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South Korea records 1st omicron variant death


The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency identified the deceased as a person in their 90s living in a nursing home in the southern city of Gwangju, and the person had received two COVID-19 vaccine doses. The agency says it confirmed the patient was posthumously found to have contracted the omicron variant. As reported by the AP:

South Korea has so far confirmed 1,318 cases of the omicron variant, and it will likely replace delta as the dominant variant

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it has confirmed its first death related to the new omicron variant.

Dr. Elaine Ma administers a vaccine during a drive-through COVID-19 vaccine clinic at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, on Sunday Jan. 2, 2022. (Lars Hagberg /The Canadian Press via AP)

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Monday that the deceased was in their 90s and living at a nursing home in the southern South Korea city of Gwangju. It says the person received a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine in October.

A total of 21 people in the South Korea facility have tested positive for COVID-19 — three of them with the omicron variant — since the first case was reported there on Dec. 24.

The South Korea agency says the patient was posthumously found to have contracted the omicron variant. South Korea Health authorities were examining whether another person who died at the Gwangju South Korea facility had also been infected with the variant.

South Korea has so far confirmed 1,318 cases of the omicron variant. Experts say it will likely soon replace the delta variant to become dominant in South Korea.


— How will pandemic end? Omicron clouds forecasts for endgame

— Fauci says CDC may add test requirement for infected people ending isolation

— Pentagon chief Austin says he has tested positive for COVID

— British government rushing tests to schools


Children wait to receive their COVID-19 vaccination at a government school in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Indian health authorities Monday began vaccinating teens in the age group of 15 to 18, as more states started to enforce tighter restrictions to arrest a new surge stoked by the infectious omicron variant. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

ROME — The Italian government has set prices for the more protective Ffp2 masks at 75-euro cents apiece now that they are required to access public transport, museums, cinemas, and many other indoor activities.

The office of Italy’s virus czar announced Monday that a deal had been reached with key Italian pharmaceutical and drug store associations. Italian-made Ffp2 masks generally run upwards of 2 euros apiece or more.

The government last month imposed an outdoor mask mandate overall and the requirement that Ffp2 masks be worn in certain indoor activities in a bid to stem the latest surge in cases.

Italy, where the European outbreak erupted in February 2020, had a critical shortage of surgical and more protective masks in the first wave of the pandemic. After supplies increased, the government fixed the price for surgical masks at 50 cents apiece in April 2020.

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin’s largest school district, Milwaukee Public Schools, will switch to online teaching for at least a week because of an increase in staff testing positive for COVID-19.

The district said in a statement on Monday that its goal is to return to in-person learning on Jan. 10.

Students and staff who want to be tested for COVID-19 can do so at six schools. The district says that when in-person learning resumes, testing will be available for students and staff at each school.

More than 75,000 students attend Milwaukee public schools.

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — Wintry weather combined with the pandemic to frustrate air travelers whose return flights home from the holidays were canceled or delayed in the first days of the new year.

A health staff administers vaccine for COVID-19 to teens at a school in Kolkata, India, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. India has begun vaccinating teens in the age group of 15 to 18, as more states are enforcing tighter restrictions to arrest a surge of infections stoked by the omicron variant. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

More than 2,500 U.S. flights and more than 4,100 worldwide were grounded Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware.

That followed Saturday’s mass cancelations of more than 2,700 U.S. flights, and more than 4,700 worldwide. Saturday’s single-day U.S. toll was the highest since just before Christmas, when airlines began blaming staffing shortages on increasing COVID-19 infections among crews.

A winter storm that hit the Midwest on Saturday made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers throughout the weekend as the region’s airports continued to recover Sunday morning. About a quarter of all flights at O’Hare Airport were canceled Sunday.

American Airlines said most of Sunday’s canceled flights had been canceled ahead of time to avoid last-minute disruptions at the airport.

FILE – In this Feb. 25, 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens as President Joe Biden speaks during an event to commemorate the 50 millionth COVID-19 shot in Washington. Fauci said Sunday, March 14, he wishes former President Donald Trump would use his popularity among Republicans to persuade his followers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. In a round of interviews on the morning news shows, Fauci lamented polling showing that Trump supporters are more likely to refuse to get vaccinated, saying politics needs to be separated from “commonsense, no-brainer” public health measures. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON — As the omicron variant surges across the United States, top federal health officials are looking to add a negative test along with its five-day isolation restrictions for asymptomatic Americans who catch the coronavirus, the White House’s top medical adviser said Sunday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now considering including the negative test as part of its guidance after getting significant “pushback” on its updated recommendations last week.

