Factbox-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus
(Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden defended his government's response to the pandemic, as daily COVID-19 cases in the country touched a new high, while Colombia, South Korea and Indonesia approved new vaccines and boosters to curb the spread of infections.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* Ireland is expected to lift restrictions on the movement of people who have been in close contact with someone suffering from COVID-19 if they are fully vaccinated with a booster and have no symptoms.
* Britain reported 120,821 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a drop on 142,224 on Monday, and another 379 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, up from 77, according to government data.
* France on Tuesday reported 368,149 new coronavirus cases, the highest single-day tally of the pandemic.
* Russia warned on Tuesday it could face a "very intense" rise in cases of the Omicron variant in the coming weeks and authorities preparing for a new wave of infections said they would make more hospital beds available in Moscow.
* The Biden administration said on Tuesday federal agencies should require weekly COVID-19 testing by Feb. 15 for unvaccinated government employees who are working on-site or interacting with the public.
* Colombia will let people get their booster vaccines four months after completing their initial vaccination course.
* Mexico posted a record 33,626 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 4,170,066.
* The Chinese city of Tianjin started a new round of testing of its 14 million residents to block the Omicron variant, as financial analysts warned of the growing economic costs on China of curbs to extinguish clusters of infections.
* More than 30 officials from major South Korean companies who attended the giant CES tech trade show in Las Vegas last week tested positive while in the United States, industry sources said on Wednesday.
* South Korea authorised use of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine, enabling it to join the ranks of authorised vaccines made by AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
* Japan's western prefecture of Osaka expects to record about 1,700 new cases on Wednesday, roughly tripling from a day earlier in their first rise beyond 1,000 since mid-September, public broadcaster NHK said.
* Indonesia kicked off its booster programme for the general public, as the world's fourth-most-populous nation hit an almost three-month high in cases.
* Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, suffered its deadliest day of the pandemic, with surging Omicron infections leading to staff shortages that have disrupted supply chains and hampered the economy's recovery.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* Gabon's oil workers' union and water and electricity workers' union said they had begun a general strike in protest against COVID-19 restrictions and the cost of PCR tests.
* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration amended the fact sheet for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine to include a rare risk of immune thrombocytopenia, a bleeding disorder.
* Stocks and commodities rose in relief and the dollar hit a six-week low, after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell sounded less hawkish than expected in testimony to Congress, as he charts a path out of pandemic policy settings. [MKTS/GLOB]
(Compiled by Shailesh Kuber, Sarah Morland and Uttaresh.V; Edited by Jan Harvey, Arun Koyyur and Shounak Dasgupta)
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