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Coronavirus live updates | Genome sequencing of samples of all Covid cases starts in Delhi to check for Omicron

Single day rise of 6,317 new COVID-19 infections, 318 fatalities push India’s tally of cases to 3,47,58,481, death toll to 4,78,325. According to Union Health Ministry active COVID-19 cases in country declined to 78,190.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 updates:Lucknow

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Former MP Dimple Yadav tests positive for COVID-19

 Former Samajwadi Party MP Dimple Yadav on Wednesday said she has tested positive for COVID-19. “I am full vaccinated and not showing any symptoms yet. I have isolated myself…. I request all those who met me recently to get themselves tested,” she tweeted. Dimple Yadav’s husband and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav is currently on a two-day campaign yatra from Mainpuri to Etah. Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh are due early next year. – PTIIsrael

Israel to administer fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine for medical personnel, senior citizens

 Israel is poised to begin administering the fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for medical personnel and people aged 60 and above in a bid to curb the spread of Omicron infections in the country, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Wednesday.The announcement comes after a top panel of medical experts had recommended on Tuesday to begin administering the fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.Those eligible for the fourth dose can administer only if four months have passed since the third dose, the panel said.
 Delhi

Genome sequencing of samples of all Covid cases starts in Delhi to check for Omicron

 Genome sequencing of samples of all COVID-19-infected people in Delhi began Wednesday to ascertain if the new Omicron variant has spread in the community, city Health Minister Satyendar Jain said.The national capital is recording around 100-125 cases a day, while it has the capacity of genome sequencing of 400-500 samples daily.”The Delhi government-run labs at the Lok Nayak Hospital and the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences can sequence 100 samples each day. Two Centre-run labs in Delhi can sequence 200-300 samples a day. So, 400-500 samples can be analysed in a day,” Jain said.”Around 100 to 125 new cases are emerging every day…. Samples of all COVID-19 patients will be sequenced from Wednesday. Through this, we will be able to ascertain the number of cases from the society. Till now, the maximum number of (Omicron) cases have come from foreign countries (sic),” he told reporters. – PTI  India

327 teaching, non-teaching staff members of KVs, JNVs, CBSE died due to COVID-19: Govt

 A total of 327 teaching and non-teaching staff members of Kendriya Vidyalayas, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas and Central Board of Secondary Education expired due to COVID-19 but none of them died during Covid duty, Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday.Union Minister of State for Education Subhas Sarkar gave the information in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha.”As per available data 327 teaching/non-teaching staff of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas and Central Board of Secondary Education expired due to COVID-19. None of these teachers died during Covid duty,” he said.”Education is a subject in the Concurrent List of the Constitution and schools, other than those owned and funded by the Central government, are under the jurisdiction of the state governments,” he added. – PTI Odisha

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Patnaik alerts people on Omicron variant, Odisha reports 183 new COVID-19 cases

 A day after Odisha reported its first Omicron cases, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday appealed to people to strictly follow the COVID-19 appropriate behaviour to defeat the new variant of coronavirus.Patnaik made the appeal through a video message, saying: “Now COVID-19 new variant Omicron is spreading across the globe. Therefore, I appeal to people to remain alert and follow the norms like wearing masks, hand wash, maintaining social distancing and avoid crowd.” Stating that the state with the support of people has successfully tackled the first and second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the chief minister said public cooperation was essential. – PTI South Africa

South Africa’s case drop may show omicron peak has passed

 South Africa’s noticeable drop in new COVID-19 cases in recent days may signal that the country’s dramatic omicron-driven surge has passed its peak, medical experts say.Daily virus case counts are notoriously unreliable, as they can be affected by uneven testing, reporting delays and other fluctuations. But they are offering one tantalising hint — far from conclusive yet — that omicron infections may recede quickly after a ferocious spike.South Africa has been at the forefront of the omicron wave and the world is watching for any signs of how it may play out there to try to understand what may be in store.After hitting a high of nearly 27,000 new cases nationwide on Thursday, the numbers dropped to about 15,424 on Tuesday. In Gauteng province — South Africa’s most populous with 16 million people, including the largest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria — the decrease started earlier and has continued.“The drop in new cases nationally combined with the sustained drop in new cases seen here in Gauteng province, which for weeks has been the center of this wave, indicates that we are past the peak,” Marta Nunes, senior researcher at the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics department of the University of Witwatersrand, told The Associated Press. – AP USA

