China’s health regulatory agency has granted “conditional” approval of a COVID vaccine 12 months after the virus was first detected in Wuhan City. The vaccine, which is 79 percent effective, was developed by the state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm.

The U.S. has recorded its highest daily COVID death toll as the world prepares to turn the page in a grim year defined by the pandemic.

New Year’s Eve has been a year since the WHO first mentioned mysterious pneumonia in China that was later identified as COVID-19. In 2020 more than 1.79 million people were killed and the global economy was destroyed in unprecedented ways.

International efforts have helped develop vaccines in record time. On Wednesday the UK approved a vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. This makes it the third vaccine in the western world after the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Regardless, pandemic restrictions are dampening the New Year celebrations for billions of people looking to say goodbye to viruses in 2020.

From Sydney to Rome, fireworks, stake burnings, and live performances are seen online or on TV – unless they have been completely canceled.

Here are the latest updates:

2 hours ago (07:39 GMT)

China grants “conditional” approval to its first COVID vaccine

China has given a Sinopharm vaccine with a reported effectiveness of 79 percent a “conditional” marketing authorization, the health authorities said on Thursday. This is an important step towards vaccinating the world’s largest population.

The Sinopharm shock, which was ahead of a number of Chinese competitors in phase three studies, has a lower rate of effectiveness than the competitive puffs developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – with rates of 95 and 94 percent, respectively.

According to authorities, health workers and other workers destined for overseas jobs have already been given around 4.5 million doses of largely unproven emergency vaccines made domestically.

China confirms the first case of a UK variant of coronavirus

China has confirmed its first case of a new variant of coronavirus that may be spreading faster and was recently discovered in the UK.

The new strain led to UK travel restrictions in more than 50 countries – including China. The first patient in China with the new variant is a 23-year-old woman from Shanghai who traveled from the UK on December 14, the Chinese Center for Disease Control said in a research report published on Wednesday.

She showed mild symptoms and was hospitalized on arrival. Health professionals genetically sequenced their test samples on Dec. 24, “based on travel history from the UK and anomalies in nucleic acid test results,” said the Chinese CDC.

Record COVID cases in Tokyo, heavy snowfall shortens New Years celebrations in Japan

New coronavirus infections in Tokyo have hit a record high of more than 1,300 and raised fears of an explosion, according to local media. New Years Eve celebrations were curtailed as the country battled a third wave of the pandemic.

Many flights were also canceled as heavy snowfall hit several areas of Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga urged people to celebrate the New Year calmly and avoid unnecessary trips amid the twin crisis.

Year-end shoppers wearing protective face masks are seen in a shopping and entertainment district amid the COVID outbreak in Tokyo [Issei Kato/Reuters]2 hours ago (07:12 GMT)

South Africa reports a daily record of nearly 18,0000 COVID cases

South Africa has seen a record increase in coronavirus infections of 17,710 per day, beating the previous high of around 14,500 a few days ago.

“To date, a total of 1,039,161 COVID-19 cases have been identified, with 17,710 cases (positivity rate 33 percent) identified since the last report,” said a statement from the Ministry of Health. “The positivity rate as an indicator of the speed of spread is still very important,” said the ministry.

The positivity rate is the percentage of people who tested positive out of the total number of people tested.

2 hours ago (07:13 GMT)

Indonesia receives 1.8 million more doses of Sinovac COVID vaccine

Indonesia has received its second batch of coronavirus vaccines from Chinese company Sinovac, the country’s foreign and health ministers said as the fourth most populous country in the world prepares a mass vaccination program that is expected to last more than a year.

The government took 1.8 million doses of the Chinese vaccine, on top of the 1.2 million it received on December 6, and intends to vaccinate its 267 million people for free, starting with health workers on the front lines.

In total, Indonesia has received 329 million vaccine doses, including approximately 125 million from Sinovac, 50 million from Novavax, and 54 million from the global vaccination program COVAX.

2 hours ago (07:14 GMT)

Philippine Islands Isolate After New Variant Of COVID In Malaysia

The islands that make up a province in the southern Philippines will seal themselves off for the first two weeks from Monday to keep a new variant of COVID out of nearby Malaysia, the governor said.

In Sulu, where more than 900,000 people live, only two cases of the coronavirus are currently known, of which 242 have so far been recorded in the country, of which 12 were deaths.

“This is to protect our coasts from the reported COVID-19 strain in Sabah, Malaysia since we are so close,” Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan told ANC news channel on Thursday.

A woman is given a swab test at a testing station in Makati City during a COVID pandemic [File: Reuters/Lisa Marie David]

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