(Reuters) – China’s “zero-COVID” stance has put it at odds with the rest of the world and is exacting a mounting economic toll, but an exit strategy remains elusive as authorities worry about the ability of the healthcare system to adapt to new strains.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* The BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant, which is dominant in Denmark, appears more contagious than the more common BA.1 sub-lineage, Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said.
* German lawmakers agonised over whether to impose compulsory COVID-19 shots, as new record daily infections and the country’s stuttering vaccination campaign forced them into an ethical and constitutional dilemma.
* Italy will ease restrictions for all visitors from European Union countries starting from Feb.1.
* New cases of COVID-19 in the Americas in the past week have been the highest since the pandemic began and the fast-spreading Omicron variant has clearly become the predominant version of the virus, the Pan American Health Organization said.
* The United States has shipped 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses as part of its earlier pledge to donate about 1.2 billion doses to low-income countries, the White House said.
* Beijing has limited the movement of people in more parts of the Chinese capital, even as it reported fewer COVID-19 cases on Thursday, in a bid to lower virus risk less than 10 days before its hosting of the Winter Olympics Games.
* Australia reported fewer COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, a day after recording a pandemic high, while hospital cases remained steady, raising hopes the country’s worst outbreak may have peaked.
* Risk-averse Singapore is trying to balance its approach to living with COVID – aiming to protect people in the densely populated island from the disease while reopening its economy and borders to maintain its reputation as a hub for capital and talent.
* China reported 63 new COVID-19 cases on the mainland on Jan. 26, up from 44 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said.
* Twenty-three new cases of COVID-19 were detected among Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Games-related personnel on Jan. 26, organisers said.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* Israel broadened eligibility for a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to include adults under 60 with underlying medical conditions, their caretakers, and others over 18 at significant risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
* Moderna Inc said it had started a mid-stage study, testing a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine specifically designed to target the Omicron variant.
* COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA technology do not affect fertility outcomes during in-vitro fertilization, researchers have found.
* The world’s first medical trial authorised to deliberately expose participants to the coronavirus is seeking more volunteers as it steps up efforts to help develop better vaccines.
* The Philippine economy expanded more quickly than expected in 2021, and looks set to accelerate further this year, but the impact of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases suggests the central bank is unlikely to start withdrawing policy support for now.
* Irish consumer sentiment in January recovered much of the loss it suffered in December in the face of a surge in the highly contagious Omicron variant, a survey showed, with authors forecasting a further improvement next month.
* The number of cars made in Britain fell last year to the lowest since 1956, reflecting a major shortage of semiconductors used for electronic components, broader COVID disruptions and the closure of a Honda factory.
(Compiled by Sherry Jacob-Phillips; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)