(Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Thursday laid out his strategy to fight the coronavirus as the highly contagious Omicron spread across the globe with winter coming and hours after the first known U.S. case of community transmission of the variant was reported.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* Regional authorities in Madrid said they had detected Spain’s first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in a vaccinated person without links to risk countries, and were investigating two similar suspected cases.
* The European Union’s public health agency said the Omicron variant could be responsible for more than half of all infections in Europe within a few months, but no cases of severe disease had yet been identified in the region.
* Britain recorded 53,945 new cases, the highest daily figure since July 17, government figures showed, as the dominant Delta variant spreads and measures come in to curb the Omicron variant.
* Dutch health authorities said most of the 62 people who tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving on two flights from South Africa last week had been vaccinated, lending weight to a call for pre-flight testing regardless of vaccination status.
* Norway is reintroducing some nationwide restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 following the emergence of the Omicron variant, the government said, as a fifth case of the latter was confirmed and more expected.
* France reported its first two cases of the Omicron variant, as the government’s top scientific adviser said it could become dominant in the country by the end of January.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* The new Omicron variant of the coronavirus poses a threefold higher risk of reinfection than the currently dominant Delta variant and the Beta strain, a group of South African health bodies said.
* Zimbabwe has detected case of Omicron variant in the country, its Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said on state television.
* Israel said it was halting the use of mobile phone tracing to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, a practice that had been challenged by privacy watchdogs.
* Ghana detected the Omicron variant in 34 samples from travellers who returned to the country from Nov. 21-25, according to data from the state institute responsible for coronavirus testing.
* Three U.S. states have found cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant – California, Colorado and Minnesota – among patients who were fully vaccinated and developed mild symptoms, health officials said on Thursday.
* The Biden administration will lay out details on whether or not private health insurance companies will get government money to reimburse customers for over-the-counter COVID tests when it releases guidance on the issue in January, the White House said.
* India reported its first two Omicron cases but the government said it had no immediate plan to authorise booster vaccine shots despite demands from lawmakers.
* The European Union’s drug regulator said it had started a rolling review of the inactivated-virus COVID-19 vaccine from French biotech firm Valneva, weeks after the EU signed a deal with the company for supplies of the shot.
* A gauge of global equities surged as Wall Street rallied on hopes the Omicron COVID-19 variant will prove mild and will not halt a strongly recovering U.S. economy, while the dollar edged higher in choppy trading as risk appetite improved. [MKTS/GLOB]
(Compiled by Krishna Chandra Eluri, Federico Maccioni and Alexander Kloss; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Mark Potter and Anil D’Silva)