Factbox-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus

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Tighter COVID-19 restrictions as Sicily returns to being a 'yellow zone', in Catania

(Reuters) - COVID-19 infections have risen by a third in North America over the past week due to surges in the United States and Canada, while most South American countries are seeing a fall in cases and deaths, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

EUROPE

* Italy is set to make its COVID-19 "Green Pass" mandatory for all workers from next month, a minister said on Wednesday, becoming the first European country to do so as it tries to accelerate vaccinations and stamp out infections.

* After running through the worst of the pandemic, French care homes are facing staff who would rather quit than comply with a government mandate that they get vaccinated.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China has fully vaccinated 91% of students aged 12-17, state television reported, although authorities said schools needed to be vigilant. The outbreak in Fujian province has prompted cities in other parts of the country to issue travel warnings ahead of major holidays.

* India is considering resuming exports of vaccines soon, mainly to Africa, as it has partly immunised a majority of its adults and supplies have surged, a source said.

AMERICAS

* U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientists said on Wednesday that booster doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine may not be needed, even though the third shot generates a higher immune response in recipients.

* Cuba on Thursday will seek World Health Organization (WHO) approval of three COVID-19 vaccines, according to the state-run corporation that produces them, as it begins administering shots en masse to toddlers.

* Eli Lilly said on Wednesday the U.S. government bought 388,000 additional doses of its COVID-19 antibody therapy, as infections surge due to the fast-spreading Delta variant.

* As more adults get their COVID-19 vaccines, children who are not yet eligible for vaccination in most countries are representing a larger percentage of hospitalizations and even deaths, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned on Wednesday.

** U.S. President Joe Biden met on Wednesday with U.S. CEOs and other top business leaders as he pushes companies to require workers to be inoculated against COVID-19 amid a surge in infections among the unvaccinated.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Saudi Arabia has signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with Pfizer and AstraZeneca, including a pact with the latter to set up clinical research centres, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.

* The African Union on Tuesday accused manufacturers of vaccines of denying African countries a fair chance to buy them, and urged manufacturing countries to lift export restrictions on vaccines and their components.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Russia's Sputnik V vaccine has demonstrated 97.2% efficacy against COVID-19 during the vaccination campaign in Belarus, Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund said.

* Sputnik's single-dose vaccine, Sputnik Light, has also received a green signal from India's drug regulatory authority to conduct phase III, India Today reported.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Global shares inched up on Wednesday on the strength of U.S. equities markets that were boosted by positive factory data. [MKTS/GLOB]

* Oil prices rose over $2 a barrel on Wednesday after government data showed a larger-than-expected drawdown in U.S. crude inventories, and on expectations demand will rise as vaccination roll-outs widen.

* Real interest rates are puzzlingly low around the world, European Central Bank board member Isabel Schnabel said on Wednesday, arguing that investors may be overestimating the impact of the Delta variant of the coronavirus on the economy.

(Compiled by Juliette Portala, Devika Syamnath and Shailesh Kuber; Edited by Shounak Dasgupta, David Evans and Anil D'Silva)

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