Germany entered a stricter lockdown on Wednesday, closing non-essential shops and sending children home from school while theaters pubs and restaurants were also shut in London as cases there continued to rise.
The new measures came into effect in Germany as the country saw its highest death toll since the beginning of the pandemic with the number of deaths reaching 952. The German public is overwhelmingly on board with the new measures, according to a new survey.
The British capital was moved into so-called "Tier 3" following a sharp increase in hospital admissions. Londoners will no longer be able to socialize with anyone outside their household or social bubble while indoors.
The British government plans to lift restrictions for five days around Christmas. Germany will also slightly ease the restrictions on meeting people for Christmas (December 24-26), but not New Year's Eve.
France began a curfew on Tuesday which will run from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. — this will be lifted for Christmas Eve but not New Year's Eve. France has seen its case numbers fall in recent weeks, but the numbers were still too high for a further easing of restrictions as the country enters the holiday period.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday that he was reviewing plans to reintroduce restrictions before Christmas, but had ruled out a stricter lockdown like the one in Germany.
Costa Rica and Panama have authorized the use of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine in their respective countries on Tuesday.
The Costa Rican Health Ministry said there was no set date for the vaccines to arrive in the country, but they have "tentatively" planned to begin vaccinations in the first quarter of 2021, according to a statement. Panama's health vice-minister Ivette Barrio also said the first shots could arrive in the same timeframe.
An annual beach party to ring in the new year in Rio de Janeiro has been canceled. Marcelo Crivella, the mayor of Brazil's second-largest city, said in a statement that it "is a decision necessary for the protection of all."
Officials have also canceled the city's Carnival event, which is normally held in late February. They left the possibility of holding an off-season event if the vaccine campaign is successful.
More from Europe
All European Union 27 member states could be able to begin vaccination programs on the same day, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told European parliamentarians. Germany said it plans to begin a vaccination campaign on December 27.
The EU is on track to approve its first COVID-19 vaccine ahead of Christmas.
French pharmaceutical company Valneva will begin the first clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in England.
The vaccine candidate is taking a more traditional approach to making vaccines, by using an inactivated, whole virus version. It is expected to need two doses.
If the first two phases are successful, larger trials are planned for April 2021 to determine efficacy. The UK has already ordered 60 million doses of the vaccine that will be delivered next year, with an option to acquire 130 million more doses in subsequent years.
"We must remember that we need to have a range of vaccines available to protect the British public now and long into the future," said the UK's business minister Alok Sharma.
The United Kingdom reported the highest daily count since November 14, with 25,161 new infections.
France recorded its highest rise in cases since November 21 with 17,615 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours.
Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical said Wednesday that it will buy at least 100 million doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine for use in China next year, if and when the vaccine be approved.
Fosun will make an advance payment to BioNTech of €250 million ($304 million), half by December 30 and the remainder after the vaccine is approved, said the firm in a Hong Kong stock exchange filing. Fosun said it would be entitled to 60% annual gross profit from sales of imported bulk ingredients, and 65% profit from sales of imported ready-made doses.
The Chinese government has not announced any deals with western manufacturers.
At least 20% of the world's population may not have access to a COVID-19 vaccine until 2022, according to a study published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Wednesday.
The journal said there is a maximum projected manufacturing capacity of 5.96 billion vaccine courses, meaning two doses as recommended by major vaccine manufacturers, by the end of 2021. That would leave more than 1 billion people unvaccinated by the end of next year.
The study's authors, who cautioned that publicly available information was incomplete, called for "greater transparency and accountability" for equal global access.
Final results for the coronavirus vaccine developed by US-based Pfizer and German partner BioNTech showed its shot had a 95% efficacy rate, the two pharmaceutical firms said on Wednesday.
Twitter will ban posts that advance harmful false or misleading claims about COVID-19 vaccinations, it has announced.
aw, ab,kbd/dj (AP, AFP, Reuters)