What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

by Reuters
Monday, 6 December 2021 05:30 GMT

FILE PHOTO: A lone passenger wearing a protective face mask walks from a deserted train platform at Flinders Street during morning commute hours on the first day of a lockdown as the state of Victoria looks to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders/File Photo/File Photo

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Dec 6 (Reuters) - Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Japan's tougher virus border controls boost support for PM

Voter support for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ticked up after his government enforced tighter border controls against the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Yomiuri Shimbun daily said on Monday. Japan took some of the world's strictest steps on Nov. 29 by closing its borders to new foreign entrants for about a month. A day later, it discovered its first Omicron infection in a Namibian diplomat who had arrived on Nov. 28.

Support for Kishida's government was 62%, up from 56% a month ago, the Yomiuri poll showed, with 89% of respondents taking a positive view of the measures.

Omicron variant found in nearly one-third of U.S. states

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has spread to about one-third of U.S. states, but the Delta version remains the majority of COVID-19 infections as cases rise nationwide, U.S. health officials said on Sunday. Dr Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official and U.S. President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, said he hoped the United States would lift its ban on travelers from southern African countries in a "reasonable period of time."

Many of the cases were among fully vaccinated individuals with mild symptoms, although the booster shot status of some patients was not reported. Governors of two states with reported Omicron cases - Connecticut and Colorado - said they hoped their higher-than-average vaccination rates would blunt the impact. "We want to see how well the vaccinations hold up," Colorado's Jared Polis told ABC.

Canadian employers accommodate the unvaccinated

Canada's tight labor market is forcing many companies to offer regular COVID-19 testing over vaccine mandates, while others are reversing previously announced inoculation requirements even as Omicron variant cases rise.

There are pitfalls to employing the unvaccinated. Companies run a higher risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and many vaccinated employees are uncomfortable working with those who have not had the shot, said industry groups and marketing experts. In the hard-hit manufacturing sector, where 77% of firms say their top concern is attracting and retaining workers, vaccine mandates are more rare.

Fetus brain appears unharmed by mild-to-moderate COVID-19

Non-severe COVID-19 during pregnancy has no visible effect on the baby's brain, according to a small study presented on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Researchers led by Dr Sophia Stoecklein of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich used fetal MRI to study 33 pregnant women with mild or moderate COVID-19. The MRI scans showed "normal age-appropriate brain development" in all cases, Stoecklein said in a statement. "There were no findings indicative of infection of the fetal brain."

Only mothers who did not require hospital admission were included in the study. "Since the impact of severe infection on brain development in the fetus has not been conclusively determined, active protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy remains important," Stoecklein said.

Jordan court jails health officials over oxygen deaths

A Jordanian court sentenced five senior health officials to three years in jail on Sunday for causing the death of 10 COVID-19 patients following an oxygen outage in a major state hospital, state media said. Health Minister Nathir Obeidat resigned hours after the incident and in a public apology, Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh said his government bore full responsibility for the incident.

The court found the former director of the state hospital in Salt, a city west of the capital, and four of his senior aides responsible for the deaths, media said. The patients, who were being treated in the hospital, died in March when staff failed to act after oxygen ran out in a COVID-19 ward for nearly an hour.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh)

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