• Hospitals in South Africa are preparing to face the results from a surge of Omicron cases as scientists try to assess the severity of illness caused by the variant. In just three weeks, the seven-day average of new coronavirus cases rose from 300 to 10,055, while hospitalizations, which usually lag by a few weeks, have increased slowly. Although initial data suggest that Omicron may cause milder illness – particularly among people who have recovered from COVID-19 and/or been vaccinated – there will be more information on clinical outcomes among people with Omicron in a week or two. Source

• Thailand reports its first Omicron case in a vaccinated traveler from Spain. Source

• China launched a vaccine campaign in late October for children ages 3 to 11 years in October, aiming to vaccinate all 160 million by the end of 2021. In the first two weeks of the campaign,84 million girls and boys, called “little inoculated warriors” by nurses, were given a first of two shots. The government says that vaccinating children is voluntary, but parents say they have been pressured. Source

• Russia reports two cases of Omicron in two travelers returning from South Africa. The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which helped to finance development of the country’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, says it is effective against Omicron, and that it was developing a new version adapted to the variant. Source

• The US now requires international travelers to undergo testing for SARS-CoV-2 within 24 hours of their departure. Source

• COVID-19 cases on the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship increase from 10 to 17, including a “probable” case of Omicron. Norwegian Cruise Lines requires passengers, including children, and its crew members undergo antigen tests and are fully vaccinated before boarding; unvaccinated children are prohibited from traveling. Source

• Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio mandates coronavirus vaccines for employees at all private businesses, which will apply to workers at about 184,000 businesses and is likely to face legal and enforcement challenges. Source

• The Atlantic reports on the global issue of vaccine hesitancy – which is thought to be more common in high-income countries – noting that 38 percent of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, nearly a quarter of Russians, 22 percent of South Africans, 18 percent of people in the US, and 10 percent of Canadian, French and German people and four percent of Ethiopians were unwilling to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. Jonathan Kennedy, a sociologist at Queen Mary University of London, who has found a link between populist voters and people who don’t think vaccines are effective, says “Vaccine hesitancy and political populism are driven by similar dynamics: a profound distrust in elites and experts. In public health, there’s this growing distrust and anger towards doctors, also towards pharmaceutical companies. Medical populism is skepticism that’s uninformed.” He added that populism and anti-vax sentiment “…seems to be a kind of rejection of this narrative of civilizational progress …It’s kind of like a scream of helplessness.” Source

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