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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.
People queue to enter an NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre in Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London on February 15, 2021 as Britain's largest ever vaccination programme continues - Sputnik International

COVID Live Updates: Number of Omicron Cases in UK Increases by 50% in 24 Hours

Multiple countries have introduced travel bans and tightened restrictions over the past few weeks after the discovery of the new South African coronavirus strain, dubbed Omicron by the World Health Organisation. According to the organisation, it is a variant of concern due to a high number of mutations (32) on the spike protein.
Multiple countries have restricted entry from the southern African region, while others have locked down their borders to stop the spread of the Omicron strain.
Addressing the issue, the UK announced pre-departure tests for all arrivals demanding they be done a maximum of 48 hours before departure. This prompted major concerns from the travel industry: British Airways and Airlines UK have already blasted the decision, saying it is a "devastating blow" to tourism.
In the meantime, the Omicron variant has been detected in at least 38 countries and all continents except Antarctica. It is believed that Omicron may be more transmissible than previous variants due to its mutations, but according to South African medical authorities, cases of the strain have been mild.
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02:55 GMT 06.12.2021
Efficacy of COVID-19 Vaccines Could Be Lower For Omicron, Moderna Chief Says
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Moderna Inc. President Stephen Hoge warns that coronavirus vaccines could be less effective against the new strain, Omicron.

"Are we going to see something more like a 50% decrease in efficacy, which would really mean we’d probably need to reboot the vaccines and update them?" Hoge said on ABC’s "This Week" on Sunday, adding that "the short answer is we don’t have data yet to know for sure."

Hoge said that it could also be that the existing vaccines will prove effective against Omicron, like it happened with the Delta variant. He expressed hope that the pandemic could actually end in 2022.

Nonetheless, "there’s a real risk that we’re going to see a decrease in the effectiveness of the vaccines," the Moderna chief said.

The Omicron coronavirus strain has been registered in at least 15 US states, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Walensky said on ABC’s "This Week" on Sunday that while the Delta variant continues to account for most of the COVID-19 cases in the US, the Omicron strain continues to spread.
21:40 GMT 05.12.2021
Omicron Cases Confirmed in Over Dozen US States, CDC Chief Says
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The Omicron coronavirus strain has been registered in at least 15 US states and it continues to spread, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

"We know we have several dozen cases and we’re following them closely. And we are every day hearing about more and more probable cases so that number is likely to rise," Walensky said on ABC’s "This Week" on Sunday.

The CDC chief emphasized nonetheless that the Delta variant continues to account for most of the COVID-19 cases in the US.

"We have about 90 to 100,000 cases a day right now in the United States, and 99.9% of them are the delta variant," Walensky said. She added that there are "many things that work against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, regardless of the variant that we've seen before."

