European Union nations have kicked off a coordinated effort to give COVID-19 vaccinations to adults among their 450 million citizens, marking a moment of hope on the continent.

Meanwhile, fears grow over a new variant of the coronavirus that is spreading across the United Kingdom with Japan barring on Sunday the entry of all non-resident foreign nationals as a precaution against the strain.

Thailand, meanwhile, is scrambling to contain a COVID outbreak connected to a seafood market in a southern province, and residents of Sydney – Australia’s largest city – are awaiting word on whether any public New Year’s Eve celebrations will be allowed.

Here are the latest updates:

1 hour ago (11:32 GMT)
Iran reports lowest daily deaths from coronavirus in more than three months

Iran has reported 119 deaths from the new coronavirus, the lowest daily fatalities in more than three months, the health ministry said.

Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 5,502 people had been infected in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases in the Middle East’s worst-affected country to 1,200,465.

Sunday’s death toll was the lowest since September 12 when it registered 116 deaths.

A total of 1,200,465 COVID-19 cases have been registered in the Middle East’s worst-affected country since the pandemic started [Reuters]1 hour ago (11:27 GMT)

Dubai cuts 2021 budget as pandemic impacts economy

Dubai has it expects to cut its budget to $15.5bn in 2021 after its economy was impacted by a plunge in tourism and other sectors amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The emirate, one of the seven that make up the United Arab Emirates, had posted a record $18.1bn budget for 2020.

“The newly-announced budget takes into account the exceptional economic conditions of the fiscal year 2020 and the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy,” said a statement by the Dubai Media Office.

The emirate, one of the seven that make up the United Arab Emirates, had posted a record $18.1bn budget for 2020 [Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]2 hours ago (10:39 GMT)

Thai hospital banned from offering to sell COVID-19 vaccine

A private Thai hospital has been ordered to stop advertising COVID-19 vaccinations for sale in advance on the grounds that no vaccine is yet approved in Thailand.

Vibhavadi Hospital told Reuters its online offer for 1,000 initial reservations for the two-dose Moderna vaccine had been the result of a misunderstanding. With reservations priced at 4,000 baht, the total cost of getting vaccinated would have been 10,000 baht ($330).

The Ministry of Health said in a statement that no COVID-19 vaccine had been approved for use in Thailand yet and that advertising one violated hospital regulations. “The removal of the advertisement was ordered,” it said.

2 hours ago (10:24 GMT)
COVID-19 cases top 80 million worldwide

More than 80 million confirmed cases of coronavirus have been detected worldwide since the pandemic began a year ago and 1.76 million deaths, according to  Johns Hopkins University tally

In total, 80,412,311 cases and 1,758,886 deaths have been recorded. Last week, an average of 580,000 new cases were registered every day.

Europe is the world’s hardest-hit region, passing the 25-million-case mark on Friday and with 546,000 deaths.


3 hours ago (10:03 GMT)
Beijing tightens COVID-19 curbs as cases detected across capital

Beijing has tightened COVID-19 curbs over concerns that China’s mass travel during the holiday period could cause cases to a spike in the capital, as it reported locally transmitted cases for a fourth straight day on Sunday.

A meeting led by the capital’s Communist party boss, Cai Qi, urged all districts in Beijing to enter an “emergency” mode, sealing off residential compounds and villages where infections are found.

China’s southern technology hub of Shenzhen reported one asymptomatic case on Sunday, a patient who made two business trips to Beijing this month.

3 hours ago (09:54 GMT)
Israel speeds vaccines, locks down in hope of March exit from pandemic

Israel will enter what officials hope will be its last coronavirus lockdown on Sunday as they ramp up vaccinations to a pace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said may allow an emergence from the pandemic by March.

If realised, that could help Netanyahu’s re-election hopes after missteps that include lifting a first lockdown with a premature declaration of victory in May, inconsistent enforcement of curbs and sluggish economic relief.

After beginning vaccinations a week before the European Union’s roll-out on Sunday, Israel’s centralised health system is now administering around 70,000 shots daily. Netanyahu wants that raised to 150,000 by next weekend, with the opening of 24/7 vaccination stations among proposals.

Israel will enter what officials hope will be its last coronavirus lockdown on Sunday [File:Ammar Awad/Reuters]4 hours ago (08:47 GMT)

A 96-year-old is first Spaniard vaccinated for COVID-19

Araceli Hidalgo became the first person to be vaccinated in central Spain, in an event broadcast by national television.

She felt “nothing” from the shot, Hidalgo said with a smile after being injected.

