Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany paid a virtual visit on Thursday to the headquarters of BioNTech, the German company behind the mRNA vaccine created in partnership with Pfizer. Their coronavirus vaccine is the first to be approved for emergency use in countries including the United States, Britain and Canada.
“We are incredibly proud to have such researchers in our country,” Ms. Merkel, herself a quantum chemist by training, said in opening remarks delivered by video. She also congratulated Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, the husband-and-wife founders of BioNtech, and their team.
The event was a point of light on an otherwise somber day in Germany, as the health authorities registered 33,777 new coronavirus infections, a daily record. There were also 813 daily deaths recorded, the second worst daily toll since the pandemic began.
The European Union is expected to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week, officials said on Thursday.
Germany expects to receive 11 million to 13 million doses of the vaccine once it is approved and will begin administering doses on Dec. 27, the country’s health minister, Jens Spahn, said on Friday. The first to receive it will be people over 80 and residents of nursing homes, followed by the nurses and doctors who care for them, Mr. Spahn said.
Vaccinations will be voluntary, and Mr. Spahn said that officials would like to see as many people as possible accept the shots. He urged people to be patient, however, and to continue following regulations on wearing masks, washing hands and keeping a safe distance from others.
Other coronavirus news from around the world:
India was about 20,000 cases away on Friday from recording its 10 millionth coronavirus infection. The country’s total caseload is the world’s second-largest after the United States. Tens of millions of migrant workers were stranded after Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a national lockdown in March, and the emergency trains that carried them back to their villages spread the coronavirus across the country. India has reported 144,789 Covid-19 deaths, the third-largest toll after the United States and Brazil.
Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia on Friday announced a tightening of lockdown restrictions as infections skyrocket. The rules, which will be in effect from Monday through at least Jan. 11, limit the size of groups allowed to gather and tighten restrictions on restaurants and bars. Several other Spanish regions have also introduced new measures in recent days. On Thursday, Valencia limited family gatherings to six people, while the Balearic archipelago said it would require visitors from the Spanish mainland to produce a negative coronavirus test result before arrival.