Coronavirus: Latest global developments

·2-min read
England enters a strict national lockdown aimed at stemming a steep rise in virus cases that a senior government minister warns could last into March.

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

- Lockdown till March? -

England enters a strict national lockdown aimed at stemming a steep rise in virus cases that a senior government minister warns could last into March.

- WHO hunts origins -

A year after the outbreak started, World Health Organization experts are due in China to investigate the origins of the virus in a trip trailed by accusations of cover-ups, conspiracy and fears of whitewash.

The WHO says China has now granted permission for the 10-person team for a five- or six-week visit -- including a fortnight spent in quarantine.

- Out of work -

The number of registered jobless in Spain jumps nearly 23 percent in 2020, with the country suffering one of the hardest economic blows from the pandemic, government figures show.

- France plays catch up -

The French government, under pressure for lagging behind EU neighbours in rolling out vaccinations, promises to catch up quickly.

Health Minister Olivier Veran says more than 2,000 people had been vaccinated by Monday -- compared to 264,000 so far in Germany -- and that the "cruising speed of vaccinations will catch up with our neighbours in the coming days".

- Germany still battling wave -

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders are due to stage a video conference to extend a partial shutdown in Europe's top economy beyond a January 10 deadline, probably until the end of the month.

- Italy too -

Italy postpones the return of high schools as part of new restrictions, with teenagers now back to class on January 11, but then still only for half their time, and many face further delays depending on regional measures.

- How long between jabs? -

German firm BioNTech warns there is no data backing the "safety and efficacy" of delaying the second shot of its vaccine beyond three weeks, as some countries push back the jab to give more people their first dose.

BioNTech, which developed the vaccine with US giant Pfizer, says its clinical data showing 95 percent efficacy is based on a two-dose schedule separated by 21 days.

- BoJo no show -

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson postpones a post-Brexit trip planned this month to India amid the worsening Covid crisis.

"The prime minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus," Downing Street says Johnson told his Indian counterpart.

- Russia-Germany vaccines? -

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discuss the possibility of jointly producing coronavirus vaccines in a phone call, the Kremlin says.

- 1.85 million dead -

The coronavirus has killed at least 1,854,305 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally on Tuesday based on official sources.

The US is the worst-affected country with 353,628 deaths, followed by Brazil with 196,561, India with 149,850 and Mexico with 127,757.