- This daily news round-up brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
- Top stories: Omicron might be less severe but not 'mild' - WHO; more record COVID-19 cases around the world; global confirmed cases pass 300 million since pandemic's start.
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1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 300.3 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.47 million. More than 9.37 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 300 million globally since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins' Coronavirus Resource Centre.
India's daily COVID-19 infections have jumped to 117,100 - a five-fold increase in a week. It puts the country on course to overtake its previous infection peak.
The Omicron outbreak could peak in New South Wales - Australia's most populous state - by the end of the month, official modelling has shown. Authorities have reinstated some restrictions in a bid to slow the record spike.
Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest US education district, cancelled classes for a second day on Thursday amid a walkout by teachers demanding tougher COVID-19 protection measures, although city officials insisted schools are safe.
Chile is set to begin offering a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to immunocompromised citizens next week. It becomes the first country in Latin America to do so and one of the first in the world to offer the additional shot.
Costa Rica will begin COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 from 11 January, the country's president announced yesterday.
Canada has signed a deal with GlaxoSmithKline to buy 20,000 more doses of the pharmaceutical giant's COVID-19 drug.
Peru has tightened COVID-19 restrictions in response to rising cases; 24 provinces have been moved from 'moderate' to 'high' alert, Health Minister Hernando Cevallos said.
Nigeria is working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a televised interview on Thursday.
Portugal will ease some COVID-19 restrictions, with pupils returning to school next week and nightclubs reopening on 14 January.
How is the World Economic Forum helping to identify new technologies to fight COVID-19?
As part of work identifying promising technology use cases to combat COVID, The Boston Consulting Group recently used contextual AI to analyze more than 150 million English language media articles from 30 countries published between December 2019 to May 2020.
The result is a compendium of hundreds of technology use cases. It more than triples the number of solutions, providing better visibility into the diverse uses of technology for the COVID-19 response.
To see a full list of 200+ exciting technology use cases during COVID – please follow this link.
2. Omicron might be less severe but not 'mild' - WHO
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 appears to produce less severe disease than the globally dominant Delta strain, but should not be categorised as 'mild', World Health Organization (WHO) officials said on Thursday.
Janet Diaz, WHO lead on clinical management, said early studies showed there was a reduced risk of hospitalization from the variant first identified in southern Africa and Hong Kong in November compared with Delta.
There appears also to be a reduced risk of severity in both younger and older people, she told a media briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva.
"While Omicron does appear to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean it should be categorized as mild," WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the same briefing.
"Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people and it is killing people."
He warned of a 'tsunami' of cases as global infections soar to records fuelled by both Omicron and Delta, healthcare systems are overwhelmed, and governments struggle to control the disease.
3. More record confirmed COVID-19 cases across the globe
As the world passes the 300 million confirmed cases milestone, countries around the world continue to report record COVID-19 case numbers as a wave of infections, driven by the Omicron variant, continues to sweep the globe.
In Israel, the Health Ministry reported 16,000 new cases on Wednesday, a record daily increase since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the country's Delta wave, the number topped 11,000.
In Belgium, new daily cases of COVID-19 have exceeded November 2020's previous highs, with more than 28,000 new cases reported on 4 January. Health experts have warned this could rise as high as 125,000 cases a day by mid-January.
Argentina has also reported a record number of new confirmed daily COVID-19 cases - the third day in a row it's done so. Yesterday, 109,608 new cases were reported; however, the government said the wave of new cases had not yet translated into a similar rise in COVID-19-related deaths.
On Thursday, 219,441 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Italy - a record since the start of the pandemic.
Turkey yesterday reported 68,413 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24 hours - again the highest figure on record.
New daily COVID-19 cases fell in France on Thursday - down to 261,481 from Wednesday's record of more than 332,000. However, the seven-day moving average of new cases has risen above 200,000 for the first time.