(Reuters) – U.S. regulators are considering the first COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of 5, the only age group not yet eligible for the shots, after Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE began the regulatory approval process on Tuesday.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* Norway will scrap most of its remaining lockdown measures with immediate effect as a spike in coronavirus infections is unlikely to jeopardise health services, the prime minister said on Tuesday.
* Suspected reinfections account for around 10% of England’s COVID-19 cases so far this year, a Reuters analysis suggests.
* The United States is returning some Venezuelans caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to Colombia if they previously resided in that country, U.S. officials confirmed, citing the need to limit the spread of COVID-19.
* An experts’ panel said infections and hospitalisations linked to Omicron will start rising in the Canadian province of Ontario after it eased some restrictions.
* Australia’s COVID-19 hospitalisation rate fell to its lowest in nearly three weeks on Wednesday, while a steady rate of daily infections raised hopes the worst of an outbreak fuelled by the Omicron variant may have passed.
* Tsunami-hit Tonga said two wharf workers had come down with COVID-19, prompting the previously virus-free nation to go into lockdown on Wednesday, but the waterfront workers were not on docks being used by foreign navies to deliver aid.
* The COVID-19 situation at the Beijing Winter Olympics is within the “expected controllable range” despite increasing positive cases being detected, a senior official said.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* Turkey has recorded 102,601 new cases in 24 hours, surpassing the 100,000 mark for the first time since the pandemic began.
* Though Omicron is causing proportionally fewer severe infections and deaths in Israel, daily caseloads skyrocketed past 80,000 in late January before easing in recent days.
* Nigeria launched a $149 million fund to help fight HIV/AIDS, especially targeting the prevention of mother-to-child transmissions, after foreign funding came under strain from the focus on COVID-19.
* Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech have started submitting data to the U.S. FDA for the authorization of their COVID-19 vaccine in children 6 months to 4 years of age, the companies said on Tuesday.
* Gilead Sciences Inc’s COVID-19 drug remdesivir last year overtook AbbVie Inc’s 20-year-old arthritis drug Humira as the medicine that U.S. hospitals spent the most on, according to Vizient Inc, a purchasing group used by about half the nation’s hospitals.
* Leading South African scientists are set to investigate COVID-19 and HIV in tandem, given mounting evidence that the collision of the two pandemics could be generating new coronavirus variants.
* The emerging BA.2 form of the Omicron variant does not seem to be any more severe than the original BA.1 form, a WHO official said.
* A measure of U.S. manufacturing activity fell to a 14-month low in January amid an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, supporting the view that economic growth lost steam at the start of the year.
(Compiled by Shailesh Kuber, Sarah Morland and Marta Frackowiak; Editing by Barbara lewis and Arun Koyyur)