Factbox-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus
(Reuters) - Israel is to offer second COVID-19 booster shots as fast-spreading Omicron forces countries across the world to impose new curbs days before Christmas, but a South African study offered a glimmer of hope about the new variant's firepower.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* Britain from Wednesday is reducing the COVID-19 self-isolation period to seven days from 10 days for people in England who get a negative result on a lateral flow test two days in a row.
* Finland will restrict restaurants' opening hours to curb rising infections and the spread of the new Omicron variant, the government said.
* Poland reported 775 COVID-related deaths on Friday, the highest daily number in the fourth wave of the pandemic.
* The World Health Organization's European head warned countries to brace for a "significant surge" in cases and advised the widespread use of boosters for protection.
* U.S. President Joe Biden announced more federal vaccination and testing sites to tackle a surge in COVID-19 driven by Omicron. He also accused unspecified cable television personalities and social media companies of making money by "peddling lies" about vaccines.
* U.S. health authorities are considering reducing the 10-day recommended quarantine period for Americans who test positive.
* The U.S. Justice Department announced it would not force federal inmates who were sent home due to the pandemic to return to prison once the emergency is lifted.
* British Columbia will shut gyms, bars and nightclubs while allowing fewer people at tables in restaurants and cafes through the Christmas holiday period.
* The Philippines has halved to three months the waiting time for a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine in its battle to rein in the more infectious Omicron variant of coronavirus, which has forced a global tightening of curbs.
* Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ruled out a Christmas lockdown, saying hospitals were coping well with a record surge in cases fuelled by Omicron.
* COVID-19 threw the Australian soccer schedule into disarray as six games from the A-League and FFA Cup were postponed on Wednesday.
* Japan has found its first suspected instance of community spread infection from the Omicron variant, the governor of Osaka prefecture said.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Turkey's domestically developed vaccine, Turkovac, has received emergency use authorisation by Turkish authorities and will be open to use from next weekend.
* Israel will offer a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to people older than 60 or with compromised immune systems, as well as to health workers.
* AstraZeneca said it is working with Oxford University to produce a vaccine for Omicron, joining other vaccine-makers who are looking to develop the variant-specific vaccine.
* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to authorise COVID-19 treatment pills from both Pfizer and Merck as early as Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported.
* European equities edged slightly higher on Wednesday, with markets optimistic that the Omicron variant would only have a limited economic fallout, even as global cases surged and more countries announced restrictions. [MKTS/GLOB]
* Britain's economy grew more slowly than previously thought in the July-September period, before the Omicron variant posed a further threat to the recovery later in the year, official data showed.
* China's strict COVID-19 policy is weighing on consumption and rattling foreign firms, but its effectiveness and the imperative to maintain stability heading into a sensitive year mean Beijing will stick to its approach, experts say.
(Compiled by Anita Kobylinska and Devika Syamnath; Edited by Shounak Dasgupta and Chizu Nomiyama)
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