WASHINGTON, D. C., RAW – EUROPE

* Coronavirus deaths in Eastern Europe topped one million on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, as the Omicron variant threatened to batter the region.

* The Russian government on Thursday extended its approval for drugmaker Pharmasyntez to produce a generic version of US anti-COVID-19 drug remdesivir without a patent for one year, citing the need to protect its citizens.

* France reported 206,243 new confirmed cases in the latest 24-hour period on Thursday, rising above 200,000 for the second day running as Omicron takes hold.

AMERICAS

* US health experts on Thursday urged Americans to prepare for severe disruptions in coming weeks as the rising wave of cases led by Omicron threatened hospitals, schools and other sectors impacting their daily lives.

* The Canadian province of Ontario on Thursday announced new measures, including shorter isolation time for patients, to tackle hurdles brought about by an exponential rise in cases due to Omicron .

* Mexico authorised the Cuban-made vaccine Abdala for emergency use, even though the shot has still not been approved by the World Health Organisation.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* Indian authorities started to impose stringent rules on Thursday to prevent mass gatherings at parties and public venues ahead of new year celebrations as the nation sees a spike in infections.

* Australia sought to relieve pressure on overrun testing facilities by narrowing its definition of close contacts of infected people and relaxing requirements for tests, as daily cases topped 20,000 for the first time.

* The Chinese city of Xi’an reported on Thursday another 155 local cases, taking the total number to the highest seen in any Chinese city this year, as infections keep spreading eight days into a lockdown.

AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST

* South Africa has lifted a midnight to 4am curfew on people’s movement with immediate effect, believing the country has passed the peak of its fourth wave driven by Omicron, a government statement said on Thursday.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* British scientists will be studying whether higher doses of a cheap and widely used steroid called dexamethasone could work better for patients with severe COVID-19 compared to the standard low doses, they said on Thursday.

* Israel is to go ahead with second vaccine booster shots for people with weakened immune systems, the top government health official said on Thursday, but a final decision on wider usage is still pending.

* Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE’s vaccine caused mostly mild side effects in children aged 5 to 11 years, according to data published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Global stock markets edged higher on Thursday after fresh US economic data indicated that a recent uptick of Omicron variant-related infections has not yet led to a surge in layoffs, a positive sign for the economy.

* New claims for US unemployment benefits fell in the week leading up to Christmas and benefits rolls slid to their lowest level of the coronavirus pandemic era the week earlier, the Labor Department said on Thursday, data that showed no impact yet on employment from rapidly spreading Omicron.

* Britain’s FTSE 100 fell on Thursday, after hitting 22-month highs in the previous session, as a surge of cases offset optimism over the economic recovery in thin year-end trading.

GLOBAL

DEATHS 5,444,859

CASES 286,621,404

RECOVERED 253,074,806