(Reuters) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday travel restrictions imposed over COVID-19 that isolate any one country or region was “not only deeply unfair and punitive – they are ineffective.”
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a “call to get jabs in arms” as Britain stepped up its COVID-19 booster programme to fend off the Omicron variant after another 10 cases of the new strain were identified.
* France is stepping up its COVID-19 booster vaccination campaign and tightening entry rules for arrivals from outside the European Union in response to the spread of the Omicron variant, a government spokesman said.
* Airline passengers arriving to Denmark from Doha or Dubai must take a mandatory COVID-19 test, a move aimed at delaying the spread of the new Omicron variant, Danish health minister Magnus Heunicke said.
* Portugal’s government will not hesitate to increase restrictions over Christmas if needed to control a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said.
* The European Union-wide rollout of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine version for five- to 11-year-old children will begin Dec 13, one week earlier than previously planned, Germany’s health ministry said.
* Germany reported the highest number of deaths since mid-February as hospitals warned the country could have 6,000 people in intensive care by Christmas.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* The heavily mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly becoming dominant in South Africa, less than four weeks after being identified there, authorities said, as other countries tightened their borders against the new threat.
* The Omicron variant appears able to get around some immunity but vaccines should still offer protection against severe disease, according to the latest data from South Africa where it is fast overtaking Delta to become the dominant variant.
* A senior Botswana health official said 16 of the total 19 cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant detected in the country were asymptomatic, while President Mokgweetsi Masisi said travel bans on its citizens were unfair and unjustified.
* An official at the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office said seven countries in the region have not yet reached a threshold of 10% vaccination coverage.
* Nigeria confirmed its first cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in air passenger arrivals, but amended an earlier statement to say the travellers had arrived in Nigeria only over the past week.
* The United States identified its first case of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in California, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
* Mexico’s health regulator Cofepris said it had approved U.S. pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Co’s antibody treatment against COVID-19 for emergency use with infected patients at risk from comorbidities.
* The new Omicron variant of the coronavirus is likely to soon spread to other countries in North and South America after being detected in Canada and Brazil, the Pan American Health Organization said.
* Cuban health authorities said researchers in the communist-run country are upgrading its homegrown COVID vaccines to ensure protection against the new Omicron variant.
* Serum Institute of India has sent doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Indonesia, in its first export of the Novavax shot, the Indian government said.
* Vietnam will suspend flights to and from seven African countries over concerns about the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, state media reported.
* South Korea reported its first five cases of the Omicron variant, officials said, as daily coronavirus infections rose above 5,000 for the first time, stoking concern over a sharp rise in patients with severe symptoms.
* Moderna Inc could have a COVID-19 booster shot targeting the Omicron variant tested and ready to file for U.S. authorization as soon as March, the company’s president said.
* World stock markets and oil prices bounced back while safe havens fell as investors began December by betting that the recently identified Omicron variant of the coronavirus would not derail the global economy. [MKTS/GLOB]
(Compiled by Krishna Chandra Eluri; Editing by Anil D’Silva)