Factbox-Latest on worldwide spread of the coronavirus
(Reuters) - Hungary stole a march against its EU counterparts when it began vaccinating its population against COVID-19 on Saturday, a day before it was rolled out in several other countries including France, Germany and Spain as the pandemic increased across the continent.
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* The new variant of the coronavirus, which has been linked to a rapid surge in infections in the UK, was discovered in Sweden after a traveler from the UK fell ill and tested positive, the Swedish Health Department said on Saturday.
* More than 4,500 trucks, amid a huge backlog of trucks stranded for days in the UK port of Dover, crossed the canal on Friday after additional troops were deployed to step up coronavirus testing, a minister said.
* Pope Francis said in his Christmas message that political and economic leaders must not allow market forces and patent laws to take precedence over making Covid 19 vaccines available to everyone, condemning nationalism and the "virus of radical individualism".
* France recorded its first case of the new variant coronavirus as the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 increased, adding to concerns about a new wave of viruses in the euro area's second largest economy.
* Russia on Saturday approved its main COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, for use by people over the age of 60. Russian news agencies quoted the Ministry of Health as saying.
* U.S. states facing coronavirus vaccine delivery backlog are urging medical and nursing students, and even firefighters, to fire the shots and free the healthcare workers battling a raging pandemic in overcrowded hospitals .
* The U.S. government is urging all passengers arriving from the UK to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of flight departure on Monday due to concerns about a new variant of coronavirus that may be more transmissible.
* Families across Mexico downsized Christmas celebrations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while others went on vacation alone after losing loved ones to the pandemic that killed more than 120,000 people in Mexico this year.
* Japan announced on Saturday that it would temporarily ban foreign nationals from entering the country from December 28, as it tightens its borders after a new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus was discovered.
* The Philippines on Saturday approved measures to slow the spread of new, more infectious variants of coronavirus as President Rodrigo Duterte warned of a second lockdown if cases surge before the country receives its first vaccines in May.
* South Korea recorded the second highest daily number of coronavirus cases on Saturday as outbreaks in prisons, nursing homes and churches continued to rise, prompting authorities to suspend all year-end gatherings.
* Sydney residents were told not to go to stores for Boxing Day bargains while those in some suburbs on the northern beach prepared to be strictly closed again for three days from Sunday as the Australian city tries to stamp out a coronavirus outbreak.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* At least seven people were killed and several others were injured in a fire on Saturday in a private hospital treating coronavirus patients on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
* Iran has extended a nighttime curfew to 330 lower risk cities to keep up the recent decline in the number of new coronavirus infections and deaths, state television reported on Saturday.
* Matron Annamarie Odendaal has canceled all employee holidays in the COVID-19 ward at the private Arwyp Medical Center in Johannesburg as a second wave of the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the South African health system.
* The CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese Sinovac Biotech Ltd SVA.O has shown between 50% and 90% effectiveness in Brazilian studies, the Sao Paulo Minister of Health said, and the Brazilian manufacturer announced that the full study results would be up to be published on January 7th.
* Moderna Inc expects the immunity induced by the COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the coronavirus variants reported in the UK.
* Brazilian researchers said the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech in China is more than 50% effective according to preliminary data, but again withheld the full results of their late-stage study at Sinovac's request.
* Millions of Americans' unemployment benefits expired Saturday after President Donald Trump refused to sign a $ 2.3 trillion pandemic and spending package on coronavirus.
(Compiled by Charles Regnier, Aditya Soni and Krishna Chandra Eluri and Uttaresh.V; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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