• A pre-print study reports that infection with the Omicron variant enhances immune responses against the Delta variant. South African researchers studied neutralizing responses against Omicron and Delta among a group of 13 people, who became infected with Omicron; 7 had been vaccinated. Samples were taken at 4 days after symptom onset and 14 days later. During this time, neutralization of Omicron increased by 14.4-fold and neutralization of Delta increased by 4.4-fold. The authors said that it was unclear whether the responses they observed were “…effective cross-neutralization of Delta virus by Omicron elicited antibodies, or activation of antibody immunity from previous infection and/or vaccination.” They noted that Omicron could become dominant, and, if it turns out to be less pathogenic than Delta and other variants, “…the incidence of Covid-19 severe disease would be reduced, and the infection may shift to become less disruptive to individuals and society.” Source

• Daily global coronavirus infections hit a record-breaking total of 1.44 million, driven by the Omicron variant. Source

Associated Press reports that hearses drove to a shopping mall in Johannesburg, South Africa to encourage vaccination. As the sirens wailed, Vuyo Mabindisi, director of Vuyo’s Funeral Services, said “Vaccinate, vaccinate, we don’t want to see you coming to our offices.” Source

• In Xi’an, China, daily coronavirus cases reached a record daily high of 175, although the city’s million residents have been under strict lockdown for five days. Local health authorities, who are conducting a fourth round of mass testing, warn of more infections. Source

• India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation grants emergency use approval for the oral antiviral drug molnupiravir and two corononavirus vaccines, Corbevax, a protein sub-unit-based vaccine made by India’s Biological E with US partners from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas and Dynavax Technologies, and Covovax, which relies on nanoparticles and will be produced by Novavax licensee Serum Institute of India. Source

• The US CDC downgrades its estimate of Omicron’s prevalence during the week ending on 18 December from 73 percent to 23 percent; the agency estimates that it now accounts for 59 percent of cases in the US. Source

• In New Delhi, coronavirus cases have risen by 300 percent over the last two weeks while a long lasting, and growing doctors strike over staffing shortages at state-run hospitals lead to worries about Omicron-driven surges. Source

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