Latest on worldwide spread of the coronavirus

President Joe Biden will launch an array of initiatives on Thursday to rein in the raging pandemic, including ordering the use of disaster funds to help re-open schools and mandating the wearing of protective masks on planes and buses.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

EUROPE

  • Moscow will relax some restrictions from Friday, including fully reopening colleges and specialist education institutions, the mayor of the Russian capital said.

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel defended a decision to extend a hard lockdown in Germany by two weeks until mid-February, saying it was necessary to slow a new, more aggressive variant of the virus.

  • Portugal is set to shut down all schools across the country to tackle a steep worsening of the pandemic, Lusa news agency and Public newspaper said.

  • Britain has prosecuted 6,500 people for coronavirus-related offences in the first six months following the nationwide lockdown last March, with most relating to assaults on emergency workers.

  • Spain is pushing the European Union and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development for the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine certification that would ease travel.

ASIA-PACIFIC

  • China plans to impose strict testing requirements during the Lunar New Year holiday season, when tens of millions of people are expected to travel.

  • South Korea expects its first batch of vaccines from the COVAX scheme within weeks and has begun setting up vaccination centres.

  • Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration has approved the usage of vaccine from AstraZeneca for domestic inoculation, a health ministry source told Reuters.

  • India’s Bharat Biotech has applied to conduct trials in Bangladesh for its vaccine recently approved for emergency use at home, a senior official at Bangladesh’s main medical research body told Reuters.

AMERICAS

  • Chile’s health regulator approved the emergency roll-out of the CoronaVac vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

  • Africa’s coronavirus case fatality rate stands at 2.5%, higher than the global level of 2.2%, a trend that is alarming experts, the head of the continent’s disease control body said.

  • South Africa has a three-month plan to import, store and distribute vaccines for frontline healthcare workers through a contract with pharmaceutical company Biovac Institute, a letter from the National Treasury shows.

  • Lebanon said a 24-hour lockdown imposed earlier this month would be extended by two weeks.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

  • The COVAX vaccine sharing platform said it aimed to deliver 1.8 billion doses to poorer countries in 2021 and hoped to fulfil supply deals for wealthier ones in the second half of the year.

  • The United States intends to join the COVAX vaccine facility, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci told the World Health Organization.

  • Oxford scientists are preparing to rapidly produce new versions of their vaccine to combat emerging more contagious COVID-19 variants discovered in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

  • World stocks racked up record highs and the dollar fell, as investors bet major stimulus from new US President Joe Biden and unswerving global central bank support would cushion the coronavirus’s economic damage.

    • Barring another wave of infections, the worst is over for India’s economy and policymakers may soon have more room to support a recovery, the central bank said.

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