(Reuters) - Top U.S. health officials announced plans to start vaccinating Americans by mid-December, while the UK parliament approved regional restrictions and the United Nations urged all countries to designate seafarers as key workers against the backdrop of travel restrictions.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* Securing a vaccine for all European countries will be a top priority for Portugal when it takes over the presidency of the European Union next January, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said.
* France said the number of people hospitalised for COVID-19 infections fell by more than 600 to go below the 28,000 threshold for the first time since Nov. 4.
* Turkey's daily COVID-19 death toll hit a record high, as Turks braced for new restrictive measures.
* The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon shorten the length of self-quarantine recommended to 10 days, or 7 days with a negative test, from the current 14-day period.
* Indigenous people, health workers and those aged 75 years and older will be at the front of the line to be vaccinated, Brazil's Health Ministry said as it unveiled a four-stage preliminary plan for national immunization.
* Mexico's government was due to sign a contract on Wednesday with pharmaceutical company Pfizer for the delivery of its vaccine.
* Japan aims to allow "large-scale" numbers of overseas visitors to attend next year's Tokyo Olympics without mandatory vaccinations or quarantine, provided they submit negative test results and download tracking apps, the Nikkei business daily reported.
* Tennis Australia (TA) expects to exhaust most of its A$80 million ($59.01 million) reserves to maintain funding to the sport as it deals with significant costs in staging the Australian Open.
* India may not need to vaccinate all of its 1.3 billion people if it manages to inoculate a critical mass and break the transmission of the coronavirus, government officials said.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Hamas's Gaza leader, Yehya Al-Sinwar, has tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesman for the Islamist militant group, which runs the Palestinian territory, said.
* Lewis Hamilton will miss the Sakhir Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain after testing positive for COVID-19. MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS
* Johnson & Johnson said health regulators in Europe and Canada had started a real-time review of its vaccine candidate after preliminary results showed that the shot triggered the production of antibodies and immune cells.
* Moderna Inc and Pfizer-BioNTech are in a tight race to launch their COVID-19 vaccines in Europe after both applied for emergency European Union approval.
* Serum Institute of India, which has partnered with AstraZeneca to manufacture its vaccine, will continue to test a two full dose regimen of the shot despite it showing a lower success rate than a half and full dose regimen in pivotal trials.
* Asian shares shed early gains from a strong Wall Street lead on Wednesday, as some investors booked profits on a stellar run to record highs, but hope for additional U.S. economic stimulus and a vaccine kept market sentiment well supported.
* The Bank of Japan is ready to extend beyond March a range of steps aimed at easing corporate funding strains, suggesting a decision could come as early as this month.
* Australia's economy rebounded sharply in the third quarter from a recession as consumer spending surged, though the country's top central banker signalled monetary policy will stay accommodative for a while.
(Compiled by Ramakrishnan M., Linda Pasquini and Amy Caren Daniel; Edited by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shounak Dasgupta)