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Omicron COVID Strain
The new COVID variant was initially detected in South Africa and Botswana and sparked major concerns due to its high number of mutations (32). The WHO dubbed the strain Omicron and warned it may prove to be more transmissible and dangerous than other coronavirus variants.
Russian President Vladimir Putin - Sputnik International

Live Updates: Putin Says Omicron Strain Puts Swift Global Economic Recovery in Question

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A new variant of coronavirus first reported in southern Africa has triggered global alarm, with a number of countries closing borders and introducing fresh restrictions.
Omicron, dubbed a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is potentially more contagious than other strains of coronavirus due to a high number of mutations, although there are signs it may be milder than initially feared.
The new variant has already been detected in a host of countries, with nations like the United States, Israel, Japan, Chile and the United Kingdom rushing to suspend travel with southern African nations in order to prevent the spread of the new strain.
The global death toll from the coronavirus has topped 5.207 million, and over 262.2 million cases of the infection have been detected, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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01:54 GMT 01.12.2021
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22:37 GMT 30.11.2021
Canadian Province of Alberta Confirms First Case of Omicron Variant
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The Canadian province of Alberta has reported the first case of a coronavirus Omicron variant infection of a returning traveler who visited Nigeria and the Netherlands, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw said.
“[W]e have now one confirmed case of the Omicron variant in Alberta. This case has been confirmed in a returning traveler from Nigeria and the Netherlands. The individual tested positive while asymptomatic and I can confirm that this individual has not left quarantine since their arrival from international travel,” Hinshaw said during a press briefing on Tuesday.
The arrival of the more transmissible strain of the novel coronavirus has been anticipated by the Alberta authorities, which are well prepared for any future eventuality linked to the spread of the new variant, Hinshaw said.
Following the announcement, the federal health ministry of Canada announced it had added Egypt, Nigeria and Malawi to its travel ban list over the Omicron variant.
19:09 GMT 30.11.2021
South Korea to Establish Task Group to Tackle Omicron Spread
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - South Korean government will establish a special task group to discuss ways to tackle the spread of the Omicron coronavirus strain and to prevent its further penetration into the country, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) announced on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, the first suspected case of the Omicron coronavirus variant was detected in South Korea, but health authorities said they required further tests.
"Starting from today's meeting, and to discuss in advance ways of responding to the spread [of Omicron strain] and preventing its penetration into the country, the government will establish a target group and will monitor the situation and react in advance," KDCA said.
The task group will include representatives of the KDCA, the Health Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the Office for Government Policy Coordination. They will also discuss tighter supervision of patients and measures to tackle the spread of Omicron.
18:57 GMT 30.11.2021
At Least 226 Cases of Omicron COVID-19 Strain Confirmed in 20 Countries, Fauci Says
There are at least 226 confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus in 20 countries, top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday.

"Confirmed cases as of yesterday was 205 in 18 countries, and just this morning, that’s gone up to 226 in 20 countries, and I think you’re going to expect to see those numbers change rapidly. Importantly, it has not yet been detected in the United States," Fauci said during a press briefing.

Concern over the new Omicron variant has prompted countries around the world, including the US, to restrict travel from southern African nations where the strain first appeared.

The virus variant has a "very different" mutation profile from other variants of concern such as Delta, although it is difficult to determine whether it is more transmissible, Fauci noted.
18:29 GMT 30.11.2021
IATA Says No Predictions at Present on Omicron Impact on Aviation Industry
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) can not make any prediction at present on the possible impact of the coronavirus Omicron variant on the civil aviation industry and needs more time to evaluate the situation, IATA spokesperson Anaelle Ashong told Sputnik on Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, we cannot elaborate or make any predictions at this time as we need to see how the situation evolves," Ashong said.

Earlier on Tuesday, IATA Director General William Walsh warned against imposing additional restrictive measures due to the spreading of the Omicron variant.

"Travel restrictions are not going to stop the spread. And they will do real harm to people and economies," Walsh said in a blog post published on IATA’s website.

Walsh noted that the novel coronavirus spread all over the world in 2020 despite severe travel restrictions imposed by governments. The economic and human impact of this measure may never be calculated, he said.

The Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa last week in four fully vaccinated individuals and the World Health Organization has classified it as a variant of concern. Health care officials in South Africa said the Omicron infections have been mild and called the initial reaction in the Western media "a storm in a teacup."
18:29 GMT 30.11.2021
Greek Opposition Criticizes Mandatory Vaccination for People Over 60 in Country
The Greek leftist opposition have criticized the decision by the country's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to introduce mandatory vaccination for people over 60, claiming that the politician is shifting responsibility for the health disaster to citizens.

On Tuesday, the prime minister announced that COVID-19 vaccination will become mandatory in Greece for people over 60 starting January 16, and that the government will punish noncompliance with a monthly 100 euros ($113.6) fine. Mitsotakis noted that the decision is not a punishment, but the price of health.

"Guilty of the health disaster, in complete panic over the collapse of the national health system and sad European primacy in deaths and infections, [Mitsotakis], instead of taking responsibility, shifts it to the citizens. This time he is targeting people over 60, and instead of announcing health support measures, encouraging vaccinations and tightening measures of sanitary protection, he is announcing punishment and financial extermination that have not been applied in any other country in the world," the largest opposition party in the country, SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left - Progressive Alliance, said in a statement.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) also stressed that the Greek authorities left the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic to the personal responsibility of the country's citizens from the beginning.

"Today, he goes even further, introducing a 'line of responsibility' with punishment - forcing unvaccinated people over 60 to pay a fine of 100 euros per month, again without taking any actions, even to organize a vaccination program," the KKE said in a statement.

The party added that timely mass vaccination is needed, but not as the singular way to fight the spread of the disease.

The center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) also stated that Mitsotakis should have started with the state itself before introducing mandatory vaccination for certain age groups.

The number of registered COVID-19 cases in Greece for the entire period of the pandemic is estimated to be over 938,000, with 18,157 deaths. The daily number of coronavirus cases is currently at record highs, with around 7,000 new cases daily throughout most of November.

Greece has administered at least 14,144,357 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which is about 66% of the country's population.
18:29 GMT 30.11.2021
UN: Pandemic Pushes Hunger in Latin America, Caribbean to 15-Year High
Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean reached the highest level since 2000, mainly due to COVID-19, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Tuesday.

"According to the Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2021, in just one year, and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people living with hunger increased by 13.8 million, reaching a total of 59.7 million people," PAHO said in a press release.

The prevalence of hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean now stands at 9.1 percent, the highest it has been in the last 15 years, although slightly below the world average of 9.9 percent. Just between 2019 and 2020, the prevalence of hunger increased by 2 percentage points, the release said.

In addition, four out of every ten people in the region - 267 million - experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020, 60 million more than in 2019, an increase of 9 percentage points, the most pronounced rise in relation to other world regions, the release added.

The UN Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2021, was jointly produced by six UN agencies, including PAHO.

It calls for urgent actions by nations in the region to make their agri-food systems more efficient, resilient, inclusive and sustainable.
16:40 GMT 30.11.2021
UK PM Johnson: Another Lockdown Unlikely, but We Keep Everything Under Review
16:19 GMT 30.11.2021
Incoming German Chancellor Scholz Backs Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination
Germany's incoming chancellor Olaf Scholz came out on Tuesday in favour of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination as the country battles the fourth wave of coronavirus, multiple media said.

Scholz, who spoke at a virtual meeting of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel with regional governors, said a cross-party initiative to this effect should come from the federal parliament.

"As a member of parliament, I will definitely support it," he was quoted as saying by the Spiegel magazine.

The Social Democrat leader said mandatory vaccination should be considered once enough doses have been secured to offer everyone a second shot. This can happen by early February.

Scholz also proposed restricting contacts of the unvaccinated to two people from another household and making non-essential stores off-limits to those who have not been vaccinated or cured from COVID-19.
15:39 GMT 30.11.2021
Spain to Suspend Air Traffic With Seven African Countries Over Omicron Coronavirus Variant
Spain will suspend air traffic with South Africa, Botswana and five other African countries from 2 December due to the new Omicron coronavirus strain, the Spanish Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

On Monday, Madrid imposed a 10-day quarantine on those traveling from the same seven African countries.
"The Council of Ministers approved on Tuesday an agreement establishing emergency measures to limit the spread and infection of the B.1.1.529 (Omicron) coronavirus variant by limiting flights between South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini [formerly Swaziland], Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe and Spanish airports, " the ministry said in a statement.

The measures will take effect at midnight on 2 December and will remain in place till 15 December. The period may be extended if necessary.

