Omicron takes COVID from pandemic to local: EU institutions | Coronavirus pandemic news

The head of the European Medicines Agency said the shift in immunity would accelerate as the WHO said half of people in Europe could be infected by March.

Hi. Welcome to Al Jazeera’s COVID-19 Live Blog. I’m Ted Regencia and I’ll be updating you on the latest developments in the pandemic in the next few hours.

The European Medicines Agency, the region’s medicines regulator, said the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant across the continent is driving COVID-19 into an endemic disease that humans can live with.

“As population immunity improves – and with Omicron, a substantial amount of natural immunity is generated in addition to vaccination – we will rapidly move towards a situation closer to an epidemic,” said Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccines at HQ The strategy of the Amsterdam-based regulator, told reporters on Tuesday.

Other major developments:

  • Education Secretary Nadim Zahavi told Sky News that the UK government wants the country to be one of the first in the world to “transition” from an epidemic to an endemic.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that more than half of people in Europe could be infected with Omicron by March.
  • WHO also said Repeat boosters are not a good strategy For emerging virus variants, more must be done to ensure poorer countries have access to the first course of vaccines.

Here are the latest updates on Wednesday:

South Korea’s daily infections rise to over 4,000

South Korea’s health authorities said Wednesday that its COVID-19 cases rebounded above 4,000 for the first time in six days, possibly due to the Omicron variant.

At least 4,388 new cases, including 4,007 local infections, were reported, raising the total to 674,868, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KDCA).

The government will assess the risk level of the pandemic later on Wednesday and decide on possible revisions to current social distancing rules, Yonhap News Agency reported.

China’s Tianjin begins new round of coronavirus testing on 14 million residents

At least 14 million residents in the Chinese city of Tianjin have started a new round of COVID-19 tests to stop the spread of Omicron.

Tianjin reported 33 cases of domestically transmitted coronavirus infections with confirmed symptoms on Tuesday, up from 10 a day earlier, according to the country’s coronavirus monitor.

The city on Wednesday ordered half-day furloughs for employees at companies and other agencies and asked them to stay home to comply with the city’s second round of mass testing, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Shenzhen, China also reported four new cases. As of Monday, the city had completed more than 22 million tests in four days as it tried to contain the spread of COVID.

German trade body warns Omicron of severe supply chain disruption

In Germany, the country’s trade association warned of severe supply chain disruptions due to the rapid spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, but said supply chains were unlikely to collapse for a long time.

“There is no risk of collapse, but a massive disruption to the supply chain — at least temporarily,” Funke Newspaper Group quoted BGA trade association president Dirk Jandura as saying on Wednesday.

German industry has been hit by supply shortages of microchips and other components, while rising COVID-19 cases are clouding retailers’ prospects in early 2022.

Indonesia launches free booster

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced on Wednesday that the country will roll out COVID boosters for free, The Jakarta Post reported.

The government originally planned to require Most of Indonesia’s 270 million residents buy boosters out of pocket.

There are concerns that the rollout could exacerbate vaccine inequities across the country. Only about 117 million of Indonesia’s more than 270 million people have been fully vaccinated since the campaign began on January 13 last year.

Read all updates from January 11 here.