Factbox-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: People stand in lines seeking to receive their second dose of Russia
FILE PHOTO: People stand in lines seeking to receive their second dose of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), outside the hotel Alba Caracas, which was converted into a mass vaccination centre, in Caracas, Venezuela September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

(Reuters) - An antiviral pill developed by U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co could half the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19, with experts hailing it as a potential breakthrough in how the virus is treated.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

EUROPE

* Russia reported 887 coronavirus-related deaths, the largest single-day death toll it has recorded since the pandemic began and the fourth day in a row it has set that record.

* The European Union's drug regulator has identified a possible link between rare cases of blood clotting in deep veins with Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine and recommended the condition be listed as a side-effect of the shot.

* The chair of Britain's antivirals taskforce declined to comment directly about talks over Merck & Co's experimental oral COVID-19 drug, molnupiravir, but hinted at Britain's interest in buying the potential breakthrough pill.

* Swiss citizens who persuade their friends to get COVID-19 shots can look forward to a free restaurant meal or cinema outing courtesy of the state, under a scheme aimed at boosting the country's low vaccination rate.

AMERICAS

* The White House is pressing major U.S. airlines to mandate coronavirus vaccines for employees by Dec. 8 and showing no signs of extending the deadline, four sources told Reuters.

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said an advisory panel of experts would hold meetings this month to discuss authorizing booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines, and clearing Pfizer's vaccine for use in children.

* California will become the first U.S. state to mandate statewide COVID-19 vaccinations for schoolchildren as early as January, Governor Gavin Newsom said.

* U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has tested positive for COVID-19, but has no symptoms, according to a court statement that said he would miss Friday's investiture ceremony for Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

* Cuba is speeding up its COVID-19 vaccination program as it aims to fully inoculate 90% of its population against the coronavirus by December, an ambitious goal that has yet to be reached by even wealthier nations.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* UK nationals visiting India this month will have to undergo mandatory quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in retaliation for UK curbs on Indian citizens, a senior government source in New Delhi said.

* Singapore's health ministry reported 2,909 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, while it recorded eight new deaths from the disease.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

Nigeria got approval on Friday for $400 million in World Bank financing to procure and deploy COVID-19 vaccinations, the Bank said.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Israel's Health Ministry has identified fewer than 10 cases of heart inflammation following a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine among millions administered, according to recently released data.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Global shares bounced in volatile trading on Friday with debate over the timing of future interest rate rises on both sides of the Atlantic intensified by euro zone inflation jumping to a 13-year high. [MKTS/GLOB]

* Chile's economic activity jumped 19.1% in August year-on-year, the central bank said, as the world's top copper producer continued to recoup lost ground following a successful vaccination drive against the coronavirus.

* Japan's factory activity grew at the slowest rate in seven months in September as overall output and new orders shrank, even as a central bank survey showed business mood improved for the fifth straight quarter.

(Compiled by Veronica Snoj, Ramakrishnan M. and Vinay Dwivedi; Edited by Angus MacSwan and Shounak Dasgupta)

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