Under that Dec. 27 guidance, isolation restrictions for people infected with COVID-19 were shortened from 10 days to five days if they are no longer feeling symptoms or running a fever. After that period, they are asked to spend the following five days wearing a mask when around others.

The guidelines have since received criticism from many health professionals for not specifying a negative antigen test as a requirement for leaving isolation.

“There has been some concern about why we don’t ask people at that five-day period to get tested,” Fauci said. “Looking at it again, there may be an option in that, that testing could be a part of that. And I think we’re going to be hearing more about that in the next day or so from the CDC.”

Workers handle the luggage of passengers of the cruise ship AIDAnova docked in Lisbon, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. The ship passengers started to be evacuated early morning on Monday and taken to Lisbon airport due to an outbreak of coronavirus cases on board. The cruise ship arrived in Lisbon on December 29, with 4,197 people on board, including 1.353 crew and 2.844 passengers, of various nationalities, mostly German, after several passengers and crew members tested positive for the COVID-19. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minster Naftali Bennett says authorities have decided to expand the country’s second booster campaign to people over the age of 60 as it copes with the omicron variant.

Israel last week approved the booster for a limited population of people with underlying illnesses.

Speaking on national TV, Bennett said Sunday that giving older Israelis an additional booster shot — their fourth vaccination overall — will provide a “new layer” of protection.

Earlier Sunday, Bennett warned that Israel will soon see tens of thousands of cases a day as the variant continues to spread. Bennett spoke at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. He said despite rolling out more than 4.2 million coronavirus booster shots to the country’s population of 9.3 million since July, “the storm is coming to us these very days.”

Daily cases in Israel have risen around 700 to the more than 4,000 reported on Sunday.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett adjusts a face mask as he attends a cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, Israel, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

PARIS — Despite a surge in coronavirus infections in France, Health Minister Olivier Veran struck an optimistic chord on Sunday, saying that “the fifth wave of COVID-19 is perhaps the last” in what for many around the world has become an endless pandemic.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government insists that getting as many people vaccinated – and boosted — as possible is the best way to contain fast-spreading omicron variant, Veran the weekly Le Journal Au Dimanche. It’s also the only way to avoid new lockdowns, damage to the country’s economic recovery and the pressure on already overburdened hospitals, he added.

France has vaccinated 77% of its population and is rushing out booster shots to combat omicron. But more than 4 million adults remain unvaccinated, including more than 1 million people over age 65.

And for them, public life will be severely restricted as the government rushes out vaccine passes.

Unvaccinated people who contract the virus will be “watched and punished,” Veran said. They will have to self-isolate for 10 days and for seven days if they were in contact with an infected person. For infected and inoculated residents, the quarantine has been reduced to seven days and further to five with a negative test. Starting Monday, those vaccinated and in contact with an infected person will not have to quarantine at all, Veran said.

Authorities registered 58,432 new cases on Sunday, a number well below the past four days when infections soared over 200,000.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, meets French carmakers at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Monday, July 12, 2021. President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a top-level virus security meeting Monday morning and then giving a televised speech Monday evening, the kind of solemn speech he’s given at each turning point in France’s virus epidemic.(AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)

PARIS — Soccer great Lionel Messi is isolating at home in Argentina.

Messi was among four Paris Saint-Germain players testing positive for the coronavirus ahead of the team’s French Cup game at Vannes on Monday night as it returns to action after the winter break.

PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino is uncertain when the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will be able to return to France, or whether Messi can recover in time to play away to Lyon in the French league next Sunday.

Pochettino says Messi “tested positive in Argentina (and) until he’s negative, he won’t be able to travel to France. We’ll see when he gets back.”

LONDON — The U.K. government has been making contingency plans in case hospitals, schools and other workplaces are hit by major staff shortages amid the country’s record-breaking spike in coronavirus infections.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, center, visits a vaccination hub in the at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury, England, Monday Jan. 3, 2022, as the booster vaccination programme continues. (Steve Parsons/Pool via AP)

Public sector workplaces have been preparing for staff absences ranging from 10% to 25% as COVID-19 sickens more people or forces them to isolate, the Cabinet Office said.

The highly transmissible omicron variant has caused Britain’s daily new caseload to soar over Christmas and the New Year, with a new daily high of 189,000 on Dec. 31. About 1 in 25 people in England — or about 2 million people — had COVID-19 in the week before Christmas, the Office of National Statistics estimated. In London, the figure was 1 in 15.

