Italy has reported 630 deaths related to Covid-19, rising from 562 yesterday and taking the official toll since its outbreak began in February to 50,453, according to health ministry data.

Italy, the first Western country to be hit by the epidemic, becomes the sixth nation in the world to surpass 50,000 deaths, and the second in Europe after the UK.

The health ministry also reported 22,930 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, down from 28,337 the day before, with the fall reflecting the usual drop in the number of swabs conducted on Sundays.

Italy has registered a total of 1.432 million coronavirus cases, the eighth highest tally in the world.

While the country's daily death tolls have been the highest in Europe over recent days, the increase in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy has slowed.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 stands at 34,697, a rise of 418 from yesterday. That compared with a daily increase of 216 on Sunday.

Those in intensive care rose by nine, following an increase of 43 yesterday, and now stands at 3,810.

The northern region of Lombardy, centred on Italy's financial capital Milan, remains the hardest hit area, reporting 5,289 new cases.

Neighbouring Veneto, which has a much smaller population, recorded the second highest number of new cases, at 2,540.

Toronto imposes new restrictions amid virus surge

Canada's biggest city has imposed new restrictions in the latest bid to curb coronavirus infections, with case numbers surging across North America even as US officials said vaccinations could be available within weeks.

Encouraging results from several vaccine trials have raised hopes of a decisive shift in the battle against a disease that has claimed around 1.4 million lives worldwide in the last year.

But seesawing restrictions and lockdowns in countries that successfully contained earlier outbreaks have highlighted the ongoing risk of contagion.

Toronto banned private indoor gatherings and capped the size of weddings and funerals for four weeks from midnight, with officials warning that hospitals risked being overwhelmed without quick action.

"I've been clear on this: the situation is extremely serious and further action is required," Ontario premier Doug Ford had told journalists ahead of the lockdown. 

Officials had forecast more than 400,000 new infections a week across Canada by the end of the year without new restrictions - more than the total number of cases recorded nationwide since the start of the pandemic.

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Australia's second-largest city, Melbourne, continued its slow emergence from a four-month lockdown that saw four million people confined to their homes, with authorities lifting a ban on travel across state borders.

Sydney-based grandad Alan Kinkade reunites with his grandson Tom, who lives in Melbourne

Staff at Shanghai's biggest international airport were facing mass testing after the city reported a small Covid-19 outbreak linked to cargo handlers.

The United States could begin its own vaccination programme as soon as next month, raising hopes of a looming end to the pandemic in the world's worst-hit nation.

Two leading vaccine candidates - one by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech and another by US firm Moderna - have been shown to be 95% effective in trials, and Pfizer has already applied for emergency use approval from US health authorities. 

"Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunisation sites within 24 hours of approval" by the US Food and Drug Administration, Moncef Slaoui, head of the US government virus vaccine effort, told CNN.

FDA vaccine advisors will meet on 10  December to discuss approval.

Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci warned the country's outbreak could get worse before getting better if people failed to take precautions in the coming holiday season.

With more than 12 million cases and 255,000 deaths nationwide, many Americans were nonetheless heading to airports to travel for this week's Thanksgiving holiday.

Social distancing edicts and mask-wearing rules have spurred protests in the United States and elsewhere.

German protesters demonstrated against mask rules in Berlin at the weekend in a rally that drew in far-left activists, conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists who claim the measure infringes on their civil rights.

And in Paris, around 300 people attended a clandestine dance party in defiance of a national lockdown, with France now recording the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Europe.