• In Xi’an, China, after daily infections jumped to 150, authorities sprayed disinfectants across the city and ask residents to close their windows and avoid touching anything on the street. Source

• In Australia, Omicron pushes daily coronavirus cases to over 10,000 – an all-time high. Source

• Despite criticism of conducting placebo-controlled trials to test new coronavirus vaccines, Shinogi announces that it has launched a 50,000-person, placebo-controlled phase III study of S-268019, its recombinant protein-based coronavirus vaccine in Vietnam, and will expand enrollment to include the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia. “Even now, there are many countries where the supply of vaccines is inadequate. In order to contribute to effective countermeasures for global health, we are conducting this trial.” Source

• In Israel, Sheba Medical Center and the country’s Health Ministry have launched a clinical trial to assess safety and efficacy of a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine in 150 medical workers who received a booster before 20 August 2021, and have low antibody titers. Professor Gili Regev-Yochay, who is leading the study, said safety data would be available in a matter of days. Source

• The US CDC has updated its recommendations for isolation (for people who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2) and quarantine (for people who have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2). The isolation period has been shortened from 10 to 5 days for people with no symptoms; they need to wear a mask for five additional days. The decision was based on “…science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.”

The new quarantine recommendation for unvaccinated people, and people who had a second dose of an mRNA vaccine over six months ago, or had the J & J vaccine over two months ago is 5 days, followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. People who have received a booster dose are recommended to wear a mask for 10 days after their exposure. Source

• South Korea grants Emergency Use Approval for Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 antiviral, paxlovid. Source

• Nepal faces an overall shortage of 15 million syringes, which has forced it to suspend vaccinating children because it does not have the smaller syringes needed for the PfizerBioNTech vaccine. Officials from the Health Ministry said that deliveries of syringes from COVAX and other suppliers have been delayed. Source

• For the first time, Spain has exceeded 1,000 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people. Source

• SydPath, the pathology lab at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, mistakenly told 400 coronavirus-positive people that they had tested negative on Christmas night, and 995 other people were told that they tested negative, although their results were not ready. The lab, which has been contacting everyone, said that the problem was caused by a data processing error, and has since reduced its testing volume. Source

• Paraguay confirms its first case of Omicron. Source

• Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro – who has refused to get vaccinated against coronavirus – announces that he will not vaccinate his 11-year-old daughter, saying that children “…have not been dying in a way that justifies a vaccine for children.” Over 300 children between the ages of 5 and 11 have died of COVID-19 in the country. Source

• Although modeling predicted dire scenarios due to Omicron, Demark’s early signals are promising; the rate of daily cases, although high, is fairly stable and daily hospitalizations have stayed at 125, the low end of a forecast of 125 to 250. But health officials caution that the epidemic could spread from young people, among whom it has been most prevalent, to older people after the holidays – and note that cases among healthcare workers have recently doubled. Source

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