Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now passed 68.9 million globally, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 1.57 million.

South Korea is building hospital beds in shipping containers, in an effort to ease the strain on medical facilities under pressure as a result of a wave of COVID-19 infections.

Japan is set to buy 10,500 deep freezers to store COVID – 19 vaccines, the Ministry of Health has said.

Britain’s medicines regulator has said anyone with a history of anaphylaxis to medicine or food should not get the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID – 19 vaccine.

Pfizer and BioNTech have also said that documents relating to the development of their Covid – 19 vaccine have been ‘unlawfully accessed’ in a cyberattack on Europe’s medicines regulator.

The rate of confirmed coronavirus infections n Spain  has hit its lowest level since August, according to Health Ministry data.

Australian scientists say they’ve developed a rapid genome sequencing method  that would cut to less than four hours the time taken to trace the source of COVID-19 cases.

Slovakia has ordered schools and most shops to close  for at least three weeks from 21 December. Outside seating at restaurants will end from tomorrow, with only take-away allowed.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said she expects a programme that freezes payments on IMF debt from the poorest nations to be extended through the end of next year.

Nearly half of Portugal’s have closed  temporarily – or plan to do so – as a result of the impact of the pandemic.

Canada has become the third country – after the UK and Bahrain – toapprove the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid – 19 vaccine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in parliament it was “a good day for Canadians”.

“We will see 30,000 vaccines begin to arrive next week with many more on the horizon, but … we’ve got a tough winter to get through,” Trudeau said.

General inoculations are set to begin in April, after allowing priority populations to go first. The country plans to complete immunizations by the end of 2021.

The World Health Organization has warned that it will take a considerable time for vaccines to be supplied in Latin America.

“It will take many months to receive the vaccines needed to interrupt the transmission of coronavirus,” said Jarbas Barbosa, assistant director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the WHO’s regional branch.

Supplies might not become sufficient until after 2021, PAHO warned. It recommends that countries first aim to vaccinate 20% of the population, with priority given to medical workers and those over 65 or with those with prior health conditions.

The WHO’s call comes as Oxfam warns that nearly 70 poor countries will only be able to vaccine one in 10 people against Covid – 19 next year. be able to vaccine one in 10 people against Covid – 19 next year, unless urgent action is taken.