• China’s leader, Xi Jinping, pledges to deliver an additional billion doses of coronavirus vaccines to Africa; 600 million will be donated, while the other 400 million would come from joint production between Chinese and African countries. China is also sending 1,500 medics and public health experts to Africa.

There are questions about the effectiveness of China’s inactivated virus-based vaccines. COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in countries that used vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac (which is already testing its vaccine against Omicron). Source

• A US FDA advisory committee voted 13-to-10 for approval of molnupiravir, an oral antiviral that reduced hospitalizations by 30 percent among unvaccinated people at risk for severe disease, who had mild-to-moderate COVID-19. The vote was close, due to concerns about the drug’s effectiveness and potential to cause reproductive harm. “The efficacy of this product is not overwhelmingly good,” said Dr. David Hardy, an infectious-disease physician in Los Angeles, but he voted to recommend the drug, saying “there is a need for something like this.” Source

Ouartz reports that some African countries are restricting travel because of the Omicron variant. Angola has halted flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe; Kenya will be screening travelers from Botswana, Hong Kong and South Africa for Omicron; Libya requires travelers from countries where Omicron is present to undergo PCR testing within 48 hours, and quarantine for 10 days; Mauritius has suspended passenger flights from South Africa and will prohibit entry or transit to travelers who have been to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe; Morocco banned travelers from South Africa and six other African countries and suspended all incoming passenger flights for two weeks, and Rwanda has reinstated a 24-hour quarantine for all visitors and barred incoming and outgoing flights to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Source

• South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare has signed non-binding terms for a licensing deal to package and sell J & J’s coronavirus vaccine in Africa which it hopes to finalize in 2022. Source

• After reporting over 22,000 new daily coronavirus cases, Dutch health officials announce that they found the Omicron variant in two coronavirus test samples from 19 and 23 November—predating the variant’s discovery in South Africa and WHO classification as a variant of concern. So far, the European CDC said that 44 cases of Omicron have been confirmed in 11 countries and six more cases are being investigated; Britain announced that there are at least 22 confirmed Omicron cases (13 in England and 9 in Scotland). Source

• After holding an emergency meeting to review the country’s travel rules to halt the spread of the Omicron variant, India changes travel guidelines for people arriving from Europe, South Africa and other countries that have been affected by the Omicron variant. Before boarding flights to India, passengers will have to produce a two-week travel history and a negative PCR test result; upon arrival, they will be subject to mandatory testing a seven-day at-home quarantine, and repeat testing. Source

• COVAX announces that it has allocated over 4.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to North Korea – which says it is SARS-CoV-2-free and has questioned safety and efficacy of certain vaccines. Source

• WHO issues international travel advice to countries – and for people, noting that “Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihood. In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data.”

WHO recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated, are unwell and/or at risk of developing severe COVID-19 and dying because they are age 60 years or older and/or have comorbidities should postpone travel to areas with community transmission of Omicron. Source

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