Covid-19 has infected more than 263M people and killed over 5.2M worldwide. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments on December 2:

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and her successor Olaf Scholz have agreed with leaders of Germany's 16 states to impose restrictions on unvaccinated.
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and her successor Olaf Scholz have agreed with leaders of Germany's 16 states to impose restrictions on unvaccinated. (Arne Dedert / AP)

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Germany imposes restraints on unvaccinated

Germany has imposed restrictions on the unvaccinated as it sought to break a dramatic surge in daily coronavirus infections exacerbated by the discovery of the Omicron strain.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and her successor Olaf Scholz agreed with leaders of Germany's 16 states to bar the unvaccinated from access to all but the most essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and bakeries. 

They also agreed to pass legislation in the national parliament to make vaccination mandatory.

Eager to avoid lockdowns that could derail a fragile recovery of Europe's biggest economy, they kept businesses open to the almost 69 percent of the population that is fully vaccinated as well as those with proof of having recovered from Covid-19.

Merkel also said that an ethics committee will be asked to draft legislation to make vaccination mandatory and the Bundestag would debate and vote on the disputed measure in February at the latest.

Authorities fear the fourth wave of Covid-19 risks overwhelming intensive care units and on Thursday it resulted in more than 73,000 new infections and 388 deaths.

Finland body suggest vaccination of children over 5

Children in Finland aged five and over that are at risk of severe Covid-19 infection due to weak immune systems should be given vaccinations, the Finnish Health Institute has recommended, opting not to recommend the shots for all children.

The government is expected to accept the recommendation. The institute said the vaccinations could start as soon as Finland obtains approved shots.

Greece reports first Omicron variant case

The first case of the omicron variant of coronavirus has been detected on the Greek island of Crete.

Greek Health Minister Thanos Plevris said at a press briefing in Athens that the Greek national has recently returned from South Africa to Chania, on the island of Crete, and that health authorities have taken the necessary procedures to follow his contacts.

According to Theok lis Zaoutis, the head of the National Organization for Public Health (EODY), the man, whose identity has yet to be revealed, returned to the island on November 26 and took a rapid test, which revealed a Covid-19 negative result.

However, after the man developed a few mild symptoms on November 29, it was confirmed that he was infected with the virus, and authorities confirmed it was the new omicron variant on Thursday morning.

He is currently quarantined, and his contacts have all tested negative, according to officials.

Ukraine halts entry for foreigners arriving from African countries

Ukraine will bar the entry of foreigners travelling from several African countries where the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been detected, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said at a televised government meeting

The health ministry earlier this week ordered mandatory 14-day self-isolation for Ukrainians returning from those countries. Similar rules will apply to foreigners with a permanent residence permit in Ukraine.

Ukraine has recorded 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 with 87,057 deaths but has not registered a case of the Omicron variant yet.

EU: Omicron may cause over half of Covid infections in Europe in a few months

The European Union's public health agency, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said that the Omicron variant could be responsible for more than half of all Covid-19 infections in Europe with a few months.

"Based on mathematical modelling conducted by ECDC, there are indications that Omicron could cause over half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the EU/EEA within the next few months," it said in a document.

Singapore records two Omicron cases

Singapore detected two imported cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, both of whom have been isolated, its health ministry said.

Contact tracing was ongoing for passengers on the same flight as those infected, and there was no evidence of community transmission, it said in a statement.

WHO warns of dangers of vaccination apathy

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has issued stern warnings on the dangers of vaccination apathy.

"Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage, and very low testing — a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants," he said, reminding the world that the Delta variant "accounts for almost all cases".

The WHO says it could take several weeks to understand whether or not Omicron is more transmissible, and whether it results in more severe disease — as well as how effective current treatments and vaccines are against the variant.

Sweden says could impose new measures next week

The Swedish Public Health Agency has said it could impose new restrictions as early as next week to fight the pandemic and a rising tide of infections.

Sweden introduced vaccine passes for indoor events with more than 100 people at the beginning of this month and indicated additional measures might be needed to curb the spread of the virus.

