(Reuters) – Euro zone gross domestic product fell less than initially estimated in the last quarter of 2020 and employment edged higher against the previous three months despite pandemic lockdowns, new estimates showed.
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* Russia has extended a ban on flights to and from Britain until the end of March 16 due to a new variant of the coronavirus first detected in the UK, Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said.
* The Dutch government’s coronavirus policy was dealt a serious blow when a court ordered it to scrap a controversial night-time curfew meant to limit the spread of COVID-19.
* The first 550,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine have arrived in Budapest, a leading health official said, as Hungary prepares to become the first EU country to roll out the Chinese shot.
* Britain will provide vaccine COVID-19 certificates for its residents if they are required by other countries, although it is not planning to introduce them for use at home, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said.
* Germany plans to offer all citizens rapid coronavirus tests free of charge from March 1, its health minister said.
* The COVID-19 pandemic is on the rise again in Poland, the health minister said, a worrying turnaround after case numbers stabilised following a second wave of infections last autumn.
* U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Wisconsin to press his case for a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill in the political battleground state that helped secure his victory in last year’s election.
* South Korea’s intelligence agency has said North Korea attempted to steal information on coronavirus vaccines and treatments by hacking Pfizer, a lawmaker briefed by the agency said.
* India has detected both the South African and Brazilian coronavirus variants and people returning from those countries may be tested more aggressively, health officials said.
* Hong Kong will ease strict restrictions from Feb. 18, re-opening sports and entertainment facilities and extending dining hours, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said, while the government advisory panel on COVID-19 vaccines said it would recommend China’s Sinovac vaccine for emergency use.
* Malaysia will receive its first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines over the weekend for a COVID-19 inoculation drive that is set to begin on Feb. 26, the prime minister said.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Turkey is considering a plan to ease some curfews and curbs on restaurants and schools in districts where infections are lightest, and the cabinet is set to discuss possible details on Wednesday, two officials told Reuters.
* South Africa wants to return the one million COVID-19 vaccine doses it has received from Serum Institute of India, The Economic Times reported, a week after the country said it would put on hold use of AstraZeneca’s shot in its vaccination program.
* The World Health Organization listed AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, while sources said the EU is in talks with Moderna on buying more vaccines.
* Australia’s medical regulator granted provisional approval for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
* The European Union will this week kick off a new programme to study mutations in the COVID-19 virus, the European Commission’s president told Les Echos.
* Global shares hit record highs on Tuesday and were on track for their longest winning streak in 17 years as investors bet the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines would lead to a durable economic recovery and draw a line under a year of lockdowns.
* Singapore will set aside a further S$11 billion in a COVID-19 support package this year, its finance minister said, extending last year’s unprecedented fiscal response to the pandemic.
(Compiled by Jagoda Darlak and Devika Syamnath; Editing by Giles Elgood)