(Reuters) – Twenty twenty-one crept off with farewell celebrations around the world mostly muffled by the pandemic. But good news from South Africa – where authorities lifted a curfew and said Omicron had crested – brought hope for a happy New Year.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals for a case tracker and summary of news
* More than 2 million people in Britain tested positive for COVID-19 in the week before Christmas, Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates published on Friday showed, with the highest ratio of around one in 25 people seen in England.
* Italy reported a record 144,243 COVID-19 related cases on Friday, following 126,888 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths fell slightly to 155 from 156.
* The risk of hospitalisation with the Omicron variant of coronavirus is about one-third that of the Delta variant, according to British analysis of more than a million cases of both types in recent weeks.
* Alberta and British Columbia are halving the required self-isolation period for vaccinated people with COVID-19 to five days, as the Canadian provinces adapt to workforce shortages and other challenges brought about by the Omicron coronavirus variant.
* Thousands of flights within the United States and internationally were delayed or canceled on Friday, adding to the travel disruptions during the holiday week due to adverse weather and rising cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
* The Philippines will impose tighter curbs in the capital region for the next two weeks, the acting presidential spokesperson said on Friday, to try to limit infections by the Omicron coronavirus variant that is spreading globally. .
* Hong Kong’s health officials said on Friday the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has made its way past some of the world’s toughest COVID 19 restrictions, with the city reporting its first cases outside its strict quarantine system.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* Israel is extending its offer of a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to elderly people in care facilities, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said on Friday, citing their high exposure and vulnerability to infections.
* Sinovac’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine followed by a booster Pfizer-BioNTech shot showed a lower immune response against the Omicron variant compared with other strains, according to a study by researchers.
* Novavax Inc will submit a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine next month, further delaying the submission it had expected by the end of this year.
* Gold discounts in India widened to the highest level in five months this week as consumers in major Asian countries held back purchases into the year-end holidays as new virus-related restrictions were imposed.
(Compiled by Devika Syamnath and Shinjini Ganguli; Edited by Shounak Dasgupta and Maju Samuel)