(Reuters) – China ordered inspections of imported cold chain products to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while Australia said its international borders would stay shut for now and health officials warned Americans could face a “rough” winter. DEATHS AND INFECTIONS * For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread of COVID-19, open https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/ in an external browser. * Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news.
* Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who championed European integration and helped modernise French society in the 1970s, has died at the age of 94 after contracting COVID-19.
* Britain’s Prince Harry has suggested that the pandemic is a rebuke from nature as he called for more action to tackle climate change.
* The European Union criticized Britain’s rapid approval of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, saying its own procedure was more thorough.
* The mayor of the city of Los Angeles announced an emergency order directing all residents within the city to remain in their homes effective immediately.
* U.S. health experts welcomed British emergency approval of Pfizer’s vaccine, while Canadian health authorities should soon complete their regulatory review of the shot.
* Brazil’s health regulator said it was open to approving COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use and outlined the requirements for companies looking to do so.
* Private U.S. companies have the right under the law to require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but are unlikely to do so, experts said.
* Nearly half a million South Korean students nervously began a hyper-competitive university entrance exam on Thursday, with COVID-19 students taking the exam in hospital and others separated by transparent barriers.
* Suspected North Korean hackers have tried to break into at least nine health organisations, including pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and vaccine developer Novavax.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Vaccines will be optional and free to all citizens and residents of Kuwait, the Gulf state’s prime minister said. MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS
* Australia’s pharmaceutical regulator said it is on course to review Pfizer’s vaccine by January 2021.
* Eli Lilly and Co said the U.S. government has purchased 650,000 additional doses of its COVID-19 antibody drug for $812.5 million.
* South Korean drugmaker Daewoong Pharma said it had sought regulatory approval for Phase 2 trials of its anti-parasite niclosamide drug to treat COVID-19 patients.
* An editorial in the influential New England Journal of Medicine cites problems with a World Health Organization study that found Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral remdesivir failed to improve COVID-19 survival.
* Moderna’s vaccine could be approved for emergency use within 24 to 72 hours after the U.S. health regulator’s advisory
* Republicans and Democrats in U.S. Congress remained unable to reach an agreement on fresh relief, although there were early signs that a $908 billion bipartisan proposal could be gaining traction as a negotiating tool.
* Growth in China’s services sector accelerated in November as new business rose at the fastest pace in over a decade, while Japan’s continued to falter in November amid a resurgence in infections.
* Asian shares were mixed on Thursday after a choppy day of Wall Street trade, thanks in part to a disappointing U.S. jobs report, while the greenback languished near 2-1/2 year lows on growing optimism of a vaccine. [MKTS/GLOB]
* Growth in India’s dominant services industry lost some momentum in November as demand weakened, a private survey showed on Thursday.
(Compiled by Ramakrishnan M. and Amy Caren Daniel; Edited by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shounak Dasgupta)