(Reuters) – Pfizer said its antiviral COVID-19 pill showed near 90% efficacy in preventing hospitalisations and deaths in high-risk patients, and recent lab data suggests the drug retains its effectiveness against the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Africa is experiencing its fastest surge in cases this year, with the number up 83% in the past week, although deaths remain low, the WHO said.
* Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine has been less effective in South Africa at keeping infected people out of hospital since the Omicron variant emerged last month, a study showed.
* Almost 100 Conservative lawmakers voted against some new restrictions, dealing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson another embarrassing blow over measures he said are necessary to curb the spread of the new variant.
* Italy extended a COVID-19 state of emergency to March 31 and ruled that all visitors from EU countries must take a test before departure.
* The Netherlands will extend COVID-19 restrictions through the Christmas holidays, including the early closure of schools.
* Germany will exempt people who have had a booster vaccination from having to take a coronavirus test before entering some leisure facilities.
* Multiple companies have suspended operations in one of China’s busiest manufacturing hubs as authorities double down to contain an outbreak.
* Indonesia started vaccinating elementary school children aged 6-11.
* India is struggling to export its surplus of vaccines as logistical hurdles delay their use in many countries despite low levels of inoculation, the Serum Institute of India and a government official said.
* U.S. President Joe Biden said he is encouraged by data released by Pfizer on its COVID-19 anti-viral medicine and his administration has ordered enough of the pills to treat 10 million Americans.
* Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will speak by phone to the premiers of the country’s 10 provinces on Tuesday to discuss the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, a provincial source said.
* COVID-19 vaccines appear to have become slightly less effective in preventing severe disease and death but do provide “significant protection”, the World Health Organization said.
* German researchers found therapies developed by Eli Lilly and Regeneron lose most of their effectiveness when exposed in lab tests to the Omicron variant.
* COVID-19 infections are more likely to trigger rare cardiovascular complications than vaccines, a British study showed.
* Global shares fell on Tuesday and the dollar rose to a near one-week high as investors nervously eyed the spread of the Omicron variant and awaited numerous central bank decisions due this week. [MKTS/GLOB]
* Oil futures prices dropped toward $73 a barrel on Tuesday after the International Energy Agency said the Omicron variant is set to dent global demand recovery.
* U.S. producer prices increased more than expected in November as supply constraints persisted, leading to the biggest annual gain since the series was revamped 11 years ago.
* Canada will outline new fiscal and economic forecasts in a document to be released on Tuesday as inflation surges and some business groups and opposition politicians call for more spending restraint.
(Compiled by Ramakrishnan M. and Sarah Morland; Edited by Alex Richardson and Shounak Dasgupta)