Covid-19 has infected more than 270M people and killed over 5.3M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:
Monday, December 13, 2021
At least one patient dies from Omicron in UK
At least one person has died in the United Kingdom after contracting the Omicron coronavirus variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, the first publicly confirmed death globally from the swiftly spreading strain.
Since the first Omicron cases were detected on November 27 in Britain, Johnson has imposed tougher restrictions and cautioned that the variant could overcome the immune defences of those inoculated with two shots of vaccines.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told parliament the variant now accounted for around 44 percent of infections in London and would be the dominant variant in the capital within 48 hours.
The UK has recorded a further 54,661 cases and 38 more deaths, daily official data showed.
Senegal expects waste of 400,000 vaccines by year-end
At least 200,000 vaccines have expired in Senegal without being used in the past two months and another 200,000 are set to expire at the end of December because demand is too slow, the head of its immunisation programme said.
Senegal has administered nearly 2 million doses of vaccines so far, Reuters data shows, enough to fully vaccinate only about 5.9 percent of the population.
It is currently vaccinating between 1,000 and 2,000 people per day, Badiane told Reuters, down from 15,000 during the summer.
At this pace, it cannot use all the vaccines it has.
US Open champ Raducanu tests positive, out of exhibition
US Open champion Emma Raducanu has tested positive and pulled out of an exhibition match in the United Arab Emirates.
Organisers of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship announced Raducanu’s withdrawal, saying the British teenager is isolating and following protocols.
A replacement for Raducanu is being sought to fill in and play Belinda Bencic in Abu Dhabi.
Ghana airport to fine airlines that bring unvaccinated passengers
Ghana will fine airlines $3,500 for each passenger who arrives in the West African country without being fully vaccinated, the latest measure taken by the country with some of the strictest restrictions in the region.
Airlines also will be penalised the same amount for passengers who did not fill out a health declaration form before boarding their flight to Kotoka International Airport, the state-owned Ghana Airport Company announced Monday.
Hungary detects first two cases of Omicron variant
Hungary has detected two cases of the Omicron variant, its first cases since the variant was discovered, Surgeon General Cecilia Muller said on state television channel M1.
Muller also said that most new infections were still caused by the Delta variant in Hungary.
WHO: Omicron spreads faster, weakens jabs
The Omicron variant is more transmissible than the Delta strain and reduces vaccine efficacy but causes less severe symptoms according to early data, the World Health Organization says.
The WHO says Omicron has spread to 63 countries as of December 9. Faster transmission has been noted in South Africa, where Delta is less prevalent and in Britain, where Delta is the dominant strain.
Pakistan confirms first case of Omicron variant
Pakistan has confirmed its first case of the Omicron in the country's most populous city of Karachi.
"The NIH has been able to confirm...that a recently suspected sample from Karachi is indeed the 'Omicron variant'," the National Institute of Health (NIH) said in a Tweet on Monday.
"This is the first confirmed case but continued surveillance of suspected samples is in place to identify the trends."
Sixth Covid wave to hit France in January
France will be hit by a sixth Covid-19 wave next month due to the emergence of Omicron, while the country is still in the midst of the current Delta-fuelled fifth wave of the pandemic, according to a leading French hospital executive.
"We haven't said a word on the sixth wave, which is Omicron, which will come later, in January", Martin Hirsch, head of Paris's AP-HP hospitals group, Europe's largest hospital system, said.
Indonesia to start vaccinating children
Indonesia will start administering Covid-19 vaccinations for children aged between six-11 on Tuesday, as the Southeast Asian country becomes one of the first in the region to immunise the very young.
Indonesia approved China's Sinovac Biotech vaccine for the age group last month and about 26.5 million children have been targeted for vaccination, senior health ministry official Maxi Rein Rondonuwu told a briefing.
The Sinovac vaccine is the only shot approved for children in Indonesia and authorities will restrict its use for the six-11 age group from next year.
Thailand to expedite booster shots
Thailand will halve the time between administering a second Covid-19 vaccine shot and a booster down to three months to try to strengthen immunity in anticipation of a local spread of the Omicron variant.
Thailand has so far detected eight imported cases of the Omicron variant but has yet to see community transmission, according to its health ministry.
"Because Omicron is now widespread, the booster third shot would help lessen the severity of symptoms and reduce the death rate," said spokesperson for the government's Covid-19 taskforce Taweesin Wisanuyothin.
South Korea to test AI-powered facial recognition to track Covid cases
South Korea will soon roll out a pilot project to use artificial intelligence, facial recognition and thousands of CCTV cameras to track the movement of people infected with the coronavirus, despite concerns about the invasion of privacy.
The nationally funded project in Bucheon, one of the country's most densely populated cities on the outskirts of Seoul, is due to become operational in January, a city official told Reuters news agency.
Canada to accept PCR tests from residents in South Africa
Canada will start recognising molecular Covid-19 tests conducted at an accredited lab in South Africa for residents returning home, dropping a heavily criticised travel restriction introduced to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.
Ottawa had faced pressure from doctors, stranded passengers and the World Health Organization to reverse requirements that travelers from 10 southern African countries get molecular PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests in a third country before returning to Canada.
Queensland state opens its domestic borders
Coronavirus-free Queensland state opened its domestic borders to all vaccinated people on Monday for the first time in nearly five months, as Australians gear up for quarantine-free travel across most of the country during the busy Christmas period.
Queensland, Australia's third most populous state, shut its border to New South Wales in July and then later to people coming from Victoria to protect against a Delta outbreak that rocked the country's east for several months.
UK says 'two doses not enough'
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warns of a looming "tidal wave" of Omicron, and brings forward a target to give over-18s a booster jab by one month to the end of December.
"No-one should be in any doubt. There is a tidal wave of Omicron coming," he said in a televised address, after the country's medical advisers raise the Covid Alert Level due to a "rapid increase" in infection from the variant.
South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa test positive
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has tested positive for Covid-19, but was showing mild symptoms, the presidency said.
"The President started feeling unwell after leaving the State Memorial Service in honour of former Deputy President FW de Klerk in Cape Town earlier today," the statement said.
"The President, who is fully vaccinated, is in self-isolation in Cape Town and has delegated all responsibilities to Deputy President David Mabuza for the next week," it added.