(Reuters) - Worldwide COVID-19 deaths crossed 1.5 million on Thursday, as South Korea’s capital required most establishments to close at 9 p.m. each day and Italy banned midnight mass and movement between towns over Christmas and New Year.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* Spain’s Catalonia region will not relax restrictions as planned because of worsening infection rates, prompting some ski slopes to postpone their opening next week.
* France will ensure free vaccinations for all and has earmarked some 1.5 billion euros ($1.82 billion) of next year’s social security budget to cover the cost.
* Britain will pay 120,000 pounds ($161,676) to individuals who suffer any severe side-effects from COVID-19 vaccines.
* U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said he would publicly take a coronavirus vaccine to demonstrate its safety.
* IBM and U.S. officials are sounding the alarm over hackers targeting companies critical to the distribution of vaccines.
* Costa Rica has signed an agreement with Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech SE for the manufacture and delivery of 3 million COVID-19 vaccines next year.
* Victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster 36 years ago in India said the pandemic has worsened their plight.
* Indonesia recorded its biggest daily rise in infections on Thursday, with its COVID-19 task force attributing the jump to a lag in some areas reporting cases.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* A partial lockdown will begin this weekend in the Gaza Strip after infections spiked in the densely populated territory.
* South Africa tightened some restrictions in the Eastern Cape province where infections are rising the most, curbing movement and gatherings, but decided against reinstating a nationwide lockdown.
* Challenges in Pfizer Inc’s supply chain for the raw materials used in its COVID-19 vaccine played a role in its decision to slash its 2020 production target.
* Moderna Inc said it expects to have between 100 million and 125 million doses of its experimental vaccine available globally in the first quarter of 2021.
* AstraZeneca and Oxford University have given conflicting accounts of how they came upon the most effective dosing pattern for their vaccine.
* Asian shares scaled a record high on Friday on the growing prospect of a large U.S. economic package, while hopes that vaccine rollouts will boost the global economy underpinned investor sentiment.
* A bipartisan, $908 billion coronavirus aid plan gained momentum in the U.S. Congress on Thursday as conservative lawmakers expressed their support.
* U.S. bankruptcy filings fell last month to their lowest in more than 14 years, a jarring disconnect with a worsening economic outlook as COVID-19 cases surge.
* Japan will establish subsidies for regional banks that shore up their core strength through mergers and integration as part of efforts to revive regional economies.
Compiled by Ramakrishnan M., Sarah Morland and Amy Caren Daniel; Edited by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shounak Dasgupta
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