India said Sunday it has given final approval for the emergency use of two coronavirus vaccines. One of the vaccines was developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Bharat Biotech, an Indian company, developed the other vaccine. Both vaccines are being produced in India.“It would make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval are made in India!” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on Twitter.The news of the approvals comes as India is poised to launch one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination programs. Nationwide drills, ahead of the launch, were staged Saturday.India’s approval of the British-developed vaccine follows Britain’s recent approval of the vaccine.India’s Drugs Controller General V.G. Somani said Sunday that the efficacy of the British-developed AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is 70.42%.Somani, however, described the Indian-developed vaccine as “safe and provides a robust immune response.” He added that the Indian vaccine was approved “in public interest as an abundant precaution, in clinical trial mode, to have more options for vaccinations, especially in case of infection by mutant strains.”Only the United States surpasses India in the number of COVID-19 cases. The U.S. has 20.4 million infections, while India has 10.3 million.In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday said the country had administered more than 4.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide and had distributed more than 13 million doses.The U.S. continues to lead the world with more than 350,000 COVID-19 deaths and 20 million infections, about one-fourth of the 84.5 million COVID-19 cases globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.In Russia, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said that more than 800,000 people had received the domestically produced Sputnik V vaccine and that 1.5 million doses had been distributed throughout the country of 147 million.The Kremlin is pinning its hopes on mass vaccinations, not nationwide restrictions, to stop the spread of the virus and save its struggling economy from the hit of another lockdown.Officials in Brazil, home to the third-highest number of cases globally at 7.7 million, recently told the Associated Press it was at least three weeks away from launching any formal immunization campaign.European Union leaders on Saturday offered to help any drug companies expand vaccine production and improve “distribution bottlenecks.””The bottleneck at the moment is … the worldwide shortage of production capacity,” said EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, adding the bloc would help drug companies develop candidate vaccines.New strainBritish health officials Saturday reported another infection record — more than 57,700 in a single day. It was the fifth day in a row that new infections exceeded 50,000 cases as the country struggles with the spread of a more infectious variant of the virus.A spokesperson for Britain’s National Health Service said health workers were preparing to reopen London’s Nightingale hospitals, according to the Reuters news agency. The temporary Nightingale hospitals were set up by the military around the city and have remained on standby after receiving little use during the first wave of the pandemic.The new strain has led to renewed lockdowns in Britain as well as global restrictions on travelers from Britain.The New York Times reported Friday that at least 33 countries had detected the new coronavirus variant and more than 40 countries had barred travelers arriving from Britain. Florida on Friday was the third U.S. state to detect the new variant, after Colorado and California.On Friday, Turkey began banning Britons from entering the country after detecting 15 cases of the new coronavirus variant. Turkey said all those affected were recent arrivals from Britain.Ban on US travelers, tighter lockdownsThe Philippines said it would prohibit the entry of foreign travelers from the United States until at least Jan. 15 after the new coronavirus variant was detected.In Bangkok, Thai officials shuttered the city’s nightlife with a ban on bar, nightclub and restaurant alcohol sales, among a raft of restrictions aimed at curbing the kingdom’s rising coronavirus toll. In Tokyo, the city’s governor on Saturday asked Japan’s government to declare a new state of emergency as the country battles a third wave of infections, with record numbers of new cases.France, which recently lengthened an overnight curfew by two hours in parts of the country, has the highest COVID-19 case count in Western Europe with more than 2.7 million, according to Johns Hopkins.France deployed more than 100,000 police to stop end-of-the-year celebrations, but partygoers in northwestern France, near Rennes, staged a massive illegal rave, leading to hundreds of arrests.Spanish police broke up another gathering Saturday near Barcelona, where 300 people had been partying for more than 40 hours.Ireland on Saturday reported 3,394 cases of COVID-19, nearly doubling its record for a single day. Irish officials Friday said they had underreported coronavirus cases in recent days by more than 9,000, as its reporting system came under strain.Italy, which has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe at nearly 75,000, Saturday reported 364 more people had died from the virus, a drop compared with Friday’s total of 462. The Guardian reported that new cases had also decreased, from 22,211 to 11,831.Norway, with one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, Saturday began requiring COVID-19 tests upon arrival into the country, after finding five cases of the British variant of the virus. Denmark discovered 86 cases of that new, more contagious strain.Greece has extended until Jan. 10 its strict two-month lockdown measures, ending an easing of the restrictions for the holidays.In Zimbabwe, where recorded cases have almost doubled since the beginning of November, government officials ordered a new containment Saturday evening. The country has recorded nearly 14,500 cases to date, including 377 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.In South Africa, government-backed security forces stepped up a “zero-tolerance approach” to enforcing a mask mandate, and President Cyril Ramaphosa banned alcohol sales, calling it a root cause of accidents and violence that strain hospital resources.The coronavirus has killed more than 1.8 million people globally since emerging in China in December 2019, according to Johns Hopkins.But experts fear the worst is yet to come, predicting a sharp rise in cases and deaths after weeks of holiday gatherings.



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