Brussels is set to announce plans to plough millions of euros into research on new coronavirus variants as it seeks to step up its response to the rapidly evolving pandemic. Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, is preparing to announce €150m in funding for research into novel mutant strains

Texas, which has been hit hard by snow and freezing temperatures, expects this week’s vaccine deliveries to begin on Wednesday “at the earliest” after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its delivery partners postponed vaccine shipments on Friday due to the incoming winter storm.

Scottish children will begin returning to nurseries and schools next week amid falling coronavirus case numbers, first minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on Tuesday. But she told the Scottish parliament that further lockdown easing must be “careful, cautious and gradual” to avoid future restrictions.

Government spending on buying and distributing vaccines will have a noticeable direct impact on the UK economy, boosting output as much as 1 percentage point in the first quarter, Deutsche Bank forecast. “It could certainly soften the blow of the winter lockdown,” said economist Sanjay Raja.

A Southwest Airlines employee wears a protective mask while assisting a passenger at Los Angeles International Airport

Southwest Airlines expects to burn cash in the first quarter at a slower pace than previously anticipated, supported by a gradual recovery in leisure travel demand. The US carrier forecast an average burn of $15m per day for the three months to March 31, down from a previous estimate of $17m per day.

Hong Kong is set to approve the Covid-19 vaccine CoronaVac for emergency use after the government’s advisory panel said it would recommend its distribution. Sinovac Biotech, the maker, was granted an exemption from a requirement that phase 3 trial data first be published in a medical journal.

Strauss Zelnick’s private equity firm is in advanced talks to buy Second City, the storied comedy group that launched stars including Tina Fey and John Belushi. The company was expected to fetch about $50m. Second City has been hit hard by the pandemic, which brought live events to a halt in the US.

Supercell, the games developer behind Brawl Stars and Clash of Clans, saw its profits fall by a fifth in 2020, as a lack of new hits caused it to miss out on the lockdown gaming boom. Despite five titles that have grossed more than €1bn in player spending, Supercell’s sales for 2020 fell 7 per cent to €1.3bn.