Covid-19 has infected more than 265M people and killed over 5.2M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments for December 4:

The Omicron variant first detected in southern Africa last month has caused global alarm.
The Omicron variant first detected in southern Africa last month has caused global alarm. (AP)

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Britain tightens testing for inbound travellers, adds Nigeria to red list

Britain will require all inbound travellers to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test, and arrivals from Nigeria will have to quarantine in hotels to slow the spread of the Omicron variant, health minister Sajid Javid said.

The pre-departure testing requirement will mean all inbound travellers must take a test a maximum of 48 hours before departure time, and will come in from 0400 GMT on Tuesday.

Nigeria will be added to Britain's travel "red list" at 0400 GMT on Monday.

Javid said that the number of cases of Omicron in Britain had risen to around 160, and that Nigeria was second only to South Africa in terms of Omicron cases linked to travel.

Chile detects first case of Omicron variant

Chilean health authorities have reported that they detected the first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in a person who had arrived in the copper-producing South American country from Africa.

The foreign patient residing in Chile arrived in the country on November 25 from Ghana with a recently-taken negative Covid-19 test. But a subsequent test taken upon arrival in Chile was positive and then sequenced.

"The passenger, who had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, is currently in good health and fulfilling his isolation," the secretary of health of the Valparaiso region in Chile said in a statement.

Brazil's Rio cancels New Year celebration

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro canceled New Year's Eve celebrations after Brazil confirmed the first known cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Latin America’s biggest country.

Eduardo Paes tweeted that he would follow the recommendations of Rio de Janeiro state to cancel the celebrations, despite the city's own view to the contrary.

Zambia detects first cases of Omicron variant

Zambia has detected its first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in three people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week, the health ministry said.

The three cases are a man living in the district around the capital Lusaka who travelled abroad recently and is showing mild symptoms, a man in Chibombo District who also travelled abroad recently but is asymptomatic, and a woman in Lusaka District who had not travelled abroad recently and had mild symptoms.

Britain reports 127 more deaths

Britain has reported 42,848 new cases, government figures showed, a drop in daily cases following two straight days where more than 50,000 cases were recorded.

There were 127 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, down from 143 deaths reported on Friday.

Turkey reports 228 deaths

Turkey has recorded 20,374 new coronavirus cases, 228 related deaths, and 19,463 recoveries from the virus in the last 24 hours.

The country administered more than 120.8 million doses of vaccines since it launched an immunisation drive in January, according to official data.

Thousands protest over Dutch coronavirus restrictions

Several thousand people have gathered in the central Dutch town of Utrecht to protest against new coronavirus restrictions that came into force last weekend.

Protesters walked through the streets of the town carrying banners saying "medical freedom now!" and waving Dutch flags. A heavy police presence was visible along the route of the march.

Many protesters denounced what they see as increasing pressure from the Dutch government to get vaccinated if they want to participate in regular society.

Singapore reports 743 new cases

Singapore has reported 743 Covid-19 cases versus 766 infections the previous day and two deaths. 

Two hippos in Belgian zoo test positive

Two hippos have tested positive for Covid-19 at Antwerp Zoo in Belgium in what could be the first reported cases in the species, zoo staff said.

Hippos Imani, aged 14, and 41-year-old Hermien have no symptoms apart from a runny nose, but the zoo said the pair had been put into quarantine as a precaution.

"To my knowledge, this is the first time in this species. Worldwide, this virus has been reported mainly in great apes and felines," said the zoo's vet, Francis Vercammen.

The coronavirus is thought to have jumped from an animal to a human, and it is proved to have passed from humans to animals.

India delays South Africa tour over Omicron

India's cricket board delayed the national side's South Africa tour over the heavily mutated Omicron strain of Covid-19, it said in a statement.

Omicron was first discovered in South Africa and has led to global panic, uncertainty and fresh travel curbs in the last few days, raising questions over the prospects for the tour.

The first Test of a three-match series against the Proteas has been put back from December 17 to December 26.

The tour "will proceed with the revised dates and itinerary", Jay Shah, secretary for the Board of Control for Cricket in Indi a (BCCI), said in a statement. 

Lab tests under way to find vaccine efficacy against Omicron

Lab tests are under way to determine vaccine efficacy against Omicron with results expected within weeks.

