Covid-19 has infected more than 266M people and killed over 5.2M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

There were an estimated 241 million malaria cases worldwide in 2020.
There were an estimated 241 million malaria cases worldwide in 2020. (AP)

Monday, December 6, 2021

WHO: Malaria fight disrupted by Covid-19 pandemic

Pandemic-related disruptions have caused tens of thousands more malaria deaths in 2020, the World Health Organization said, but added that urgent action had averted a far worse scenario.

In a fresh report, the UN health agency found that Covid-19 had reversed progress against the mosquito-borne disease, which was already plateauing before the pandemic struck.

There were an estimated 241 million malaria cases worldwide in 2020 — 14 million more than a year earlier — and the once-rapidly-falling death toll swelled to 627,000 last year, jumping 69,000 from 2019.

EU regulator backs Roche's arthritis drug for treating virus

The European Union's drug regulator recommended extending the use of Roche's RoActemra arthritis drug for adult Covid-19 patients on systemic treatment with steroids and those who need oxygen support or mechanical ventilation.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said its human medicines committee evaluated data from a main study involving over 4,000 hospitalised adults, and concluded that the medicine's benefits outweigh the risks for these patients. 

France orders nightclubs to close for four weeks 

France nightclubs will close for four weeks from Friday in a bid to counter a surge in cases among young people in particular, Prime Minister Jean Castex has said.

Stricter social distancing and extended use of face masks will also be required in schools as France faces a fifth wave of virus cases that are again filling hospital beds, Castex said, though the government held off on imposing stricter measures for the general population.

Nearly 70 ICU medics at Spanish hospital test positive after 

Nearly 70 nurses and doctors working in the intensive care unit at a Spanish hospital have tested positive after attending a Christmas party, health authorities have said.

Sixty-eight medics at the University Regional Hospital in Malaga had been diagnosed with Covid-19, the Andalusian regional government said.

Health authorities said they were investigating the source of the infection but added all 68 attended a Christmas party on December 1 at which 173 people were present.

New York City mandates vaccines for all private businesses 

New York City has declared that all private-sector employers must implement vaccine mandates for their workers, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant has spread to at least one-third of US states.

The biggest US city set a December 27 deadline for all 184,000 businesses within its limits to make their employees show proof that they have been vaccinated.

In addition, children 5 to 11 years old must get at least one vaccine dose by December 14 to enter restaurants and to participate in extracurricular school activities, such as sports, band, orchestra and dance, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Czech government confirms vaccine mandate for some citizens

The Czech government will order vaccinations for people working in hospitals and nursing homes as well as police officers, soldiers and some other professions and all citizens aged 60 and older, Health Minister Adam Vojtech has said.

The country of 10.7 million lags the European Union average in  vaccinations and is going through another wave of infections that has forced hospitals to cut non-urgent care and call for help from the army and volunteers.

UK records over 51,400 new daily cases

Britain has reported 51,459 further cases and 41 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to official data.

That compares with 43,992 cases and 54 deaths reported a day earlier.

Earlier, Britain's Health Security Agency said it found 90 new cases of the Omicron variant, taking the total number identified so far to 336.

Italy reports over 9,500 new cases

Italy has reported 92 deaths against 43 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 9,503 from 15,021.

Italy has registered 134,287 deaths 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 5.12 million cases to date.

Croatia reports first Omicron cases

Croatian health authorities have confirmed the first two cases of the new Omicron variant in the country.

Health officials on Monday said they are trying to establish the source of infection as the two people had not travelled abroad.

They say they are most likely to have got the virus at a business gathering they had both attended.

Next pandemic could be more lethal than Covid

Future pandemics could be even more lethal than Covid-19 so the lessons learned from the pandemic must not be squandered, one of the creators of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has said.

"This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods," Sarah Gilbert said in the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, the BBC reported. 

"The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both."

"We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through, and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness," she said.

Unvaccinated Italians face new restrictions as holidays near

Italy is making life more uncomfortable for unvaccinated people this holiday season, excluding them from indoor restaurants, theaters and museums starting Monday to reduce the spread of coronavirus and encourage vaccine skeptics to get their shots.

Italian police can check whether diners in restaurants or bars have a “super” green health pass certifying that they are either vaccinated or have recently recovered from the virus. 

