Countries across the world tightened restrictions on their populations on January 2 to fight a resurgence in the coronavirus, as the EU offered to help drug companies expand vaccine production to improve distribution “bottlenecks”.
From local curfews to alcohol bans and complete lockdowns, governments are trying to tackle a surge in cases.
The coronavirus has killed more than 1.8 million people globally since emerging in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.
But experts fear the worst is yet to come, predicting a sharp rise in infections and deaths after weeks of holiday gatherings.
French police booked hundreds of New Year revellers on January 2 for flouting anti-Covid measures at an illegal rave.
In Tokyo, the city’s governor on January 2 asked Japan’s government to declare a new state of emergency as the country battles a third wave, with record numbers of new cases.
And South Korea extended its anti-virus curbs until January 17 in the greater Seoul area, including a ban on gatherings of more than four people, which will be widened to cover the whole country.
The soaring number of infections around the world means the race to vaccinate is set to dominate the coming year.
Delays in getting the vaccines in Europe were not the fault of the EU, said the bloc’s health commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
She said: “The bottleneck at the moment is not the volume of orders but the worldwide shortage of production capacity.”
The bloc would help drug companies in their efforts to expand production, Kyriakides added. “The situation will improve step by step.”
India on January 2 staged nationwide drills to start one of the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccination programmes as its drug regulator prepared to approve the AstraZeneca-Oxford University shot.
In the US, the vaccination programme has been beset by logistical problems, while the world’s worst-hit country on January 1 passed 20 million cases.
The US has seen a worrying surge in coronavirus infections in recent months and on January 2 saw its highest number yet recorded in one day, with more than 277,000.
In Russia, health minister Mikhail Murashko said 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 around 147 million.
The Kremlin has held back on imposing nationwide virus restrictions, instead placing its hopes on the mass vaccination drive to end the pandemic and save its struggling economy.
The French government, facing the threat of a new wave of Covid-19 infections, lengthened an overnight curfew by two hours in parts of the country to help combat the virus.
The curfew will start at 6:00pm, rather than 8pm in parts of France, mainly in the country’s east. Paris has, for now, been spared the additional restriction.