(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden warned that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is going to spread more rapidly in the United States and that a winter of severe illness and death awaits the unvaccinated.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* France imposed travel restrictions on travellers from Britain, while several European countries strengthened border controls on visitors from other EU states.
* European Union governments agreed to order more than 180 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, in a version adapted for Omicron, the head of the European Commission said.
* Sweden will require visitors from other Nordic nations to have a vaccine pass to cross the border.
* Australian authorities rushed to track down hundreds who attended a Taylor Swift album party in Sydney last week that has become a super-spreading event as cases in the country hit a new pandemic high for the second straight day.
* Close to four million people in the Philippines became poor in the first half of the year due to pandemic-induced lockdown measures that dried up jobs and reduced domestic demand.
* Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he had spoken with the head of Pfizer Inc to secure oral treatments for COVID-19.
* The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended Americans choose to receive one of two other authorised vaccines over Johnson & Johnson’s shot, due to rare but sometimes fatal cases of blood-clotting.
* The Biden administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to lift rulings by two lower courts that put the president’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers on hold.
* Wall Street banks and investment firms are retrenching from their push to get staff back to the office as the Omicron variant spreads.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Malawi plans to make vaccines mandatory for front-line staff including health workers and journalists.
* Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech SE have filed for full approval of their vaccine with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to include adolescents aged 12 to 15.
* The World Health Organization issued interim recommendations for mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers for both the second dose and booster shots.
* The EU drug regulator will not decide whether to approve Merck & Co’s COVID-19 pill until after Christmas, a source with knowledge of the matter said, as the region scrambles to boost their arsenal of drugs to fight Omicron. [nL1N2T20MJ]
* Oil prices dipped, putting the market on track for a weekly loss, as surging cases of Omicron raised fears new curbs may hit fuel demand.
* The Bank of Japan dialled back emergency pandemic-funding but maintained ultra-loose policy and extended financial relief for small firms, cementing expectations it will remain among the most dovish central banks for the foreseeable future.
* German business morale declined for a sixth month as Europe’s largest economy feels the effects of supply bottlenecks and COVID-19 restrictions.
* The chairman of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party said Britain had appropriate support in place for businesses being hit by a wave of infections from Omicron.
(Compiled by Boleslaw Lasocki and Ramakrishnan M.; Edited by Shounak Dasgupta and Sriraj Kalluvila)