* Spain will cap prices for rapid COVID-19 tests and open up its booster shot program to everyone over 18, the government said on Thursday, as infections continued to rise albeit at a slightly slower pace.

* Germany’s vaccine committee recommended on Thursday that all children between 12 and 17 receive a booster shot as the country reported a daily record of more than 81,000 infections.

* Britain recorded 109,133 new cases on Thursday, down from 129,587 on Wednesday and nearly 24 per cent lower over the last seven days compared to the week before.

* The Norwegian government will partly reverse a ban on serving alcohol in bars and restaurants, one of several policy changes as it seeks to relax restrictions, the prime minister said on Thursday.

AMERICAS

* The US Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s pandemic-related vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses at a time of escalating COVID-19 infections, while allowing his administration to enforce its separate vaccine requirement for healthcare facilities.

* Biden on Thursday said he was deploying more military health workers to hospitals in six US states, and would give Americans free masks and more free tests to tackle the fast-spreading Omicron variant around the country.

* Vaccine requirements for foreign truckers at the Canada-US border still could cause supply-chain disruptions if both countries do not allow exemptions, the head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) said on Thursday.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* New infections in Indian cities could peak next week after rising rapidly, experts said, as the country reported the highest number of daily cases since late May and Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India had adequate stocks of vaccines across states.

* Tokyo recorded a new four-month high in infections and experts forecast the spread of the Omicron variant would cause the daily count to triple by month’s end.

* Tianjin in northern China reported 41 domestically transmitted cases, while the northeastern city of Dalian reported that an individual arriving from Tianjin had also contracted the Omicron variant.

AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST

* Africa’s top public health body said it was in talks with Pfizer about securing supplies of its antiviral COVID-19 pills for the continent.

* A “shocking” surge in cases across the World Health Organisation’s Eastern Mediterranean region is probably due to the Omicron variant, a WHO official said, warning that some countries in the group still have very low vaccination rates.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Biden said on Thursday he is directing the US government to procure an additional 500 million COVID-19 tests to help meet demand across the country amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

* AstraZeneca said preliminary data from a trial showed its shot, Vaxzevria, generated an increase in antibodies against the Omicron and other variants when given as a third booster dose.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* The global economy is projected to grow by four per cent in 2022 – down from 5.5 per cent last year – and expand 3.5 per cent in 2023 amid new waves of infections, labour market challenges, supply-chain constraints and rising inflation, according to a United Nations report released on Thursday.

* Euro zone companies survived the two years of the pandemic better than expected with fewer insolvencies than feared, euro zone finance ministers are likely to conclude on Monday according to a senior euro zone official.

* Canada’s urban exodus picked up steam into the second year of the pandemic, with tens of thousands of people leaving Toronto and Montreal for smaller cities or rural areas, official data showed on Thursday.

GLOBAL

DEATHS 5,537,596

CASES 320,325,455

RECOVERED 263,886,832