WASHINGTON, D. C., RAW – EUROPE
* Spain’s COVID-19 infection rate exceeded 1000 cases per 100,000 people for the first time on Monday, stoked by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
* Greece on Monday announced further restrictions effective from January 3-16 to contain a further upsurge in infections including the Omicron variant, targeting mainly night-time entertainment venues.
* Italy reported 142 deaths on Monday against 81 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 30,810 from 24,883.
* Ireland on Friday reported its highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began but those requiring critical care fell further amid a rapid roll-out of booster vaccines.
* US airlines cancelled nearly 1000 flights after grounding thousands of flights over the Christmas holiday weekend, hobbled by staff shortages from infections and bad weather in parts of the country.
* US President Joe Biden on Monday pledged to ease a shortage of tests as the Omicron variant threatened to overwhelm hospitals and stifle travel plans as it spread across US states this holiday week.
* India will start administering booster shots as a precautionary measure to healthcare and frontline workers from January 10, as Omicron cases rose across the country.
* Australia reported its first confirmed death from the Omicron variant on Monday amid its biggest daily surge in infections, but authorities refrained from imposing new restrictions saying hospitalisation rates remained low.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Iran has banned the entry of travellers from Britain, France, Denmark and Norway for 15 days.
* Omani authorities require foreign travellers aged 18 or older to have received at least two vaccine doses to enter the sultanate, the state news agency reported.
* The Palestinian health ministry said it had identified the first case of Omicron in the Gaza Strip.
* A major Israeli hospital will begin administering a fourth vaccine shot to 150 staff on Monday in a trial aimed at gauging whether a second booster is necessary nationwide.
* South Korea 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 on Monday.
* Global equity markets stocks rose and oil prices eased on Monday as flight cancellations over Christmas revived concerns that the Omicron coronavirus variant could slow the economy into 2022.
* Oil prices rose more than two per cent on Monday to the highest level since late November on hopes the Omicron variant will have a limited impact on global demand in 2022, even as surging cases caused flight cancellations.