(Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) warned wealthy countries on Thursday against hoarding vaccines for booster shots as they try to fight off the new Omicron variant, threatening supplies to poorer countries where inoculation rates are low.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* European Union countries are expected to agree to limit to nine months the duration of COVID-19 certificates for travel, two EU sources said.
* The EU needs to rethink its budget framework and alter its deficit rules to encourage post-pandemic investment and foster growth as the world seeks to emerge from the crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron said.
* Slovakia is to give cash handouts to people over 60 who get vaccinated or have their booster shot, aiming to spur inoculation rates lagging others in the EU.
* Britain’s decision to impose restrictions will likely avoid the need to impose much tougher controls in the new year, the health secretary said. Britain also implored people to obey tougher curbs, after revelations about alleged lockdown parties at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s residence provoked an outcry over hypocrisy.
* Austria’s planned vaccine mandate has a minimum age of 14, the health minister said. The government also said holdouts face fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,071) every three months.
* Fighting the pandemic is the biggest challenge for Germany’s new government and Berlin must create fiscal reserves now to be prepared for the next crisis, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.
* The United States rushed millions of vaccine doses for children ages 5 to 11, but demand for inoculations for younger kids has been low, more than a dozen state public health officials and physicians said.
* The U.S. Treasury Department targeted government officials and companies it accused of involvement with corruption, including officials in El Salvador and Guatemala involved in their countries COVID-19 responses.
* Authorities in Pakistan are investigating the first possible case of the Omicron variant in the South Asian nation, a provincial health ministry official said.
* Several parents associations in South Korea held protests against a vaccine pass mandate for children aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 among teenagers.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* African governments will have no choice but to start imposing vaccine mandates, while travel bans imposed for the continent are likely to affect supplies of materials needed for the fight against COVID-19, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control said.
* Africa accounts for 46% of reported cases of the Omicron variant globally, the coordinator of the WHO’s Immunisation and Vaccine Development Programme for Africa said.
* South Africa has seen a 255% increase in infections in the past seven days, but only 6% of intensive care beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, a WHO Africa official said. The country’s early hospital data shows less than a third of patients admitted for COVID-19 during the latest wave linked to the Omicron variant are suffering severe illness.
* Germany’s vaccination advisory commission recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is given to children aged five to 11 with pre-existing conditions.
* The European Union’s drugs regulator said it could make sense to administer vaccine boosters as early as three months after the initial two-shot regimen.
* World stock markets stalled at two-week highs as increased curbs in parts of the world to contain the spread of COVID-19 tempered optimism on the vaccine front. [MKTS/GLOB]
* British two-year government bond yields fell sharply as financial markets scaled back their expectations for the Bank of England to raise interest rates next week.
(Compiled by Juliette Portala and Valentine Baldassari ; Edited by Elaine Hardcastle and Diane Craft)