COVID-19: Top news stories about the pandemic on 22 December

  • This daily news round-up brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Top stories: Warning of ‘significant surge’ in COVID-19 cases in Europe; Self-isolation period cut for most in England; Singapore suspends quarantine-free travel.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 276.2 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.36 million. More than 8.78 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Singapore has suspended quarantine-free travel as a result of the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Israel is set to offer a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to those aged over 60 amid concerns about the spread of Omicron. It comes as an Israeli hospital reported the country’s first known death of a patient with the Omicron COVID-19 variant. The hospital said the man in his 60s suffered from a number of serious pre-existing conditions.

Japan has identified its first suspected case of community spread infection of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

A local COVID-19 case has seen Dongxing city, near China’s border with Viet Nam, order its residents to stay at home, halt public transport and some school classes and postpone the clearing of travellers and cargo to pass through its port of entry.

Novavax has announced that the World Health Organization’s panel of experts has recommended a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised people.

AstraZeneca has announced that it’s working with Oxford University to produce a vaccine for the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Panama will cut the rollout time for COVID-19 vaccine booster doses in half, the government announced yesterday.

US President Joe Biden has announced more federal vaccination and testing sites to tackle a surge in COVID-19 driven by the Omicron variant. He also said 500 million free at-home rapid tests would be available to Americans from January.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in selected countries.

Image: Our World in Data

2. WHO warns of significant surge in European COVID-19 cases

The World Health Organization’s European Regional Director, Hans Kluge, has warned countries to prepare for a ‘significant surge’ in COVID-19 cases, as a result of the spread of the Omicron variant.

Kluge told a news conference that Omicron had been detected in at least 38 of the WHO’s European Region’s 53 countries and is already dominant in several, including Denmark, Portugal and the UK.

“We can see another storm coming,” said Kluge. “Within weeks, Omicron will dominate in more countries of the region, pushing already stretched health systems further to the brink.”

So far, 89% of the early Omicron cases in Europe were associated with common COVID-19 symptoms such as cough, sore throat and fever, Kluge said. Most cases had been reported among adults in their 20s and 30s, spreading initially in cities at social and workplace gatherings, he added.

“The sheer volume of new COVID-19 infections could lead to more hospitalizations and widespread disruption to health systems and other critical services,” he said.


3. COVID-19 self-isolation period reduced for most in England

The British government has announced that from Wednesday it was reducing the COVID-19 self-isolation period to seven days from 10 for people in England who get a negative lateral flow test result two days in a row.

With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly in Britain and record levels of cases over the past week many industries are struggling with staff shortages, including hospitals that have warned of the risk of an impact on patient safety.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said its analysis suggested a seven-day isolation period alongside two negative lateral flow test results had nearly the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period without testing.

“We want to reduce the disruption from COVID-19 to people’s everyday lives,” health secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement.

Rapid lateral flow tests, which are provided free by Britain’s National Health Service, can be self-administered by people at home and give a result in 15 to 30 minutes.

Those who receive a negative lateral flow result on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period, with tests taken 24 hours apart, will no longer have to isolate for 10 days, the government said.

The COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship is a coalition of 85 global leaders, hosted by the World Economic Forum. Its mission: Join hands in support of social entrepreneurs everywhere as vital first responders to the pandemic and as pioneers of a green, inclusive economic reality.

Its COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda, outlines 25 concrete recommendations for key stakeholder groups, including funders and philanthropists, investors, government institutions, support organizations, and corporations. In January of 2021, its members launched its 2021 Roadmap through which its members will roll out an ambitious set of 21 action projects in 10 areas of work. Including corporate access and policy change in support of a social economy.

For more information see the Alliance website or its “impact story” here.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/12/covid-19-news-stories-omicron-coronavirus-22-december-2021/