* World Bank President David Malpass urged countries to enter contracts for vaccines now so they could get delivery schedules, saying it was vital to get started in more countries and work through more channels.
* The Chinese mainland reported no new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Friday, the National Health Commission said Saturday. The commission received reports of 10 new imported COVID-19 cases on Friday.
* Russia on Saturday reported 11,534 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, including 1,825 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,234,720 since the pandemic began. The government coronavirus taskforce also reported 439 deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 85,743.
* India said it would let people choose their coronavirus vaccination centres when the campaign expands next week, effectively letting beneficiaries pick either a home-grown shot or the AstraZeneca one, unlike now.
* President Joe Biden’s US$1.9 trillion plan to address the human and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic passed the US House of Representatives early on Saturday, with the next step Senate consideration.
* New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday that the country’s biggest city, Auckland, will be put into a seven-day lockdown from Sunday after a coronavirus community case of unknown origin was recorded.
* Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended partial coronavirus curbs in the capital until the end of March, as the country awaits the arrival of vaccines, the presidential spokesman said on Saturday.
* Thailand on Saturday confirmed 72 more cases of COVID-19, mostly domestic, according to a report of the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). Thailand has so far confirmed 25,881 cases of infection, 23,119 of which were reported as domestic while 2,762 others referred to those who had returned from abroad and tested positive in this country.
* Indonesia has authorised a private vaccination scheme to run alongside its national programme, so that companies can buy vaccines procured by the state for employees, a ministerial regulation showed.
* The Republic of Korea began its inoculation campaign, with shots to be administered in some 200 nursing homes.
* Germany’s government and health chiefs urged the public to take AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, while Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said he was confident that restaurants could be allowed to partially open soon.
* Recreational venues in Finland’s capital region will be closed for two weeks, the Regional State Administrative Agency said, to curb a rise in infections in Helsinki and eight surrounding municipalities.
* Spain will give a single vaccine dose to under 55-year-olds who have already been infected with COVID-19, the Health Ministry said.
* Moldova’s medical agency said it had approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
* Belgium put on hold an expected relaxation of restrictions after hospital admissions of people infected with COVID-19 spiked.
* Poland will raise the upper age limit for people being given the AstraZeneca vaccine to 69, from 65 previously.
* A panel of expert advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration began a meeting to discuss Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, setting the stage for a possible emergency use authorization as early as this week.
* Argentina has received 904,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine in its first delivery from the Chinese drug maker, while an Argentine laboratory has struck a deal to help produce Russia’s vaccine Sputnik V.
* Canada’s drug regulator approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine, the third to have been given a green light.
* Europe’s medicines regulator said that an antibody drug combination developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals can be used to treat COVID-19 patients who do not require oxygen support and are at high risk of progressing to severe illness.
* The European Union’s medicines regulator is expected to recommend drugmaker Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine on March 11.
* Oil prices will stage a steady recovery this year as vaccines reach more people and speed an economic revival, with further impetus coming from stimulus and output discipline by top crude producers, a Reuters poll showed.
* Canada’s budget deficit from April to December widened to CAD248.17 billion (US$195.8 billion) from a deficit of C$10.97 billion a year earlier, as the government provided massive pandemic supports, the finance ministry said.
* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 9,762 to 2,434,446, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday. The reported death toll rose by 369 to 69,888, the tally showed.
* Brazil recorded 13.5 percent unemployment in 2020, equivalent to 13.4 million people and the highest level since 2012, the state-run Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) reported on Friday.
* The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines made by the Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech arrived in Malaysia on Saturday, boosting the country’s capability in the fight against the pandemic.
* Indonesia’s trade balance in January experienced a fairly high surplus of US$1.96 billion, Minister of Trade Muhammad Lutfi said in a statement on Friday.
* Leaders of the European Union (EU) member states on Friday reaffirmed their commitment to increase the EU’s capacity to act autonomously in the context of their strategic debate on European security and defense policy, as well as the need for the bloc to take more responsibility for its security.
* Israel has administered at least one vaccine shot to 50% of its population, while 35% have received the full two-dose course, the health minister said.
* Ivory Coast was due to receive a shipment of vaccines from the sharing facility COVAX on Friday, becoming the second country to benefit from the programme.
* Iran will keep supporting the Syrian government in the fight against terrorism, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a telephone conversation with the Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Friday.
* Nigerian authorities on Friday ordered the closure of all boarding schools in the northwestern state of Zamfara after the abduction of 317 students by gunmen in the state. Bello Matawalle, governor of Zamfara, said in a broadcast that the move was to prevent activities of militants against students.
* The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday that more than 150 illegal migrants have been rescued off the Libyan coast.