Hopes over Covid-19 vaccines have given a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe, but the disease remains rampant and world leaders are urging people to be patient.
France was expected to loosen its coronavirus restrictions yesterday as the boss of a major airline said proof of vaccination will likely become the only way people can fly in a post-pandemic world.
French President Emmanuel Macron will address the country -- currently under lockdown -- to announce a reworking of the rules following a drop in nationwide infections.
Macron's televised speech comes a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said thanks to a major vaccine breakthrough, "the escape route is in sight" from the coronavirus crisis.
Johnson said that although the "scientific cavalry" was arriving, he warned "Christmas cannot be normal and there's a long road to spring".
The world is still engulfed in the unprecedented health crisis which has shattered economies, infected almost 58.9 million people and left nearly 1.4 million dead.
Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine is 95 percent effective according to a second interim analysis of clinical trial data, its developers said yesterday.
The two-dose vaccine will be available on international markets for less than $10 (8.40 euros) per dose, they said, and will be free for Russian citizens.
It can be stored at between two and eight degrees Celsius (between 35.6 and 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit), they said, instead of the temperatures below freezing required for some other vaccines.
AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Monday said their drug had proved on average 70 percent effective at stopping the virus after trying it on 23,000 people, days after tests of two other drugs suggested they were more than 90 percent effective.
The French head of AstraZeneca says in an interview with AFP that three billion doses of the vaccine will be made available in 2021 at cost -- around 2.50 euros ($3) per dose.
The European Union has struck a deal for up to 160 million doses of US firm Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine candidate, the head of the European Commission said yesterday, taking the EU's potential stock of Covid-19 shots to nearly 2 billion.
Last week, Moderna said its experimental vaccine was 94.5 percent effective in preventing Covid-19, based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned yesterday that any Covid-19 vaccine could lead to side-effects in some people, as even popular medicines do, and that the government would only go by science in finalising one for the country.
The comments came ahead of the possible launch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by early next year in India.
While World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the latest batch of results as light at the end of the "long dark tunnel", he cautioned that the world had to ensure drugs were distributed fairly.
"Every government rightly wants to do everything it can to protect its people," Tedros said. "But there is now a real risk that the poorest and most vulnerable will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines."
QANTAS VACCINE RULE
Australia's Qantas announced that international travellers will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to fly, becoming the first airline to suggest rules could become common across the industry.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said the carrier would implement the measure once a vaccine was made available to the public.
"Certainly, for international visitors coming out (to Australia) and people leaving the country, we think that is a necessity," he told Channel Nine.
Joyce predicted the rule would likely become standard practice around the world as governments and airlines consider the introduction of electronic vaccination passports.
However, other major regional airlines, such as Korean Air and Japan Airlines, said it was too early to comment on what travel requirements might be when a vaccine becomes widely available.
Following Qantas' announcement, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said "no final decision" had yet been taken on how to proceed when vaccines are available, but indicated vaccination or a strict two-week quarantine would be a condition for entry.
"We would expect that people coming to Australia whilst Covid-19 is a significant disease in the world will either be vaccinated or they will isolate," he said.
Australia's Victoria state announced its last coronavirus patient had been cleared of Covid-19 -- a major milestone for what had been the epicentre of the country's second wave.
But in China, where the virus was first detected late last year, hundreds of flights at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport were cancelled after a small cluster of cases in the city was linked to several cargo handlers.
And officials in Hong Kong ramped up already tight social distancing measures following a local spike in infections, shuttering bars, pubs, party rooms and nightclubs. All live performances and dancing have also been banned.
Daily case numbers have approached three figures in recent days, prompting the stricter rules.