In the meantime, the Delta variant remains dominant and experts, governments and vaccine makers are urging people to take advantage of booster jabs where they are available.

Delta has proved able to evade vaccine defences against transmission better than the Alpha, Beta and Gamma Covid variants.

But jabs have remained highly effective at preventing severe illness from Delta, lowering the risk of overwhelming hospital resources.

Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna each say they have begun work on a new version of their vaccine specifically targeting Omicron – in case existing jabs don't work against it.

Pfizer has promised a new vaccine within 100 days but the rollout will take far longer and won't be in place before spring, Canard said.

Netherlands: 18 passengers from South Africa had Omicron

Dutch health authorities have said the final tally of passengers on two flights from South Africa last week who had tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant was 18.

The Netherlands' Institute for Health added in a statement that its investigation on passengers on the two flights has now been wrapped up.

The flights had already taken off on November 26 when the Dutch government introduced new travel restrictions due to worries about the newly detected Omicron variant.

More than 600 passengers trave lling on the flights were kept isolated and tested for Covid-19, with 61 testing positive, including the 18 who were found to have the Omicron variant.

Those who tested positive but have no symptoms will be allowed out of isolation on Saturday while others will have to stay longer, the institute said.

It did not give details on the number of passengers that will be released from isolation. 

India detects third Omicron case

India has reported its third case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, as total Covid-19 cases inched closer to the 35 million mark.

Officials in the western state of Gujarat said the patient who tested positive for Omicron was a 72-year old man of Indian origin who had lived in Zimbabwe for decades, and returned on November 28.

India reported 8,603 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, taking the total to 34.62 million. Deaths rose by 415 to 470,530.

Russia reports over 1,200 deaths

Russia has reported 1,215 deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours.

The country's virus cases surged by 32,974 in one day, official figures showed.

Germany records 64,510 new cases

Germany has reported 64,510 new cases of coronavirus and 378 additional deaths.

The new additions bring the country's totals to 6,116,070 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 102,946 deaths, according to Robert Koch Institute

Australia Omicron variant spreads, testing reopening plans

The Omicron coronavirus variant spread in Australia, testing plans to reopen the economy as a cluster in Sydney grew to 13 cases and an infection was suspected in the state of Queensland.
Federal authorities are sticking with a plan to reopen the economy on the hope that the new variant proves to be milder than previous strains, but some state and territory governments have moved to tighten their domestic border controls.
Australia reported its first community transmission of Omicron on Friday at a school in Sydney. Authorities are investigating the source.

S Korea reports record-high Covid-19 cases, deaths

South Korea reported a record daily 5,352 new Covid-19 infections and 70 deaths, while a nationwide total of nine cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The government on Friday announced that people visiting restaurants, cinemas and other public spaces will have to show vaccine passes. It is also reducing the limit on private gatherings to six people in the greater Seoul area, from 10 currently, and to eight from 12 for those residing outside of the capital, starting next Monday.

The hospitalisation rate was rising rapidly, led by severe cases of Covid-19, with the number of serious and critical patients at 752 as of Friday, KDCA said.

Japan PM Kishida likely to cancel US visit due to Omicron

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is likely to cancel a planned trip to the US for talks with President Joe Biden this month due to the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, public broadcaster NHK said.

Kishida and Biden met in Glasgow last month on the sidelines of the UN climate summit, agreeing to meet formally by the end of the year to discuss issues of mutual concern, such as China, Japanese media reported at the time.

But given the rapid spread of the new coronavirus variant as well as the US political situation, Kishida is considering rescheduling the meeting after the new year, NHK said, without citing sources for its information.

Covid booster urged for people 18 and over in Canada

A Canadian government immunisation advisory committee urged Covid-19 booster shots for people 18 and older who are at greater risk of infection, while also strongly recommending those 50 years-plus to get the third jab.

The updated guidance comes after two provinces, Ontario and Alberta, with half the population of Canada, this week said they would start offering third jabs to people 50 and 60 years and over, respectively, and planned to further expand eligibility in the new year, amid concerns over the Omicron variant.

Eleven cases of the Omicron variant have so far been recorded in Canada, linked to travel abroad, public health officials said.

"Decreasing protection against infection could contribute to increased transmission, since infected individuals may be a source of infection for others," the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said in a report.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies