Factbox-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus

A healthcare worker collects a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test swab sample from a woman as others wait, amidst the spread of the disease, at a railway station in New Delhi, India, January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
A healthcare worker collects a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test swab sample from a woman as others wait, amidst the spread of the disease, at a railway station in New Delhi, India, January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

(Reuters) - Britain and Israel are overhauling their COVID-19 testing policies as governments seek to ease the burden on laboratories and struggle with tight supplies of kits amid soaring infection rates fuelled by the Omicron variant.


* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals for a case tracker and summary of news


* Germany is considering shortening COVID-19 self-isolation periods over fears that critical services could grind to a halt as the highly infectious Omicron variant takes hold, a health ministry plan showed on Wednesday.

* France registered a record of more than 332,000 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, while the number of deaths also rose as the country battles a fifth wave of the virus.

* Ireland will no longer require vaccinated arriving travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test.

* Italy is set to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people aged 50 and above in an attempt to ease pressure on its health service and reduce fatalities, a draft decree showed on Wednesday.

* Bulgaria will require almost all travellers from the European Union to have a negative PCR coronavirus test prior to entry along with a valid COVID certificate, starting on Friday, the Health Ministry said.

* A "supersonic" rise in French COVID-19 cases will continue in the coming days, an official said on Wednesday as the government decreed a health state of emergency in Guadeloupe, Guiana, Mayotte, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy.


* Cuba tightened border controls as the Caribbean island nation moved to tamp down a growing wave of coronavirus infections while keeping doors open for its economically vital tourism industry.

* Canadians are angered by people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday, and he also promised more than 100 million rapid tests will be distributed quickly to provinces that are eagerly waiting.

* Rio de Janeiro has cancelled street parades and parties during its world-famous Carnival for a second year because of an increase in cases and the threat from the arrival of the Omicron variant.


* Turkey recorded 66,467 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the highest daily figure on record, health ministry data showed on Wednesday, as infections surge due to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

* Hong Kong announced a two-week ban on incoming flights from eight countries, including the United States and Britain, and tightened restrictions as authorities feared a fifth wave of infections.


* COVID-19 infections caused more disruption to African Cup of Nations preparations, with Senegal delaying their departure for the tournament in Cameroon, and Burkina Faso set to miss players in Sunday's opening game.

* Israel changed its quarantine and testing policy in an effort to ensure continued protection for vulnerable populations from a surge in infections.


* Pfizer Inc and Germany's BioNTech SE will develop an mRNA-based vaccine for viral infection shingles, collaborating for the third time after the success of their COVID-19 vaccine based on the same technology.

* India has not added Merck's COVID-19 pill to its national treatment protocol for the disease due to some "major safety concerns", a senior health official said.


* The White House is in constant ongoing dialogue with U.S. lawmakers and others on COVID-19 stimulus funding but the current economy appears strong, the White House spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

* White House supply chain czar John D. Porcari on Wednesday said the holiday shipping season was a success despite challenges, but officials are closely watching the impact of the Omicron variant of the COVID virus.

* Norwegian Cruise Line on Wednesday cancelled trips on eight ships, a few with embarkation dates as far out as late April, signalling a blow to the recovery of the pandemic-ravaged U.S. cruise industry.

(Compiled by Shailesh Kuber, Anita Kobylinska and Boleslaw Lasocki; Edited by Milla Nissi, Barbara Lewis and Arun Koyyur)

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