Coronavirus live | Omicron tally in India reaches 38

The Omicron variant is more transmissible than the Delta strain and reduces vaccine efficacy but causes less severe symptoms according to early data, the World Health Organization said

The need for a booster or additional COVID-19 vaccine dose or reduction in time gap between two doses of the available vaccines are being examined, said Dr. Samiran Panda, Head, Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), on Sunday adding that an alarmist intervention doesn’t help.

Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Chandigarh reported their first Omicron cases on Sunday, while Maharashtra and Karnataka each recorded one more case of the COVID-19 variant, taking the tally in the country to 38.

You can track coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates at the national and State levels here. A list of State Helpline numbers is available as well.

Here are the latest developments:

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa contracts COVID-19 as infections reach record high

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is receiving treatment for mild COVID-19 symptoms after testing positive for the viral infection, his office said on Sunday.

President Ramaphosa contracted COVID-19 infection on a day when the country recorded a new high of 37,875 new infections overnight, dramatically up from the previous day’s 17,154 new cases.

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Canada to drop 3rd-country COVID test rule for residents returning from southern African nations

Canada will start recognizing molecular COVID-19 tests conducted at an accredited lab in South Africa for residents returning home, dropping a heavily criticized travel restriction introduced to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.

Ottawa had faced pressure from doctors, stranded passengers and the World Health Organization to reverse requirements that travelers from 10 southern African countries get molecular PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests in a third country before returning to Canada. -Reuters

More border rules ease in Australia ahead of Christmas holidays

Coronavirus-free Queensland state opened its domestic borders to all vaccinated people on Monday for the first time in nearly five months, as Australians gear up for quarantine-free travel across most of the country during the busy Christmas period.

Hundreds of cars queued up at the state’s southern border with New South Wales well before the rules were set to relax, television footage showed. -Reuters

U.K. raises coronavirus alert level over increased Omicron transmission

The U.K. government on Sunday raised the country’s coronavirus alert level from three to four due to the rapid increase of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, recording another 1,239 cases to take the total to 3,137.

The alert level has been raised by the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) of all parts of the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – on the advice of the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA). -PTI

Israel imposing travel ban for Britain, Denmark, Belgium over Omicron spread – official

Israel on Sunday announced it was adding Britain, Denmark and Belgium to its "red" list of countries that Israelis are forbidden to visit, citing concern over the spread of the Omicron variant.

The travel restrictions for the three countries will go into effect on Wednesday, a senior Israeli health official told a news conference.

Israel has already banned the entry of foreigners to try to stem COVID-19 infection rates and imposed 3-7 day self-isolation orders for Israelis returning from abroad. -Reuters

Thousands protest in Prague against COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Several thousand people marched through the Czech capital on Sunday, protesting a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for certain groups including people age 60 and over.

The participants didn’t wear face coverings or follow social distancing rules despite a request by police to do so. One person was detained.

The protesters, chanting “Freedom!” alleged their constitutional rights are being violated. They said they weren’t against voluntary vaccination but opposed a vaccine mandate. -AP

Omicron threat: doctors advocate strict adherence to protocols

Strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols like wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing will help in keeping the virus at bay, said P.V. Sudhakar, Principal, Andhra Medical College (AMC). He was speaking at an awareness camp, organised by the Alluri Walkers Association, at Seethammadhara here on Sunday morning.

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