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France, Romania Receive First Doses of Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

By VOA News December 26, 2020

France on Saturday received its first batches of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which were delivered to the Paris hospital pharmacy network.

Inoculations are planned to begin in two nursing homes Sunday, the same day the rest of Europe is set to begin vaccinations.

France has reported more than 2.6 million COVID-19 infections and over 62,500 deaths. French health officials said they recorded the first case of the new COVID-19 variant that has led to new lockdowns in Britain and global travel restrictions on British residents.

The first batch of Pfizer-Bio╬ŁTech vaccines also arrived in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, on Saturday and is being stored at a military-run facility. The country, like the rest of Europe, will begin injections on Sunday in nine hospitals across the country.

On Saturday, Russia approved its main coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, for use in people over 60 years old, Russian media quoted the health ministry as saying.

According to Russian official data, the country crossed the 3 million mark of infections on Saturday, with over 29,200 new cases and 560 death in the previous 24 hours.

COVID-19 infections in Japan's capital, Tokyo, recorded a new daily high on Saturday.

Japan, like France and some other countries, has also reported cases of the new coronavirus variant. Japan's health ministry said five people who arrived between Dec. 18 and Dec. 21 tested positive for coronavirus and were sent to quarantine straight from the airports. Officials said further analysis showed they had contracted the new variant of the coronavirus.

British authorities have said the new coronavirus variant appears more contagious and may have led to a spike in COVID-19 cases, leading countries around the world to restrict travel from Britain.

U.S. authorities announced Thursday that passengers arriving from Britain must test negative for COVID-19 before departure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new requirement is effective beginning Monday.

In another development Friday, Pope Francis said in his Christmas message that COVID-19 vaccines must be available to all and called on political and business leaders to "promote cooperation, not competition" in the distribution of them.

In Israel, the government announced it would impose its third nationwide lockdown beginning Sunday to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The new restrictions will last for two weeks.

Health officials in China's northeastern port city of Dalian are testing millions of residents after seven new coronavirus cases were reported there in the previous 24 hours. Authorities there have ordered anyone except essential workers to stay home.

South Korea, Japan and Indonesia recorded their highest daily increases in coronavirus cases Friday as a third wave of COVID-19 hit the countries.

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