Cabinet Office Minister Stephen Barclay said there had already been “significant” absences and the government was preparing for “every eventuality.” He cited increased support for virus testing in schools and warehouses, and perhaps better ventilation, as an example of how to prevent disruptions.

LONDON — Secondary school students in England will be required to wear face masks when they return to classes after the Christmas holidays.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said Sunday the move was an attempt to “minimize disruption” in schools as the highly transmissible omicron variant drives coronavirus infections in the U.K. to record levels.

Similar guidance on masks for students ages 11 and above was already in place for schools in Scotland and Wales.

Students and teachers are set to return to classrooms on Tuesday after more than two weeks off, during which Britain’s daily caseload has climbed as high as 189,000 on Dec. 31.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, watches Mark receive a COVID-19 booster vaccine during a visit to a vaccination hub in the at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury, England, Monday Jan. 3, 2022, as the booster vaccination programme continues. (Steve Parsons/Pool via AP)

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian health authorities have identified the country’s first cases of the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Twelve people were found to have the variant, the country’s chief health inspector Angel Kunchev said Sunday. He warned that the new variant can be expected to spread faster and soon become dominant.

All but one of the cases are from the capital Sofia and all of them have mild symptoms, Kunchev said adding that no one needs hospitalization. Seven of the people were not vaccinated, while the other five are fully vaccinated.

Bulgaria is the least vaccinated country in the 27-member European Union as just one-third of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Balkan country of 7 million has reported a total of 748,184 cases, including 30,983 fatalities. Authorities on Sunday reported 1,076 confirmed new cases of coronavirus and 28 deaths.

People wait for vaccination against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease inside the Sage Beach Bar and Restaurant in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. The Clubcommission Berlin, an association that protects and supports the Berlin club culture, launch a vaccination campaign which take place in several clubs bars and restaurants in the German capital. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

PARIS — Unvaccinated people traveling from the United States will have to self-isolate in France for 10 days under supervision from local authorities in line with new government restrictions Sunday.

All passengers from the U.S. have to provide a negative COVID-19 test – a PCR or an antigen test – no older than 48 hours in addition to proof of vaccination before boarding a flight to France.

Unvaccinated travelers from the U.S. previously were required to self-quarantine without supervision for seven days.

New COVID-19 cases in France have surpassed 200,000 for four consecutive days, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant.

French authorities also are stepping up pressure on unvaccinated residents. The government is pushing parliament to pass a law in the next two weeks that would allow only vaccinated residents to enter restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums, and sports arenas.

Sheep and goats stand together in Schneverdingen, Germany, before they form an approximately 100 meters large syringe to promote vaccinations against COVID-19, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. (Philipp Schulze/dpa via AP)

AMSTERDAM — Thousands of people defied a ban on gatherings to assemble on an Amsterdam square for a demonstration against the Dutch government’s coronavirus lockdown measures.

The municipality of the Dutch capital had outlawed the protest, saying police had indications some demonstrators could be attending “prepared for violence.”

But thousands of people made their way to the square on Sunday, with some unfurling a banner that read, “less repression, more care” near the Van Gogh Museum. A group of people in white overalls and white masks held up signs, including one that said: “It’s not about a virus, it’s about control” on one side and “Freedom.” on the other.

There was a heavy police presence on the square and in nearby streets. The municipality designated the area a security risk region, a decision that gave police powers to preventatively frisk people.

NEW DELHI — India has reported over 27,000 new COVID-19 cases, data from the Health Ministry showed amid growing concerns of a potential new surge stoked by the highly contagious omicron variant.

Medical staff walks alongside a line of people waiting for their vaccination against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease inside the Sage Beach Bar and Restaurant in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. The Clubcommission Berlin, an association that protects and supports the Berlin club culture, launch a vaccination campaign which take place in several clubs bars and restaurants in the German capital. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Sunday’s confirmed cases represented the highest daily count since October. The country also reported 284 deaths, bringing India’s total death toll in the pandemic to over 481,000 people.

The country now has more than 1,500 confirmed omicron cases, with the highest number in the western state of Maharashtra. India plans to start vaccinating children between 15 and 18 on Monday.

Various states have brought in a slew of restrictions to curb cases, including night time curfews, restricted seating at bars and restaurants, and bans on large public gatherings.

By The Associated Press undefined

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