Bill Gates urges people to get vaccinated as Omicron could usher in ‘worst part of pandemic’

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has urged people to get their vaccinations done quickly to prevent them from getting seriously ill, as he warned that surging Omicron variant cases could usher in “the worst part of the pandemic”.The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading faster than the Delta variant and is causing infections in people already vaccinated or who have recovered from the COVID-19 disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.Gates, 66, on Tuesday, said that “I know it’s frustrating to go into another holiday season with COVID looming over us. But it won’t be like this forever. Someday the pandemic will end, and the better we look after each other, the sooner that time will come.” “Just when it seemed like life would return to normal, we could be entering the worst part of the pandemic. Omicron will hit home for all of us. Close friends of mine now have it, and I’ve cancelled most of my holiday plans,” the billionaire philanthropist tweeted.Gates, whose foundation (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) has been part of the effort to develop and deliver COVID-19 vaccines, has said that getting a booster gives the best protection. – PTIAndhra Pradesh

First Omicron case in Tirupati

Tirupati registered its first official Omicron case when a 39-year-old foreign traveller from Kenya reached the city on December 10.
 National

When will government provide COVID-19 vaccine booster shots: Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said a large population of the country is still not vaccinated against COVID-19, noting that only 42% of the population will be vaccinated by December end against the required rate of 60% to prevent the third wave of coronavirus. He also asked the government to provide booster shots.Sharing data about vaccinations, Mr. Gandhi said there is a daily shortfall of 55.3 million doses. [One million is equal to 10 lakh.]“Majority of our population is still not vaccinated. When will GOI begin booster shots? #VaccinateIndia,” he said on Twitter.The former Congress chief said that going by the current vaccination rate, 42% of the population will be vaccinated by December 2021.
 France

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France could soon have 100,000 COVID cases a day, Health Minister says

France could soon have around 100,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Wednesday, up from around 70,000 currently as the country battles a fifth wave of the epidemic.The Omicron variant will be the dominant strain of COVID in France by early January, Mr. Veran told BFM TV .Mr. Veran said no new restrictions were on the table for now, although nothing could be ruled out, with authorities hoping an increase in the numbers of people having vaccinations will allow them to keep the virus in check. – ReutersNational

Revert to night curfews, containment zones to combat Omicron: Centre tells States

The Union Health Ministry has written to States to impose restrictions such as night curfews and declare containment zones if districts either have a 10% positivity rate or occupancy in oxygen-supported or Intensive Care Units rises to 40%.The Health Secretary’s letter said Omicron was at least “three times more transmissible” than the Delta variant and therefore, “greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision making and strict & prompt containment action” was required at the local and district level.So far about 200 cases of COVID’s fast-spreading strain Omicron have been confirmed in India, 77 of whom had recovered or migrated, according to the Ministry on Tuesday.United Kingdom

Boris Johnson rules out new COVID-19 curbs before Christmas

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he would not be introducing new COVID-19 restrictions in England before Christmas, but the situation remained extremely difficult and the government might need to act afterwards.”We don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas,” he said in a video posted on social media.”We can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas,” headded. “We continue to monitor Omicron very closely and if the situation deteriorates we will be ready to take action if needed.” – Reuters
 National

India’s Omicron COVID count crosses 200; “Activate” war rooms, says Centre

Jammu and Kashmir and Odisha on Tuesday recorded their first cases of the Omicron variant of COVID as the count of the new strain in 14 states and union territories crossed 200 even as the Centre said there is a need to “activate” war rooms, take “pro-active” action and consider night curfews.According to the latest data from the Centre and the states on Tuesday night, India recorded 220 cases of the Omicron variant, 19 days after the first two cases in the country were detected in Karnataka on December 2.While health authorities in J and K said three persons in the union territory tested positive for the Omicron variant in Jammu, the tally in Maharashtra and Telengana rose to 65 and 24 respectively with the addition of 11 and four cases of the potentially contagious strain. – PTIWest Bengal

