The Netherlands will impose a curfew on its citizens for the first time, beginning Saturday, in an attempt to halt the rapid spread of a coronavirus variant.
The parliament agreed to the measure — the most severe so far — after much heated debate.
Residents will be housebound between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.
The new rule comes on top of a lockdown that's been in place since mid-December. Non-essential businesses, schools and restaurants are closed and strict contact restrictions are in place until February 9.
In addition, there is now a flight ban from the UK, South Africa, and South America, where the variants have been widely reported.
Asia and Oceania
China will impose coronavirus testing requirements for the Lunar New Year holiday season. Tens of millions of people are expected to travel during this time, despite authorities urging people to stay home amid an upsurge in cases.
A blaze broke out on Thursday at India's Serum Institute, the world's largest producer of vaccines.
The institute is currently manufacturing millions of doses of the Covishield coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
The supply of the vaccine was not impacted.
Indonesia will start rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to the general public between late April and May, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin announced.
Care workers in the country are currently receiving vaccines. Public workers and senior citizens are next in line.
Sri Lanka will begin welcoming tourists again for the first time in 10 months, authorities announced. Visitors will have to show a negative coronavirus test upon entry and remain in a "travel bubble" during their stay.
Australia will also require travelers to show a negative coronavirus test upon entry to the country, Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Thursday. New Zealand and some Pacific Islands will be exempt from the rule. Australia has reported no new COVID-19 deaths for the fourth day in a row.
Middle East and Africa
Lebanon will be the first country to benefit from a special fund set up by the World Bank to finance vaccination programs. The country will receive $34 million (€28 million) in total.
South Africa will pay over the odds for its coronavirus vaccines, local newspaper Business Day reported on Thursday.
It is set to pay $5.25 (€4.33) per dose for COVID-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII) — one of several manufacturers licensed by AstraZeneca to make its COVID-19 vaccine.
By comparison, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and France negotiated a price of around $2.50 per shot for 300 million doses.
Africa does not have an adequate oxygen supply to treat all patients during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC) said on Thursday.
Africa CDC director John Nkengasong urged African countries to establish international partnerships to boost the supply of oxygen.
Germany has seen a significant drop in its seven-day coronavirus incidence rate, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease prevention said on Thursday.
The rate is a measurement of the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over a seven-day period. The latest figure from the RKI was 119, making it the lowest value since November 1 but still off from the government's goal of 50. The incidence rate has fallen consistently over the past 10 days, after reaching a peak of 197.6 on December 22.
Turkey has slowed the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations after inoculating 1 million in its first week. The speed of the rollout will vary depending on age group and mobility, the program's coordinator said.
Britain's Glastonbury Festival, the largest greenfield music festival in the world, was canceled for the second year in a row because of the pandemic.
"With great regret, we must announce that this year’s Glastonbury Festival will not take place, and that this will be another enforced fallow year for us," founder Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily said in a statement on Twitter.
"In spite of our efforts to move Heaven & Earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the Festival happen this year. We are so sorry to let you all down."
This year would have marked the 50th anniversary of the festival, with former Beatle Paul McCartney scheduled to headline.
In the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden's top medical adviser on the pandemic, unveiled plans to join the global coronavirus vaccine scheme COVAX. He also said that the United States would pay its financial obligations to the World Health Organization and remain a member of the global health body.
The Biden administration will fully use the Defense Production Act to ramp up the production of masks, face shields, and other personal protective equipment (PPE), the new plan states.
The plan reveals details on doubling drive-through testing sites as it attempts to accelerate the pace of the vaccination's roll-out.
Mexico has posted a near record 1,539 COVID-19 deaths and 20,548 cases. The high numbers are straining the health care system. Hospitals in Mexico City, the current center of the pandemic in the country, were at 89% capacity Wednesday, while 61% of hospital beds nationwide were filled.
kmm, jsi/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)