Covid-19 has infected more than 267M people and killed over 5.2M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Top US scientist Anthony Fauci says results from lab experiments that tested the potency of antibodies from current vaccines against Omicron should come in the
Top US scientist Anthony Fauci says results from lab experiments that tested the potency of antibodies from current vaccines against Omicron should come in the "next few days to a week." (AFP)

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Fauci: Omicron 'almost certainly' not more severe than Delta

Top US scientist Anthony Fauci has said early indications suggested the Omicron variant was not worse than prior strains, and was possibly milder, while cautioning it would take weeks to judge its severity.

The new variant is "clearly highly transmissible," very likely more so than Delta, President Joe Biden's chief medical advisor Fauci told AFP News Agency.

Accumulating epidemiological data from around the world also indicates re-infections are higher with Omicron.

France registers surge in hospitalisations

France has registered a surge in hospitalisations as a rise in new infections in mid-November led to an increase in patient numbers.

The Health Ministry reported that the number of patients in French hospitals rose by 618 to 12,714, the second-highest net one-day increase this year behind the net increase of 732 on April 6, when the patient tally was above 30,600.

Portugal recommends vaccine for 5-11 year olds

Portugal's health authority DGS has given the green light for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11.

A total of 637,907 children in Portugal are eligible to receive the shot, and DGS said priority would be given to those with pre-existing health conditions. 

The first batch of vaccines for children arrives on Monday.

Sweden reimposes some curbs as infection rate climbs

Sweden will reintroduce a series of limited measures to curb rising infections in the Nordic country, urging renewed social distancing and the use of masks in public transportation, the government said.

Cases in Sweden have risen in recent weeks after a relatively calm autumn. 

Hospitalisations and the number of patients requiring intensive car e are still among the lowest per capita in Europe but also have started to creep higher.

European drug regulator backs mixing vaccines

The European Union drug regulator has given its backing to mixing different types of vaccines in initial vaccination and booster campaigns to battle Covid-19.

The European Medicines Agency said in a statement that using different types of vaccines together, known as heterologous vaccination, can provide protection against the virus.

Romania announces new travel restrictions 

Romania has announced new travel restrictions after the Omicron variant was detected in the country.

The National Committee for Emergency Situations (CNSU) approved new rules for travellers arriving in the country, which will go into effect from December 10 to January 8.

All passengers from outside the EU will be required to present a negative PCR test taken 48 hours before entry into the country, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Uganda confirms first cases of Omicron variant

Uganda has its first eleven cases of the Omicron variant of, a health official confirmed.

The director of clinical services, Charles Olaro, said the variant was detected in travellers from South Africa and Nigeria who arrived in Uganda on November 29.

Five had come from Nigeria, two from South Africa and two from the United Arab Emirates.

The others had travelled from the Netherlands and the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

WHO Europe says vaccine mandates should be 'last resort' 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Europe has cautioned against making Covid vaccines mandatory, while urging better protection of children among whom cases are high.

WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said on Tuesday that compulsory vaccines should be "an absolute last resort and only applicable when all other feasible options to improve vaccination uptake have been exhausted".

Noting that mandates have increased vaccine uptake in some cases, Kluge said that these are "context specific", and added that the effect mandates may have on "public confidence and public trust" must also be considered.

Dutch hospital welcomes back troops amid Covid surge

The battle against coronavirus has been a long one, and now the Netherlands is drafting in soldiers to prop up hospitals as cases spike and beds fill up.

Helped by 50 members of the military with medical backgrounds, the UMC Utrecht hospital has opened a second care unit which can take patients with Covid-19 from across the region.

This is the second time that the military has been sent in to help at the hospital in the city in the central Netherlands, with the first time being from October 2020 to June this year.

France to close nightclubs, discos amid surge in infections

France has ordered nightclubs and discotheques to close for one month beginning December 10 to stem a surge in coronavirus cases.

The decision announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex will impact around 1,200 such establishments which had only reopened in July this year.

Following a high-level Health Defence Council meeting, Castex in a national address declared that an “exception” was made for the nightclubs and discos to close as they are majorly visited by young people.

Omicron travel bans strike South Africa's safari business

Recent travel bans imposed on South Africa and neighbouring countries in response to the discovery of the omicron variant in southern Africa have hammered the country's safari business, already hard hit by the pandemic.

South Africa's tourism industry suffered a more than 70 percent drop in foreign tourists in 2020, with Covid-19 blamed for the drop from about 15 million visitors in 2019 to less than 5 million in 2020. Tourism employs about 4.7 percent of South Africa's workforce.

Organisation of Turkic States donates vaccines to African countries

The Organisation of Turkic States has donated more than 600,000 doses of vaccines to Burkina Faso and Togo.

On behalf of the organisation, Turkey has allocated 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan 100,000 doses each of the Sinovac vaccine and Hungary 211,200 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The vaccines donated by Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Hungary reached Turkey and were sent along with Turkey’s contribution Monday to Burkina Faso and Togo on a Turkish military cargo plane, the statement said.

WHO advises against using blood plasma to treat Covid patients

The World Health Organisation has advised against using the blood plasma of patients who have recovered from Covid-19 to treat those who are ill, saying current evidence shows it neither improves survival nor reduces the need for ventilators.

The hypothesis for using plasma is that the antibodies it contains could neutralise the virus, stopping it from replicating and halting tissue damage.

Several studies testing convalescent blood plasma have shown no apparent benefit for treating patients who are severely ill. 

The method is also costly and time-consuming to administer, the WHO said in a statement on Monday.

No diplomats from New Zealand to Beijing Olympics

New Zealand will not be sending diplomatic representatives at a ministerial level to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has said, citing Covid-19 as the reason. 

The comments come after the United States said this week that it would not send government officials to the 2022 Winter Olympics due to China's human rights "atrocities".

He emphasised that New Zealand had raised its human rights concerns with China previously.

China's strict travel restrictions worries British firms

China's tight restrictions on international travel as part of its zero-tolerance approach to controlling Covid-19 are the top concern for British firms operating in the country but they are more optimistic than last year, a survey has shown.

While other countries in Asia have slowly opened up their borders to international travel, China still has strict curbs in place involving long quarantines and limits on flights and visas.

Its survey, which had 288 respondents, showed nearly a quarter of companies saw foreign staff numbers fall in 2021, and 41 percent expect numbers to decrease significantly next year on concerns over separation from family or friends or uncertainties over being able to come back.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies