The European Union has reached a deal with US pharmaceutical firm Moderna to secure doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced on Tuesday.
Last week, Moderna said its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing the virus that has killed almost 1.5 million people and devastated the global economy.
Von der Leyen said: "I am happy to announce that tomorrow we will approve a new contract to secure another COVID-19 vaccine." She added the deal will include up to 160 million doses.
In August, the EU's executive branch said early discussions with Moderna had been concluded with the aim of signing a contract for the supply of 80 million doses, with the option of acquiring a further 80 million at a later stage.
It is the sixth deal of its kind the EU has negotiated with vaccine developers.
Airlines are set to lose more than $157 billion (€132.4 billion) over the course of this year and next, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned.
The industry's main global body, which in June had forecast $100 billion in deficits for the two-year period, said it now projects a $118.5 billion for loss this year alone, and a further $38.7 billion for 2021.
Russia's Sputnik V vaccine is up to 95% effective, according to a second interim analysis of clinical trial data, its producers have said.
The jab, which is given in two doses, will be available on international markets for less than $10 (€8.40) per dose, and will be free for Russian citizens, the developers said.
The efficacy of the vaccine was based on preliminary data obtained 42 days after the first dose, Russia's health ministry, the state-run Gamaleya research center and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in a statement.
Poland detected its first coronavirus cases among its mink population. Detected on a farm in the Pomorskie region in northern Poland, eight out of over 90 animals tested positive for the virus. Other European mink producers have also discovered the pathogen in minks, which are the only animals proven to both contract the new coronavirus and re-infect humans. Russia is testing a vaccine specifically for minks, though no infected animals have yet been discovered there.
The premier of the German state of Bavaria has said he plans to keep the Alpine slopes of his state closed over the Christmas holidays and urged European nations to follow suit.
"We just can't have the classic ski holiday," Markus Söder told reporters on the eve of crunch talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional leaders on extending Germany's lockdown.
Austria opposed the plans, claiming that a shutdown could cost over €2.4 billion in lost revenues. The Austrian resort town of Ischgl was the site of a major coronavirus outbreak in early March.
Spain's Health Minister said the country plans to start vaccinations in January, but that they won't be mandatory. The first groups to receive the shot will be those working in the health sector, nursing home residents and staff. These and other priority groups will begin receiving treatment in January through March — the country expects to cover a substantial part of its population within the first six months of 2021.
Sweden's healthcare watchdog has heavily criticized the way elderly people have been treated in the country's care homes since the outbreak emerged, noting that some patients were left to die without a medical exam.
The Health and Social Care Inspectorate (IVO) said the "serious flaws" could not only be blamed on the pandemic, concluding they existed even when the additional stress of the virus outbreak was taken into account. Of the 6,500 coronavirus-related deaths in the Scandinavian country, nearly half have occurred in elderly care homes, and a quarter have been elderly people being cared for at home.
France is set to start easing its lockdown this weekend so that by Christmas, shops, theaters and cinemas will reopen and people will be able to spend the holiday with their families, President Emmanuel Macron said. The country aims to fully lift the nationwide lockdown on December 15. However, some of the restrictions would remain in place in order to avoid a resurgence of the virus, said Macron.
"We have slowed the spread of the virus," Macron said, "but it is still very much present."
The United Kingdom is set to start easing lockdown restrictions in December, ahead of the Christmas holiday. Three households will be allowed to celebrate together as a "Christmas bubble," the government announced. There will also be a relaxation of travel restrictions. The UK has recorded over 1.5 million cases and nearly 60,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
As India prepares its new vaccine strategy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned of potential side effects. The country plans to disribute the Oxford-AstraZenca vaccine early next year, with Modi cautioning the vaccine could cause side-effects similar to other medicines. He promised the government would be guided by science in finalizing its plans. India has the world's second-highest number of coronavirus infections after the United States.
The foreign ministers of Japan and China have agreed to work together to help fight the pandemic and revive their flailing economies.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday, and his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, agreed to resume business travel between the world's second and third largest economies, allowing visitors to engage in limited business-related activities during their 14-day quarantine periods.
Japan recently embarked upon similar arrangements with Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.
China and Japan are to restart business travel in the coming days, even though Japan is currently suffering from a resurgence in COVID-19 infections. Chinese nationals topped the number of foreign visitors in Japan pre-pandemic.
Brazil registered 31,100 confirmed cases and 630 new deaths, pushing the total death toll above 170,000 and bringing the number of cases to 6,118,708. Brazil has been one of the countries hardest-hit by the virus, registering the third highest number of cases in the world.
mb, jsi/rs (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)