As worldwide coronavirus cases crossed 82.19 million and the death toll rose to 1,796,307 Britain became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
At the same time, Germany expects the EU to rapidly approve that same vaccine.
In the meantime:
* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered millions more people to live under the strictest COVID-19 restrictions from Thursday to counter a new variant of the virus that is spreading at a “sheer pace” across the country.
* France was not planning local lockdown measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 for now, the government’s spokesman said, although he dampened hopes for a quick reopening of cultural attractions and said curfews could be tightened.
* A new strain of COVID-19 that reached Ireland from the United Kingdom is spreading faster than the country’s most pessimistic forecasts, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said.
* U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would not move quickly to consider a bill from the House of Representatives that would raise direct coronavirus relief payments to Americans from $600 to $2,000.
* Brazil will soon weigh emergency-use approval for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after Britain gave the green light, as Latin America’s largest country rushes to catch up with immunization programs under way around the hard-hit region.
* Argentina’s regulator approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University for emergency use, AstraZeneca said in a statement.
* India’s drug regulator will meet again on Friday to consider approving AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s vaccine for emergency use after Britain became the first country to do so, the government said on Wednesday.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Zimbabwe has postponed the re-opening of schools planned for next week due to a surge in coronavirus infections and a tropical storm sweeping through the region.
* A vaccine developed by a unit of China National Biotec Group (CNBG) is 79.34% effective at protecting people from COVID-19 and the company has filed an application for regulatory approval in China for its general public use.
* A new variant of the novel coronavirus does not appear to cause more severe illness than other variants, according to a matched study by Public Health England.
* Wall Street edged higher and the dollar dipped to its lowest in more than two years on Wednesday, the penultimate trading day in a remarkable year of pandemic, recession and recovery.