may have encountered at the polls,” says Mr. Lehman in Lycoming County. “And there are no reasonable explanations for those circumstances anymore – everything is a plot.”

Clerical errors are seen as a sign of something “nefarious.” Voters have called asking him to make sure their votes were counted, which Mr. Lehman explains is impossible, given that the votes themselves are anonymous. Some of these calls have verged on the violent, with the callers making threats.

“A number of people out there are armed with partial information and looking for things that they perceive to be strange or abnormal that really aren’t,” says J. Manly Parks, the Bureau of Elections solicitor for Delaware County.

During Delaware County’s certification meeting, Mr. Lawrence and his fellow commissioners listened to several public complaints about alleged fraud involving Dominion Voting Systems, a voting technology company that the president and his allies have claimed switched votes from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden, in what experts describe as an unfounded conspiracy theory. 

But Delaware County doesn’t use Dominion technology, says Mr. Lawrence. It never has. 

Benefits to a decentralized system

The U.S. election system is so decentralized that it can be confusing – election laws differ from state to state, and operations can vary between counties and even towns. But that diffuse, sometimes messy nature of the system can paradoxically help ensure security. 

“The decentralized election system has pluses and minuses, and [security] is one of the pluses,” says Adav Noti, senior director for litigation at the Campaign Legal Center, and former associate general counsel for the Federal Election Commission. 

“In 2016, when the Russians were trying to mess with the election, it would have been really difficult for them to do it on the election administration side because there are more than 10,000 election agencies in the country,” says Mr. Noti. “And it makes it hard for any one administration or officeholder to influence the election as well.”

In 1887, following the disputed election between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford Hayes, Congress passed the Electoral Count Act – a federal law establishing how and when electoral votes would be counted by Congress. To ensure that states have time to resolve any disputes and certify their results, the act established a “Safe Harbor” deadline of six days before the Electoral College delegations meet to cast their votes. If states certify their results before the Safe Harbor deadline, Congress, essentially, can’t touch them.

In 2020, states’ electors will cast their ballots (virtually) on December 14, which makes the Safe Harbor deadline December 8. Most states, however, have set certification deadlines ahead of this date.

In the days and weeks leading up to certification, election officials typically receive and count overseas military ballots, which many states allow to arrive after Election Day, as well as provisional ballots, which need to be verified for one reason or another. 

“People just assume that we have the election and that’s that,” says Kevin Barnhardt, a member of the Board of Commissioners in Berks County, Pennsylvania, northwest of Philadelphia. “Unless you are an election nerd, you didn’t know that we had all of these processes and rules after the election. It was all just magnified this year.”

In fact, it’s a sign of local officials’ competence, say experts, that much of America likely didn’t know about Safe Harbor deadlines or certification laws before this year. 

“These deadlines take place every time. And the fact that we’ve never talked about them before just shows how smoothly it’s gone in years past,” says Casey Burgat, legislative affairs program director at George Washington University. “It’s like referees in a sports game. If you don’t think about them, that means they are doing a good job.” 

A uniquely challenging year

Even before Election Day, 2020 presented a slate of enormous challenges for those tasked with running elections. 

Due to precautions surrounding COVID-19, more than a dozen states expanded absentee or mail-in voting eligibility, and at least another five states plus the District of Columbia decided to send absentee ballot applications to all voters. This year, 43 states plus the district permitted early in-person voting, with almost half of them providing weekend voting. 

Turnout wound up hitting a 50-year high, with the early vote alone representing almost three-quarters of 2016’s total vote.

Long before COVID-19 hit, adequately staffing elections was difficult. Many of the people manning the U.S. electoral system are volunteers or short-term employees who are paid a daily stipend. A congressional report from 2018 found that more than 630,000 poll workers were needed to help voters across 200,000 polling places, with almost two-thirds of jurisdictions reporting that it was difficult to recruit enough workers.

Concerns about staffing grew exponentially in 2020, since at least 58% of 2018’s poll workers were over the age of 60 – the population recommended by health experts to take COVID-19 precautions most seriously.

