The Omicron variant appears to result in less severe COVID-19 than seen during previous periods of high coronavirus transmission including the Delta wave, with shorter hospital stays, less need for intensive care and fewer deaths, according to a new U.S. study.
Here are the updates:
Abu Dhabi says vaccinated tourists need no boosters to enter
Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have published new information about the capital’s entry requirements, saying that unlike residents and citizens, vaccinated tourists do not need to show proof of a booster shot to cross into Abu Dhabi.
The tourism-specific change comes as confusion swirls around entry rules for Abu Dhabi, which has taken a more stringent approach to containing the coronavirus than its freewheeling neighbor, Dubai.
The pandemic has prompted Abu Dhabi to erect a hard border with Dubai, forcing all drivers to come to a halt for vaccination and COVID checks on what once had been a wide, empty highway before the virus struck. – AP
Biden administration officially withdraws vaccine rule
The Biden administration has officially withdrawn a rule that would have required workers at big companies to get vaccinated or face regular COVID testing requirements.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed the withdrawal Tuesday. But the agency said it still strongly encourages workers to get vaccinated.
In early November, OSHA announced a vaccine-or-test mandate for companies with at least 100 employees. The rule which would have impacted more than 80 million U.S. workers was originally set to go into effect on January 4.
COVID-19 booster drive is faltering in the U.S.
The COVID-19 booster drive in the U.S. is losing steam, worrying health experts who have pleaded with Americans to get an extra shot to shore up their protection against the highly contagious omicron variant.
Just 40% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the average number of booster shots dispensed per day in the U.S. has plummeted from a peak of 1 million in early December to about 490,000 as of last week.
Also, a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that Americans are more likely to see the initial vaccinations — rather than a booster — as essential. – AP
U.S. considers allowing diplomats to leave China over strict COVID rules
The U.S. State Department is weighing whether to authorize departures for American diplomats and their families in China who wish to leave due to the U.S. government’s inability to prevent Chinese authorities from subjecting them to intrusive pandemic control measures, sources told Reuters.
Two sources familiar with the issue said the U.S. Embassy on Monday had sent the request to Washington for formal sign off, as China ramps up COVID-19 containment protocols ahead of the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics in less than two weeks.
The sources, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, added that some embassy staff are upset the U.S. government has been unwilling or unable to exempt American officials from strict quarantine measures. – Reuters
In West Bengal, parents demand reopening of schools, colleges
A campaign is on in West Bengal in favour of reopening of educational institutions, with many angry parents demanding to know why it is always the students who are made to sit home whenever pandemic–related restrictions are imposed.
Schools and colleges, which had reopened late last year, were to resume classes on January 2 after winter vacations but were shut again after the Omicron-driven third wave has caused an explosion in the number of COVID-19 cases. As of now, they are to remain shut till January 31 but there is no official word yet on whether they will reopen after that date.
The campaign is reflecting online, with demands for re–opening of institutions being made under the hashtag #openschoolcollegeuniversities.
India has shown unmatched resolve in facing challenge of pandemic: President
President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday said the country has shown unmatched resolve in the face of the extraordinary challenge posed to humankind by the coronavirus pandemic, and asserted that a strong and sensitive India is now emerging.
Addressing the nation on the eve of 73rd Republic Day, President Kovind noted that democracy, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity form the bedrock of India, and urged the people to celebrate “Indian-ness” this Republic Day.
He stressed that the observance of the Fundamental Duties mentioned in the Constitution creates the proper environment for the enjoyment of Fundamental Rights, and cited people’s participation in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and in COVID-19 vaccination as examples of citizens fulfilling their fundamental duties and rendering a national service.
Pfizer starts Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine trial
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have begun enrolment for a clinical trial to test the safety and immune response of their Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine in adults aged up to 55, the companies said in a statement on January 25.
Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla has previously said that the pharmaceutical giant could be ready to file for regulatory approval of the shot by March.
The company’s head of vaccine research Kathrin Jansen said in a statement that while current data showed that boosters against the original COVID-19 strain continued to protect against severe outcomes with Omicron, the company was acting out of caution. – AFP
Active COVID-19 cases in India cross 22.3 lakh mark on January 25, 2022
India recorded 2,74,709 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. The total number of infections has reached 3.98 crore, and the number of active cases have crossed the 22.3 lakh mark.
The figures are based on the State bulletins released until 8.50 p.m. on Tuesday. However, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chattisgarh, Sikkim, Dadar and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Jharkhand and Lakshadweep had not yet released data for the day.
Kerala recorded 55,475 infections on Tuesday, followed by Karnataka (41,400) and Maharashtra (33,914).
Labs grapple with shortage of reagents, funds hits genome sequencing
Amidst the third wave of COVID-19, several laboratories tasked with genome sequencing are limiting the number of coronavirus samples they analyse for a variety of reasons, The Hindu has learnt, including a paucity of necessary reagents, a fund shortage or a deluge of sampling requests.
Some of these labs are part of the INSACOG network, the pan-India consortium of 38 laboratories tasked with monitoring the genomic variations in SARS-CoV-2.
An internal note by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thiruvananthapuram, for instance says the “reagent shipment is highly impacted” and only limited number of samples would be taken up for sequencing. The institute however said it expected the shortage to resolve within a week.