World News in Brief: November 26

Drugmakers Pfizer Inc and MSD, known as Merck & Co Inc in the United States and Canada, have agreed to give licenses to firms in Vietnam to produce COVID-19 treatment pills.

The EU's drug regulator approved the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11.
The EU's drug regulator approved the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11.

* The World Health Organization is convening an experts' meeting from Geneva at midday (1100 GMT) on Friday to assess the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 amid growing concern, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said.

* A new variant of the coronavirus, identified in South Africa, has sparked concerns among global health authorities given its high number of mutations and vaccine-resistant nature, with countries swiftly imposing travel curbs from the African nation.

* Stocks suffered their sharpest drop in three months in Asia and oil tumbled after the new variant sent investors scurrying toward the safety of bonds, the yen and the dollar.

* Singapore will restrict arrivals from south Africa and countries nearby in an effort to keep out a new COVID-19 variant, its health ministry said on Friday.

* The Philippines will reopen its borders to tourists from some countries on a trial basis from Dec. 1, its government said on Friday, as part of efforts to rebuild an economy hit hard by the pandemic.

* Foreign countries are responsible for stoking unrest that has led to violent protests in the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said on Friday, as the small South Pacific island country struggles to quell the unrest.

* The United States threatened on Thursday to confront Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency next month if it does not cooperate more with the watchdog - an escalation that could undermine talks on reviving a 2015 big-power deal with Iran.

* Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron signed a treaty on Friday to strengthen bilateral ties at a time when European diplomacy is being tested by the departure of Germany's Angela Merkel.

* Millions of Americans got booster shots at a near record pace after the Biden administration expanded eligibility last week, but health officials concerned about climbing infections ahead of the winter holiday season urged more to get the additional protection.

* Japan decided to tighten border controls for visitors from South Africa and five other African countries, as per a Jiji news service report, while India issued an advisory to all states to rigorously test and screen travellers from the African nation and other "at risk" countries.

* Australia said it was investigating the newly identified variant spreading in South Africa and warned it may close its borders to travellers from the African nation if risks rise.

* South African sport faced a shutdown due to the new variant, with rugby teams scrambling to leave before travel restrictions are imposed and the first event of golf's new-look DP World Tour under threat.

* The new variant is the most concerning that British health officials have seen, and the country temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini.

* France would make COVID-19 booster shots available to all adults, toughen rules on wearing face masks, ramp up health pass checks and increase controls at its borders as it seeks to curb a fifth wave of infections.

* Slovakia went into a two-week lockdown on Thursday, as the country with one of the EU's lowest vaccination rates reported a critical situation in hospitals and new infections that topped global tables.

* Hungary needs to increase the number of people taking booster shots against COVID-19 to curb infections, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.

* The Czech Republic reported 27,717 new coronavirus cases for Thursday, the highest daily tally in the country of 10.7 million since the pandemic started, Health Ministry data showed on Friday.

* New Zealand is well prepared for the discovery of new coronavirus variants that may be resistant to vaccines, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday, including the strain currently spreading in South Africa.

* Portugal, which has one of the world's highest vaccination rates, announced it would reimpose restrictions to stop a surge in cases, ordering all passengers flying into the country to show a negative test certificate on arrival.

* Some Dutch hospitals have halted chemotherapy treatments and organ transplants to free up intensive care beds for surging COVID-19 patients.

* Namibia has warned that more than 268,000 doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are at risk of being destroyed, due to a slow uptake by citizens.

* Israel announced it was barring its citizens from travelling to southern Africa and banning the entry of foreigners from the region.

* Morocco has decided to push back its decision to suspend flight with France into Sunday instead of Friday as originally announced, the state news agency reported late on Thursday.

* The Italian coastguard has rescued about 300 migrants from an overloaded boat that ran into difficulty in rough seas in the Mediterranean as they tried to reach Europe.

* Authorities on the Caribbean island of Martinique ordered a curfew on Thursday after protesters looted shops and set up burning barricades as demonstrations against COVID-19 protocols spread across France's overseas' territories.

* Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore promised to end "dysfunction" within the military in a speech on Thursday night, as the nation braced for more protests against worsening insecurity.

* Turkey's domestically developed vaccine, Turkovac, has applied for emergency authorisation, the health minister said, adding he hoped it would be available by year-end.

* Vaccination is safe for pregnant women and not associated with higher rates of complications, data released by the UK Health Security Agency showed.

* Two flights brought hundreds of Iraqis who had sought to enter the European Union back to Iraq from Belarus on Friday, as more migrants begin to lose hope of getting safely into the prosperous bloc.