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A woman walks in from of a mural painting of a nurse, in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Coronavirus infections are surging again in the Italian northern region where the pandemic first took hold in Europe, putting pressure again on hospitals and health care workers. - Sputnik International

Live Updates: COVID-19 Cases in Europe Surpass 25 Million, AFP Tally Says

As the pandemic is on the rise, with new strains of the coronavirus detected in several countries, mass vaccination campaigns are being launched across the world.

The global coronavirus tally has now reached 79.3 million, while the death toll is over 1,741,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The most affected countries are the US (over 18.6 million infected, 329,000 deaths), India (over 10 million infections, more than 145,000 fatalities), and Brazil (over 7.4 million cases, and a death toll of over 189,000).

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22:41 GMT 25.12.2020
22:11 GMT 25.12.2020
20:11 GMT 25.12.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Moscow has registered 77 deaths of patients infected with COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the Russian capital's death toll to 10,840, the city's coronavirus response center said in a statement on Friday.

"Another 77 patients, who were diagnosed with pneumonia and tested positive for the coronavirus infection, died in Moscow," the center said.

18:35 GMT 25.12.2020
18:29 GMT 25.12.2020
18:09 GMT 25.12.2020

HELSINKI, (Sputnik) - The first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines will reach Estonia on Saturday, and the country will launch its vaccination campaign the day after, the Ministry of Social Affairs said on Friday.

The European Union has said that the vaccination campaign will be launched across all member states simultaneously in late December.

"The first shipments of the vaccine will arrive in Tallinn on Saturday morning. The safety of the cargo arrival will be ensured by the Police and Border Guard. On Sunday, December 27, the coronavirus vaccination will officially begin in Estonia," the ministry said in a statement.

Social Affairs Minister Tanel Kiik has said that vaccines will be delivered to the most-affected regions first, and the first shots will be administered in the Ida-Viru county. In the first phase of the campaign, Estonia will receive 9,750 vaccine doses, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, and the country plans to vaccinate less than 5,000 people

According to preliminary agreements, Estonia has ordered over 600,000 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses, more than 1.3 million doses from AstraZeneca, and another 300,000 doses from Pharmaceutica NV. The Baltic country is also negotiating with other vaccine developers as well.

17:58 GMT 25.12.2020
17:33 GMT 25.12.2020

KIEV, (Sputnik) - Kiev plans to acquire from 100,000 to 200,000 doses of a vaccine against COVID-19, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said in an interview with the Ukrainian magazine Focus.

"I want us to acquire 100,000-200,000 doses in January, but we have to work very hard so that people agree to get vaccinated," Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian president has mentioned tasking Minister of Health Maxym Stepanov with getting the vaccine in January or February at the latest, saying that it will be Stepanov's most challenging task yet, as the country is not among the priority countries.

"And here you show if you are a minister or not. Because if your country is not on the list of those who will get the vaccine anyway ... you have to do everything to get on that list. This is a test," Zelenskyy underscored.

Zelenskyy has added that he will not use his position to get vaccinated free of charge and will do it on his own dime.

"This is normal. The approach is simple — we will not block paid vaccination. This is not right. We need to open the market," the president stated.

Ukraine has confirmed a total of more than 1 million cases, including 17,581 fatalities. 

16:08 GMT 25.12.2020

MOSCOW, (Sputnik) - One of the leaders of the German movement against the COVID-19 restrictive measures (Querdenken) Michael Ballweg called on his associates to take a pause in protest activity and not hold large demonstrations until spring.

Querdenken held several large protests in 2020 and planned to hold another rally from December 30-31, but the Berlin authorities did not agree to hold a large demonstration for more than 20,000 participants.

"As you already know from the media, rallies on December 30-31 are banned by the city of Berlin. I would like to ask you to accept the prohibition of demonstrations in Berlin and not to come to Berlin on December 30, 31 and January 1. I am indefinitely stopping large-scale Querdenken protests and recommend that all Querdenken groups in all parts of Germany do the same," Ballweg said in a video message posted on the movement's Telegram channel.

The Querdenken movement initially emerged in Stuttgart, where they held large protests against the restrictive measures on COVID-19, considering them a violation of constitutional rights, although the German Constitutional Court recognized in the spring that the restrictions imposed by the authorities did not violate basic law. Since August, Querdenken began to organize large protests in Berlin, which each time led to clashes between participants and the police.

16:05 GMT 25.12.2020
15:37 GMT 25.12.2020
15:03 GMT 25.12.2020

There is no evidence that the 501.V2 variant of the coronavirus that has been detected in South Africa has higher transmissibility than the strain recently identified in the United Kingdom despite such claims from London, South African Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said.

Earlier this week, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the 501.V2 variant has also been detected in his country and claimed that it is more dangerous than VOC-202012/01, the coronavirus strain that is 70 more contagious than usual and has been spreading in the UK since September.

"We have consulted with our genomics team who have assured us that, at present, there is no evidence that the 501.V2 is more transmissible than the United Kingdom variant- as suggested by British Health Secretary," the minister said in a statement published on Thursday.

The minister added that were also no indications to suggest that the 501.V2 variant increases COVID-19 mortality, specifying that the strain is still "subject of further investigation."

Mkhize also voiced concern that Hancock’s statement may lead to the assumption that COVID-19 spread in the UK is linked to the 501.V2 variant.

"We have, however, noted the statement delivered yesterday by the Secretary for Health in the United Kingdom, Matt Hancock, and must register our concern that some of his utterances have created a perception that the variant in SA [South Africa] has been a major factor in the second wave in UK. This is not correct. There is evidence that the UK variant developed earlier than the South African variant," the minister said.

The minister specified that two variants are "completely independent lineages."

The UK has banned entry for passengers traveling from South Africa over the new variant spreading there for 10 days starting from Thursday.

15:00 GMT 25.12.2020

Fifty-seven percent of Germans have concerns about possible side effects of a coronavirus vaccine, according to a YouGov poll for the dpa news agency.

With two days left before the start of vaccination campaign in Germany, the findings show that the two-thirds of respondents said they are ready to get a COVID-19 shot. Thirty-two percent want to receive it as soon as possible, while another 33 percent prefer to wait and see first.

A total of 19 percent do not want to get vaccinated, and a further 16 percent are still undecided.

The poll was carried out from December 21-23 among 2,035 people.

Germany is set to start vaccination on December 27. Those aged over 80, residents and staff of care homes and frontline medical personnel are the first in line to receive a shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

15:00 GMT 25.12.2020

The head of Egypt's National Elections Authority, Lashin Ibrahim, died on Friday from the COVID-19-related complications, the Al Ahram newspaper reported.

Ibrahim, who had led the authority since 2017, was diagnosed with the coronavirus 20 days ago and was being treated at a private hospital.

Ibrahim oversaw the country's presidential election in 2018 and an election campaign to Egypt's  upper and lower houses of the parliament earlier this year.

14:43 GMT 25.12.2020

"Out of approximately 10,000 coronavirus tests taken on Thursday, 43 percent came back positive, 4,363 new patients have been added. Due to the Christmas holiday, there was limited testing that day. Altogether, there are currently 96,308 patients, including 4,455 hospitalized ones," the country's health ministry said in a statement.

13:50 GMT 25.12.2020

VATICAN CITY (Sputnik) - In his Christmas address on Friday, Pope Francis urged for unity among people in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic

"At this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters", the Pontiff said as quoted by the Holy See.

Francis went on to mention several current crises, such as the situation in Lebanon, the Middle East, and the Eastern Mediterranean.

"May the Son of the Most High sustain the commitment of the international community and the countries involved to continue the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as in the eastern regions of Ukraine, and to foster dialogue as the sole path to peace and reconciliation", the pope added.

12:49 GMT 25.12.2020
12:31 GMT 25.12.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Those arriving in Russia from the UK will have to self-isolate for 14 days, according to a fresh decree by Russia's chief public health doctor, Anna Popova.

