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The number of coronavirus infections recorded across the world passed the 90 million mark on Monday (11 January). Mexico, France and Russia confirmed the presence of the new variant first found in Britain, while China’s daily tally of cases reached its highest in more than five months, write Anita Kobylinska and Ramakrishnan M.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS * Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals here for a case tracker and summary of news.

EUROPE

* Britain is ramping up its rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations as its top medical officer said the next few weeks will be the worst yet, with deaths and cases hitting record highs.

* Britain is concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in supermarkets, particularly when shoppers break the rules by not wearing masks.

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* Spain’s government will send convoys carrying COVID-19 vaccines and food to areas hit by the heaviest snowfall in decades.

* Several thousand protesters gathered in Prague’s Old Town Square on Sunday to call on the government to lift coronavirus restrictions.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* A World Health Organization (WHO) team of international experts tasked with investigating the origins of the pandemic will arrive in China on Jan. 14, Chinese authorities said.

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* Japanese health officials have detected a new coronavirus variant, which differs from those found in Britain and South Africa, in four travellers from Brazil’s Amazonas state.

* China will continue to suspend flights to and from Britain and Vietnam and will limit flights bringing citizens home until the end of the Lunar New Year in mid-February.

* The Philippines has secured 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February.

* Indonesia’s food and drug agency granted emergency use approval to a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech.

AMERICAS

* Brazil’s weekly rolling average of deaths per day reached 1,111 on Sunday, passing 1,000 for the first time since early August.

* U.S. President-elect Joe Biden may speed up distribution of vaccines to states, and said he would deliver a plan costing “trillions” of dollars this week.

* Texas will allocate about half of its latest vaccine supplies to just 28 healthcare sites, officials said on Sunday, aiming to speed distribution.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Seychelles has started vaccinating its population with doses from China’s Sinopharm vaccine, President Wavel Ramkalawan said.

* Algeria has become the first African country to register Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine for use.

* The Palestinian Authority said it expects to receive its first vaccine doses in March under a deal with drugmaker AstraZeneca.

* Israel’s coronavirus vaccination campaign, which it says is the world’s fastest per capita, shifted to booster shots on Sunday.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* The U.S. drugs regulator said genetic variants of COVID-19 could lead to false negative results from some molecular tests, but the risk of the mutations affecting overall testing accuracy is low.

* Europe’s medicines regulator expects drugmaker AstraZeneca to apply for approval of its vaccine next week.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* World shares slipped from record highs on Monday as caution over rising cases saw some profit-taking from investors, while Treasury yields remained close to 10-month highs, indicating expectations for global reflation from anticipated U.S. fiscal stimulus. [MKTS/GLOB]

* China’s factory gate prices fell last month at their slowest pace since February, official data showed on Monday.

* Brent crude oil prices fell by $1 per barrel on Monday, hit by renewed concerns about global fuel demand amid tough lockdowns in Europe and new curbs on movement in China.

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Commission approves €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support cattle farmers affected by the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support farmers active in the cattle-breeding sector affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure aims at mitigating the liquidity shortages that the beneficiaries are facing and at addressing part of the losses they incurred due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the Latvian government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. The Commission found that the scheme is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework.

In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €225,000 per beneficiary; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64541 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in the Region of the Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. It follows another Portuguese scheme to support the passenger transport sector in Azores that the Commission approved on 4 June 2021 (SA.63010). Under the new scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure will be open to collective passenger transport companies of all sizes active in the Azores. The purpose of the measure is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that these companies are facing and to address losses incurred over 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus.

The Commission found that the Portuguese scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €1.8 million per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions of the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64599 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission authorizes French aid scheme of €3 billion to support, through loans and equity investments, companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic

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The European Commission has cleared, under EU state aid rules, France's plans to set up a € 3 billion fund that will invest through debt instruments and equity and hybrid instruments in companies affected by the pandemic. The measure was authorized under the Temporary State Aid Framework. The scheme will be implemented through a fund, titled 'Transition Fund for Businesses Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic', with a budget of € 3bn.

Under this scheme, support will take the form of (i) subordinated or participating loans; and (ii) recapitalization measures, in particular hybrid capital instruments and non-voting preferred shares. The measure is open to companies established in France and present in all sectors (except the financial sector), which were viable before the coronavirus pandemic and which have demonstrated the long-term viability of their economic model. Between 50 and 100 companies are expected to benefit from this scheme. The Commission considered that the measures complied with the conditions set out in the temporary framework.

The Commission concluded that the measure was necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of France, in accordance with Article 107 (3) (b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the temporary supervision. On this basis, the Commission authorized these schemes under EU state aid rules.

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Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (pictured), competition policy, said: “This €3bn recapitalization scheme will allow France to support companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic by facilitating their access funding in these difficult times. We continue to work closely with member states to find practical solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic while respecting EU regulations.”

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