Some officials now fear that the aggressive criticism leveled at election employees may dissuade people from coming forward to staff future elections.

“For these people who are upset now because they think democracy is being stolen, where is that going to leave democracy when the county election operations are hollowed out because we all leave?” says Mr. Lehman, in Lycoming County. “What will happen to elections after that?”

Yet others see reason to be hopeful, noting that contested elections in the past have sometimes brought more Americans into the political process. Berks County typically has a turnover of 100 to 200 poll workers between elections, but Mr. Barnhardt says they’ve already had more than 500 people inquire about working the polls in future elections. 

“All of this spurred a new interest in the political process like never before,” he says. “And that’s a good thing.” 



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Racecourse Road exit fire on Hume Freeway extinguished after two hours | The Border Mail


news, local-news,

A fire at the Racecourse Road exit on the Hume Freeway has been extinguished. Three Fire and Rescue NSW vehicles responded to the blaze on the south bound ramp at 8:45am this morning, taking crews two hours to put out. NSW Fire and Rescue Superintendent Stewart Alexander said bark chips in the bush and scrub area made the task difficult. IN OTHER NEWS: “It was a little bit difficult to extinguish, so we wanted to make sure it was completely out,” he said. The cause is unknown, but Superintendent Stewart has warned residents to make sure they dispose of cigarette butts in a safe manner as temperatures rise. “With a total fire ban for most of NSW it’s really important that if anyone has the slightest doubt about whether or not a fire has been reported to ring 000 immediately,” he said.

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Is the Stock Market Open Today? Here Are the Hours for Thanksgiving and Black Friday.


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Tokyo to call for shortened hours for bars, restaurants: report



FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective masks walk past a restaurant near Shinagawa station on the first day after the Japanese government lifted the state of emergency in Tokyo, Japan, May 26, 2020.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

November 25, 2020

TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo will urge bars and restaurants to operate shortened hours, the latest restriction to be implemented in Japan following sharp rises in COVID-19 infections, media reported on Wednesday.

The Japanese capital has seen new daily infections soar past 500 on several days recently and the number of serious cases reached 51 on Tuesday, the most since a state of emergency was lifted in May.

The city of 14 million people will ask restaurants and bars to close at 10:00 p.m. from this Saturday until Dec. 18, broadcaster TBS reported.

A Tokyo government committee will meet to discuss coronavirus measures later on Wednesday, with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike set to hold a news conference afterwards, TBS added.

Separately, a panel of experts advising the national government is also due to meet later on Wednesday.

Japan on Tuesday paused its domestic “Go To Travel” promotion campaign in the cities of Sapporo and Osaka.

The programme, which offers discounts on fares and hotels and is part of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s efforts to help prop up regional economies, has been criticised for potentially spreading the virus from major cities to the countryside.

The Tokyo government will also look at halting a separate campaign offering subsidies for travel in the capital, TBS said.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)





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No new coronavirus cases in South Australia as Victoria closes border for 48 hours


South Australia has reported no new coronavirus cases as the state begins a six-day hard lockdown to contain a dangerous COVID-19 cluster and Victoria announces border restrictions.

The so-called Parafield cluster remained at 23 confirmed infections on Thursday with three people in hospital in a stable condition.

However Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said there were 17 more suspected cases.

She said as a result of contact tracing and testing, 3,200 close contacts of known cases were in quarantine and thousands more were self-isolating.

“With all of the 23 cases and the 17 suspected cases, what we are doing is putting a double ring fence around all of those people,” Professor Spurrier said.

“So if you imagine all of those people have had close contacts and then those people have had a close contact, that’s where we’re up to.”

Premier Steven Marshall praised the thousands of South Australians who flocked to testing stations over the past two days with more than 20,000 swabs taken.

He said the statewide shutdown remained absolutely necessary to prevent more widespread community transmission.

“The lessons of surging infections in Victoria and other parts of the world have been learnt,” Mr Marshall said.

“COVID-19 is highly infectious, extremely dangerous and very difficult to eradicate once it gets a foothold in a community.

“So we need this circuit-breaker, this breathing space for a contact tracing blitz.”

Under the lockdown, people who aren’t essential workers are only allowed to leave their homes once each day to buy groceries or to seek a COVID-19 test or other medical treatment. Face masks are required outside the home.

All schools are closed along with universities, pubs, cafes, retail stores, food courts and takeaway food outlets. Regional travel is banned and aged care centres are in lockdown.

Weddings and funerals are also banned along with all outdoor sport and exercise. 

Supermarkets, petrol stations, medical centres, critical infrastructure, public transport, airport and freight services, banks, post offices, school and childcare for essential workers and veterinary services are open.

All being well, the six-day lockdown will be followed by another eight days of heavy but less stringent restrictions.

Victoria closes its border to South Australia

The Victorian government, meanwhile, has announced it will temporarily close its border with South Australia.

The government says a 48-hour hard border will be introduced from 11.59pm on Thursday, before being replaced by a permit system from at the same time on Saturday.

More than 300 police officers will patrol the Victorian side of the border, from Mildura down to Portland.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said they knew border communities had had “an incredibly difficult” year, and the decision wasn’t made lightly.

“There’s simply no way that we can have people who ought not be leaving their home in South Australia doing so and then travelling to our state, not at this time,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

“These arrangements will not be in place a moment longer than they need to be.”

The decision comes after fragments of the virus that cause COVID-19 were detected in wastewater along Victorian freight routes.

The government says the preliminary positive results at treatment plants in Portland and Benalla are concerning, given no residents in either area are known to have recently had the coronavirus.

“We’re asking all locals and visitors in Portland and Benalla with any symptoms at all to please come forward and get tested today,” Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said in a statement.

Under the hard border introduced on Thursday night, only freight drivers, those with legal authorisation or medical, emergency or urgent animal welfare reasons will be able to pass through the border.

The details of the permit scheme are still being finalised ahead of Saturday, but it will allow essential and agricultural workers to cross the border, as well as those shopping for essential supplies, receiving medical care or visiting for compassionate reasons.

With reporting by Jodie Stephens.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at https://sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW,VictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania.



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COVID-19: Pfizer boss says company aims to send out vaccine within hours of approval | World News


The head of Pfizer has told Sky News his company is poised to send out doses of its COVID-19 vaccine “within hours” of it receiving official approval.

Chief Executive Albert Bourla said his company would be applying for permission from regulatory authorities across the world “very, very soon – within a couple of days” and was then ready to start shipping the first of 20 million vaccine doses that have already been made.

He told Sky News doses would be sent out to countries as soon as their health authorities gave permission, raising the possibility of a “race to regulate”, but said the world would have to be “patient” because demand would outstrip supply.

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COVID vaccine: 20 million doses already produced

“The light is real – there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

“I believe that the second half of 2021 will be a very different experience for many of us.”

Mr Bourla spoke to Sky News exclusively, shortly after his company had concluded its Phase 3 study into its COVID-19 vaccine, created in partnership with the German firm BioNTech.

The study showed it to be 95% effective, a figure he described as “spectacular” and “a great moment for science but, more importantly, for humankind”. He said the day when he was told about the vaccine’s success was “the most brilliant day of my life”.

His company has already produced more than 20 million doses of the vaccine and expects that figure to have reached 50 million by the end of the year. Another 1.3 billion doses are planned to be manufactured in 2021.

Before it can be used, the vaccine needs regulatory approval from health authorities.

Mr Bourla said: “It is a question of days before we apply to send the requested information to regulatory bodies around the world. Then it is their call. They need to take their time and follow their processes.

“Once they give us the green light, our goal is to start shipping in a couple of hours.

“The major regulatory authorities of the world listen to each other, but they are powered scientifically.

“They are independent. It’s not likely that one agency takes time and another comes to a conclusion much faster.”

However, Mr Bourla confirmed his company would react to each decision in turn – meaning that the faster a country grants regulatory approval, the faster it would receive the vaccine.

