China reports first case of UK COVID variant

China has detected its first imported case of the new coronavirus variant found in 23-year-old female who returned from the United Kingdom.

A four-day lockdown is set to begin in Turkey in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19 over the New Year’s holiday.

New Year’s Eve marks one year since the WHO first mentioned a mysterious pneumonia in China later identified as COVID-19, which went on in 2020 to kill more than 1.79 million people and devastate the global economy in unprecedented ways.

International efforts helped develop vaccines in record time. On Wednesday the UK approved a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and drug firm AstraZeneca, making it the third vaccine to win approval in the Western world, after the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

France to open city COVID-19 vaccination centres before start of February – minister

Health Minister says Olivier Veran said France would open COVID-19 vaccination centres in cities before the start of February, amid growing criticism that the programme is rolling out too slowly.

Veran said on Twitter the government had decided to “speed up protection of priority public”, meaning medical workers aged over 50 would get a vaccine from Monday.

Irish virus spread worse than formal reporting – health official

Some 4,000 additional positive tests for COVID-19 in the last two to three days have yet to be formally confirmed, meaning the situation is worse than recent record daily figures suggest, a senior Irish health official said.

Ireland reported more than 1,500 cases for the third day in a row on Thursday.

To relieve extreme pressure on the testing system, asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases will no longer be advised to get tested and will instead be asked to restrict their movements for 14 days.

Turkey’s death toll rises by 239 – ministry

Turkey’s coronavirus death toll rose by 239 in the last 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed, bringing the total number of deaths to 20,881.

The number of new cases stood at 14,380 over the same period, bringing total cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 2,208,652.

NBA to require contact-tracing sensors

The NBA is planning to beef up its ability to track the contacts of players and some team staff members as the league continues to fight its battle with the coronavirus.

ESPN reported that the NBA is expected to require players and others in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 groups to wear the Kinexon SafeZone contact sensor devices while they are taking part in all team activities, except for games, beginning January 7.

France detects case of South African coronavirus variant

France has detected its first case of the South African variant of coronavirus, the health ministry said on Thursday.

The 501.V2 Variant was detected by South African authorities in mid December.

Cases have since been found in Japan and Britain among others.

England readies Nightingale field hospitals as infections surge

England is preparing to reopen its Nightingale field hospitals as a surge in cases of the new strain of coronavirus has put pressure on hospital beds.

A spokesman for the state-run National Health Service said the temporary facilities across England “are being readied to admit patients once again should they be needed”.

He said that “in anticipation of pressures rising from the spread of the new variant infection,” the authorities asked the NHS to ensure the Nightingale hospital in London was “reactivated and ready to admit patients as needed, and that process is under way”.

Mexican president sees main vaccinations done by April

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday that the main part of the vaccination drive against the novel coronavirus in Mexico will have be completed by April.

“I think that by April, the majority of us Mexicans, the most vulnerable, will have been vaccinated,” Lopez Obrador told a regular government news conference.

Portugal’s cases hit record as New Year’s restrictions kick in

Portugal’s daily number of coronavirus cases reached a record high of 7,627 on Thursday as the country prepared for a subdued New Year’s Eve with an 11 pm curfew and no travel between municipalities.

The country, which has so far registered 413,678 cases and 6,906 deaths from the virus, eased restrictions around Christmas but has cracked down again on New Year’s Eve with a ban on travel between municipalities and public gatherings, an 11 pm curfew and a 1 pm curfew from January 1-3.

Virus-ravaged oil market collapses by a fifth in 2020

World oil prices slumped by more than a fifth this year as deadly coronavirus savaged the world’s appetite for crude, despite a vaccine-driven upturn at the end of 2020.

Europe’s benchmark contract North Sea crude stood at $51.13 per barrel in mid-afternoon deals on Thursday. That was a hefty 22.5 percent lower than the same stage a year earlier.

The oil market had begun 2020 on the front foot, with prices rising as simmering tensions in the crude-rich Middle East region threatened to disrupt valuable supplies.

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