The news came as South Korea’s daily number of coronavirus cases hit a new high, with authorities suspending quarantine exemptions for fully vaccinated inbound travelers for two weeks in a bid to push back the new variant.
Meanwhile, in the United States, fears about the impact of the new strain of coronavirus have increased after reporting its first case in a fully vaccinated person in California. The case returned from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive seven days later.
And as World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove said data should be available “within days” on Omicron’s contagiousness, Japan’s central bank warns against economic pain as countries tighten containment measures.
Here are the latest updates:
Sweden could impose new measures next week (health agency)
The Swedish Public Health Agency has said it may impose new COVID-related restrictions next week to tackle a rising tide of infections.
Sweden, which introduced vaccine passes for indoor events with more than 100 people earlier this month, had signaled that additional measures may be needed.
UK approves GSK’s anti-COVID drug
The UK has approved the use of an antibody-based COVID-19 therapy developed by GlaxoSmithKline with its US partner Vir.
The news came just after GlaxoSmithKline said a preclinical review of the treatment indicated that the drug also worked against the new variant of Omicron.
Further testing will be done on sotrovimab treatment to firm up the results, GSK said in a statement.
Japan withdraws flight booking ban after criticism
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida admitted that the decision to stop taking reservations for inbound international flights had confused the public and called on the Transport Ministry to heed people’s wishes to return home.
The request was presented the day before by the Ministry of Transport as an emergency precaution to defend against the Omicron variant. The move, however, was overturned after the government received criticism that the ban was too strict and amounted to abandoning its own people.
Australia’s New South Wales reports seventh Omicron case
The number of people in Australia with the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 increased slightly on Thursday, prompting state governments to tighten national border controls.
The country’s most populous state, New South Wales, has reported its seventh variant case, a person who arrived on November 23 from Doha, Qatar, and noted that the person had not been in southern Africa .
“We know this virus is dangerous, it comes in different forms,” New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters on Thursday. “Don’t take it lightly. “
Indonesia tightens travel restrictions as it prepares for Omicron’s arrival
Indonesian authorities have tightened border barriers, extended quarantine and restricted travel on strategic toll roads, in a preventive measure to limit the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant
According to the Minister of Transport, the new measures concerning domestic travel include limiting the volume of traffic on toll roads in order to reduce the movement of people.
“This policy (…) will be evaluated from time to time as we understand and continue to seek more information on this new variant,” Senior Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said in a statement on Wednesday.
FASTEST OVERVIEW EVER — The #OmicronVariant is rising much faster in daily new cases and positivity, than any previous waves in South Africa 🇿🇦, according to @nicd_sa data illustrated by @jburnmurdoch. This supports the theory of the faster transmission of #Omicron. ?? pic.twitter.com/BBdAsEGUK0
– Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) December 2, 2021
Fauci: It could take weeks to get more information on Omicron
Leading US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said it might take two weeks or more to gain insight into how easily Omicron spreads, how severe the disease it is causing and how it may escape the vaccines currently available.
Much remains unknown about the new variant, which was first detected by South African researchers on November 8 and has spread to at least two dozen countries.
The South African National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said early epidemiological data suggests Omicron may have evaded some immunity, but existing vaccines should still protect against serious illness and death.
Japanese bank chief warns of slowing economic recovery
Bank of Japan board member Hitoshi Suzuki said Japan’s economic recovery could fall short of expectations if Omicron’s spread hurts consumption or supply bottlenecks persist .
“If the impact of supply constraints is greater or lasts longer than expected, there is a risk that economic growth will fall further than expected,” said Suzuki.
South Korea suspends quarantine exemptions for vaccinated travelers
South Korea has suspended quarantine exemptions for fully vaccinated inbound travelers for two weeks after reporting a new record of daily coronavirus cases.
South Korea confirmed its first five cases of Omicron on Wednesday.
“Prepare for the worst, hope for the best”
“Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told reporters amid the spread of the Omicron variant.
Von der Leyen made the statement on Wednesday as the EU moved the start of its vaccine rollout for children aged 5 to 11 by a week to December 13, the chairman of the EU executive saying that it was a “race against time” to ward off the new variant.
Britain and the United States have both expanded their booster programs in response to the new variant, although the WHO says rich countries should share more vaccines with vulnerable people in poorer countries instead. where variants are most likely to emerge as long as inoculation rates are low.