(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Sydney gears up for New Year’s despite record Omicron surge
Sydney, the Australian city worst-affected by the Omicron wave, will press ahead with New Year’s Eve celebrations on Friday, with authorities encouraging revellers to come out and enjoy the festivities despite a record number of COVID-19 cases.
Thousands are expected to flock to prime harbourside spots to watch Sydney’s famous fireworks, the traditional 12-minute pyrotechnic display to ring in the New Year, with queues forming at many vantage points since early morning.
South Africa lifts curfew as it says fourth wave peaks
South Africa has lifted a midnight to 4 a.m. curfew on people’s movement with immediate effect, believing the country has passed the peak of its fourth COVID-19 wave driven by the Omicron variant, a government statement said on Thursday.
The country made the changes based on the trajectory of the pandemic, levels of vaccination and available capacity in the health sector, according to a press release issued by Mondli Gungubele, a minister in the presidency. South Africa is at the lowest of its five-stage COVID-19 alert levels.
Quebec announces curfew, Ontario cuts isolation period
Canada’s Ontario and Quebec announced new measures to combat COVID-19 on Thursday as the country faces a rise in cases that has forced tens of thousands into isolation, made tests difficult to access and burdened its healthcare sector. Quebec, Canada’s second-most populous province, will ban private gatherings and dining out, as well as impose a night curfew from New Year’s Eve in an escalation of curbs to rein in rapidly rising coronavirus cases due to the Omicron variant.
Ontario, home to Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, announced new measures from Friday, shortening the isolation period for vaccinated individuals with COVID-19 to five days from the onset of symptoms, the province’s chief medical officer, Kieran Moore, told reporters at a briefing.
Israel approves fourth vaccine shot for most vulnerable
Israel is to go ahead with second COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for people with weakened immune systems, the top government health official said on Thursday, but a final decision on wider usage is pending.
An Israeli hospital administered fourth shots to a test group of health workers on Monday, in what it called the first major study into whether a second round of boosters will help see off the Omicron coronavirus variant. Results are expected within two weeks.
Scientists to test high dexamethasone doses in severely ill patients
British scientists will be studying whether higher doses of a cheap and widely used steroid called dexamethasone could work better for patients with severe COVID-19 compared with the standard low doses, they said on Thursday.
The large trial, dubbed RECOVERY, will compare a higher dose of 20 mg of dexamethasone given once daily for five days, followed by 10 mg once daily for another five days, to the usual low dose treatment given for up to 10 days, the trial’s website showed.
(Compiled by Karishma Singh)