Covid-19 has infected more than 265M people and killed over 5.2M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Despite repeated pleas from Russian authorities only around 40 percent of Russians are fully vaccinated.
Despite repeated pleas from Russian authorities only around 40 percent of Russians are fully vaccinated. (AP)

Friday, December 3, 2021

Russia records 75,000 Covid-19 related deaths in October

Russia's federal statistics agency Rosstat said that nearly 75,000 people died of coronavirus in the country in October, making it the deadliest month of the entire pandemic.

The agency reported that total deaths since Russia recorded its first case stood at more than 520,000, the third worst fatality count in the world behind the United States and Brazil.

Authorities in Moscow have been accused of downplaying the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and Rosstat's figure -- released late Friday -- painted a far darker picture than official figures suggest.

The Rosstat tally was considerably higher than an official government website tracking the pandemic, which says total Covid deaths are 278,857.

WHO says no Omicron deaths yet

The Omicron variant has been detected in 38 countries but no deaths have yet been reported, the WHO said on Friday, as authorities worldwide rushed to stem the heavily mutated Covid-19 strain's spread amid warnings that it could damage the global economic recovery.

The United States and Australia became the latest countries to confirm locally transmitted cases of the variant, as Omicron infections pushed South Africa's total cases past three million.

The World Health Organization has warned it could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is, whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it.

"We're going to get the answers that everybody out there needs," WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.

IMF: Omicron likely to slow economic growth

Global economic growth projections from the International Monetary Fund will likely be downgraded due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said.

"A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence, and in that sense, we are likely to see some downgrades of our October projections for global growth," Georgieva said.

Switzerland tightens mask wearing rules as coronavirus cases soar

The Swiss government on Friday announced a tightening of mask-wearing regulations, as the country detected two more omicron Covid-19 cases at a school in Geneva.

"The Federal Council recommends the Covid certificate for private meetings of more than 10 people," said Health Minister Alain Berset at a press conference after a meeting of the Swiss Federal Government.

He said two confirmed cases of the omicron variant were announced on Thursday on the Founex campus of the International School of Geneva, just outside the city, and some 2,000 students and staff were quarantined.

Mexico reports first Omicron case

Mexico has announced its first case of the coronavirus Omicron variant, in a traveller from South Africa, but the government said it was not considering border closures as a counter-measure.

The variant was detected in a 51-year-old from South Africa with mild symptoms, under secretary of health Hugo Lopez-Gatell Ramirez said on Twitter.

An epidemiologist by training, Lopez-Gatell Ramirez said closing borders and blocking the movement of people and goods "are not useful measures for containing variants."

WHO: No evidence yet to support tailoring vaccines to Omicron

The World Health Organization's emergencies director, Mike Ryan, said there was no evidence to support a change in Covid-19 vaccines to tailor them to the Omicron variant.

Ryan, speaking at a social media event, said that if needed, however, the work was already underway in case Omicron-specific vaccines were needed.

"Right now, we have highly effective vaccines that are working. We need to focus on getting them more equitably distributed. We need to focus on getting people most at risk vaccinated," Ryan said.

Study: mRNA vaccines provide biggest booster impact

Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna that use mRNA technology provide the biggest boost to antibody levels when given 10-12 weeks after the second dose, a new British study has found.

The "COV-Boost" study was cited by British officials when they announced that Pfizer and Moderna were preferred for use in the country's booster campaign, but the data has only been made publicly available now.

The study found that six of the seven boosters examined enhanced immunity after initial vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, while all seven increased immunity when given after two doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine.

"A third dose will be effective for many of the vaccines we've tested and in many different combinations," Professor Saul Faust, an immunologist at the University of Southampton and the trial's lead, told reporters.

The study found that a full dose or half dose of Pfizer or a full dose of Moderna gave a strong boost to both antibody and T-cell levels, regardless of whether the person initially received Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

Tunisia reports first Omicron case

Tunisia has reported its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, health minister announced.

Speaking on state TV, Ali Mrabet said a 23-year-old passenger travelling from the Democratic Republic of Congo was diagnosed with the variant.

He further noted the person in question was placed in quarantine at a location dedicated for Covid-19 patients.

Turkey reports 187 deaths

Turkey has recorded 21,495 new coronavirus cases, 187 deaths, and 20,193 recoveries from the virus over the past day.

Turkey has administered more than 120.79 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since it launched an immunisation drive in January, the Health Ministry said.

Britain reports 143 deaths

Britain has reported 50,584 further virus cases and 143 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to official data.

That compares with 53,945 cases and 141 deaths reported a day earlier. 

Italy reports 74 deaths

Italy has reported 74 coronavirus-related deaths against 72 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 17,030 from 16,806.

Italy has registered 134,077 deaths linked to the virus 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 5.08 million cases to date.

Ireland places new limits on bars and home visits 

The Irish government has announced strict new limits on the hospitality sector and home visits as it moved to push down Covid-19 infection rates after officials warned the new Omicron variant was likely to add to pressure on the health service.

"The risks associated with proceeding into the Christmas period without some restrictions ... is just too high," Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a televised address.

US ships 9M vaccine doses to African countries, 2M worldwide

The United States has sent 9 million doses of vaccine doses to countries in Africa and another 2 million doses to other nations, the White House said.

Australia reports first locally transmitted Omicron cases

Australia has reported three students at a Sydney school have tested positive for the Covid-19 Omicron variant, the country's first cases of community transmission of the new strain.

