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December 6, 2021

International update: Existing Covid-19 vaccines may be less effective against Omicron variant – Hoge

By Paul Dennis

6 December

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.2 million, with a figure of 5,255,967 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections passed 265 million world wide.

Omicron latest

Moderna Inc. President Stephen Hoge said there’s a clear risk that existing Covid-19 vaccines will be less effective against the Omicron variant, though it’s too early to say by how much.

An updated formulation would be probably be needed if effectiveness is shown to drop by something like half, Hoge said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

“I think that there’s a real risk that we’re going to see a decrease in the effectiveness of the vaccines,” Hoge said. “What I don’t know is how substantial that is.”

Hong Kong: The Omicron variant spread among two fully vaccinated travellers across the hallway of a Hong Kong quarantine hotel, underscoring why the highly mutated coronavirus strain is unnerving health authorities. Closed-circuit television camera footage showed neither person left their room nor had any contact, leaving airborne transmission when respective doors were opened for food collection or Covid testing the most probable mode of spread, researchers at the University of Hong Kong said in a study published Friday in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Denmark: Denmark reported a “concerning” jump to 183 total Omicron strain cases. The country has a highly developed sequencing regime but the surge is still worrying for its speed.

US: The Omicron variant is now present in at least 15 US states, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said on Sunday. Initial data from South Africa, the epicenter of the outbreak of the Omicron variant, are “a bit encouraging regarding the severity,” Anthony Fauci said on Sunday. “Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci, US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But we’ve really got to be careful before we make any determinations.” He added that existing vaccines may provide “a considerable degree” of protection against the variant.

South Africa: Initial data from a major hospital complex in South Africa’s Omicron epicenter show that while Covid-19 case numbers have surged, patients need less medical intervention.

UK: The UK reported a total 246 Omicron cases, alongside 43,992 infections and 54 deaths, as ministers were told by one government scientific advisor it’s already too late to suppress Omicron with restrictions. The UK’s NHS will be in a “very, very difficult position” if the Omicron variant were to lead to a surge in hospital admissions in the UK, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned.

India: States in India updated Covid death statistics, inflating the daily death tally to its highest rate since 21 July. Bihar state added 2,426 unrecorded deaths and Kerala added 263 deaths. The country confirmed a total 12 Omicron cases.

Tunisia: A first Omicron case has been detected in Tunisia.

Thailand: A US citizen who arrived in Thailand from Spain is suspected to be the first case of the Omicron variant in the Southeast Asian nation, according to the Ministry of Health.

Australia: Australia’s New South Wales state said genome sequencing has confirmed an additional nine Omicron cases contracted from an outbreak in Sydney’s western suburbs, bringing the number of locally acquired infections to 14. Including international arrivals, the state — home to Sydney — has now found 25 cases of the variant, none of which have been admitted to the hospital for treatment, health officials said in a statement Monday.

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 49 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 788,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Europe

Belium: Protests against Covid restictions in Brussels, Belgium bubbled over into violent clashes between demonstrators and police for the second time in two weeks. Police fired tear gas and water cannon while protestors threw cobblestones.

Italy: Italy reported 15,021 new Covid cases, 16% up from 12,927 on the same day last week.

Poland: Poland detected 22,389 positive Covid infections in the past 24 hours, rising 9% on the 20,574 new cases on Sunday last week. The country recorded its worst death tally, at 570, since April on Wednesday.

Russia: Russia confirmed October was its deadliest month in decades after spiking cases. The wave has since reduced but remains high, with a further 1,206 people dying from Covid-related causes on Sunday alongside another 32,602 infections.

France: France recorded 42,252 new Covid infections in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, a percentage change of 188% from the 14,646 cases recorded on Sunday three weeks ago. Ministers continue to see vaccination, not lockdowns, as the route out the current wave.

Germany: Germany will introduce mandatory Covid vaccines for healthcare workers by 16 March, according to draft legislation seen by Reuters, as the new government led by incoming chancellor Olaf Scholz seeks to suppress Germany’s surging cases with jabs, not lockdowns.

Asia-pacific

Australia: Australia’s Queensland state will reopen its border to the rest of the nation ahead of schedule next Monday as more than 80% of the eligible population will be fully vaccinated later this week, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters Monday.  Fully vaccinated travelers will need to have received a negative test within the 72 hours prior to arriving, while those that haven’t been inoculated must arrive by air and spend 14 days in hotel quarantine. The border was due to reopen on 17 December.

China: China’s top health expert identified two conditions for the country to return to “normality” and maintained that it should stick to a Covid Zero policy in battling Omicron, the state-backed Global Times reported. Prerequisites for getting back to normal include Covid fatalities needing to fall to a rate of 0.1% similar to the flu’s, said Zhong Nanshan, who heads China’s Covid task force, according to the paper.  The virus’s reproduction rate — a measure of how many people one patient can transmit the virus to — also needs to remain within a range of 1 to 1.5, according to Zhong.

Singapore: Singapore will open Covid vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 “soon,” according to Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, a co-chair of the country’s task force on handling the virus.

Japan: A Japanese poll found that close to 90% of respondents backed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s move to suspend new entry by foreigners amid Omicron worries.

Middle-east and Africa

South Africa: South Africa’s MTN will implement a mandatory vaccination policy for staff from January and said it was prepared to fire workers who don’t comply, the biggest African company yet to say it’s willing to axe non-inoculated employees. MTN, Africa’s largest mobile phone company, recognizes the right of employees to apply to be exempted from the policy or refuse vaccination on certain clearly defined grounds, it said.

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