"People arriving from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Russian territory (except aircraft crew members) have to self-isolate in places of their residence or stay for 14 days from the day of the arrival", the document, published on the official legal information portal, read.

11:56 GMT 25.12.2020
11:43 GMT 25.12.2020
11:22 GMT 25.12.2020

"The detection of the first case of the new variant of COVID-19 on Middle East Airlines flight 202 coming from London on Dec. 21", the country’s caretaker health minister said on Twitter, urging all passengers on the flight and their families to take precautionary measures.

11:21 GMT 25.12.2020
09:46 GMT 25.12.2020
09:38 GMT 25.12.2020

MOSCOW, (Sputnik) - Japan will restrict entry from South Africa over the new coronavirus variant that has been registered there, the Kyodo news agency reported on Friday, citing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

The 501.V2 variant of the coronavirus, which has been circulating in the African country, has prompted foreign nations to halt air traffic. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that 501.V2 could be even more contagious than the strain recently identified in the United Kingdom, a claim denied by South African health authorities. Japan has already suspended travel to and from the UK.

In addition to limiting entrance from South Africa, Japan will also bar entry for foreigners who have a travel history with South Africa, according to Suga.

Japan has confirmed the first cases of the coronavirus strain that was discovered in the UK on its soil but no cases of the 501.V2 variant have been reported.

09:36 GMT 25.12.2020
08:21 GMT 25.12.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russia has registered 29,018 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, up from record 29,935 the day before, bringing the total to 2,992,706, the federal response centre said on Friday.

"Over the past 24 hours, 29,018 coronavirus cases were confirmed in 85 regions, including 4,543 cases (15.7 percent) without clinical symptoms", the centre said, adding that the cumulative case count has now reached 2,992,706, with the rate of increase at 1 percent.

08:10 GMT 25.12.2020
07:58 GMT 25.12.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Ireland has approved the use of the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech, with first deliveries expected as early as 26 December, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said Friday, adding that a vaccination campaign will start next Wednesday.

"Delighted to report that I've just signed the regulation authorising the use of the Pfizer vaccine in Ireland. First delivery will be St. Stephen’s Day, first vaccinations 30th December", Donnelly said on Twitter.

07:28 GMT 25.12.2020
07:08 GMT 25.12.2020
07:01 GMT 25.12.2020
06:57 GMT 25.12.2020

BEIJING (Sputnik) - The Hong Kong government announced on Friday that the compulsory coronavirus-related quarantine for all inbound travelers would be extended from 14 to 21 days, fearing that the incubation period of the mutated COVID-19 strain may be longer than two weeks.

"While there is currently no evidence showing that the incubation period of the new virus variant is longer... there is a need for the Government to introduce resolute measures immediately to tighten the compulsory quarantine requirements for persons arriving at Hong Kong... who have stayed in places outside China on the day of arrival at Hong Kong or during the 21 days before that day have to undergo compulsory quarantine for 21 days in designated quarantine hotels", a government spokesman said, as quoted in the statement.

06:45 GMT 25.12.2020
05:17 GMT 25.12.2020
04:32 GMT 25.12.2020
04:28 GMT 25.12.2020

The US will oblige all passengers from UK fligths to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure starting Monday, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated.

04:28 GMT 25.12.2020

According to the FDA advisory committee, people with cosmetic facial fillers could experience swelling and inflammation after receiving the Moderna vaccine.

"Your immune system which causes inflammation is revved up when you get a vaccine, that's how it's supposed to work", said Dr Shirley Chi, who noted the side effects were easily treated. "So it makes sense that you would see an immune response in certain areas where they see some substance that is not a naturally occurring substance in your body".

She noted, that the side effects shouldn't stop people from getting the vaccine.

"In these cases the patients all had swelling and inflammation in the area that was given the filler... A couple of the patients had cheek filler six months prior to their vaccine and one patient had lip filler done two days after the vaccine. All were treated with steroids and anti-histamines and all of their reactions resolved".

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