Covid-19 has infected more than 262M people and killed over 5.2M. Here are the virus-related developments for November 29:

New Omicron variant continues to spread quickly in several countries.
New Omicron variant continues to spread quickly in several countries. (AP)

Monday, November 29, 2021

First Omicron infection confirmed in Spain

A Madrid hospital said it had detected Spain's first case of the new Omicron strain in a man who had recently been in South Africa.

"The microbiology service of the Gregorio Maranon Hospital in Madrid announces the first confirmation of the Omicron variant in Spain," the hospital tweeted.

Sweden reports first case of Omicron variant

One case of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been detected in Sweden, the Public Health Agency said.

The case was detected in a test taken a little over a week ago from a person who had travelled from South Africa, the agency said in a statement. 

UN chief concerned about southern Africa isolation 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he was deeply concerned about the isolation of southern African countries; travel restrictions were imposed by several countries over the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.

"I appeal to all governments to consider repeated testing for travelers, together with other appropriate and truly effective measures, with the objective of avoiding the risk of transmission so as to allow for travel and economic engagement," Guterres said in a statement.

UK adds 35 deaths 

Britain reported 42,583 further cases and 35 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to official data.

A further two cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in UK, with the two people both having links to travel to southern Africa, health officials said.

UK decided to extend its booster vaccine program to millions more people as part of efforts to tackle the spread of the new omicron variant, which is feared to be more contagious and vaccine resistant.

Israel reports 2nd Omicron case

Israel has reported a second case of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, according to local media.

The Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, citing the health ministry, said a woman proved to have contracted the variant after coming from South Africa recently.

On Saturday, Israel barred foreign tourists from entering the country, as part of restrictions to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

China leader promises Africa 1B vaccine doses

China's president pledged to offer Africa one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses, with the continent struggling to acquire enough jabs to immunise against the disease. 

President Xi Jinping said his country would donate 600 million doses directly.

A further 400 million doses would come from other sources, such as investments in production sites, which are sorely lacking across much of Africa.

Italy sees 65 more fatalities 

Italy has reported 65 deaths against 47 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 7,975 from 12,932.

Italy has registered 133,739 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth-highest in the world. 

The country has reported 5.02 million cases to date.

Singapore reports over 1,000 cases

Singapore has recorded 1,103 new cases versus 747 infections the previous day; reports 9 deaths.

Risk related to Omicron variant very high: WHO

The Omicron variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a "very high" global risk where Covid-19 surges could have "severe consequences" in some areas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

The UN agency, in technical advice to its 194 member states, urged them to accelerate vaccination of high-priority groups and to "ensure mitigation plans are in place" to maintain essential health services.

"Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic," the WHO said.

"The overall global risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron is assessed as very high."

Further research is needed to better understand Omicron's potential to escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines and previous infections, it said, adding that more data was expected in coming weeks.

"Covid-19 cases and infections are expected in vaccinated persons, albeit in a small and predictable proportion", it added.

Portuguese football team sees 13 Omicron cases

Portuguese health authorities have said they have identified 13 cases of Omicron, the new variant believed to be more contagious, among team members of a professional soccer club.

The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said that one of those who tested positive at the Lisbon-based Belenenses club had recently traveled to South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first identified.

The others, however, had not traveled to South Africa, indicating that this may be one of the very first cases of local transmission of the virus outside of southern Africa.

S.Africa could top '10,000 daily cases' this week

The newly-discovered Omicron variant is likely to fuel a surge in South Africa's cases that could see daily infections treble this week, a top epidemiologist has warned.

Health monitors reported over 2,800 infections on Sunday, up from a daily average of 500 in the previous week and 275 the week before.

"I am expecting we will top over 10,000 cases by the end of the week per day (and) pressure on hospitals within the next two, three weeks," Dr Salim Abdool Karim said at an online health ministry press briefing.

Scotland reports six new cases of Omicron variant

The Scottish government has announced the discovery of six new cases of the Omicron variant, taking the UK total to nine.

It said it has asked public health authorities to undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases.

Japan bans entry of foreign visitors as Omicron spreads

Japan announced that it will suspend entry of all foreign visitors, joining an increasing number of countries that are tightening their borders as fear spreads of yet another extension of pandemic suffering.

Japan, which has yet to detect any cases of the recently identified Omicron variant, reimposed border controls that it eased earlier this month for short-term business visitors, foreign students and workers.

India steps ups virus testing for international flyers

India will make on-arrival testing mandatory for flyers from more than a dozen countries, including South Africa and Britain where the Omicron variant has been detected, the Health Ministry said.

The decision will be effective from December 1 and comes after a man who recently returned from South Africa tested positive, though it is not yet clear which strain of he contracted.

Switzerland detects first suspected case of Omicron variant

The first probable case of the Omicron variant has been detected in Switzerland, the government said, as the country tightened its entry restrictions to check its spread.

The case relates to a person who returned to Switzerland from South Africa around a week ago, the Federal Office for Public Health said on Twitter.

UN says Covid will cost global tourism $2 trillion this year

The coronavirus pandemic will cost the global tourism sector $2.0 trillion in lost revenue in 2021, the UN's tourism body has said, calling the sector's recovery "fragile" and "slow".

The forecast from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization comes as Europe is grappling with a surge in infections and as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, spreads across the globe.

International tourist arrivals will this year remain 70-75 percent below the 1.5 billion arrivals recorded in 2019 before the pandemic hit, a similar decline as in 2020, according to the body.

The global tourism sector already lost $2.0 trillion in revenues last year due to the pandemic, according to the UNWTO, making it one of sectors hit hardest by the health crisis.

Australia halts border reopening over Omicron fears

Australia has abruptly halted plans to reopen its international borders to skilled workers and students, an eleventh-hour decision prompted by concerns over the Omicron variant.

After an emergency security meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the much-heralded December 1 reopening will be delayed at least two weeks.

Japan considering further border controls as Omicron spreads

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said his country will consider further tightening its borders as the newly discovered Omicron coronavirus variant spreads around the world.

"We are (taking measures) with a strong sense of crisis," Kishida told reporters, noting that Japan closed its borders to foreigners travelling from nine countries including South Africa as of Sunday.

"As we're seeing a spread around the world, we continue to consider further measures to tighten border controls and will announce a decision at the appropriate time."

Biden told it will take two weeks to have definitive data on Omicron variant

The top US infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has told President Joe Biden it will take about two weeks to have definitive information on the new coronavirus variant Omicron that has sparked new travel restrictions and shaken financial markets.

Biden, returning to Washington following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, was briefed in person by his coronavirus response team  as officials expect the new variant to reach the United States despite an impending ban on travellers from Southern Africa, where it was first detected.

Fauci said he believes existing vaccines are likely to provide "a degree of protection against severe cases of Covid", and officials reiterated their recommendation for vaccinated Americans to get booster shots, according to a readout of the briefing.

Singapore, Malaysia reopen busy land border for vaccinated travellers

Singapore and Malaysia have reopened one of the world's busiest land borders, allowing vaccinated travellers to make the crossing after nearly two years of closure due to the  pandemic.

The sudden closure of the border in March 2020 left tens of thousands people stranded on both sides, separated from families and fearing for their jobs.

As many as 300,000 Malaysians commuted daily to wealthy city-state Singapore before the pandemic.

Source: Reuters