The global death toll from the coronavirus infection has topped 5.234 million; over 264.1 million cases of the infection have been detected, according to Baltimore, Maryland’s Johns Hopkins University, which tracks and compiles data from national and local authorities, the media and other sources.The new Omicron variant has prompted governments around the world to roll out increased travel restrictions and take public health measures.First detected last week in South Africa, the strain could be more dangerous and vaccine-resistant due to the greater number of mutations. Many countries have closed their borders to foreign passengers arriving from African countries regardless of whether they hold certificates of full vaccination or recovery from COVID-19.Follow Sputnik’s Live Feed to Find Out More!New firstOld first18:16 GMT 03.12.2021Tunisia Reports First Positive Case of Omicron StrainTunisia’s first positive case of the Omicron strain was detected on Friday, Health Minister Ali Mrabet told Wataniya TV.A 23-year-old national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who arrived in Tunisia from Istanbul was diagnosed with the Omicron strain.According to the latest data from the Tunisian Health Ministry, 717,000 positive cases of COVID-19 infections were reported in the country with 25,000 lethal cases.17:55 GMT 03.12.2021Berlin Authorities Announce Ban on Dancing in Nightclubs Due to COVID-19The Berlin government announced on Friday that it will not close nightclubs, but will ban dancing therein to curb the spread of COVID-19.On Thursday, the German federal and regional authorities adopted new restrictive measures with a view to gradually introduce a so-called “lockdown for the unvaccinated.” Under the new rules, local governments were given the right to close nightclubs given high levels of infection.”The conference decided that clubs and discos should be closed, but under certain conditions, determined either by the regional parliament or the Bundestag, by changing the law on protection of the population from infectious diseases. This process is ongoing, so the government decided that dance entertainment in general is prohibited, but businesses will not close because there are different interpretations of what is possible. This means that clubs and discos can continue to operate since they usually also provide food services, but patrons cannot dance,” a Berlin government spokesperson told a briefing.Dancing will be allowed in the open air for those vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.The ban will go into effect on December 8 and will be in place until January 2, 2022, though the end date is subject to change based on the COVID-19 situation in the capital.The municipal government has also introduced other restrictions, including a ban on entrance to government buildings, public transport, railway platforms, and ferry stations without proof of COVID-19 immunity or a negative test, and limits on public gatherings.17:52 GMT 03.12.2021CDC: US Equipped, Prepared to Fight Omicron VariantThe United States stands equipped and prepared to fight the newly-identified Omicron coronavirus variant, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said on Friday.
“We are equipped and prepared to fight the Omicron variant head-on. We’re actively taking steps to stay ahead of Omicron,” Walensky said during a press briefing.
In addition to California, where the first case of an Omicron infection was detected earlier this week, the US states of Minnesota, Colorado, Hawaii and New York have also reported cases of the new coronavirus variant, she added. In addition, Nebraska reported six cases of Omicron on Friday.
The main tool at the CDC’s disposal to identify Omicron is genomic sequencing, which makes it possible to confirm the variant within hours after detection by states, Walensky said.
The CDC director noted that at the present time, the CDC is taking steps to enhance and streamline genomic sequencing across the US, and is expanding surveillance of international travellers.
At the same time, 99.9% of all new COVID-19 cases are of the Delta variant that became the dominant strain of the novel coronavirus in summer, according to Walensky.
Last week, the World Health Organization identified the new strain of the coronavirus, first reported in South Africa, as one of concern, since it may be more transmissible and dangerous. However, local doctors and officials have reported that the cases are mild. Cases have been confirmed in multiple countries, and some governments have rushed to suspend travel with southern African nations to slow the spread of the new variant.16:57 GMT 03.12.2021US State of Nebraska Detects Six Cases of Omicron Coronavirus VariantSix new cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been detected in the US state of Nebraska, the Nebraska Public Health Solutions District said on Friday in a press release.”The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Nebraska Public Health Solutions (PHS) District, and the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) have detected six cases of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 among district residents. The first case was likely exposed during international travel to Nigeria, returned on November 23rd, and became symptomatic on November 24th,” the press release said.The other five cases were likely contracted through contact with the first case. Only one of the six infected individuals was vaccinated, the press release said. None have required hospitalization, and case investigations and contact tracing are ongoing, the press release added.15:31 GMT 03.12.2021WHO Has No Data Yet on Difference of Omicron’s Symptoms From Other Strains, Expert SaysThe World Health Organisation does not yet have data on the difference between the clinical symptoms of Omicron and other strains of COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead of COVID-19 response at WHO’s Emergency Diseases Unit said on Friday.”For us to determine if it’s Omicron right now it’s through sequencing until we know more on the disease profile in terms of what people are presenting with. We don’t have any indication that is different than other strains of SARS COVID 2 that are circulating,” she said, answering whether it was true that WHO cannot yet point to a difference in the clinical symptoms of Omicron from other strains of COVID-19.
