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Coronavirus digest: J&J halts vaccine trials after 'unexplained illness'

Johnson & Johnson said that an "unexplained illness" in a vaccine trial patient was being evaluated. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump held his first public rally after contracting COVID-19. Read the latest here.

Americas

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) said on Monday that it has temporarily halted the clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, after an "unexplained illness in a study participant."

J&J said that the illness was being evaluated by an independent data and safety monitoring board and its clinical physicians.

Read more: Germany to start coronavirus vaccination before April 2021, health minister says

The company said that such temporary halts were common in big trials, which include thousands of people.

J&J's trial halt follows a similar move by AstraZeneca. In September, AstraZeneca halted late-stage trials of its vaccine being developed with the University of Oxford after an unexplained illness in a participant.

US President Donald Trump held his first public rally since contracting the coronavirus on Monday, in Florida. Trump delivered his speech without a mask, in front of a packed crowd.

"I went through it now. They say I'm immune. I feel so powerful ... I'll kiss the guys and the beautiful women. I'll just give you a big fat kiss," Trump told thousands of supporters who attended the rally. Many of his supporters attended without masks.

Trump at the rally in Florida

Trump addressed a crowd of supporters at a rally in Florida on Monday

Trump's physician declared before the rally that the President had repeatedly tested negative for the coronavirus. 

Cuba has relaxed coronavirus restrictions almost seven months into the pandemic. The island country has allowed shops and government offices to reopen and tourism to resume.

Varadero, a popular beach resort town, will open to tourists on Thursday. Foreigners coming into Cuba have to undergo mandatory testing for the coronavirus and will be monitored epidemiologically while in the country.

Read moreThe coronavirus pandemic: A threat to food security

Cuban Deputy Prime Minister Alejandro Gil said that the decision to reopen the economy was taken as Cuba's economic situation was "very tense."

Cubans at Mayabeque beach in the Mayabeque province

Cuban authorities hope easing COVID-19 restrictions will boost the country's ailing economy

"We have never had that dilemma between health and the economy. The first thing is always the health of our people," said Gil. Cuba still has some restrictions imposed in the capital city of Havana.

Panama opened its country to international flights for the first time since March. The Central American nation also opened up hotels, casinos, theaters and museums. Panama was only allowing humanitarian flights and connecting flights up to now.

Europe

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 4,122 on Tuesday to 329,453, while the number of deaths rose by 13 to 9,634 in total.

This month, multiple cities including Berlin, Cologne and Frankfurt exceeded the threshold of 50 cases per 100,000 residents, as the number of infections continues to climb nationwide. To combat the surge, cities have imposed limits on gatherings, travel and public alcohol consumption. 

Read more:Germany extends list of cities under coronavirus clampdown

The Czech Republic's health minister announced on Monday evening that the country would ban gatherings of more than six people from Wednesday. The Eastern European nation will also close bars, restaurants and clubs and ban public consumption of alcohol. 

Health Minister Roman Prymula said that schools would remain shut for around three weeks and mask wearing would be obligatory even indoors. The new restrictions come at a time when the Czech Republic is facing a surge in coronavirus infections and the country's infection rate is the highest in the European Union.

"We only have one try, which has to be successful, to get this pandemic under control as a nation," said the country's prime minister, Andrej Babis.

Read more:Coronavirus: Germany's confusing patchwork of restrictions 

   

am,lc/dr (Reuters, dpa)