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Countries around the world tightened their population restrictions on Saturday to tackle a coronavirus resurgence as the European Union offered to help pharmaceutical companies expand vaccine production to alleviate “bottlenecks” in distribution.

From curfews to alcohol bans to total bans, governments are trying to combat spikes in certain cases.

The coronavirus has killed more than 1.8 million people worldwide since it emerged in China in December 2019. This comes from a list of official sources compiled by AFP.

However, experts fear the worst is yet to come, and predict a sharp spike in infections and deaths after weeks of holiday gatherings.

French police booked hundreds of New Year celebrants on Saturday for breaking COVID measures at an illegal rave.

In Bangkok, the city’s nightlife has closed following a ban on the sale of bars, nightclubs and restaurant alcohol, under a series of restrictions aimed at containing the rising number of viruses in the kingdom.

Public schools in the Thai capital are said to be closed for two weeks.

An outbreak in a fish market last month sparked a resurgence of the virus in Thailand. Infections have been found in 53 of the kingdom’s 77 provinces.

In Tokyo, the city’s governor on Saturday called on the Japanese 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 antivirus restrictions to January 17 in the greater Seoul area, including a ban on gatherings of more than four people, which will be extended across the country.

Vaccination race

The increasing number of infections around the world means the race for vaccination will dominate the coming year.

Delays in obtaining vaccines in Europe are not the fault of the European Union, said block health commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

“The current bottleneck is not the volume of orders, but the global lack of production capacity,” she said.

The block would help drug companies in their efforts to expand production, she added.

“The situation will improve step by step.”

India conducted nationwide drills to launch one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination programs on Saturday as its drug agency prepared approval for the AstraZeneca-Oxford University shot.

In the US, the vaccination program was fraught with logistical problems, while the hardest hit country in the world overcame 20 million cases on Friday.

The U.S. has seen a worrying spike in coronavirus infections in recent months, with the highest number in a day at more than 277,000 on Saturday.

In Russia, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said more than 800,000 people received the domestically manufactured Sputnik V vaccine and distributed 1.5 million doses of around 147 million across the country.

The Kremlin has been reluctant to impose nationwide virus restrictions, placing its hopes on mass vaccination instead to end the pandemic and save its weak economy.

The French government, threatened by a new wave of COVID-19 infections, extended the overnight curfew by two hours in parts of the country to help fight the virus.

The curfew begins at 6 p.m. and not 8 p.m. in parts of France, mainly in the east of the country. Paris has been spared the additional restriction for the time being.

“We had to celebrate”

The new French restrictions came as police booked more than 1,200 night owls on Saturday when an illegal rave in north-western France finally ended after more than two days of clashing with police.

Around 800 of them were booked for disregarding antivirus measures and the Brittany regional health authority identified the event as “high risk for the spread of COVID-19”.

“We knew what we were risking … we had to party, everything has been stuck for a year,” said a 20-year-old waitress.

Spanish police broke up another meeting near Barcelona on Saturday that saw 300 people partying for more than 40 hours.

Footballers were also among those who broke the rules. Tottenham’s Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso faced discipline after a picture of them surfaced at a big party.

Norway, which has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, called for COVID-19 tests on arrival Saturday after finding five cases of a new variant of coronavirus that first appeared in the UK.

Denmark discovered 86 cases of the new variant, which is believed to be more contagious, while Vietnam also discovered the strain.

The tiny British enclave of Gibraltar off Spain was closed for 14 days on Saturday. Prime Minister Fabian Picardo said the virus had “spread faster than we can control”.

Greece has extended its tough two-month lockdown to January 10, ending the easing of restrictions during the holiday season.

In Lebanon, doctors warned that hospitals would be overwhelmed by coronavirus cases after the end of the year holidays.

But in Australia, a dazzling show got the finishing touches on Saturday at the Sydney Opera House as the venue prepared to host an opera audience for the first time since March after a viral break.

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© 2021 AFP

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