(Reuters) – The European Union wants to set up a mechanism that would allow the sharing of surplus COVID-19 vaccines with poorer neighbouring states and Africa, the EU health chief said, in a move that may undercut a WHO-led global scheme.
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* The EU’s executive has warned this month that national plans so far for spending a record 1.8 trillion euros from the bloc’s joint coffers were too poor to fly, sources told Reuters.
* German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to extend restrictions until Feb. 15 and make medical masks obligatory on public transport and in shops, according to a draft resolution.
* An estimated 1 in 8 people in England had antibodies against the coronavirus during December, suggesting they have had COVID-19 previously, and the UK health secretary says he is self-isolating.
* A second wave of infections and tougher measures to limit the spread will slow economic recovery in Sweden and Norway this year, a Reuters poll of economists suggested.
* China is battling the worst outbreak since March 2020, with one province posting a record daily cases increase, as an independent panel said China could have acted more forcefully to curb the initial outbreak.
* Thailand’s government defended its vaccine strategy against opposition criticism that it is too reliant on a company owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
* Kazakhstan plans to vaccinate about 6 million people, or almost a third of its population, this year.
* Taiwan cancelled a major festival during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, while Hong Kong will extend work-from-home arrangements for civil servants until Jan. 27.
* U.S. President-elect Joe Biden plans to quickly extend travel restrictions barring travel by most people who have recently been in much of Europe and Brazil soon after President Donald Trump lifted those requirements effective Jan. 26.
* Brazil kicked off a nationwide COVID-19 immunization programme on Monday by distributing doses of a vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech, although the pace of vaccination will depend on delayed imports.
* Colombia’s capital Bogota will impose nightly curfews for almost two weeks, its mayor said, while the whole city will enter yet another full quarantine this weekend.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* More than 2,600 Nigerian physicians have contracted COVID-19 and dozens have died, said the chairman of the Lagos branch of the Nigerian Medical Association, while medics await vaccines.
* The Palestinian Authority could receive Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine within days, a PA official said.
* Rwanda has re-introduced tough lockdown measures in its capital Kigali after a surge in cases.
* Previous infection may offer less protection against the new variant first identified in South Africa, scientists said, although they hope that vaccines will still work.
* Global shares climbed and the dollar eased ahead of Janet Yellen’s Treasury Secretary confirmation speech, in which she is expected to bolster the case for heavy fiscal stimulus in the world’s largest economy. [MKTS/GLOB]
* Japan’s biggest business lobby shrugged off calls for wage hikes as it braced for key spring salary negotiations with unions, calling blanket pay rises “unrealistic” as companies are hit by the pandemic, officials said.
* Thailand approved about $7 billion cash handouts to boost consumption and help alleviate the impact of a recent spike in cases.
* Oil demand recovery will take a hit from a spike in new coronavirus cases before vaccine roll-outs and stimulus measures help in the second half of the year, the International Energy Agency said.
(Compiled by Sarah Morland and Krishna Chandra Eluri; Editing by Alex Richardson)