(Reuters) – U.S. health experts on Thursday urged Americans to prepare for severe disruptions in coming weeks as the rising wave of COVID-19 cases led by the Omicron variant threatened hospitals, schools and other sectors impacting their daily lives.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals for a case tracker and summary of news
* Coronavirus deaths in Eastern Europe topped 1 million on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, as the Omicron variant threatened to batter the region.
* The Russian government extended on Thursday its approval for drugmaker Pharmasyntez to produce a generic version of U.S. anti-COVID-19 drug remdesivir without a patent for one year, citing the need to protect its citizens.
* France reported 206,243 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period on Thursday, rising above 200,000 for the second day running as the Omicron variant takes hold.
* The Canadian province of Ontario on Thursday announced new measures, including shorter isolation time for COVID-19 patients, to tackle hurdles brought about by an exponential rise in coronavirus cases due to the Omicron variant.
* 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.
* Indian authorities started to impose stringent rules https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/india-imposes-stricter-rules-prevent-covid-19-spread-during-festive-season-2021-12-30 on Thursday to prevent mass gatherings at parties and public venues ahead of new year celebrations as the nation sees a spike in infections.
* Australia sought to relieve pressure on overrun testing facilities by narrowing its definition of close contacts of infected people and relaxing requirements for tests, as daily cases topped 20,000 for the first time.
* 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.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* South Africa has lifted a midnight to 4 a.m. curfew on people’s movement with immediate effect, believing the country has passed the peak of its fourth COVID-19 wave driven by the Omicron variant, a government statement said on Thursday.
* British scientists will be studying whether higher doses of a cheap and widely used steroid called dexamethasone could work better for patients with severe COVID-19 compared to the standard low doses, they said on Thursday.
* Israel is to go ahead with second COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for people with weakened immune systems, the top government health official said on Thursday, but a final decision on wider usage is still pending.
* Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine caused mostly mild side effects in children aged 5 to 11 years, according to data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.
* Global stock markets edged higher on Thursday after fresh U.S. economic data indicated that a recent uptick of Omicron COVID-19 variant-related infections has not yet led to a surge in layoffs, a positive sign for the economy. [MKTS/GLOB]
* New claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell in the week leading up to Christmas and benefits rolls slid to their lowest level of the coronavirus pandemic era the week earlier, the Labor Department said on Thursday, data that showed no impact yet on employment from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
* Britain’s FTSE 100 fell on Thursday, after hitting 22-month highs in the previous session, as a surge of COVID-19 cases offset optimism over the economic recovery in thin year-end trading. [.L]
(Compiled by Shinjini Ganguli, Marta Frackowiak and Devika Syamnath; Edited by Shounak Dasgupta, Milla Nissi, Alex Richardson and Maju Samuel)