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China’s Xi’an tightens restrictions to halt Covid outbreak

Covid-19 has infected more than 280M people and killed over 5.4M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

China’s Xian recorded 150 new cases, bringing the total to around 650 since December 9. (AFP)

Monday, December 27, 2021

China’s Xi’an imposes ‘strictest’ controls to halt Covid outbreak

The locked-down Chinese city of Xi’an has tightened Covid-19 controls to the “strictest” level, banning residents from driving cars around town in an effort to control the country’s worst outbreak in 21 months.

China has stuck to a “zero-Covid” strategy of tight border restrictions, lengthy quarantines and targeted lockdowns as Beijing prepares to welcome thousands of overseas visitors for February’s Winter Olympics.

But historic Xi’an – where 13 million residents are facing their fifth day of home confinement – is at the centre of a flare-up that has pushed nationwide daily infections to their highest numbers since March last year.

Restrictions tightened further as Xi’an announced it would impose the “strictest social control measures”, according to a city government social media account.

The northern city – home to the world-famous Terracotta Warriors – recorded 150 new cases, bringing the total to around 650 since December 9.

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Israel tests fourth vaccine dose

An Israeli hospital has administered fourth Covid-19 vaccine doses to a test group, as the country considers approving the measure for vulnerable populations in a bid to outpace a surge in infections fuelled by the Omicron variant.

The Sheba Medical Centre study in Ramat Gan outside Tel Aviv “will zero in on efficacy of the vaccine in producing antibodies, and safety, in order to ascertain if a fourth vaccine is needed in general,” a spokesman said. The 150 subjects are all medical staff.

A Health Ministry expert panel last week recommended that Israel become the first country to offer a fourth vaccine dose – also known as a second booster – to those aged over 60, those suffering from compromised immune systems, and medical workers.

South Korea authorises emergency use of Pfizer’s oral treatment

South Korea has authorised for emergency use Pfizer’s antiviral pills targeting Covid-19 as the first of its kind to be introduced in South Korea, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said.

Pfizer’s oral antivir al treatment, called Paxlovid, is “expected to help prevent serious deterioration of patients admitted to residential treatment centers or being treated at home,” by diversifying coronavirus treatments beyond injections currently used in the field, drug safety minister Kim Gang-lip told a press briefing.

The drug will be used for adults or children 12 years or older weighing over 40 kilograms with mild to moderate symptoms with a high risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus due to causes such as underlying diseases.

Australia records first Omicron death

Australia has reported its first confirmed death from the new Omicron variant amid another surge in daily infections, but the authorities refrained from imposing new restrictions saying hospitalisation rates remained low.

The death, a man in his 80s with underlying health conditions, marked a grim milestone for the country which has had to reverse some parts of a staged reopening after nearly two years of stop-start lockdowns, due to the fresh outbreak.

Omicron, which health experts say appears more contagious but less virulent than previous strains, began to spread in the country just as it lifted restrictions on most domestic borders and allowed Australians to return from overseas without quarantine, driving case numbers to the highest of the pandemic.

Oman to require workers to have vaccination certificate

Oman will not allow employees in the public or private sectors to enter their workplace without a vaccination certificate that proves they are fully vaccinated, the health minister said in a news conference. 

Mexico’s death toll hits 298,777

Mexico has reported 3,719 additional cases of coronavirus infections and 107 more fatalities, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 3,951,003 and the death toll from the pandemic to 298,777.

Latest figures included data gathered over the course of two days.

Experts have said the government figures likely represent a significant undercount of both Covid-19 cases and deaths.

China reports 200 new Covid cases

China has reported 200 new confirmed coronavirus cases, from 206 a day earlier, its health authority said.

Of the new infections, 162 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission, compared with 158 a day earlier. Most of the new local cases were in the northwestern province of Shaanxi.

China reported 27 new asymptomatic cases, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, from 29 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. Mainland China had 101,277 confirmed cases as of end December.

Support for Japan PM up as voters welcome his Covid measures

Nearly two-thirds of Japanese voters support Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government, with the public welcoming his anti-coronavirus measures, including temporary border closure to new foreign entrants, the Nikkei business daily has said.

Support for Kishida’s cabinet rose to 65 percent, up by 4 percentage points from the previous survey a month ago, the newspaper said.

In the latest poll taken from Friday to Sunday, 61 percent of those surveyed evaluated positively Kishida’s anti-coronavirus steps, the highest figure since the Nikkei started asking the public’s views on the government’s coronavirus response in February 2020.

Amid the global emergence of highly transmissible Omicron variant of coronavirus, Kishida late November announced that Japan was barring entry to foreigners for about a month. Last week, he extended the measure through New Year holidays.

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