(Reuters) – Australia will seek to make urgent changes to COVID-19 testing rules to ease pressure on test sites as infections surged and the country’s most populous state reported a near doubling in daily cases.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news
* New York City will stop quarantining entire classrooms exposed to the coronavirus and will instead prioritise a ramped-up testing program so that asymptomatic students testing negative can remain in school, officials said.
* The Omicron variant was estimated to be 58.6% of the variants circulating in the United States as of Dec. 25, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
* Canada’s Quebec province has “no choice” but to allow some essential workers to continue working even after testing positive for COVID-19 to prevent staff shortages from impeding its healthcare services, Health Minister Christian Dube said.
* A lockdown of 13 million people in the Chinese city of Xian entered its seventh day on Wednesday, with many unable to leave their homes and virtually dependent on deliveries of necessities as new infections persisted.
* Indonesian health authorities were conducting contact tracing on Tuesday after detecting the Southeast Asian country’s first case of the Omicron variant in the community.
* France reported a record high of 179,807 new confirmed coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period on Tuesday, one of the highest one-day tallies worldwide since the start of the pandemic.
* Britain reported a record 129,471 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would not bring in new restrictions this year.
* Demand for free COVID-19 testing kits provided by Madrid’s regional government far outstripped supply, with long queues forming outside pharmacies as nationwide infections continued to climb amid the Omicron variant’s rapid spread.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Cyprus on Tuesday recorded a single-day record high of infections since the virus was first identified on the island in March 2020.
* Daily new cases in Turkey jumped beyond 30,000 on Tuesday for the first time since Oct. 19, data showed, as the health minister warned of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
* India approved Merck’s COVID-19 pill and two more vaccines for emergency use.
* China’s Kintor faced a temporary setback as interim analysis for a late-stage trial for its potential COVID-19 pill did not yield sufficient data due to the lack of hospitalised cases.
* Asian stocks slipped on Wednesday, following a mixed Wall Street session as the region’s investors positioned their portfolios for the new year and continued to grapple with increasing global numbers of Omicron coronavirus cases. [MKTS/GLOB]
* Vietnam’s gross domestic product growth slowed further this year, even as the fourth quarter improved and robust exports helped partially offset some of the economic impact of the pandemic.
(Compiled by Devika Syamnath and Shinjini Ganguli; Edited by Maju Samuel and Shounak Dasgupta)