Health officials said there were 10 additional suspected Omicron cases at the school that are urgently being confirmed, raising the spectre of widespread infection.

The cluster comes despite a ban on non-citizens entering the country and restrictions on flights from southern Africa, where the variant was first detected.

New South Wales Health said the first case had "no overseas travel history or links to people with overseas travel history" raising the alarm.

Australia had previously detected several other Omicron cases, but all were found in incoming travellers who quarantined.

Australia currently records around 2,000 Covid cases a day.

At least 17 suspected Omicron cases after Oslo party

At least 17 people who came down with Covid-19 after a Christmas party gathering over 100 guests in Oslo last week are suspected of having the Omicron variant, city officials said.

"So far 60 people have tested positive (for Covid) with PCR tests, and four with antigen tests. Seventeen are probably Omicron, but that has yet to be confirmed. So far, one case is confirmed to be Omicron after sequencing," the city of Oslo said in a statement.

Between 100 and 120 people – all of whom were vaccinated, and one of whom had recently travelled to southern Africa – had gath ered last Friday for a Christmas party organised by their employer.

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Malaysia detects first case of Omicron variant

Malaysia has detected the country's first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, health minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.

It was detected in a foreign visitor from South Africa who arrived in Malaysia via Singapore on November 19, he said.

SKorea tightens restrictions amid virus surge

South Korea is tightening recently relaxed restrictions on social gatherings as it grapples with its worst wave of the virus since the start of the pandemic.

Starting next week, private social gatherings of seven or more people will be banned in densely populated capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, which have been hit hardest by a delta-driven spread that threatens to overwhelm hospital capacities.

Gatherings will be capped to eight people in areas outside the capital region, officials said Friday.

Adults will also be required to verify their vaccination status through apps to use restaurants, movie theaters, museums, libraries, and other indoor venues.

Most of these venues will admit only fully vaccinated adults, while restaurants and coffee shops will be allowed to accept one adult in each group who isn't fully vaccinated or vaccinated at all.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 4,944 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, a day after South Korea set a one-day record of 5,266 new cases.

 The country's death toll is now at 3,739 after reporting 30 to 50 deaths each day in recent weeks.

US reports Omicron cases in multiple states 

Hawaii has found a case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, officials said, becoming the fifth US state to detect the variant and bringing the total number of reported infections in the country to nine.

Omicron coronavirus variant was confirmed in an unvaccinated Hawaii resident with no recent travel history.

Hawaii Epidemiologist Dr Sarah Kemble said that the adult had been infected with Covid-19 a year ago, isn't currently hospitalised and had "mild-to-moderate" symptoms including headache, body aches and cough.

Earlier, New York reported five such cases. 

Three other US states have found cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant –– California, Colorado and Minnesota –– among patients who were fully vaccinated and developed mild symptoms, health officials said.

China sees nearly 100 new Covid cases

China reported 96 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Dec. 2, from 73 a day earlier, its health authority said on Friday.

Of the new infections, 80 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission, compared with 53 a day earlier.

China reported 24 new asymptomatic cases, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, compared with 13 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. As of Dec. 2, mainland China had 98,993 confirmed cases.

UK 'fails to protect' Covid loans against frauds

Britain's government has failed to guard properly against fraud in its $63 billion Covid emergency lending programme for small businesses, opening itself up to billions of pounds of losses, a watchdog has warned.

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme launched in May 2020 and did not conduct credit checks or fully verify the identity of small businesses applying for loans, the National Audit Office, which scrutinises public-sector spending, said.

The government launched the scheme to stop the collapse of small businesses which had to cease trading due to tight lockdown restrictions at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, Britain's business ministry, which ran the programme via the British Business Bank, a state lender, estimated that 37 percent of the loans would not be repaid and that 11percent came from fraudulent applications.

UN biodiversity summit postponed due to Omicron scare

The second part of UN biodiversity summit COP15, set to take place in Switzerland in January, has been postponed over the new coronavirus variant Omicron, organisers have said.

"Uncertainties posed by the Omicron variant and resulting travel measures and restrictions" have forced physical meetings to be postponed, they said in a statement.

The Geneva meeting originally supposed to take place from January 18 to 22 could instead be moved to March.

In a sign of Omicron's threat, about 2,000 people, including 1,600 children, have been placed in quarantine after two cases of the variant were found on one of the campuses of the renowned International School of Geneva, Swiss health authorities said. 

Dozens infected in Norway with Omicron variant 

Officials in Norway said at least 50 people in Oslo have been infected with the omicron variant. The cases are connected to a company’s recent Christmas party in a restaurant in the capital, officials said.

The Oslo Municipality said in a statement that more cases are expected. Officials are trying to trace transmission routes from the party.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill and whether it can thwart vaccines.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that those affected live in Oslo and surrounding municipalities.

Australia reports first Omicron case

Australia has reported its first community transmission of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, but authorities held steady on a plan to reopen the economy amid hopes it would prove to be milder than previous strains.

The new case, a school student from Sydney, was the first confirmed Omicron infection of a person who had not travelled overseas, a sign the variant was now in the community, authorities in New South Wales state said.

"Transmission is always a concern but we again need to keep it in perspective," NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters, explaining why Australia's most populous state was not reversing its staged reopening from strict lockdowns imposed in July due to the Delta variant.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies