Pfizer-BioNTech says work to increase production will delay European roll-out of coronavirus vaccine
Pfizer-BioNTech said on Friday deliveries of its coronavirus vaccine to Europe will be delayed for up to a month during work to boost capacity at the company's plant in the Belgian city of Puurs.
The announcement came as deaths from the pandemic approached two million and officials from the World Health Organization drew up fresh proposals to fight new strains of the disease.
French health chiefs said on Friday that its pharmaceutical giant Sanofi could manufacture vaccines on behalf of other developers, including Pfizer-BioNTech, while awaiting for approval of its own shot by the end of the year.
However, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Baltic states criticised the Pfizer-BioTech hold-up as unacceptable.
With Europe recording 30,003,905 cases, governments across the continent have imposed more restrictions.
On Thursday, the French prime minister, Jean Castex, announced a 6pm curfew in all metropolitan areas across the country from Saturday for at least 15 days.
He said 18,000 new cases of coronavirus each day had prompted the move.
Portugal entered a fresh on lockdown Friday as the British government started to enforce its ban on all arrivals from South American countries over fears of importing a new coronavirus strain.
"I've taken the urgent decision ... following evidence of a new variant in Brazil," said transport secretary Grant Shapps.
The new strain, known as E484K, has raised alarm among researchers over its possible impact on immunity.
On Friday night, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced the suspension of "travel corridor" arrangements that had allowed arrivals from some countries to avoid quarantine.
"What we don't want to see is all that hard work undone by the arrival of a new variant that is vaccine-busting," he said.
The restrictions will last from 18 January until 15 February. Under the new rules, all travellers must have a recent negative coronavirus test and transfer immediately into isolation of up to 10 days upon arrival.
In the United States, President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a proposal for a 1.5 trillion euro relief package aimed at revitalising the world's largest economy in the wake of the pandemic.
Biden wants to raise the federal minimum wage to 15 dollars (12 euros) an hour, help struggling state and local governments, boost the vaccination campaign and safely reopen schools.
"In this moment of crisis ... we cannot afford inaction," Biden said.
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