Factbox-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus
(Reuters) - As the Omicron variant gains momentum in Europe and the United States, scientists are rewriting their expectations for the pandemic next year.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* European Union governments have agreed to exercise an option to buy more than 180 million doses of a version of the vaccine adapted for the Omicron variant by BioNTech and Pfizer, the head of the European Commission said.
* Denmark's government proposed new restrictions to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, but shied away from instituting a full lockdown.
* Switzerland's government said it was ordering more vaccination doses. Visitors from Britain will face the same pandemic rules as anyone else entering the country, the Swiss health minister said.
* The British sports minister has urged footballers who do not intend to get the vaccine to "overcome their reluctance" because it is their social responsibility.
* Portugal said it estimated infections with the Omicron variant were doubling every two days and could account for 80% of all new cases by the end of December.
* Russia's Sputnik V vaccine provides a strong defence against serious symptoms and hospitalisations caused by the Omicron variant, the RDIF sovereign wealth fund said, citing a preliminary study by the vaccine developer.
* Austria said it was temporarily loosening its lockdown on those not fully vaccinated over Christmas and New Year's Eve thanks to a drop in infections.
* India has detected a total of 101 cases of the Omicron variant, a health ministry official said.
* Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he had spoken with the head of Pfizer to secure oral treatments for COVID-19, and that vaccine boosters for the elderly would be accelerated.
* Canada will announce it is once again requiring people returning from short foreign trips to submit a negative test, the TVA network said, citing a source.
* White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there are no new recommendations yet on COVID-19 amid the spread of the Omicron variant.
* Mexico's economy faces the risk of "prolonged and more accentuated weakness" on softer consumer buying and investment, due in large part to the pandemic's economic drag.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Qatar has registered its first four cases of the variant Omicron, the state news agency QNA said.
* South Africa's health minister said the government believed vaccines and high levels of prior infection were helping to keep disease milder, while the country plans to donate roughly 2 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) vaccine to other African countries.
* Pfizer and BioNTech said they would include and evaluate a third dose of their vaccine in an ongoing trial in children 6 months to under 5 years of age.
* The World Health Organization issued an emergency use listing to Serum Institute of India's version of Novavax's vaccine.
* The EU drug regulator will not decide whether to approve Merck's pill until after Christmas, a source with knowledge of the matter said.
* COVID-19 vaccines from U.S. drugmaker J&J and China's Sinopharm as well as Russia's Sputnik V shot had no neutralising activity against the Omicron variant, according to a study which has not yet been peer reviewed.
* Global stock benchmarks and oil prices fell while safe havens such as the dollar and Treasury bonds rose as investors wrestled with a hawkish turn from major central banks in the fight against inflation and rising Omicron cases.
* Company insolvencies in England and Wales rose last month to their highest level since January 2019, surpassing pre-COVID levels for the first time, government data showed.
(Compiled by Juliette Portala and Boleslaw Lasocki; Edited by Robert Birsel and Jonathan Oatis)
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