Countries across Europe were tightening restrictions as Covid-19 caseloads keep climbing.

A two-week ban on foreign travel took effect in Portugal yesterday as the country grapples a surge in cases, further devastating the already-battered tourism industry.

European budget carrier Ryanair also announced a €306m third-quarter net loss on virus fallout today, and forecast an annual loss of between €850m and €950m.

Meanwhile, the chance of avoiding a third lockdown is slim but the French government will do all it can to avoid it, according to government spokesman Gabriel Attal.

He told France info radio it was encouraging that last week there had been a deceleration in the average number of new confirmed Covid-19 cases per day.

It comes as an infectious disease expert said President Emmanuel Macrontook a big risk by not opting for a new national lockdown last week to curb the Covid-19 virus in France

Eric Caumes,of Paris' Pitie-Salpetriere hospital, told BFM TV that the Covid-19 situation in Paris remained worrying.

France decided against imposing a third coronavirus nationwide lockdown on Friday. Instead it ordered tighter border controls and an increased police action against those breaking a 6pm-6am curfew set up to curb the spread of the virus.


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A police officer gestures as he talks to a woman to ensure the mask compliance in a street of Paris 

Elsewhere, Kazakhstan began its vaccination campaign today, with top health officials receiving Russia's Sputnik V vaccine in front of reporters.

Deputy health minister Erlan Kiyasov said he did not "feel any sort of discomfort" after receiving a shot.

Also getting vaccinated in front of the cameras was the leader of the Maldives, as the tropical archipelago began its own rollout using doses donated from India.

South Africa, meanwhile, was poised to take possession of a first shipment of 20 million AstraZeneca/Oxford doses.

Africa has fallen behind in the global vaccine scramble as wealthier nations have been accused of bulk-buying doses directly from manufacturers.

Volunteers lined up in a London skyscraper, waiting to be taught how to administer the vaccine after the government called for 30,000 individuals to help administer the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca doses. 

Volunteers learn how to administer an injection during a training day in London

"When I had the opportunity to do something that made a difference, I definitely wanted to jump at it," documentary director Mike Day told AFP at Canary Wharf in east London.

More than 8.9 million people have already received a first dose of the vaccine in the United Kingdom, the first Western country to launch a massive vaccination campaign in early December.

In the US, ten Republican senators were set to meet President Joe Biden today to present an alternative to his $1.3 trillion relief plan, arguing that a scaled-down approach could garner the bipartisan support he has said he seeks.

Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, said that she had joined the group to present their own $600bn package to help steer the world's worst-hit country out of historic health and economic crises.

The virus is known to have infected more than 102 million people so far - with over 2.2 million deaths - and countries are scrambling to vaccinate their populations and lift economy-crippling restrictions.

In India, students in the southern tech hub of Hyderabad trooped into class for the first time in 10 months, with temperature tests in the playground before taking their seats in a classroom with "Welcome Back" chalked on the blackboard.

Top indie film festival Sundance got underway online yesterday, with all 72 feature films making their premiere via streaming - a world away from the usual whirl of flashy, red-carpet screenings and after-parties high in the Utah mountains.

"Why make this movie?" said "House of Cards" star Robin Wright said ahead of the screening of her directorial debut "Land", a tale of solitude and isolation.

"It's a reminder that we do need each other." 

"We do face adversity, and it's generally the compassion and kindness of another person that gets us through that difficult time... I think we all can resonate with that right now."