This restriction does not apply for flights carrying Spanish citizens, citizens of Andorra, those who have a permanent residence in these countries, as well as passengers who transit with a transfer less than 24 hours and without having to leave transit zones at airports, the Ministry explained.

An exception is also made for special planes making a transit stop in Spain before traveling to other countries.

On Friday, Spain announced its intention to suspend flights to South Africa and Botswana over the new Omicron variant. Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias told the TVE broadcaster that flights to other countries might be suspended as well.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said that over 200 nationals have remained in those nations, including 150 in South Africa. According to him, the Spanish Foreign Ministry is currently negotiating their return with airlines still flying to Europe. In addition, the government intends to rent a plane to return its citizens, as well as citizens of other countries of the European Union, from Mozambique.

To date, Spain has confirmed one single case of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in a traveler from South Africa. Currently, two more suspected cases are being investigated.
13:40 GMT 30.11.2021
WHO Urges 'Rational' Measures Against Omicron COVID-19 Variant
13:35 GMT 30.11.2021
France Approves COVID-19 Vaccination for Children Aged 5-11
France has approved the coronavirus vaccination for children aged 5-11 from risk groups and vulnerable categories, the French High Health Authority (HAS) said on Tuesday.

The statement from the French medical regulator follows the approval of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-11 at the EU level. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on November 25 recommended expanding the use of the COVID-19 vaccine for children of this age category.

"In the current epidemiological context and in view of the available data, the High Authority for Health issues the draft decision on the vaccination of children in this age group recommending it for all those who are at risk of developing a serious form of the disease," the regulator said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

HAS also recommended strengthening prevention measures in schools, maintaining restrictions and conducting tests for COVID-19.

According to the regulator's data, the incidence in France has risen sharply in recent weeks among all age groups, with school-age children group seeing the highest increase in cases.
13:18 GMT 30.11.2021
Swedish Public Health Agency Says Has Detected Two New Case of Omicron Variant
11:45 GMT 30.11.2021
Putin Says Omicron Strain Puts Swift Global Economic Recovery in Question
The pace of global economic recovery have been called into question due to a new wave of morbidity caused by the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

"Sure, the coronavirus epidemic has been in the focus of collective attention for almost two years now, there is nothing to do with it. Its influence on investment, business and cooperative ties is great, it affects the entire global economy. I would like to note that it - the economy - is gradually recovering, but the pace of this recovery has been, of course, called into question again. And the reason is well known to everyone - this is another wave of the disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus," Putin said at the VTB Capital Investment Forum "Russia Calling!".
11:05 GMT 30.11.2021
EMA Could Authorize NOVAVAX COVID-19 Vaccine Soon, Executive Director Says
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) could authorize the new COVID-19 vaccine developed by NOVAVAX in a few weeks, the executive director of EMA, Emer Cooke, said on Tuesday.

"The vaccine from NOVAVAX could be authorized in a matter of weeks," Cooke said while addressing the EU parliament.

The NVX-CoV2373 protein subunit vaccine developed by NOVAVAX used components that makes it different from mRNA or viral vector vaccines. The NVX-CoV237 contains only a spike protein, made of moth cells, and adjuvant, made from tree bark. The vaccine does not contain the virus itself and spike proteins are harmless for people, meaning that it cannot cause the COVID-19 infection. As soon as an immune system encounters spike proteins, it starts producing antibodies, and adjuvant is used to boost a person's immune response, creating higher levels of antibodies.

The published NOVAVAX report on the third phase of the NVX-CoV2373 vaccine trials in the United Kingdom revealed that an overall efficiency of the vaccine is 89.7%. Moreover, trials in Mexico and the United States proved that the vaccine can provide 100% protection against developing moderate and severe disease with zero cases of hospitalization and death.
11:00 GMT 30.11.2021
EU Says 42 Omicron Cases Confirmed in 10 Countries in Bloc
10:41 GMT 30.11.2021
Masks Made Mandatory in Shops, on Public Transport in UK
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended on Tuesday the re-imposition of mandatory face covering on public transport and shops and compulsory PCR tests for fully vaccinated travelers, saying that such measures are "proportionate and responsible" to tackle the spreading of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
10:23 GMT 30.11.2021
Dutch Authorities: Omicron Strain Was Detected in The Netherlands on 19 November, Before South Africa Flights
10:09 GMT 30.11.2021
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10:01 GMT 30.11.2021
Greece to Make Vaccinations for People Over 60 Mandatory
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