(Reuters) - The World Health Organization's COVAX initiative aims to start shipping nearly 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa in February, while China said it would donate 100,000 doses to the Congo Republic and forgive $13 million in public debt.
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* France has registered four cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil, although its prime minister dismissed the possibility of a new national lockdown for now.
* Portugal's chief health officer sought to reassure people angry about vaccine delays, while the number of daily new coronavirus cases and deaths edged down.
* Spain's Catalonia region has removed some restrictions, allowing gyms to reopen and people to move outside their municipalities.
* India will provide humanitarian assistance to Myanmar to fight the pandemic, as international pressure mounts against Myanmar's military leaders following a coup.
* Malaysia's government expects to complete its immunisation programme by February 2022, covering 80% of its population.
* The Australian Open will begin as scheduled on Monday even though a worker at a Melbourne hotel where players quarantine tested positive.
* Democrats in the U.S. Senate were poised to take a first step toward President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal, in a marathon "vote-a-rama" session aimed at overriding Republican opposition to the package. [nL1N2KA1PF]
* Argentina's main transport workers group will meet on Thursday afternoon with government officials to request priority access to receive the Sputnik V vaccine.
* A curfew will go into effect for the Cuban capital of Havana on Friday evening, as the Caribbean island struggles with its worst coronavirus surge.
* Peru's interim president said his administration had locked in a deal with Pfizer to purchase 20 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine.
* Deliveries of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to Canada could begin before the end of March, if the country's health regulator approves its use.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Zimbabwe will receive 200,000 free doses of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.
* Qatar re-imposed restrictions on education, leisure and business activities, including closing indoor swimming pools and theme parks and reducing restaurant capacities.
* U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co said it expects to get interim data on its COVID-19 antiviral drug in the first quarter, and warned against the use of its anti-parasite drug to treat the respiratory disease.
* Europe's drugs regulator said it was reviewing data on COVID-19 antibody therapies developed by Eli Lilly and Regeneron for use in some patients.
* British researchers will test mixing Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses in a bid find ways to swiftly reduce infections as new variants emerge.
* Global equities rose for a fourth day of gains on Thursday as signs of a stable U.S. labor market, a revitalized dollar and rising bond yields turned attention to economies on the mend. [MKTS/GLOB]
* The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits decreased further last week.
* The Bank of England gave British lenders at least six months' breathing space on Thursday before negative interest rates are a possibility.
(Compiled by Ramakrishnan M. and Anita Kobylinska; Editing by David Clarke and Anil D'Silva)