Latest on worldwide spread of coronavirus

AAPReuters
In very young children, Omicron causes less severe disease than the Delta variant, a study shows.
Camera IconIn very young children, Omicron causes less severe disease than the Delta variant, a study shows. Credit: EPA

EUROPE

* European Union health ministers were told to prepare to deploy a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as data showed it was needed, as the bloc faces a surge in cases of the Omicron variant.

* The UK Health Security Agency has designated a sub-lineage of the dominant Omicron as a variant under investigation, saying it could have a growth advantage.

* Ireland is to scrap almost all its restrictions on Saturday after coming though the storm of Omicron that led to a massive surge in infections, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a national address.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* Australia is scrapping the requirement for international arrivals to show a negative PCR test and will accept a rapid antigen result instead.

* In India, Delhi will remain under curfew over the weekend and overnight to help curb the spread of Omicron, the city's disaster management authority said.

* China reported the lowest daily tally of confirmed locally transmitted cases in nearly two months, while infections edged up in the capital Beijing amid a high virus alert.

AMERICAS

* A judge in Texas ruled that President Joe Biden could not require federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and blocked the US government from disciplining employees who failed to comply.

* New cases are falling in parts of the United States hit hardest by Omicron, according to a Reuters analysis of public health data, offering an early indication the virus might once again be in retreat.

* Canada is seeing early signs that a wave of infections caused by Omicron may have peaked, but hospitals are still under intense strain, chief public health officer Theresa Tam said.

* The US Transportation Department said it would suspend 44 China-bound flights from the US by four Chinese carriers in response to the Chinese government's decision to suspend some US carrier flights over virus concerns.

* Three US studies show that a third dose of an mRNA vaccine is key to fighting Omicron, providing 90 per cent protection against hospitalisation, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST

* The World Bank has approved a loan of $US750 million ($A1 billion) to South Africa linked to COVID-19, aiming to help protect the poor and support economic recovery from the pandemic, the National Treasury said.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* In very young children, Omicron causes less severe disease than the Delta variant, according to a new study.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Risk aversion dominated markets on Friday as stocks slumped on Wall Street and in Europe, oil prices fell from seven-year highs earlier in the week and bond prices surged with traders scurrying for the relative safety of government debt.

* The German government will cut its economic growth forecast for this year to 3.6 per cent from its October estimate of 4.1 per cent, according to a draft of the annual economic report seen by Reuters.

GLOBAL

DEATHS 5,601,245

CASES 346,256,508

RECOVERED 276,473,105

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