Health News Roundup: U.S. airlines cut hundreds of Christmas Eve flights, but Americans carry on; France reports more than 100,000 COVID-19 infections for first time and more
State television said on Sunday a similar ban imposed in late November on travellers from South Africa and seven neighbouring countries was also extended for 15 days. U.S. airlines cut hundreds of Christmas Eve flights, but Americans carry on U.S. airlines canceled hundreds of flights on Christmas Eve amid a surge in COVID-19 infections driven by the Omicron variant but millions of wary Americans carried on with travel plans through a second pandemic-clouded winter holiday.
Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
Iran bars travellers from parts of Western Europe over Omicron fears
Iran has banned the entry of travellers from Britain, France, Denmark and Norway for 15 days as part of curbs following the discovery of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the Middle East's worst-hit country. State television said on Sunday a similar ban imposed in late November on travellers from South Africa and seven neighbouring countries was also extended for 15 days.
U.S. airlines canceled hundreds of flights on Christmas Eve amid a surge in COVID-19 infections driven by the Omicron variant but millions of wary Americans carried on with travel plans through a second pandemic-clouded winter holiday. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines both canceled dozens of Christmas Eve flights because of staff shortages amid the surge in infections.
Japan's Aichi prefecture finds two community cases of Omicron -governor
Central Japan's Aichi prefecture has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 resulting from community spread, Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura said on Sunday. The infections were found in a teenage girl and her mother, neither of whom had recently travelled abroad, while the transmission route was unclear, Omura told a news conference.
France reports more than 100,000 COVID-19 infections for first time
France recorded a record high of 104,611 COVID-19 infections on Saturday, breaking the 100,000 threshold for the first time since the pandemic began as the omicron variant continued its rapid spread. Health authorities said the number of COVID patients in intensive care went up by 28 to 3,282.
India to give COVID-19 booster shots to healthcare workers from Jan. 10
India will start administering COVID-19 booster shots as a precautionary measure to healthcare and frontline workers from Jan. 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday, as cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant rose across the country. In a national address, Modi also said those aged 15-18 would start receiving COVID-19 vaccinations from Jan. 3 and those above 60 with comorbidities would be offered booster shots after recommendation from doctors.
Italy reports third consecutive record of coronavirus cases
Italy reported a third successive record tally of COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with new infections hitting 54,762 against 50,599 a day earlier, the health ministry said. The number of coronavirus-related deaths rose to 144 from 141 on Friday.
The Palestinian health ministry said on Sunday it had identified the first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the Gaza Strip. The carrier is a Gaza resident who was infected within the coastal territory, ministry official Majdi Dhair told a news conference.
Israel orders Pfizer's new COVID-19 pill
Israel has ordered 100,000 units of Pfizer Inc's anti-viral COVID 19 pill Paxlovid for people aged 12 and older at risk of severe illness, an Israeli official said on Saturday, confirming a television report. Channel 12 TV said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett agreed the deal in a phone conversation with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. There was no immediate confirmation from the company.
China reported its highest daily rise in local COVID-19 cases in 21 months as infections more than doubled in the northwestern city of Xian, China's latest COVID hot spot. The city of 13 million, which entered its fourth day of lockdown, detected 155 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms for Saturday, up from 75 a day earlier, official data showed on Sunday.
Kosovo reports first cases of COVID-19 Omicron
Kosovo's health ministry said on Sunday it had registered its first nine cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the Balkan country. The ministry said that out of 22 people who tested positive to COVID-19 in the past 10 days, nine had been identified as Omicron variant.
(With inputs from agencies.)