Portugal may see daily cases doubling at Christmas

The wave of infections in Portugal is expected to worsen and new daily cases could double to around 9,000 during the Christmas period, the health authority DGS chief Graca Freitas has told broadcaster RTP.

The country of just over 10 million reported a total of 4,670 new infections on Wednesday, the highest daily jump since the beginning of February, when it faced its toughest battle against the virus.

Paris area reports case of Omicron variant  

A case of the Omicron variant has been found in the greater Paris/Ile-de-France region, reported BFM TV, citing the local health authority.

The infected person had recently returned from Nigeria, added BFM TV.

Netherlands in tougher lockdown amid virus surge

The Netherlands has moved into a tougher lockdown that was announced amid spiking infections, even before the country recorded its first confirmed cases of Omicron variant.

Bars, restaurants, nonessential stores, cinemas and theatres were among the public places forced to shut fr om 5 p.m. until 5 a.m. under the new lockdown that began Sunday.

GSK says tests show Vir antibody drug works against Omicron

GlaxoSmithKline has said that a pre-clinical analysis of the antibody-based therapy it is developing with US partner Vir has indicated that the drug also works against the new Omicron variant.

Further tests will be carried out on the Sotrovimab therapy to firm up the results, GSK said in a statement. 

This comes as British regulators approved the drug to treat those at high risk of developing severe symptoms.

Ghana makes vaccine mandatory for public employees

Ghana has made it mandatory for all civil servants, including health workers, security personnel and teachers, to get vaccinated.

Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu made the announcement in a statement, warning the West African country needs to implement stricter measures as cases reached alarming levels.

Indonesia tightens travel curbs as it braces for Omicron arrival

Authorities in Indonesia have tightened border curbs, extended quarantine and limited movement on strategic toll roads, in a preemptive move to limit the spread of the Omicron variant should it reach Southeast Asia's largest country.

Travel to Indonesia from 11 countries, including South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Nigeria, will not be allowed, except for returning Indonesians, who will be subjected to 14 days of isolation 

US reports its first known Omicron case

The United States has identified its first known Covid case caused by the Omicron variant, discovered in a fully vaccinated patient who traveled to South Africa, as scientists continue to study the risks the new version could pose.

Public health officials said the infected person, who had mild and improving symptoms, returned to the United States from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive seven days later.

That patient was fully vaccinated but did not have a booster shot, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease official, who briefed reporters at the White House.

The person is in self-quarantine and all of the patient's close contacts have tested negative, he said.

South Korea sees more than 5,000 new cases

South Korea's daily case numbers have risen to a new high, as authorities halted quarantine exemptions for fully vaccinated inbound travellers for two weeks in a bid to fend off the Omicron variant.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 5,266 new cases, a day after the daily tally rose above 5,000 for the first time amid concerns over a sharp rise in patients with severe symptoms.

South Korea will require a 10-day quarantine for all inbound travellers for two weeks starting on Friday, halting exemptions given earlier to fully vaccinated people, the KDCA said.

South Africa 'punished' with travel ban for detecting new variants quicker

South Africa's president has said that the latest round of Covid-19-related travel bans is akin to punishing the country for its advanced genomic sequencing and ability to detect new variants quicker.

"Excellent science should be applauded and not punished," Cyril Ramaphosa said in his opening remarks during a state visit to Nigeria.

Last week, South African scientists announced that they had discovered a new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations compared to previous variants and reported it to the World Health Organization, which named it Omicron.

Days later, a number of countries imposed travel bans on South Africa and other southern African countries, including Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

Facebook hits anti-vaccine campaign harassing doctors

Facebook's parent company Meta has said it derailed an anti-vaccine campaign that harassed medical workers, journalists, and elected officials, in a signal of the ongoing pressure from coronavirus pandemic-tied misinformation.

The social media giant took down accounts in France and Italy that were linked to a conspiracy movement called "V_V", which inundated pro-vaccine posts with potentially tens of thousands of comments.

"V-V" supporters also "mass-harassed" people on YouTube, Twitter, VKontakte, and other online platforms, using swastikas or other images as well as calling doctors and media workers "Nazi supporters" for backing vaccines, Meta said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies