FACTBOX-Latest on worldwide spread of the coronavirus

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Countries braced for higher infections ahead of the New Year long weekend, with Australia tightening curbs on gatherings in Sydney, while the first known US case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant was detected in Colorado on Tuesday.

EUROPE

* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has approved placing further swathes of the country into tier 4 restrictions as the government becomes increasingly alarmed by the speed at which a new variant of the virus was spreading, The Times reported.

* The European Union will buy an extra 100 million doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the total from the two firms to 300 million doses, European CommissionPresident Ursula von der Leyen said.

* Switzerland has documented five cases of a coronavirus variant from Britain and two cases of a South African variant, a Swiss health ministry official said on Tuesday.

* Turkey received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac, Reuters television footage showed.

AMERICAS

* The first known U.S. case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant was detected in Colorado as President-elect Joe Biden warned it could take years for most Americans to be vaccinated for the virus at current distribution rates.

* Strict stay-at-home orders were renewed indefinitely for much of California, as the state’s top health official said that many hospitals were teetering on the brink of crisis.

* U.S. Representative-elect Luke Letlow of Louisiana died on Tuesday of COVID-19, his campaign said.

* Panama has signed agreements with four producers ofCOVID-19 vaccines to acquire a total of 5.5 million doses, enough for 80% of the population.

* Deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean from COVID-19 topped 500,000 on Tuesday and cases soared above 15 million, according to a tally of figures in government reports.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* A 46-year-old nurse became the first person in Singapore to receive Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

* Chinese meat importers and processors have called on exporters in countries with COVID-19 outbreaks to step up checks on shipments before they are sent to the world’s biggest market, China’s top industry group said.

* South Korean authorities scrambled to contain a cluster of infections in a Seoul prison as inmates waved signs through barred windows pleading for help.

* The coronavirus situation in Tokyo is quite severe and the Japanese capital could potentially face an “explosion” of corvid-19 cases, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Wednesday ahead of the New Year’s holiday.

* Australian authorities restricted movement and tightened curbs on gatherings in Sydney, hoping to avoid a coronavirus”super spreader” event during the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* The United Arab Emirates has discovered a “limited number” of cases of people infected with the new coronavirus variant in the country, a government official said, the first confirmed cases of a more contagious COVID-19 mutant in the Gulf region.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* A vaccine developed by a unit of China National BiotecGroup (CNBG) is 79.34% effective at protecting people from COVID-19 and the company has filed an application for regulatory approval in China for its general public use.

* A new variant of the novel coronavirus does not appear to cause more severe illness than other variants, according to a matched study by Public Health England.

* Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said initial data from an ongoing study of its experimental antibody cocktail for use in some hospitalized COVID-19 patients show the therapy was sufficiently effective to warrant continuing the trial.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Asian shares hit a record high as investors bet on a strong economic recovery next year, as there is little sign policymakers wind back massive stimulus efforts aimed at staving off coronavirus-fuelled downturns.

Source: sabcnews