“Just based on clinical features you can’t tell which virus people are infected with, whether is COVID-19 virus or influenza or another respiratory virus,” she added.
The WHO also warned of a possible increase in detected infections, including the Omicron strain, in the next two weeks.15:22 GMT 03.12.2021White House: US to Ship 9Mln COVID-19 Vaccine Doses to Africa, 2Mln WorldwideThe United States will ship 9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to African countries and 2 million doses worldwide later on Friday amid concerns about the novel coronavirus Omicron variant that was first detected in South Africa, White House Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz said.
“Today, we are shipping 9 million vaccine doses to Africa and another 2 million worldwide. We need every country to step up with the same urgency and ambition as the United States,” Munoz said via Twitter.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden pledged to accelerate the United States’ efforts to vaccinate people throughout the world.
In September, Biden announced that the United States was donating another 500 million vaccine doses to help other countries to protect from the novel coronavirus.
According to the World Health Organization, vaccination rates in Africa remain very low with only 7.5% of the population fully vaccinated.
South African health officials have said Omicron was detected in fully vaccinated individuals, the cases were mild and characterized the reaction in the United States and other primarily Western countries to the variant as a “storm in a teacup.”14:51 GMT 03.12.2021WHO: Omicron Strain Identified in 38 Countries But Delta Remains Dominant Variant of COVID-19The Omicron strain has been identified in 38 countries, but Delta remains the dominant variant of COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead of COVID-19 response at WHO’s Emergency Diseases Unit, said on Friday.
“We have reports of Omicron in 38 countries in all 6 WHO regions and we do see increasing trends in Omicron in south Africa. So there is a suggestion that there is increased transmissibility,” Van Kerkhove said, adding that the Delta strain still remains dominant.13:35 GMT 03.12.2021Over 1% of Germans Currently Ill With COVID-19, Robert Koch Institute SaysAbout 926,000 Germany’s residents or slightly over 1% of the country’s 83-million population are currently ill with COVID-19, Lothar Wieler, the president of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, said on Friday.
“It is too early now to state the change in dynamics and cancel strict measures. The other way around. Now, the number of active [COVID-19] cases in Germany is assessed as 926,000. This means that over 1% of the population are infected,” Wieler told a press conference.
Around 4,800 COVID-19 patients are now in intensive care, and the load on hospitals is expected to grow in the next days due to numerous new admissions, Wieler added. The official also forecast an increase in the number of lethal cases in the near future.
When commenting on the new Omicron coronavirus variant, Wieler said that German experts can not precisely evaluate the strain yet.
“But we can definitely say that it is in Germany and that by all appearances, it is known today that Omicron can be more contagious and can more easily hit those vaccinated and recovered,” Wieler said.
The German official warned people that the Omicron coronavirus strain will cause more infections than the Delta variant amid the overloaded health care system. Therefore, all the restrictive measures must be respected, Wieler concluded.
Over 57 million people in Germany have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 so far, which is nearly 69% of its population.13:26 GMT 03.12.2021Finland Requires All Arrivals to Provide COVID-19 Certificate or Take PCR Test From 4 DecemberAll arrivals to Finland starting December 4 are required to present a COVID-19 vaccination certificate or take a PCR test at the border, the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said on Friday.
“All travellers arriving in Finland will be required to show a COVID certificate, or if they do not have such a certificate, they will have to undergo a COVID-19 test. The decree will go into effect on 4 December 2021,” the ministry said.
Vaccines approved by the World Health Organization or the European Medicines Agency will be accepted.12:20 GMT 03.12.2021Nearly 2,000 People Quarantined as Omicron Detected in International School of GenevaAround 2,000 people, including 1,600 children, will be quarantined for 10 days after two cases of the novel Omicron variant of COVID-19 were confirmed in the International School of Geneva, the local authorities said in a press release.
“The medical services of the cantons of Vaud and Geneva have jointly made the decision to quarantine all students and campus staff for ten days. About 2,000 people are affected by this measure, including 1,600 children. Everyone involved should perform a PCR test,” the statement, issued on Thursday, said.
The two cases were detected in the campus of the International School of Geneva located in Chataigneraie among contacts of a family with a recent arrival from a trip to South Africa, the statement said.
The authorities reaffirm that the PCR tests available in Switzerland are capable of detecting the new variant of COVID-19. So far, only three Omicron cases have been registered in the country.11:54 GMT 03.12.2021US Novavax Developing COVID-19 Vaccine Construct to Target Omicron Coronavirus StrainThe US biotechnology company Novavax said that it had started work on developing the “Omicron-specific construct” of the antigen in its COVID-19 vaccine as part of the two-pronged strategy to curb the spread of the new coronavirus variant.
The first set of measures to be taken within the strategy entails evaluation of effectiveness of the existing vaccine by Novavax against the Omicron strain, while the second one comprises creation of a particular antigen construct in a vaccine aimed specifically at fighting the new coronavirus variant, the company said on Thursday.