“If someone approves faster than the other, then I believe the ethical thing to do is to start sending vaccines to the citizens of this jurisdiction because every day means lives,” he added.

The rules over who can administer a vaccine have been changed to include more categories
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50 million doses of the vaccine will be made before the end of 2020, Mr Bourla said

The Pfizer boss’s prediction is that “if we would be able to vaccinate the populations, I think we will be able to go back” to a normal life, but he urged patience and caution.

“Until the time when we reach herd immunity, people need to be very careful. They need to follow the instructions of the health authorities – to wear masks and respect social distancing,” he said.

With each person requiring two doses of the vaccine for it to be effective, the company’s estimate of 1.3bn doses by the end of 2021 would only cover around 9% of the world’s population. So, would he consider sharing production with rival companies?

“Oh yes, we are not bound by our own infrastructure,” Mr Bourla said.

“It is very challenging to transfer manufacturing to GSK or Sanofi. It’s not that easy. But we will explore any possible avenue. That will need to involve other manufacturing networks of other corporations.”

He said he would also offer support to other companies, working on separate vaccine projects, and said that the level of collaboration across the industry “is something that will redefine the industry right now, for the world and for all of us, there’s only one competitor – the virus”.

Mr Bourla said poorer countries would receive the vaccine on a “not-for-profit” basis, which means “the lowest possible price so we can make it accessible for them”.

He said Pfizer had already worked on contingency plans in the event of customs disruption caused by Brexit.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that our company, together with all the corporate world, was not fascinated with the idea that the UK will separate from Europe, but it is the will of the United Kingdom’s people and we have been working for years now to come to a solution when this transition happens,” he said.

During our conversation, Mr Bourla, who is Greek and has worked for Pfizer for 27 years, was awash with optimism and happiness. There was only one moment when his mood darkened, and that was when he reflected on the experience of one country – the United States.

People wearing face masks walk in Burgos, northern Spain, on October 21, 2020, on the first day of a two week lockdown in an attempt to limit the contagion of the new coronavirus COVID-19 in the area. - Spain has become one of the pandemic's hotspots in the European Union, with close to 975,000 registered cases and nearly 34,000 deaths. (Photo by Cesar Manso / AFP) (Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Pfizer boss said wearing face masks and social distancing will still be important

“Something went wrong and that something was in the US – and that was the politicisation of this process,” he said.

“It became a political statement – if you wore a mask; if the vaccine will come quickly or not. That didn’t help at all.

“Everybody started discussing scientific topics with political instead of scientific terms, and people got confused. They didn’t know who to believe, or what to believe, and that is the situation we face right now.

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Pfizer boss interview in full on new vaccine

“I hope all the things that we did were a demonstration of the ultimate transparency we placed, all together as an industry. We follow the strictest guidelines. We publish the protocols, we started publishing the data.”

He also issued a message to those who were dubious about the value of vaccines, saying that anyone who refused a vaccine risks “becoming the weak link that allows this virus to replicate. I hope that a lot of the people who were sceptical before will reconsider”.

Water cannons were fired as riot police pushed back protesters
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Anti-restrictions protests have been happening around the world, but Mr Bourlas said a vaccine will not stop measures straight away

My last question to him was about his own reflections, about the process of leading Pfizer, a company valued at more than $200bn, over this tumultuous year.

It was only his second year as the company’s chief executive, but he told me that pressure was “not at all the political pressure that some people were speculating but the pressure of billions of people, millions of businesses and hundreds of governments – they are investing in our industry, in Pfizer, to find a solution – so you feel that on the shoulders”.

“The moment when I received the call to say we had an effective vaccine…and ten minutes later I was informed that the level of efficacy was 95,96%, it was the most brilliant day of my life,” he said.

“I couldn’t describe with words the relief and the feeling of purpose, but I felt at this moment that this is a decision that determines the future of the world – not of my company or my family. And I was very lucky to be in this position, and to be able to do what I did.”



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