LONDON, RAW – EUROPE
* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering at his official residence during the UK’s first lockdown, as a senior figure in his party and opponents said he should resign.
* Denmark is to offer a fourth coronavirus vaccination to vulnerable citizens and will ease restrictions at the end of the week, while Sweden will cut the recommended interval between the second and third jabs to five months from six.
* Italy reported 196,224 COVID-19 related cases on Wednesday, against 220,532 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths rose to 313 from 294.
* Germany should make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all adults, Chancellor Olaf Scholz told parliament.
* Greece will extend restrictions at restaurants and bars by a week to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
* The Biden administration on Wednesday announced a new set of measures to keep classes open, including doubling COVID-19 testing capacity in schools with 10 million more tests, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly through the United States.
* COVID-19 hospitalisations in the US have increased by about 33 per cent and deaths are up by about 40 per cent from a week earlier, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
* Not enough Canadian children are being vaccinated against COVID-19 at a time when the Omicron variant threatens to swamp healthcare systems, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
* The Biden administration criticised China’s decision to cancel a growing number of flights from the US to China because of passengers who later tested positive for COVID-19 and warned it could take action in response.
* India’s Bharat Biotech said a booster shot of its Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine administered six months after the last of two doses neutralises both the Omicron and Delta variants of the coronavirus.
* Turkey recorded 77,722 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, its highest daily figure of the pandemic, health ministry data showed on Wednesday.
* Central Asian neighbours Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan reported jumps in new cases as both countries said the Omicron variant was now spreading on their territories.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* A senior official in Tunisia’s main opposition party told Reuters it planned to go ahead with a protest despite new restrictions including a ban on all gatherings.
* Morocco is considering wage hikes for health workers and tax incentives to attract foreign investors and doctors to plug shortages in the health system.
* Pfizer Inc said booster doses of its COVID-19 vaccine can be administered along with its pneumonia vaccine and produced strong safety and immune responses in people aged 65 and above in a late-stage study.
* AstraZeneca said the US government has agreed to purchase an additional 500,000 doses of its antibody cocktail, Evusheld, used to treat COVID-19.
* Oil prices hit two-month highs on tight supply as crude inventories in the US, the world’s top consumer, fell to their lowest since 2018, while the dollar weakened and concerns about the Omicron variant eased.
* The Bank of Japan offered its most optimistic view of the country’s regional economy in more than eight years, in a sign of its confidence that a recent resurgence in infections would not derail Japan’s fragile recovery.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* 315,390,402 total global infections and 5,510,327 total deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coranavirus Resource Center.