(Reuters) – Some European nations eased COVID-19 curbs ahead of the holiday season, while the rate of U.S. hospitalizations hit the highest since the pandemic began just as festive gatherings are expected to propel the next wave of infections.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread of COVID-19, open https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/ in an external browser.
* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news.
* Belgium will let shops reopen from Tuesday, but keep other curbs over the festive period, while Italy will ease anti-COVID restrictions in five regions from Sunday. Ireland will allow shops, restaurants, gyms and pubs serving food to reopen next week, and permit travel between counties from Dec. 18
* The COVID-19 epidemic in Britain is shrinking slightly, with the reproduction “R” number estimated to be below 1, government scientists said.
* Doctors believe most Canadians could be vaccinated against the coronavirus by next September rather than the end of 2021 as previously projected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
* Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he will not take a vaccine, while the governor of Sao Paulo state floated the idea of rolling out one without approval from the national health regulator.
* The World Health Organization’s top emergency expert said it would be “highly speculative” for the WHO to say the coronavirus did not emerge in China.
* Malaysia has agreed to buy 12.8 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to announce a deal with the U.S. drugmaker after some expressed reservations over the need for ultra-cold storage.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Mass vaccination against COVID-19 is unlikely to start in Africa until midway through next year and keeping vaccines cold could be a big challenge, the continent’s disease control group said.
* Turkey’s daily death toll hit a record high for a fifth consecutive day, Health Ministry data showed.
* Britain asked its regulator to assess AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for a possible rollout, while the Philippines and Thailand secured millions of doses, giving the shot a vote of confidence after experts raised questions about trial data.
* Ten COVID-19 vaccines could be available by the middle of next year if they win regulatory approval, but their inventors need patent protection, the head of the global pharmaceutical industry group said.
* World stocks rose to close at a fresh high and remained on track for their strongest monthly performance on record but the Nasdaq outperformed on Wall Street and Treasury yields fell, indicating lingering concerns over rising cases globally.[MKTS/GLOB]
* Canada next week will reveal the breadth of the emergency spending it has made during the pandemic and lay the groundwork for future stimulus and social measures, like a national childcare program, government sources told Reuters.
* Kenya’s central bank has cut its forecast for 2020 economic growth by more than half, joining the Treasury in realising that the coronavirus had inflicted more damage to the economy than previously thought.
(Compiled by Devika Syamnath and Linda Pasquini; Edited by Louise Heavens and Sriraj Kalluvila)