FACTBOX-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus
* The new variant is the most concerning that British health officials have seen, and the country temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini. * France would make COVID-19 booster shots available to all adults, toughen rules on wearing face masks, ramp up health pass checks and increase controls at its borders as it seeks to curb a fifth wave of infections.
A new variant of the coronavirus, identified in South Africa, has sparked concerns among global health authorities given its high number of mutations and vaccine-resistant nature, with countries swiftly imposing travel curbs from the African nation. DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals for a case tracker and summary of news EUROPE
European countries expanded COVID-19 booster vaccinations, began plans to get shots to young children, and tightened some curbs as the continent battled a surge in coronavirus cases. * The new variant is the most concerning that British health officials have seen, and the country temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Eswatini.
* France would make COVID-19 booster shots available to all adults, toughen rules on wearing face masks, ramp up health pass checks and increase controls at its borders as it seeks to curb the fifth wave of infections. * Slovakia went into a two-week lockdown on Thursday, as the country with one of the EU's lowest vaccination rates reported a critical situation in hospitals and new infections that topped global tables.
* Hungary is ready to inoculate children aged 5 to 11 years old, the government said. * Portugal, which has one of the world's highest vaccination rates, announced it would reimpose restrictions to stop a surge in cases, ordering all passengers flying into the country to show a negative test certificate on arrival.
* Germany, which crossed the threshold of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths, is in a phase of exponential growth in numbers of cases, Chancellor Angela Merkel said. * Some Dutch hospitals have halted chemotherapy treatments and organ transplants to free up intensive care beds for surging COVID-19 patients.
AMERICAS * Millions of Americans got booster shots at a near-record pace after the Biden administration expanded eligibility last week, but health officials concerned about climbing infections ahead of the winter holiday season urged more to get the additional protection.
ASIA-PACIFIC * Japan decided to tighten border controls for visitors from South Africa and five other African countries, as per a Jiji news service report, while India issued an advisory to all states to rigorously test and screen travelers from the African nation and other "at-risk" countries.
* Australia said it was investigating the newly identified variant spreading in South Africa and warned it may close its borders to travelers from the African nation if risks rise. * Drugmakers Pfizer Inc and MSD, known as Merck & Co Inc in the United States and Canada, have agreed to give licenses to firms in Vietnam to produce COVID-19 treatment pills.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA * South African scientists said they have detected a new variant — B.1.1.529 — in small numbers and are working to understand its potential implications, adding that it has a "very unusual constellation" of mutations.
* South African sport faced a shutdown due to the new variant, with rugby teams scrambling to leave before travel restrictions are imposed and the first event of golf's new-look DP World Tour under threat. * Namibia has warned that more than 268,000 doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are at risk of being destroyed, due to a slow uptake by citizens.
* The EU's drug regulator approved the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11. * Turkey's domestically developed vaccine, Turkovac, has applied for emergency authorization, the health minister said, adding he hoped it would be available by year-end.
* Vaccination is safe for pregnant women and not associated with higher rates of complications, data released by the UK Health Security Agency showed. ECONOMIC IMPACT
* Stocks suffered their sharpest drop in three months in Asia and oil tumbled after the new variant sent investors scurrying toward the safety of bonds, the yen, and the dollar.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)