France and Britain on Monday joined a growing list of nations starting mass vaccinations for all elderly citizens as London began quarantining arrivals to try and halt the spread of a new Covid-19 variant.

The French drive aims to cover all people over 75 and comes after Brazil and India, which figure among the worst-affected countries, administered their first jabs over the weekend.

Until vaccines are fully rolled out, countries have few options but to rely on lockdown restrictions to curb the spread of the virus Until vaccines are fully rolled out, countries have few options but to rely on lockdown restrictions to curb the spread of the virus Photo: AFP / Sam PANTHAKY

Health Minister Olivier Veran says more than one million vaccinations are being targeted by January and between 2.4 and 4 million by February.

France had earlier offered vaccinations to residents of retirement homes and health workers on the frontline.

US President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to step up efforts to end the pandemic and will sign executive orders on the day he is inaugurated next week US President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to step up efforts to end the pandemic and will sign executive orders on the day he is inaugurated next week Photo: AFP / Angela Weiss

Growing concerns over different strains of the virus have prompted governments to tighten curbs to stem a global death toll that has already crossed two million.

Russia is also due to start mass immunisations on Monday using its homegrown Sputnik V vaccine while Britain imposed a 10-day isolation and negative Covid tests on all travellers.

With populations across the globe tiring of lockdown measures, protests continue to be held in many countries With populations across the globe tiring of lockdown measures, protests continue to be held in many countries Photo: AFP / ALEX HALADA

Arrivals will have to provide a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of travel or be banned from entering the UK, which on Monday also expanded its vaccination campaign to people over the age of 70.

New and highly contagious variants have emerged in Britain, South Africa and Brazil and have set off alarm bells.

India has kicked off one of the world's largest coronavirus vaccination drives as the pandemic spread at a record pace and global Covid-19 deaths surged past two million. India, home to 1.3 billion people, has the world's second-largest caseload. The gove India has kicked off one of the world's largest coronavirus vaccination drives as the pandemic spread at a record pace and global Covid-19 deaths surged past two million. India, home to 1.3 billion people, has the world's second-largest caseload. The government has given approvals to two vaccines -- though one is yet to complete clinical trials -- aiming to inoculate around 300 million people by July. Photo: AFPTV / Satyajit SHAW

Across the European Union there have been concerns that delays in the delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could further slow a campaign which critics have condemned as less agile than in the United States or Britain, a recently-departed EU member.

US drugmaker Pfizer said it was working to "significantly" scale up production at its major plant in Belgium in the second quarter.

World map showing the number of Covid-19 deaths by country, as of November 13 at 1100 GMT World map showing the number of Covid-19 deaths by country, as of November 13 at 1100 GMT Photo: AFP / Simon MALFATTO

After a short delay, deliveries should be back to the original schedule to the EU from January 25.

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged Monday to tackle surging coronavirus cases and restore normal life "as soon as possible" as polls showed plunging support for his government.

In this elderly care home in Belgium, 111 people -- or two thirds of all residents and staff -- tested positive to the more contagious British variant of the novel coronavirus In this elderly care home in Belgium, 111 people -- or two thirds of all residents and staff -- tested positive to the more contagious British variant of the novel coronavirus Photo: BELGA / KURT DESPLENTER

The latest wave in Japan and abroad has also cast doubt on whether the pandemic-postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics can go ahead, but Suga repeated he was still committed to holding the Games as "proof of mankind's victory over the virus".

In the world's worst-hit country, President-elect Joe Biden's goal of seeing 100 million vaccine doses injected within his first 100 days in office is meanwhile "absolutely" achievable, top US scientist Anthony Fauci said, days before he becomes the new president's chief advisor on Covid-19.

"The feasibility of his goal is absolutely clear, there's no doubt about it," Fauci told NBC's "Meet the Press".

Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan to revive the economy of the US, where the new coronavirus has claimed over 397,000 lives.

Until vaccination is widespread, countries across the globe are still having to rely on lockdowns, curfews and social distancing.

Slovakia began a new round of nationwide screening and Malawi said it would impose its first restrictions, including night curfew, a cap on gatherings and mandatory face masks in public.

Nearly three million people in two cities in China's northeastern Jilin province were put under lockdown Monday after a surge in coronavirus cases linked to a travelling salesman.

The Australian Open in Melbourne has been delayed three weeks until February 8 because of the pandemic and has run into new problems.

Others are allowed out, but only for five hours a day, to train in bio-secure 'bubbles'. However several players took to social media to complain about the hotel food on offer.