Ireland returnee tests Covid positive in Bengal; genome sequencing report awaited

A man, who had returned to Kolkata from Ireland last week, tested positive for Covid-19 following which he was hospitalised on Tuesday, a health department official said.The department is waiting for the genome sequencing report of the 27-year-old man to check if he was afflicted with the Omicron variant of coronavirus, he added.”The man who has been working in Dublin, Ireland, for the last five years, arrived in the city flying from Manchester via Abu Dhabi and New Delhi. He was admitted to a hospital on Tuesday morning,” the official said. – PTIZambia

Vedanta Resources continues its support against the Covid-19 pandemic in Zambia

The Zambian subsidiary of resources giant Vedanta Resources Ltd has further committed to assisting the fight against the increasing number of Covid-19 infections in the southern African nation.On Monday, Vedanta distributed 4,000 masks to commuters, adding to the 10,000 masks already distributed to the communities living around its operations in Zambia.“Vedanta remains committed to helping Zambians in their battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. With the new variant posing a significant threat to public health, Vedanta reaffirms its commitment to help support the communities in as best way they can,” Vedanta said in a statement. – PTIIsrael

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Israel set to offer fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to people over 60

Israel announced on Tuesday that it will offer a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to people older than 60, amid concern over the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.A Health Ministry expert panel recommended the fourth shot, a decision that was swiftly welcomed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as “great news that will help us overcome the Omicron wave that is spreading around the world.”Although the decision is pending formal approval by senior health officials, Bennett urged Israelis to get the dose as soon as possible, saying: “My message is – don’t waste time, go get vaccinated.” – Reuters 

WHO experts recommend third dose of Novavax COVID vaccine for people with health issues

Novavax said on Tuesday the World Health Organization’s (WHO) panel of experts had recommended a third dose of its vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, for immunocompromised persons.The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, known as SAGE, issued a series of recommendations, including the use of the vaccine in persons with comorbidities, breastfeeding women, and those living with HIV.After reviewing Novavax data the independent experts said the vaccine could be used in pregnant women if the benefits of vaccination to the pregnant woman outweigh the potential risks. – ReutersUnited Kingdom

UK reduces COVID-19 self-isolation to 7 days for most in England

The British government said that from Wednesday it was reducing the COVID-19 self-isolation period to seven days from 10 days for people in England who get a negative result on a lateral flow test two days in a row.With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly in Britain and record levels of cases over the past week many industries are struggling with staff shortages, including hospitals who have warned of the risk of an impact on patient safety.The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said its analysis suggested a seven-day isolation period alongside two negative lateral flow test results had nearly the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period without testing. – ReutersChina

Chinese city orders residents to stay at home, cuts public transport, due to one COVID-19 case

One local COVID-19 case has forced a Chinese border city next to Vietnam to ordered its residents to stay at home, halted public transport and some school classes and postponed the clearing of travellers and cargo to pass through its port of entry.China has increased COVID-19 vigilance along its borders and at ports to prevent the virus from being brought in from sources overseas, after several small border towns, which have fewer health resources than major cities, suffered outbreaks over the past three months.Dongxing city in the autonomous Chinese region of Guangxi, which has a population of more than 200,000, demanded all its residents remain at home from Wednesday and avoid going out unnecessarily, state broadcaster CCTV reported. – ReutersUSA

Biden to deliver free tests, military doctors to battle surging Omicron

The Biden administration will open federal COVID-19 testing sites in New York City this week and buy 500 million at-home rapid tests that Americans can order online for free starting in January as it tries to tackle the Omicron variant of the coronavirus sweeping the country.Striking a more dire tone about the risks to the one-in-four American adults who are not fully vaccinated, President Joe Biden will lay out the initiatives in a speech on Tuesday warning of the risks from the fast-spreading variant, a senior administration official said.The measures include activating some 1,000 military medical personnel to support hospitals already being overwhelmed by COVID patients in some areas. – Reuters

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