With her short white hair, the pensioner living in the Los Olmos retirement home in Guadalajara got up slowly after pulling on her black jacket and walked off using a frame for support.

Los Olmos nursing home resident Araceli, 96, receives the first injection nationwide in Spain [Reuters]4 hours ago (08:32 GMT)

Woman at care home first to get vaccination in Sweden

Gun-Britt Johnsson has been the first person in Sweden to be vaccinated with the vaccine jointly developed by BioNTech and US pharma  Pfizer.

The 91-year-old lives at a nursing home in Mjolby, 230 kilometres south-west of Stockholm.

“I didn’t feel anything,” she said after the jab, which was broadcast by public broadcaster SVT.

4 hours ago (08:26 GMT)
Russia reports 28,284 new coronavirus cases

Russia has reported 28,284 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 3,050,248 after it crossed the 3 million mark on the previous day.

Russia’s coronavirus crisis centre said 552 coronavirus patients had died in the last 24 hours and the overall national coronavirus death toll was at 54,778.

5 hours ago (08:22 GMT)
Italy kicks off vaccinations against COVID-19 in Rome

Almost 10 months after the first Italian patient tested positive for the new coronavirus, Italy has vaccinated the first residents against COVID-19.

Three health workers at the Rome Spallanzani hospital were inoculated shortly before 0700 GMT with the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, a statement by the commissioner for the epidemic Domenico Arcuri said.

“The vaccine went very well and it was an exciting, historical moment,” 29-year-old nurse Claudia Aliverini told state-owned television RAINEWS24.

“It is the beginning of the end and I hope to be the first of over 60 millions of Italians”.

Claudia Alivernini, one of the first recipients of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Italy, receives her vaccination at the Spallanzani hospital in Rome [Reuters]5 hours ago (08:00 GMT)

Cyprus starts rollout of COVID-19 vaccine

Cyprus has started vaccinating its population against COVID-19.

Pensioners at homes in the capital Nicosia and the towns of Larnaca and Limassol were the first to receive a shot of the two-dose vaccine, which arrived by air on Saturday.

Cyprus has reported 19,391 cases of the novel coronavirus, and 111 deaths.

Boxes of Pfizer-BioNtech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines arrive at an undisclosed location in Nicosia, Cyprus [File:Reuters]5 hours ago (07:37 GMT)

Czech republic starts rollout of coronavirus vaccine

The Czech Republic has started administering vaccinations against the virus.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis was the first to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the Central Military Hospital in Prague, just before other hospitals in the capital and second-largest city Brno started to distribute the 9,750 doses the country has received so far.

“The vaccine which arrived from the European Union yesterday, that is a hope, a hope that we will return to a normal life,” Babis said before taking the jab.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis of the Czech Republic receives the first injection nationwide with a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech [David W Cerny/Reuters]6 hours ago (07:22 GMT)

EU begins vaccine roll-out

Several EU nations have started vaccinating their most vulnerable groups as a new coronavirus variant spread internationally and the WHO warned the current pandemic will not be the last.

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab arrived in hard-hit Italy, Spain and France on Saturday, ready for distribution to retirement homes and care staff.

The approval and roll-out of vaccines have boosted hopes that 2021 could bring a respite from the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.7 million people since emerging in China late last year.

6 hours ago (06:48 GMT)
Thailand’s COVID-19 outbreak grows

Thailand confirmed 121 new infections of the novel coronavirus, a senior official said, up from the 103 cases reported earlier in the day.

Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the country’s COVID-19 pandemic task force, said at a briefing that the new cases include 94 domestic transmissions and 18 in migrant workers connected to an outbreak at a seafood market in Samut Sakhon, a province southwest of Bangkok.

Infections connected to this cluster have spread to 38 provinces.

6 hours ago (06:37 GMT)
Japan halts all foreign arrivals over UK variant

Japan is barring entry of all nonresident foreign nationals as a precaution against a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant that is spreading across the UK.

The Foreign Ministry says the entry ban will start Monday and last through January 31.

6 hours ago (06:30 GMT)
Sydney awaits verdict on New Year’s festivities

Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak continued on Sunday with more than a quarter of a million people in lockdown as Australia’s largest city awaited word on whether any public New Year’s Eve celebrations will be allowed.

Seven COVID-19 cases were reported in New South Wales state, six linked directly to the outbreak in Sydney’s northern beach suburbs, which are under a stay-at-home order until Wednesday. Infections stand at 122.

“We hope to have some clear information for everybody tomorrow, or the latest the day after, on what the New Year’s Eve and the next weeks will look like,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told a news conference.


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