• South Africa’s director-general of health, Sifiso Buthelezi, released a circular saying that up to 80 percent of the population has some immunity to COVID-19 from previous infection, vaccines or both, leading the country stop coronavirus tracing and quarantining among people who have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. “Containment strategies are no longer appropriate – mitigation is the only viable strategy,” said Mr. Buthelezi, “Quarantine has been costly to essential services and society as many people stay away from their work and thus lose their income.” Source

• The UK Health Security Agency issues a Technical Briefing on SARS-CoV-2 variants in England, covering surveillance, an and an enhanced analysis of Omicron from 18 December. The Briefing noted a reduced risk of hospitalization – by two-fifths – from Omicron versus Delta, and a faster waning of vaccine-induced protection from Omicron versus Delta. A total of 14 people have died within 28 days of their Omicron COVID-19 diagnosis. Source

• Israel’s proposed plan to offer a fourth vaccine dose is on hold, pending approval from Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash; he may ask a panel of experts to hold an additional discussion. Source

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