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December 1, 2021

International update: WHO advises vulnerable, unvaccinated and over 60s against travel

By Paul Dennis

1 December

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.2 million, with a figure of 5,218,199 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections passed 262.9 million world wide.

The WHO advises vulnerable, unvaccinated and over 60s against travel in a new warning.

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus could lead to more infections among vaccinated people, but they will most likely remain protected from a severe course of illness, Dow Jones reported, based on an interview with the inventor of one of the first Covid-19 vaccines. While the new variant might evade the antibodies generated in reaction to the vaccine, the virus will likely remain vulnerable to immune cells that destroy it once it enters the body, BioNTech SE co-founder Ugur Sahin said.

The University of Oxford said it can quickly update its Covid-19 vaccine if necessary. “Despite the appearance of new variants over the past year, vaccines have continued to provide very high levels of protection against severe disease and there is no evidence so far that Omicron is any different,” the university said.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 48.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 780,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Vir Biotechnology Inc. Chief Executive Officer George Scangos said he expects the company’s Covid-19 antibody treatment, sotrovimab, developed in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline Plc, will be effective against the Omicron variant.

The US is set to toughen testing requirement for all international travellers, including returning Americans and both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, entering the country. US officials will reportedly require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure. The Biden administration is expected to make an official announcement on Thursday.

An expert committee voted to recommend the US Food and Drug Administration authorise Merck’s Covid pill for high-risk adults, the first of a new class of antiviral drug that could tackle Omicron and other variants. The drug, molnupiravir, is likely to be approved for older and more vulnerable people at greater risk of severe illness.

The US Food & Drug Administration says it is evaluating the effectiveness of authorised Covid vaccines against the Omicron variant and expects to have more information in the next few weeks.

Canada: Canada’s mandatory vaccination for travel within and out of the country took effect from 30 November.

Brazil: Brazil reports first Omicron cases in Latin America after detecting two cases of the Omicron Covid strain on Tuesday, the country’s health regulator, Anvisa, said.

The variant was spotted in samples from a traveller who had recently arrived from South Africa and his wife, health watchdog Anvisa said in a note on Tuesday. The tests will be repeated for further confirmation, it said, giving no further information about the patients. Brazil was among nations that tightened travel restrictions in response to the emergence of the strain.


The European Union has recorded at least 44 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in 11 countries, but so far all of those are asymptomatic or people with mild symptoms, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The European Medicines Agency would use expedited procedures to approve new versions of vaccines to address the Omicron variant should the current ones prove insufficient to fight it off. Emma Cooke, the agency’s director, told the European Parliament that regulatory approval could be completed in three to four months from when the companies are ready to move forward, but that testing is ongoing to evaluate how the variant responds to the current vaccines.

Germany:    Germany reported a daily rise of 67,186 Covid cases and 446 deaths, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute of public health.

Germany’s constitutional court has ruled that sweeping restrictions to stem Covid infections such as curfews, school closures and contact restrictions were lawful, in a decision that could pave the way for further curbs.

Germany took a step closer toward making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory as the incoming chancellor threw his support behind the move, part of a tougher line by European leaders as the pandemic spirals out of control. Olaf Scholz called for a parliamentary vote on the step before the end of the year, saying on Tuesday that he would allow lawmakers to make the decision.

Poland: Poland records highest Covid deaths since April with 526 deaths in the past 24 hours.

UK: All eligible adults in the UK should be offered a Covid booster jab by the end of January, British prime minister Boris Johnson announced.

Netherlands: The Omicron variant was present in Europe at least 10 days ago, according to health authorities in the Netherlands.

Austria: Austria extends lockdown to 20 days after lawmakers voted to extend a nationwide lockdown by 10 days on Tuesday, bringing the total lockdown ending on 11 December to 20 days.

Greece: Greece has said it will fine people over the age of 60 who have not received a first Covid-19 shot €100 per month from 16 January.

Ireland: All travellers entering Ireland will now have to show negative Covid tests.

Finland: Finland is set to mandate social and health-care staff to take vaccinations against the coronavirus and plans to widen the use of Covid passports beyond bars and restaurants, Krista Kiuru, the minister overseeing the pandemic response efforts, told reporters in Helsinki on Tuesday.


South Korea: South Korea reported a new daily record of 5,123 new Covid cases for Tuesday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Singapore: Singapore introduces tougher testing for all arrivals and will require mandatory PCR testing for all travellers and additional antigen rapid tests for travellers on vaccinated travel lanes.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong adds non-residents from Japan, Portugal and Sweden to the list of travellers unable to enter the city due to concerns over the Omicron variant.

Japan: Japan is set to expand its travel ban on foreigners entering the nation even further, preventing those with resident status from ten African nations including South Africa.

Japan confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant. A Namibian diplomat in his 30s is thought to have tested positive for the variant.

Middle-east and Africa

Israel: Israel’s health minister says boosters may protect against Omicron.

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