Factbox-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus
(Reuters) - AstraZeneca and Novavax said their vaccines offered protection against Omicron, as British data suggested the coronavirus variant might lead to proportionally fewer hospital admissions than Delta, supporting conclusions reached in South Africa.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* China's northwestern city of Xian has imposed tight curbs on outbound travel and commutes in the city, with a lockdown on its 13 million residents, as a new COVID-19 outbreak sees community cases tick higher.
* Australia re-introduced curbs such as indoor mask-wearing, capacity limits and QR code check-ins to cover most of the population as daily infections hit a record.
* Japan is not considering an immediate change to current curbs, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said a day after community transmission of Omicron was found.
* Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet state chiefs on Thursday on measures to avert any surge of Omicron infections ahead of the festive season, as gatherings grow in markets and public spaces.
* The Philippines approved emergency use of Merck's COVID-19 treatment pill for adult patients at risk of developing severe illness.
* President Vladimir Putin said he hoped Russia could vaccinate enough people to reach collective immunity next year, urging more Russians to get inoculated as the death toll crossed 600,000.
* A Bulgarian minister said elderly people who take a shot against COVID-19 would be eligible for a cash reward in a government drive to boost vaccination rates that are the European Union's lowest.
* As a surge in cases faces Americans with a second Christmas of disrupted holiday plans, the United States authorised Pfizer's antiviral COVID-19 pill for people aged 12 and above at risk of severe illness, the first oral and at-home treatment.
* Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the South American nation had detected seven cases of Omicron.
* Canada will temporarily expand support programs to help people and businesses hit by Omicron.
* South Africa's health regulator approved the use of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine for a second dose or booster.
* Data from South Africa suggests Omicron infections are 70% to 80% less severe than Delta, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC) said, but warned against extrapolating that to all countries.
* Global shares extended a recent rally while safe-haven bonds and currencies eased as markets welcomed signs that Omicron might be less severe than feared, as well as robust U.S. economic data. [MKTS/GLOB]
* Oil prices shrugged off early gains on Thursday as nations imposed new travel curbs to combat surging infections, though the downside remained capped over positive developments around COVID-19.
* Japan is set to unveil its largest annual budget on Friday with $943 billion in spending for the fiscal year beginning next April, further straining the industrial world's heaviest debt, a draft plan seen by Reuters showed.
(Compiled by Milla Nissi and Devika Syamnath; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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