* The British government said more areas of England would be placed under the strictest restrictions as a highly infectious variant of the virus spreads across the country.
* Germany expects the European Union to give rapid approval to the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca cleared for use in Britain on Wednesday, its top vaccines official said.
* The Swiss government decided against further restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus, even as faster-spreading variants have entered the country.
* Latvian police and border guards will patrol the streets to enforce a New Year’s Eve curfew aimed at preventing large crowds gathering.
* The first known US 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.
* A nurse in California tested positive more than a week after receiving Pfizer’s vaccine. A medical expert said the body needs more time to build up protection.
* Russian sovereign RDIF fund and Bolivia have signed a deal on the supply of 2.6 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, RDIF said.
* AstraZeneca said it is working to offer its vaccine to Brazilians as soon as possible, seeking regulatory approval in Brazil after authorisation in the UK.
* Taiwan has agreed to buy almost 20 million doses of vaccine, including 10 million from AstraZeneca, the government said, adding it had confirmed the island’s first case of the new British variant of the disease.
* The situation in Tokyo is quite severe and the Japanese capital could potentially face an “explosion” of cases, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said ahead of the New Year’s holiday.
* Australian authorities restricted movement and tightened curbs on gatherings in Sydney, hoping to avoid a “super spreader” event during the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.
* India’s drug regulator will meet again on Friday to consider approving AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s vaccine for emergency use after Britain became the first country to do so, the government said on Wednesday.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Turkey received its first shipment of vaccines from China’s Sinovac, almost a week after Ankara said the vaccine was safe and effective.
* Zimbabwe has postponed the re-opening of schools planned for next week due to a surge in infections and a tropical storm sweeping through the region.
* Britain became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca as it battles a major winter surge driven by a new, highly contagious variant of the virus.
* A vaccine developed by a unit of China National Biotec Group (CNBG) is 79.34 per cent effective and the company has filed an application for regulatory approval in China for its general public use.
* A new variant of the virus does not appear to cause more severe illness than other variants, according to a study by Public Health England.
* Wall Street advanced and the dollar dipped to its lowest in more than two years on Wednesday, the penultimate trading day in an extraordinary year of pandemic, recession and recovery.