Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals

Factbox: Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus

4 minute read

A staff member in a protective suit uses a speaker to guide residents to line up for a nucleic acid test during a round of mass testing for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) following new cases in Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China November 29, 2021. cnsphoto via REUTERS

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Dec 2 (Reuters) - Four days a week, no meetings, you choose the hours and work where you want. The pandemic has sped up a transition into more flexible and diverse working hours around the world, opening up ways of working that were unthinkable just a few years ago. read more

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news

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EUROPE

* Dutch health authorities called for pre-flight tests regardless of vaccination status for travel from outside the European Union.

* Greece has detected its first case of the Omicron variant in a Greek citizen on the island of Crete who had returned from South Africa last month, its health minister said. read more

* Britain's drug regulator approved GSK (GSK.L) and Vir Biotechnology's (VIR.O) antibody based treatment for people with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing severe disease. read more

* France reported its first case of the Omicron variant near Paris as the government's top scientific adviser said it could become dominant in the country by the end of January. read more

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Israel's Supreme Court rejected a petition by rights groups seeking to repeal temporary measures allowing the domestic intelligence agency to use mobile phone tracing to curb the spread of the new variant.

* The World Health Organization said it was deploying a surge team to South Africa's Gauteng province, epicentre of the outbreak of the new Omicron variant, to help with surveillance and contact tracing. read more

* South Africa is seeing an increase in reinfections in patients contracting Omicron in a way that it did not experience with previous variants, a microbiologist from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said.

AMERICAS

* The U.S. government will require private health insurance companies to reimburse customers for the cost of over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests, administration officials said. read more

* The Omicron variant is likely to soon spread to other countries in North and South America after being detected in Canada and Brazil, the Pan American Health Organization said on Wednesday. read more

ASIA-PACIFIC

* Hong Kong authorities will launch a new "health code" mobile phone application next week that travellers to mainland China would be required to use. read more

* India has detected two cases of the new Omicron variant in the southern state of Karnataka, a health ministry official said.

* As countries around the world imposed new restrictions this week, China announced it would aim to deliver another 1 billion vaccines to Africa and push ahead with hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in February.

* Japan reversed a ban on new inbound flight reservations, revealing confusion between government agencies and the public over Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's strategy to keep out the Omicron variant.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENT

* The European Union's drug regulator said it had started a rolling review of the protein-based vaccine from French biotech firm Valneva (VLS.PA). read more

* South Africa is in talks with Pfizer (PFE.N) and Merck (MRK.N) for COVID-19 pills, Bloomberg News reported.

* Laboratory analysis of the antibody-based therapy GSK is developing with Vir (VIR.O) has indicated the drug is effective against the Omicron variant, the British drugmaker said.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* European stock indexes opened lower, reversing gains from the previous session as a lack of information about the Omicron variant left markets volatile, and as investors also bet on faster Fed tapering.

* China's aviation authority said it would suspend Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) flights from Frankfurt to the cities of Shenyang and Shanghai due to infections.

* The Bank of Japan may end its pandemic-relief funding programmes in March as corporate funding conditions have improved significantly from the cash crunch last year caused by the pandemic, board member Hitoshi Suzuki said. read more

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Compiled by Alexander Kloss and Rashmi Aich; Editing by Anil D'Silva, Kirsten Donovan

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