WASHINGTON, D. C., RAW – AMERICAS

Top US infectious disease adviser Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that the surge in the COVID-19 Omicron variant in the United States is likely to peak by the end of January.

* US deaths and hospitalisations are comparatively low despite a surge in cases as the Omicron variant spreads, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday.

* The average number of daily cases in the US hit a record of 258,312 over the past seven days, a Reuters tally found.

* Bolivia reported late on Tuesday a record 4934 new cases as the Omicron variant spreads worldwide but without any confirmed cases of the variant in the Andean nation.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* Thai authorities warned residents should brace for a potential jump in cases after classifying the country’s first cluster of the Omicron variant as a “super-spreader” incident.

* Japan feared a rebound in infections as the highways and airports filled with travellers at the start of New Year holidays.

* New Zealand said a person who tested positive for the Omicron variant had briefly been active in the community in Auckland.

* A lockdown of 13 million people in the Chinese city of Xian entered its seventh day, with many unable to leave their residential compounds and relying on deliveries of necessities as new infections persisted.

* Australia will seek to make urgent changes to testing rules to ease pressure on test sites as infections surged and the country’s most populous state reported a near doubling in daily cases.

EUROPE

* France is enduring a “tsunami” of infections, with 208,000 cases reported over the past 24 hours, a new national and European record, Health Minister Olivier Veran told lawmakers on Wednesday.

* German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Wednesday the number of new cases has been under-reported and the actual incidence rate of infections is about two or three times higher than the officially reported figure.

AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST

* Turkey logged 36,684 new cases on Wednesday, the highest number of daily infections since April 29, health ministry data showed, as Health Minister Fahrettin Koca urged citizens to get booster vaccinations.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Tunisia’s Ministry of Health approved the Russian one-shot Sputnik Light vaccine as a booster shot, Russia’s RDIF sovereign fund said.

* Israel’s Oramed Pharmaceuticals said its Oravax Medical unit had signed a deal with Vietnam’s Tan Thanh Holdings for the pre-order of 10 million doses of its oral vaccine that is in clinical trials.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* European shares inched lower on Wednesday as record infections made investors wary and falls in technology, healthcare and travel stocks led the selling in thin holiday trade.

* Oil prices edged towards $US80 ($A111) per barrel as global supply outages and declining US inventories offset worries that rising cases might reduce demand.

* The Dow and S&P 500 closed at all-time highs on Wednesday on a boost from retailers including Walgreens and Nike, as investors shrugged off concerns on the Omicron variant.

* Financial institutions in India have remained resilient and stable financial markets are cushioned by policy and regulatory support, a central bank report said.

GLOBAL

DEATHS 5,437,462

CASES 284,744,351

RECOVERED 252,356,093