Covid-19 has infected more than 281M people and killed over 5.4M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:
Malaysia lifts travel ban on 8 African countries, citing wider Omicron spread
Malaysia has lifted a travel ban on eight southern African countries that had first reported the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, citing the greater spread of the variant worldwide, its health minister said.
The eight countries, which include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, will remain on a list of nations deemed as high-risk, with travellers from those nations subject to additional restrictions upon arrival, minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters.
First Covid-19 shot recipient in US now a vaccine activist
Since being hailed as the first person in the United States to get a Covid-19 vaccine, New York nurse Sandra Lindsay has become a prominent face in the country’s biggest-ever vaccination campaign.
She has been promoting the shots on panels, in Zoom town halls and at other events.
“I encourage people to speak to experts who can answer their questions, to access trusted science. I let them know that it’s OK to ask questions,” said Lindsay, who has spoken at events in the US and Jamaica, where she is from.
China expands lockdowns as virus surges in US, Europe
China has put hundreds of thousands more people under lockdown to try and stamp out a worsening coronavirus outbreak.
Despite facing a much smaller outbreak compared with global virus hotspots, China has not relaxed its “zero Covid” strategy, imposing stay-at-home orders in many parts of the city of Yan’an.
The hundreds of thousands of affected residents there joined the 13 million people in the city of Xi’an, who entered a sixth day of home confinement as China battled its highest daily case numbers in 21 months.
Hong Kong to tighten air crew quarantine rules amid Omicron threat
Hong Kong health authorities said the city would tighten quarantine rules for air cargo crew to tackle the growing threat of the Omicron variant.
The global financial hub has identified several dozen Omicron infections via regular testing during quarantine but neither Omicron, nor other variants, have spread into the community in recent months.
But some of the new infections with Omicron were detected among air crew, who had only been required to quarantine at home, unlike most other people returning to the city, who have to quarantine in hotels.
South Africa study suggests Omicron could displace Delta
Research by South African scientists suggests that Omicron could displace the Delta variant of the coronavirus because infection with the new variant boosts immunity to the older one.
The study only covered a small group of people and has not been peer-reviewed, but it found that people who were infected with Omicron, especially those who were vaccinated, developed enhanced immunity to the Delta variant.
The analysis enrolled 33 vaccinated and unvaccinated people who were infected with the Omicron variant in South Africa.
India boosts arsenal against Covid-19 with Merck pill, two more vaccines
India has approved Merck’s Covid-19 pill and two more vaccines for emergency use as the world’s second most populous country braces for a possible spike in coronavirus cases.
Asia’s third-largest economy has already said it will allow Covid-19 booster shots for some of its population as someIndian states logged an uptick in Omicron cases.
The emergency approvals come at a time measures are being taken to ramp up oxygen supplies and strengthen the country’s health infrastructure.
UAE approves Sinopharm’s protein-based vaccine
The United Arab Emirates has approved emergency use of Sinopharm’s protein-based Covid-19 vaccine and it will be available to the public as a booster dose starting January 2022, the health ministry said.
The vaccine will be produced and distributed by a joint venture between the UAE’s Group 42 and China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a unit of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), the ministry said in a statement on state media.
The approval came following a UAE-based study that included individuals who were previously vaccinated with two doses of Sinopharm CNBG’s inactivated vaccine, the ministry added.
Spain’s infection rate soars
Spain’s coronavirus infection rate has exceeded 1,000 cases per 100,000 people for the first time, stoked by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, although hospitals were under much less strain than in previous waves of the pandemic.
The rate, measured over the preceding 14 days, rose to 1,206 cases following the Christmas weekend, according to health ministry data.
That compares with 911 reported on Thursday, when it first topped the previous record of 900 cases set in late January.
The tally had not been updated since Thursday and has added 214,619 new cases to the 5,932,626 recorded since the start of the pandemic.
US halves isolation period
The United States has halved the isolation period for asymptomatic Covid cases in a bid to blunt mass Omicron-induced disruption, as infections hit new highs in multiple US states and Europe, wreaking havoc on global air travel.
Some 11,500 flights have been scrapped worldwide since Friday and tens of thousands more delayed, during one of the year’s busiest travel periods –– with multiple airlines saying spikes in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have caused staffing shortages.
Cases in the United States are already on track to reach record highs in January, fueled by large pockets of unvaccinated residents as well as lack of access to quick and easy testing.
Brazil reports 86 Covid-19 deaths
Brazil has registered 86 Covid-19 deaths and 6,840 additional cases, according to data released by the nation’s Health Ministry, although the statistics were incomplete as two of Brazil’s 27 federative units failed to provide updated information.
The South American country has now registered a total of 618,534 coronavirus deaths and 22,246,276 total confirmed cases.
While Brazil’s death toll is second in the world only to the United States, daily death and case numbers have plummeted dramatically in recent months .
Bolsorano won’t vaccinate his daughter
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will not vaccinate his 11-year-old daughter against Covid-19, he has said, maintaining the firm anti-vaccine stance that has drawn criticism from public health experts and hit his poll numbers.
The right-wing leader added that the nation’s health minister, Marcelo Queiroga, will divulge on January 5 the manner in which Brazil will carry out its coronavirus vaccination campaign for 5 to 11-year-olds, which was approved earlier this month.
Vaccination of children has been a hot topic in Brazil, where Bolsonaro’s core supporters have fervently opposed the measure, even as the vast majority of the population supports vaccines.