Merkel makes farewell plea for Germans to get vaccinated

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Germans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to help turn the tide on a fourth wave of cases that she said had become “dramatic” in parts of the country.

“We are in a very serious situation. In some parts of the country you can only describe it as dramatic: overfilled intensive care units, severely ill people who have to be flown across Germany to get the care they need,” she said on Saturday.“That is why I appeal to you again urgently: take the malicious virus seriously,” Merkel said in the last of the more than 660 podcasts she has recorded in office before handing over to Social Democrat Olaf Scholz next week.

Putin speaks to South African president on phone about Omicron

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken on the phone with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa about the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

Both agreed to join forces against the pandemic, the Kremlin announced in Moscow.

South African official says number of children sick is not cause for panic

Higher hospital admissions among children during a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in South Africa that is driven by the Omicron variant should prompt vigilance but not panic as infections have been mild, a health official said.

A large number of infants admitted with COVID-19 last month in Tshwane, the metropolitan area that includes the capital Pretoria, raised concerns that the Omicron variant could pose greater risks for young children than other coronavirus variants.

Scientists have yet to confirm any link and have cautioned that other factors could be at play.

Dutch authorities say 18 passengers from South Africa had Omicron

Dutch health authorities have said the final tally of passengers on two flights from South Africa last week who tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant is 18.

The Netherlands’ Institute for Health (RIVM) added in a statement that its investigation on passengers on the two flights has now been wrapped up.

The flights had already taken off on November 26 when the Dutch government introduced new travel restrictions due to worries about the newly detected strain.

Where have Omicron cases been reported?

  • Africa: Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Zimbabwe.
  • Americas: Brazil, Canada, Mexico, United States.
  • Asia-Pacific: Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Sri Lanka.
  • Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
  • Middle East: Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates.

    India detects third Omicron case

    India has reported its third case of the Omicron strain.

    Officials in the western state of Gujarat said the patient who tested positive for Omicron was a 72-year old man of Indian origin who had lived in Zimbabwe for decades, and returned on November 28.

    The country reported 8,603 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total to 34.62 million.


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