• Angela Merkel makes her final address as Germany’s chancellor, saying “I once again emphatically ask you to take this treacherous virus seriously. Get vaccinated, whether it’s a first vaccination or a booster. Every shot helps.” She added, that every COVID-19 death “…leaves behind families or friends, stunned, speechless and helpless. This is so bitter because it is avoidable.” Source

• A pre-print article reports on the discovery of a mutation that the Omicron variant – but no other versions of SARS-CoV-2 – shares with common cold. The mutation could have occurred in a person who was simultaneously infected with SARS-CoV-2 and the cold-causing HCoV-229E coronavirus. Venky Soundararajan, who co-wrote the paper, says that cells in the lungs and gastrointestinal systems could host both viruses, creating the opportunity for an an exchange of their genetic material. He added that the “striking” similarity between Omicron and HCoV-229E could have made the former “more accustomed to human hosts” and likely to evade some immune system responses. He added that much more data and analysis of Omicron was needed and warned that unequal distribution of vaccines globally could lead to further mutations of the coronavirus. Sources 1,2

• Using its state-of-the-art genomic testing, Britain confirms 160 cases of the Omicron variant. It will now require all travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, to get tested within 48 hours of their departure to Britain. Sajid Javid, the country’s health secretary, said that the government was advising the British public to continue with life as usual while adhering to coronavirus guidelines, adding, “People should carry on with their plans, and make plans to enjoy Christmas as usual.” Source

• Protests erupt in Vienna, Austria, over the country’s coronavirus vaccine mandate and restrictions. An estimated 40,000 people demonstrated, some holding signs saying, “I will decide for myself,” and “Make Austria Great Again.” Source

• Gilead announced a recall of two lots of remdesivir (55,000 vials – enough for 11,000 COVID-19 patients) in the US, because of glass particles in vials of the medicine. The company’s statement noted that no adverse events have been reported that are linked to the recall, but warned that “…an injectable product that contains glass particulates may result in local irritation or swelling. If the glass particulate reaches the blood vessels it can travel to various organs and block blood vessels in the heart, lungs or brain which can cause stroke and even lead to death.” Gilead spokesperson Chris Ridley said the recall wouldn’t impact the supply of remdesivir in the US or globally, as the company has plenty of it. Source

• Gita Gopinath, IMF Chief Economist, expresses concern that new coronavirus variants may hinder the global economic recovery. She urged nations to help raise vaccination rates in Africa by making good on pledges to COVAX, removing trade barriers and making an additional 400 million doses available by swaps. Source

• Brazil’s Supreme Court has launched an investigation of President Jair Bolsonaro for making false claims during a live video broadcast. Mr. Bolsonaro said that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 may increase the risk of HIV – comments that led to his temporary suspension from Facebook and YouTube.

Brazil’s parliamentary commission has been investigating the Bolsonaro government’s response to the coronavirus – which has caused 615,400 deaths there – including the delayed vaccine campaign.

The commission has access to documents proving that the government ignored at least 81 vaccine offers from Pfizer in 2020. Source

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