(Reuters) – Beijing ramped up efforts to curb COVID-19 infections, ordering checks among cold-chain firms and urging residents to cut unnecessary gatherings, as the city reported an uptick in local cases weeks before the Winter Olympics.
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.
* Betting Omicron cases have peaked, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dropped COVID-19 rules in England, as he faces a revolt by his own lawmakers who are angry over a series of lockdown parties in Downing Street.
* France registered more than 436,000 new infections, marking a second straight day daily cases crossing 400,000.
* China’s aviation regulator will suspend six more fights from the United States, it said on Thursday, taking to 96 the total cancellations this year, based on a Reuters tally.
* Thailand will resume its ‘Test & Go’ quarantine waiver for vaccinated arrivals starting on Feb 1, the country’s coronavirus taskforce said.
* Hong Kong will suspend face-to-face teaching in secondary schools from Monday until after the approaching Lunar New Year, authorities said, because of a rising number of coronavirus infections in several schools.
* New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said restrictions will be tightened across the country if there is a community transmission of the Omicron variant, but she ruled out lockdowns.
* American surfing great Kelly Slater will not be allowed to compete in upcoming events in Australia if he doesn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
* Infections continue to accelerate in the Americas, reaching new peaks, with 7.2 million new cases and more than 15,000 deaths in the last week, the Pan American Health Organization said.
* People who had previously been infected with COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were vaccinated alone, suggesting that natural immunity was a more potent shield than vaccines against that variant, California and New York health officials said.
* The U.S. government will make 400 million non-surgical “N95” masks from its strategic national stockpile available for free to the public starting next week, a White House official said.
* Mexico registered a record daily increase of more than 60,000 new cases, as the country steps up testing for the virus.
* The Canadian province of Ontario is starting to see “glimmers of hope” as the rate of new hospitalisations caused by the Omicron variant slows, but challenges remain, health minister Christine Elliott said.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* South African-American businessman Patrick Soon-Shiong opened a new vaccine plant in Cape Town, intended to help his local NantSA company make COVID-19 shots in future and address the continent’s deadly dearth of manufacturing capacity.
* When used in children, rapid antigen tests for detecting the coronavirus do not meet accuracy criteria set by the World Health Organization and U.S. and UK device regulators, according to researchers who reviewed 17 studies of the tests.
* Asian share markets broke a five-day slide to edge higher, shrugging off drops in Europe and on Wall Street overnight as China underscored its diverging monetary and economic picture by cutting benchmark mortgage rates. [MKTS/GLOB]
* Australia has ruled out letting teenagers as young as 16 drive forklift trucks to tackle a shortage of workers in coronavirus-hit supply chains, as it scrambles to scoop up millions of home testing kits needed to keep businesses functioning.
(Compiled by Uttaresh.V, Sarah Morland, Marta Frackowiak and Vinay Dwivedi; Edited by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shounak Dasgupta)