Smart phone applications that check people's health pass status will be updated and those who have merely tested negative in recent days for Covid-19 will no longer be allowed into concerts, movies or performances.

The measures run through January 15.

Authorities also imposed a requirement for a “basic” health pass, which can be obtained with a negative test, on local transport and to check into hotels.

South Africa readies hospitals as Omicron variant drives new wave

South Africa is preparing its hospitals for more admissions, as the Omicron variant pushes the country into a fourth wave of infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa said in a weekly newsletter that Omicron appeared to be dominating new infections in most provinces and urged more people to get vaccinated.

"We will soon be convening a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council to review the state of the pandemic. This will enable us to take whatever further measures are needed to keep people safe and healthy," he added.

Russia, Argentina reports their 1st cases of Omicron variant

Russia and Argentina have detected their first cases of the omicron variant of coronavirus, according to the health officials of the counties.

Russia has confirmed the first two cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in the country in travellers who returned from South Africa, health authorities said.

The Russian public health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, said a total of 10 people who returned from South Africa recently tested positive for Covid-19, but the new variant has only been confirmed in two cases so far, with other samples still being studied for omicron.

In Argentina, the new strain of the virus was found in a person who arrived ’s San Luis province from South Africa on Nov 30, said the ministry in a statement on Sunday.

Health authorities said the 38-year-old patient was fully vaccinated and had also recovered from Covid-19 in March.

Omicron variant was in Belgium weeks earlier than it was announced: Report

The new omicron variant of the coronavirus was present in Belgium in mid-November, weeks earlier than the first case was confirmed in South Africa or officially reported in Belgium, local media reported.

A teenager from the East Flanders region of the country was infected with the omicron variant weeks ago, according to the latest analysis of the Flemish Health Agency revealed by De Standaard, Het Nieuwsblad, and the Gazet van Antwerpen newspapers.

The report confirmed that several students from a high school in the town of Melle got the new variant from a member of the Belgian water polo team who had returned from a match in Brno, Czech Republic in mid-November.

'Extreme' vaccine discrimination risks leaving Africa behind

Africa has little chance of overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic unless 70 percent of its population is vaccinated by end-2022, yet "extreme vaccine discrimination" is leaving the continent behind, a new report has said.

The discovery of the Omicron variant in southern Africa has heightened claims that low inoculation rates can encourage viral mutations, which can then spread to countries where rates are much higher.

Yet only five of Africa's 54 countries are on track to reach a World Health Organisation target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of the population by end-2021, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation said in a report.

One in 15 Africans has been fully vaccinated, against nearly 70 percent in the G7 group of richer nations, according to data from the foundation, which was set up by the Sudanese telecoms billionaire to promote better governance and economic development in Africa.

"From early in this crisis, our Foundation and other African voices have been warning that an un-vaccinated Africa could become a perfect incubator for variants," its chair Mo Ibrahim said in a statement.

"The emergence of Omicron reminds us that Covid-19 remains a global threat, and that vaccinating the whole world is the only way forward," he added. "Yet we continue to live with extreme vaccine discrimination, and Africa in particular is being left behind."

Japan's virus border controls 'boost support' for PM

Japanese voters' support for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has ticked up after his government enforced tighter border controls against the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Yomiuri Shimbun daily said.

Japan took some of the world's strictest steps on November 29 by closing its borders to new foreign entrants for about a month. A day later, it discovered its first Omicron infection in a Namibian diplomat who had arrived on November 28.

Support for Kishida's government was 62 percent, up from 56 percent a month ago, the Yomiuri poll showed, with 89 percent of respondents taking a positive view of the latest measures.

The upbeat survey results came despite Thursday's flip-flop on inbound airline bookings, a ban on which had provoked worry and confusion among citizen looking to return home for year-end holidays.

China reports 61 new Covid-19 cases

China has reported 61 new confirmed coronavirus cases for December 5, up from 59 a day earlier, its health authority said on Monday.

Of the new infections, 38 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission, compared with 42 a day earlier.

The new local cases were reported by local authorities in Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Hebei, and Yunnan.

China reported 44 new asymptomatic cases, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, compared with 21 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. As of December 5, mainland China had 99,203 confirmed cases.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies