(Reuters) – Hungary stole a march on its fellow EU nations as it began vaccinating its people against COVID-19 on Saturday, a day ahead of rollouts in several other countries including France, Germany and Spain as the pandemic surges across the continent.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS * Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals here for a case tracker and summary of news.
* The new variant of coronavirus linked to a rapid rise in infections in Britain has been detected in Sweden after a traveller from the United Kingdom became ill and tested positive, the Swedish Health Agency said on Saturday.
* More than 4,500 lorries, among a huge backlog of trucks stranded for days in the British port of Dover, crossed the Channel on Friday after extra troops were deployed to step up coronavirus testing, a minister said.
* Pope Francis in his Christmas message said political and business leaders must not allow market forces and patent laws to take priority over making Covid 19 vaccines available to all, condemning nationalism and “the virus of radical individualism”.
* France recorded its first case of the new variant of coronavirus as the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 mounted, increasing concerns of a new wave of the virus hitting the euro zone’s second-biggest economy.
* Russia on Saturday approved its main COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, for use by people over the age of 60, Russian news agencies cited the health ministry as saying.
* U.S. states, facing a backlog in administering coronavirus vaccines, are asking medical and nursing students, and even firefighters, to help give the shots and free up healthcare workers battling a raging pandemic at overcrowded hospitals.
* The U.S. government will require all airline passengers arriving from Britain to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure starting Monday amid concerns about a new coronavirus variant that may be more transmissible.
* Families across Mexico scaled down Christmas festivities to avoid the spread of coronavirus, while others spent the holiday alone after having lost loved ones to the pandemic that has killed more than 120,000 in Mexico this year.
* Japan on Saturday said it would temporarily ban non-resident foreign nationals from entering the country from Dec. 28 as it tightens its borders following the detection of a new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus.
* The Philippines approved measures on Saturday to slow the spread of new, more infectious coronavirus variants, as President Rodrigo Duterte warned of a second lockdown should cases spike before the country gets its first vaccines in May.
* South Korea posted its second-highest daily number of coronavirus cases on Saturday as outbreaks at a prison, nursing homes and churches continued to grow, prompting authorities to plead for a halt to all year-end gatherings.
* Sydney residents were urged not to head to the shops for Boxing Day bargains, while those in some northern beach suburbs prepared to re-enter a strict lockdown for three days from Sunday as the Australian city seeks to stamp out a coronavirus outbreak.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* A fire killed at least seven people and injured several others on Saturday at a private hospital that was treating coronavirus patients on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo, local sources and media said.
* Iran has extended a night-time traffic curfew to 330 lower-risk cities and towns in an effort to sustain a recent fall in the number of new coronavirus infections and deaths, state television reported on Saturday.
* Matron Annamarie Odendaal has cancelled all staff holiday on the COVID-19 ward at the private Arwyp Medical Centre in Johannesburg as a second wave of the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm South Africa’s health system.
* The CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd SVA.O showed efficacy between 50% and 90% in Brazilian trials, Sao Paulo’s state health secretary said, and its Brazilian producer said full trial results will be released by Jan. 7.
* Moderna Inc expects that the immunity induced by its COVID-19 vaccine would be protective against the coronavirus variants reported in Britain.
* Brazilian researchers said the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech is more than 50% effective based on preliminary data, but withheld full results of their late-stage trial again at Sinovac’s request.
* Millions of Americans’ jobless benefits expired on Saturday after President Donald Trump refused to sign into law a $2.3 trillion coronavirus pandemic aid and spending package, protesting that it did not do enough to help everyday people.
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