On Friday, the total number of US states that had registered Omicron cases went up to nine. The first case of the new strain, which emerged in South Africa in November, was reported in the US on December 1.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has said that the Omicron variant is a cause for concern but not for alarm. According to White House COVID-19 experts, the US is in a better position to deal with the Omicron strain than with previous variants of the coronavirus.
17:57 GMT 05.12.2021
Senegal Registers First Omicron Case
14:40 GMT 05.12.2021
Total Number of Omicron Cases in UK Reaches 246
The UK has reported 86 new Omicron cases, bringing its total confirmed so far to 246. In comparison with a total of 160 the day before, this marks an increase of over 50%, Sky News reports UKHSA data.
13:41 GMT 05.12.2021
Vietnam Confirms 14,314 New COVID-19 Cases
13:33 GMT 05.12.2021
First Positive Case of Omicron Variant Detected in Senegal
Senegal detected its first positive case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the country's Institute of Health Research, Epidemiological Surveillance and Training (Iressef) said on Sunday.
"Senegal registers its first positive case of the Omicron variant. The first positive case of the Omicron variant was detected with the help of Iressef's genomic laboratory on Friday, December 3, 2021," Iressef said on Twitter.
According to the institute, the case was detected in a traveler leaving the country. Their source of infection is yet unknown.
The latest data from the country's ministry of health shows that Senegal has a total of 74,024 positive COVID-19 cases and 1,886 deaths.
13:19 GMT 05.12.2021
Detection of Omicron Variant Means Pandemic Not Over Yet - Ex-UK Scientific Advisor
A medical worker carries RT-PCR swab tests at a pre-departure coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing facility, as countries react to the new coronavirus Omicron variant, outside the international terminal at Sydney Airport in Sydney - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.12.2021
Omicron COVID Strain
Ex-UK Scientific Advisor: Detection of Omicron Variant Means Pandemic Not Over Yet
11:43 GMT 05.12.2021
Saudi Arabia Will Allow Entry Visitors Vaccinated With Sputnik V
Saudi Arabia will authorize those vaccinated against COVID-19 with Russian-made Sputnik V to enter the kingdom starting from January 1, 2022, with a number of conditions, the vaccine developer said on the official Twitter account on Sunday, citing the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).
The decision to allow entry to the kingdom for those vaccinated with Sputnik V enables the Muslims to participate in the Hajj and the Umrah pilgrimages in Mecca and Medina, the document added.
"As Saudi Arabia opens its borders for the Sputnik V vaccinated, this decision will play an important role for increasing the tourist flows and establishing new business ties between Russia and Saudi Arabia," according to the press release.
A vial labelled Sputnik V coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine is seen in this illustration picture taken May 2, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.12.2021
Saudi Arabia Opens Borders to Visitors Vaccinated With Sputnik V
10:54 GMT 05.12.2021
South Korea Reports Three More Omicron Cases
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) announced on Sunday that three more Omicron COVID cases have been detected in the country, bringing its total confirmed so far to 12.
10:53 GMT 05.12.2021
First Omicron Case Detected in Tunisia
09:46 GMT 05.12.2021
South African President Says Hospital Admissions Not Increasing as Omicron Spreads
Hospital admissions in South Africa are not on the rise, despite a jump in active COVID-19 cases triggered by the new Omicron coronavirus strain, the country's president, Cyril Ramaphosa, told reporters.
"Our hospital admissions are not increasing at an alarming rate meaning that people [who] may be testing positive are not in large numbers being admitted to hospitals," Ramaphosa told reporters, as quoted by South African outlet Eyewitness News.
The president, who is currently on an official visit to Ghana, has also criticized the nations that imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and a number of other African states after the detection of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the country.
According to Health Minister Joe Phaahla, however, people must not worry as the new variant is more transmissible, it seems to bring milder illness, as hospital admissions appear to show.
"The tests still have to be done and the research still needs to be done that whilst Omicron spreads, it does not seem to be resulting in greater numbers of hospital admissions. We should take heart from that," the president added.
Since the discovery of the new coronavirus variant in South Africa at the end of November, active COVID-19 cases in the country rose from 19,302 to over 75,000. It was marked as a variant of concern due to its high infection rates by the World Health Organization prompting countries worldwide to enforce new travel restrictions.
09:40 GMT 05.12.2021
Australia Closes Parliament After Staffer Tests Positive for COVID
Australia's Parliament House will be closed to visitors for the foreseeble future after one staffer tested positive for COVID. According to media reports, the employee in question is a political staffer for Greens leader Adam Bandt.
Access to the building will only be allowed for employees who are unable to work remotely. Mask wearing will once again be mandatory.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanes visited parliament this week.
08:51 GMT 05.12.2021
Russia Confirms 32,602 New COVID-19 Cases Over Past 24 Hours
MOSCOW, December 5 (Sputnik) - Russia has confirmed 32,602 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the cumulative total to 9,801,613, the federal response centre said on Sunday.

"Over the past 24 hours, 32,602 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in 85 regions in Russia, including 2,285 cases (7.0%) without clinical symptoms", the centre said, adding that the rate of increase is 0.33%.

08:29 GMT 05.12.2021
Pakistan Confirms 372 New COVID-19 Cases
06:01 GMT 05.12.2021
NHS Plans to Introduce 'Gamechanging' Pill Against Coronavirus, Report Says
The NHS is planning to roll out a "game-changing" anti-viral pill called Molnupiravir, the Sunday Telegram has reported. Reports have suggested that Health Secretary Sajid Javid is preparing to announce the start of a national pilot of the medication, but there is no scheduled date yet.
05:39 GMT 05.12.2021
Australia Provisionally Approves Pfizer Vaccine For Children Aged 5-11
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus has been provisionally approved for five to 11-year-olds in Australia, the country's Department of Health announced on Sunday.
"The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provisionally approved the Comirnaty Paediatric (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds on 5 December 2021", the Health Department said in a statement, adding that the decision was based "on a careful evaluation of available data to support its [vaccine’s] safety and efficacy among this age group".
Children will be given one-third of the dose approved for people aged 12 and over. The primary course of vaccination for five to 11-year-olds in Australia will include two shots of the Pfizer vaccine.
"The Australian government expects the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to provide recommendations on a vaccination programme for 5 to 11-year-olds soon", the Health Department said.
The vaccination programme for five to 11-year-olds is expected to be launched in Australia starting 10 January 2022.
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