“Novavax has initiated development of an Omicron-specific construct of its SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein (rS) antigen, currently in use in NVX-CoV2373. The initial steps required to manufacture an Omicron-specific spike are underway and GMP manufacturing in a commercial facility is anticipated in January 2022. Lab-based assessment of a new strain-matched nanoparticle vaccine will begin within a few weeks,” the press statement from the company said.
The researchers also plan to find out if antibodies in vaccinated people can neutralize the new strain.
11:22 GMT 03.12.2021
Omicron COVID StrainWHO Has No Data on Deaths Linked to Omicron Variant11:21 GMT11:01 GMT 03.12.2021Scientists Warn Border Bans Too Late to Stop Omicron Spread, Hold Back Studies, Reports SayScientists have warned that new travel restrictions are ineffective against the Omicron coronavirus strain and risk slowing down studies of the variant, according to a report by the journal Nature.
Following the emergence of a new mutated virus strain, designated by the World Heath Organization as one of concern in South Africa last week, more than 50 countries have stepped up border controls to prevent its spread.
“I’m not that optimistic that the way in which these measures are being rolled out right now will have an impact,” Karen Grepin, a health economist at the University of Hong Kong, was quoted as saying by Nature.
At the same time, introducing selective travel bans for countries with confirmed Omicron cases may act as a deterrent for future reporting and data sharing, the scientists noted.
“The travel ban will paradoxically affect the speed at which scientists are able to investigate,” Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, was quoted as saying by the journal.
With few flights arriving in South Africa, researchers around the world will not have proper access to virus samples necessary to study the new strain. Moreover, South African research institutions reported they will soon run out of reagents necessary for genomic surveillance efforts.
Border control measures on their own are not enough to stop the spread of the virus, and act only to give countries enough time to set up domestic safety regulations, the scientists concluded.10:12 GMT 03.12.2021French Health Chief Expects 5th Coronavirus Wave in Country to Peak in Late JanuaryThe French government anticipates that the ongoing fifth coronavirus wave will reach its peak in late January, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Friday.
“We expect the peak [of the fifth coronavirus wave] in late January if nothing changes,” Veran said in a live broadcast on Franceinfo.
According to him, a coronavirus patient is admitted to intensive care every 10 minutes 24 hours a day.
Veran noted that the new wave of the pandemic in France started in mid-November.10:00 GMT 03.12.2021First Omicron Case Confirmed in Sri LankaSri Lankan health authorities said on Friday that they have detected the first case of infection with the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“As a result of our vigilance we have been able to identify an Omicron patient following gene sequencing lab tests. There is no need for us to panic over this. We are dealing with the situation,” a representative for the country’s health ministry was quoted as saying by the Economic Times newspaper.
The Omicron patient is a Sri Lankan citizen who recently returned from South Africa, the ministry said.
On 28 November, the government barred arrivals from six countries in southern Africa – Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe – following the detection of the Omicron strain in the region.
The new variant is feared to be more vaccine-hesitant due to the exceptionally high number of mutations it contains, including 32 mutations in spike proteins.09:47 GMT 03.12.2021Australia’s Northern Territory Records First Death From COVID-19The Northern Territory of Australia has documented the first death from COVID-19 in a 78-year-old woman from the Binjari community, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said on Friday.
“It is my sad duty to inform you that late last night, the Northern Territory recorded its first death from COVID-19. An elderly Aboriginal woman in her 70s from the Binjari community passed away at the Royal Darwin Hospital … last night,” Gunner said in a Facebook post.
He mentioned that the woman had been struggling with the disease at the hospital since November 20 and had concurrent illnesses. According to Gunner, the women was not vaccinated.07:39 GMT 03.12.2021Australia Reports First Locally Transmitted Omicron Cases06:00 GMT 03.12.2021France Confirms 8 Omicron Variant Cases, Health Agency SaysThe number of COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has reached eight, the French public health agency said.
The first Omicron infection case was detected in the French overseas department of Reunion on Tuesday. The next day, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that 13 suspected cases have been identified throughout the country.
“Eight confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in France as of 12/02 at 16:00 [15:00 GMT],” the Public Health France said in a COVID-19 situation update issued late on Thursday.
The institute said numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations and critical care patients were on the rise.
As of Friday, France has confirmed over 7.8 million coronavirus cases and more than 120,000 related fatalities.
To date, 77.4% of the French population has been administered at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19, and 75.8% have been fully vaccinated.05:32 GMT 03.12.2021Number of COVID-19 Cases in India Rises by 9,216 Over Past 24 HoursIndia has confirmed 9,216 new cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, with the total number of those infected having reached 34,615,757, the country’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Friday.
The death toll from the disease has reached 470,115 people, with 391 new fatalities being recorded over the past day.
More than 34.04 million people have recovered in India since the start of the outbreak.
A day earlier, the country confirmed 9,765 new coronavirus cases, with 477 fatalities.05:31 GMT 03.12.2021Malaysia Detects First Case of Omicron Variant