Factbox-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus
(Reuters) - An English COVID-19 study reported record prevalence in January after an Omicron-fuelled spike in infections, Imperial College London said on Wednesday, adding that infections had dropped back from their peak but were now plateauing.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* The U.S. State Department is weighing whether to authorize departures for American diplomats and their families in China who wish to leave due to the U.S. government's inability to prevent Chinese authorities from subjecting them to intrusive pandemic control measures, sources told Reuters.
* The Omicron variant appears to result in less severe COVID than seen during previous periods of high coronavirus transmission including the Delta wave, with shorter hospital stays, less need for intensive care and fewer deaths, according to a new U.S. study.
* An appeals court judge granted a stay in an appeal over mask mandates in New York, keeping the rule in effect during the legal process, New York Attorney General Letitia James said.
* German lawmakers are due to debate introducing a bill making vaccination against COVID mandatory. The idea is facing resistance from politicians as well as ordinary Germans.
* An internal inquiry into allegations of lockdown parties at Boris Johnson's Downing Street office could be published as soon as Wednesday, delivering findings that might determine the prime minister's future after police also launched an investigation.
* Two years after Japan locked down its borders to block the coronavirus, some 150,000 foreign students still aren't able to enter the country, left in limbo by a policy that has disrupted lives and caused headaches for universities and businesses.
* South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases exceeded 13,000 for the first time, data showed on Wednesday, as the government seeks to revise its anti-virus response scheme to focus on the highly contagious but less lethal Omicron variant.
* India reported on Wednesday 285,914 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, with 665 related deaths, government figures showed.
* The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee said a total of 13 new COVID-19 cases were detected among Games-related personnel on Jan. 25.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* An Israeli government advisory panel has recommended offering a fourth vaccine dose to all adults, on condition that at least five months have passed since they received the third or recovered from the illness.
* Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said they started a clinical trial to test a new version of their vaccine specifically designed to target the Omicron variant, which has eluded some of the protection provided by the original two-dose vaccine regimen.
* Early research suggesting that a popular non-psychoactive compound derived from marijuana might help prevent or treat COVID-19 warrants further investigation in rigorous clinical trials, researchers say.
* Expected interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve may delay emerging Asia's economic recovery and keep pressure on policymakers to guard against the risk of capital outflows, a senior International Monetary Fund official said.
* While Ireland's forecasts for economic growth were little changed from three months ago, the central bank sees a far more rapid reduction in unemployment than previously thought after an "exceptional" recovery in the jobs market following one of Europe's toughest series of COVID-19 lockdowns.
* The International Monetary Fund lowered its economic forecasts for the United States, China and the global economy, and said uncertainty about the pandemic, inflation, supply disruptions and U.S. monetary tightening posed further risks.
(Compiled by Sherry Jacob-Phillips; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
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