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COVID CRISIS

Lockdown looms from China to Europe as virus trials hit turbulence

Cristiano Ronaldo played for Portugal against France on Sunday
Cristiano Ronaldo played for Portugal against France on Sunday AFP/File

As European Union countries impose new restrictions in an effort to stall a surging second wave of coronavirus infections, hopes for a vaccine suffered a blow with the suspension of two clinical trials in the United States.

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The Covid-19 virus is still spreading rapidly worldwide, with over one million deaths and 37 million infections. Many nations that suppressed the first outbreak are now facing a second wave.

Hopes for a vaccine suffered a setback as US pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly said it had suspended the Phase 3 trial of its antibody treatment over an unspecified incident, the second suspension in less than 24 hours after Johnson & Johnson ran into a similar problem.

Macron expected to get tough

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce tighter restrictions and faster testing in a prime-time TV interview late Wednesday, with some media speculating Paris and other cities could face evening curfews.

In Britain, Labour opposition leader Keir Starmer called for a 2-3 week "circuit break" national lockdown to slow the infection rate, saying the government had "lost control" of the outbreak having ignored stringent measures suggested by scientific experts in September.

The Netherlands imposed a "partial lockdown" to curb one of the region's worst coronavirus surges, with all bars, cafes and restaurants to close, and non-medical face coverings mandatory in all indoor spaces for people aged over 13.

Russian death-toll soars

As the rest of Europe struggles to contain the disease, Russia has reported its highest-ever number of daily virus deaths, at 244, and a record number of new cases at almost 14,000.

Italy imposed tougher rules to control a resurgence, including an end to parties, amateur football matches and snacking at bars at night.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki became the latest high-profile figure to go into quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person.

And Portugal's football federation said star striker Cristiano Ronaldo had tested positive for the virus. He played in a match against France last weekend.

China tests an entire city   

China meanwhile rushed to test an entire city of nine million, days after a minor coronavirus outbreak was reported.

More than four million samples had been collected and 1.9 million results returned as of Tuesday afternoon, Qingdao authorities said, adding that no new cases had been found beyond already confirmed infections.

Chinese officials intend to test the entire city -- with a population of 9.4 million people -- by Thursday.

 

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