The United States and Germany joined governments across the world in imposing stronger Covid-19 restrictions on Thursday, as markets trembled in concern that the new Omicron form will suffocate the pandemic's fragile economic recovery. The European Union's public health office warned on Thursday that within a few months, the Omicron form might account for more than half of all Covid-19 infections in Europe.
France announced the first two instances of the new strain on Thursday. Dutch health officials have urged all travelers from outside the European Union to undergo pre-flight Covid-19 testing regardless of vaccination status, after it was revealed that around 90% of the 62 passengers who tested positive on two flights from South Africa on 26 November were vaccinated.
The United States detected its first confirmed case of Covid caused by the Omicron strain on Wednesday. The case was diagnosed in a fully vaccinated patient who traveled to South Africa. India revealed its first two cases of Omicron on Thursday, but the administration said it had no imminent plans to authorize additional vaccination doses, despite legislative requests. Japan lifted a restriction on incoming airline bookings on Thursday, reflecting a state of misunderstanding among government institutions and the public over Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's effort to keep out the Omicron version.
GlaxoSmithKline said Thursday that laboratory testing of the antibody-based COVID-19 treatment it is developing with US partner Vir has shown the medicine is effective against Omicron. South Korea surpasses the previous Covid-19 record. On Thursday, South Korea's daily coronavirus case count reached a new high, as officials suspended quarantine exemptions for fully vaccinated arriving travelers for two weeks.
Korea's Disease Control and Prevention Agency recorded 5,266 cases on Wednesday, a day after the daily total surpassed 5,000 for the first time amid fears about a rapid increase in patients with severe symptoms. The European Commission has begun a real-time examination of Valneva's shot.
The European Union's medicines authority said on Thursday that it has begun a rolling examination of the protein-based Covid-19 vaccine developed by French biotech firm Valneva, only weeks after the EU inked a supply agreement with the business. The European Medicines Agency said in a statement that the decision to initiate the real-time review was based on preliminary findings that the vaccine, VLA2001, induces an antibody response against the coronavirus.
Hong Kong is preparing to deploy a mobile 'health code' application.
The Hong Kong government will introduce a new "health code" mobile phone application next week that visitors to mainland China will be obliged to use as the city prepares for a partial reopening of the border. The app, similar to those used in China, will save a user's name, address, and vaccination status, as well as the ability to scan QR codes to get access to restaurants and other establishments. Additionally, it gives users an infection risk based mostly on their previous check-ins.
As New Zealand prepares to lift its pandemic restrictions and worldwide isolation after almost two years, the health dangers posed by the country's under-vaccinated indigenous Maori present a problem for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Maori, who represent for around 15% of New Zealand's 5 million population, account for the majority of new Covid-19 cases, averaging roughly 200 per day.
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