(Reuters) – Global COVID-19 infections hit a record high over the past seven-day period, as the Omicron variant raced out of control and governments tried to contain its spread without paralysing fragile economies.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* U.S. cases reached a record high, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said deaths and hospitalisations are “comparatively” low.
* Argentina reached a daily record of new cases on Wednesday with 42,032 people testing positive, surpassing the previous all-time high registered in May.
* The U.S. drug regulator has granted emergency use authorisation to German health technology company Siemens Healthineers’ at-home COVID-19 tests.
* Mexico authorised the Cuban-made COVID-19 vaccine Abdala for emergency use, even though the shot has still not been approved by the World Health Organization.
* The Chinese city of Xian reported on Thursday another 155 local cases, taking the total number to the highest seen in any Chinese city this year, as infections keep spreading eight days into a lockdown.
* Thai authorities warned residents should brace for a potential jump in cases after classifying the country’s first cluster of the Omicron variant as a “super-spreader” incident.
* Japan feared a rebound in infections as the highways and airports filled with travellers at the start of New Year holidays.
* Italy scrapped self-isolation rules for those coming into contact with someone testing positive providing they have had a booster shot, have recently recovered or been vaccinated.
* France is seeing a “tsunami” of infections, with 208,000 cases reported over the past 24 hours, a new national and European record, Health Minister Olivier Veran told lawmakers.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* Turkey logged 36,684 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest number of daily infections since April 29, health ministry data showed, as Health Minister Fahrettin Koca urged citizens to get booster vaccinations.
* Britain pledged 105 million pounds in emergency aid to help vulnerable nations, particularly in Africa, cope with the Omicron variant.
* A key part of the immune system’s second-line defense, its T cells, are highly effective at recognising and attacking the Omicron variant, thereby preventing most infections from progressing to critical illness, a new study shows.
* New government rules that halve the isolation period for asymptomatic cases lack safeguards that could result in even more infections as the United States faces a record surge, disease experts said.
* Samsung Electronics and Micron Technology, two of the world’s largest memory chip makers, warned that strict COVID-19 curbs in the Chinese city of Xian could disrupt their chip manufacturing bases in the area.
* Asian shares flatlined on a slow Thursday as the spread of Omicron clouded what is the last trading day of the year for many exchanges, while oil was close to finishing 2021 with gains of more than 50%. [MKTS/GLOB]
(Compiled by Devika Syamnath and Shinjini Ganguli; Edited by Maju Samuel and Shounak Dasgupta)