(Reuters) – Booster doses of currently available vaccines work against the Omicron variant and there appears to be no need for variant-specific boosters, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said.
* England’s chief medical officer warned people not to mix with others unless they have to in the run-up to Christmas after Britain recorded its most daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
* French President Emmanuel Macron said it was possible the COVID-19 vaccine would eventually be made compulsory in France, but said it was not the priority for now.
* The Delta variant is still predominant in Italy, the National Health Institute said, releasing data of a flash survey showing it accounted for more than 99% of cases on Dec. 6.
* Travellers to Greece will need a negative COVID-19 PCR test to enter the country.
* Canada’s government implored its residents not to leave the country as provinces ramp up vaccinations to combat the Omicron variant.
* A U.S. appeals court revived the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in 26 states.
* A growing number of U.S. colleges and universities were moving final exams online and cancelling non-essential gatherings.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* South Africa reported record daily infections in a fourth wave believed to be caused by the Omicron variant, while Rwanda and Kenya confirmed their first cases of the variant.
* Moderna will start a trial of its COVID-19 vaccine across eight African countries to determine its efficacy in people who are HIV positive, Bloomberg News reported.
* Five Turkish healthcare unions representing more than 250,000 health workers, doctors and other medical personnel went on a one-day strike, protesting poor wages and harsh working conditions amid a currency meltdown.
* The Philippines and Cambodia detected their first Omicron cases.
* U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken cut short his trip to Southeast Asia due to a COVID-19 case among his travelling party.
* The European Union’s drug regulator recommended that a booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s shot may be given at least two months after a first dose in people aged 18 years and older.
* Preliminary evidence indicates that vaccines may be less effective against infection and transmission linked to Omicron, which also carries a higher risk of reinfection, the WHO said.
* Early data suggests Omicron is more transmissible than Delta, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
* Global shares rose slightly on Wednesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would end its pandemic-era bond purchases in March and pave the way for three quarter-percentage-point interest rate hikes by the end of 2022. [MKTS/GLOB]
* The slack in Canada’s economy caused by the pandemic has substantially diminished, the Governor of the Bank of Canada said, a key sign the central bank is set to begin hiking rates soon.
(Compiled by Ramakrishnan M. and Sarah Morland; Edited by Hugh Lawson and Shounak Dasgupta)