Australia began its mass COVID-19 vaccine programme, while the United States approached a staggering half-million deaths despite a recent decline in cases with President Joe Biden planning to memorialize the lives lost.

EUROPE

* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will plot a path out of lockdown on Monday in an effort to gradually reopen the battered $3 trillion economy, aided by one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world.

* The mayor of Nice in southern France called for a weekend lockdown in the area to reduce the flow of tourists as it battles a sharp spike in infections.

* A shipment of 150,000 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University arrived at Belgrade airport, making Serbia the first country in the Western Balkan region to receive supplies of the shot.

AMERICAS

* Argentina’s drug regulator has authorized the emergency use of Sinopharm’s vaccine ahead of expected delivery of 1million doses of the Chinese-made jab.

* Texas will receive almost 1 million vaccine doses in the coming week, Governor Greg Abbott said on Twitter, adding that the state will catch up for delays during the winter storm.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* Serum Institute of India asked for patience from foreign governments awaiting their supply of shots, saying it had been directed to prioritise India’s requirements. Meanwhile, the state of Maharashtra, home to the country’s financial hub Mumbai, imposed new lockdowns in some areas.

* Japan will only receive limited doses of vaccines for the first months of the rollout and shots for the elderly will be distributed gradually, the country’s inoculation chief said.

* China will put greater pressure on its regions to boost grain yields and step up support for its domestic seed industry as it strengthens its focus on food security after the pandemic, a major policy document showed.

* The Philippines has approved Sinovac Biotech’svaccine for emergency use, while Malaysia moved up its inoculation drive by two days.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Israel reopened swathes of its economy including malls and leisure facilities, saying the start of a return to routine was enabled by vaccines administered to almost half the population.

* The head of the World Health Organization urged Tanzania to share information on its measures to combat the pandemic, saying the authorities there had repeatedly ignored his requests.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Fujifilm Holdings Corp will restart a clinical trial in Japan of its antiviral drug Avigan for the treatment ofCOVID-19, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Asian shares turned mixed as expectations for faster economic growth and inflation globally battered bonds and boosted commodities while rising real yields made equity valuations look more stretched in comparison.

* South Korea’s exports during the first 20 days of Februaryexpanded 16.7% from a year earlier, faster than a 10.5% rise during the Jan. 1-20 period, underpinning the trade-led recovery.