(Reuters) – Several countries recorded higher COVID-19 cases, with Mexico’s death toll surpassing 150,000, even as governments rush to lock up vaccines through deals with drugmakers and other nations.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was looking at toughening border quarantine rules because of the risk of “vaccine-busting” new variants.
* The number of people hospitalised in France for COVID-19 rose by more than a 1,000 over the last two days, a trend unseen since Nov. 16, and the number of patients in ICUs exceeded 3,000 for the first time since Dec. 9.
* Portugal’s firefighters, police, and people over 50 with pre-existing conditions will start getting COVID-19 vaccinations from next week.
* The Italian government sent a letter of formal notice to Pfizer calling on the company to respect its contractual commitments over its COVID-19 vaccine deliveries.
* China reported a fall in new COVID-19 infections as the number of cases in two of the provinces particularly hard hit by the latest coronavirus wave fell to single digits.
* Pfizer will pursue its request for India to approve its COVID-19 vaccine if the government commits to buying shots, the U.S. drugmaker told Reuters.
* Indonesia is set to officially surpass one million coronavirus cases on Tuesday.
* Hong Kong has formally approved use of the Fosun Pharma-BioNTech, vaccine, the first COVID-19 vaccine to be accepted in the Asian financial hub.
* New Zealand may approve a COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
* California eased strict COVID-19 stay-at-home orders on Monday, allowing restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining and greater social mixing.
* Laboratory testing by the Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed the first known COVID-19 case in the United States associated with a more contagious variant of the coronavirus originally seen in Brazil.
* A troop of gorillas at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park is recovering from an outbreak of COVID-19 that sickened several of the group’s eight members.
* Mexico’s death toll passed 150,000 on Monday following a surge in infections in recent weeks.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Turkey received 6.5 million further doses of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, several local media reports said.
* Russia and China have approached Zimbabwe about supplying vaccines to tackle its escalating COVID-19 outbreak amid concern about Harare’s ability to afford the shots.
* Moderna said it believes its COVID-19 vaccine protects against new variants found in Britain and South Africa, although it will test a new booster shot aimed at the South Africa variant after concluding that the antibody response could be diminished.
* Drugmaker Merck & Co said it would stop development of its two COVID-19 vaccines and focus pandemic research on treatments.
* A British study found widely used antibiotics azithromycin and doxycycline were generally ineffective against early-stage COVID-19.
* Asian stocks dipped on Tuesday as lingering concerns about potential roadblocks to the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus weighed on sentiment, dragging U.S. Treasury yields to three-weeks lows. [MKTS/GLOB]
* Some 8.8% of global working hours were lost last year due to the pandemic, roughly four times the number lost in the 2009 financial crisis, but there are “tentative signs” of recovery, the International Labour Organisation said.
(Compiled by Uttaresh.V, Aditya Soni and Bartosz Dabrowski; Editing by Timothy Heritage, Sriraj Kalluvila and Arun Koyyur)