(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
J&J booster 85% effective against Omicron hospitalisation
A Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is 85% effective in protecting against being hospitalised by the Omicron variant for 1-2 months after it is received, the head of South Africa’s Medical Research Council said on Friday.
A study involved 477,234 healthcare workers, all of them vaccinated with the J&J shot, of whom 236,000 – roughly half – had received the J&J booster shot.
Unvaccinated people infected with the Omicron variant may be less prone to severe illness and requiring hospital care or dying than was the case with previous variants, another South African study showed on Friday.
Brazil reels as Omicron spreads
Brazil is suffering a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant spreads through the country, putting pressure on health services and weighing on an already sputtering economy.
Insufficient testing and a data blackout caused by hackers have made it harder for experts to track the spread of Omicron in Brazil, but there are increasingly clear signs that the variant is hitting Latin America’s largest nation hard.
China suspends more flights
China suspended dozens of international flights on Friday in response to the surge in Omicron cases, while the city of Shanghai curbed tourist activity as it rushed to head off local COVID-19 infections and imported cases rose.
Cities across China are becoming more vigilant ahead of the Lunar New Year travel season later this month and as Beijing readies to stage the Winter Olympics beginning Feb. 4, with many local governments urging residents not to leave town unnecessarily.
Hong Kong authorities said on Friday the city’s airport will suspend for a month transit flights from around 150 countries and territories considered high risk, deepening the global financial hub’s isolation.
Philippines bans unvaccinated from public transport
The Philippines will push through a plan next week to ban from public transportation people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, officials said on Friday, as the country strives to quell a surge in infections.
The ban applies to the congested capital region of about 13 million people, where most new cases have emerged, but has faced stiff opposition from the country’s human rights commission, which called it restrictive and discriminatory.
South Korea court exempts teens, supermarkets from vaccine passes
A South Korean court on Friday ruled that large shops and teenagers should be temporarily excluded from COVID-19 vaccine pass mandates in the capital Seoul, part of an intensifying legal fight over one of Asia’s strictest vaccination policies.
A group of more than 1,000 doctors, professors and ordinary citizens filed for an injunction last week against Seoul’s mayor to suspend the mandates, which require vaccination passes or testing for entry to most public facilities except for schools.
Hundreds of thousands of Indians gather for holy dip
Hundreds of thousands of Hindu worshippers gathered on the banks of India’s Ganges river on Friday for a holy bathe despite a 30-fold rise in COVID-19 cases in the past month.
A large number of devotees were taking a dip in the sacred river where it flows through the eastern state of West Bengal, which is reporting the most number of cases in the country after Maharashtra state in the west.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; editing by Barbara Lewis)