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The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday warned that countries in the Asia-Pacific region need to strengthen healthcare services

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday warned that countries in the Asia-Pacific region need to strengthen healthcare services and focus on vaccinating their people, as the Omicron variant spreads globally and enters new regions.

In a virtual briefing, Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the western Pacific, said that it is clear that this pandemic is far from over.

"I know that people are worried about Omicron. I understand. My message to you today is that we can adapt the way we manage this virus to better cope w/ future surges and reduce their health, social and economic impact," he said.

"We can adapt, so that #COVID19 has less impact on our lives in 2022, and we can start to regain - and hopefully retain - a sense of normality," he added.

Omicron cases have now been reported in India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, and new cases are being documented with each passing hour.

"People should not only rely on border measures. What is most important is to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far the information available suggests we don't have to change our approach," he said during the virtual media briefing.

South Korea on Friday decided to tighten anti-virus measures from next week amid a surging number of Covid-19 cases and an emerging worry about the potentially more transmissible Omicron variant.

In India, after detection of the first two cases of Omicron infection in Bengaluru, the Karnataka Health department is now worried over 10 South African nationals, who have gone untraceable in Bengaluru.

A total of 10 persons suspected to be infected with Omicron Covid variant have been admitted to Delhi's Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital (LNJP).

The new super-mutant Omicron variant of Covid-19 can increase risk of reinfection by three times as compared to other variants of concern such as Beta and Delta, according to a preliminary study by South African researchers.


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The first case of the Omicron variant was detected in South Africa and reported to the World Health Organization on November 24.

The new variant of the coronavirus Omicron is a variant of "concern" not "despair," Brazil's Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said, adding that the country's health system is prepared for an eventual new Covid-19 wave.

"It is not a variant of despair because we have health authorities committed to providing quality care to our population," the Minister said.

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Bharat Biotech Covaxi

Bharat Biotech on Monday announced that it has commenced export of Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin.

Long Pending export orders have been executed during November, to be further expanded during the following months, the Hyderabad-based company said in a statement.

With the number of countries that have granted emergency use approvals for Covaxin increasing, exports to additional countries will also commence from December, it said.

The vaccine maker thanked the Government of India for approving exports. Covaxin will now become an integral part of the global fight against this pandemic, it added.

The company earlier said it was poised to achieve its goal of an annual capacity of about one billion doses of Covaxin by the end of 2021.


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Amid warnings over a new coronavirus variant, a number of countries have posed travel bans

Amid warnings over a new coronavirus variant, a number of countries, including the UK, Israel, Italy and Singapore have moved to restrict travel from South Africa and other countries in the region.

In the past, governments have taken days, weeks or months to issue travel restrictions in response to new variants, The New York Times reported on Friday.

This time, restrictions came within hours after the South African authorities identified a concerning new coronavirus variant with mutations -- and hours before health officials from the country were scheduled to discuss the variant with the World Health Organisation (WHO), it added.

The UK and Israel announced bans on flights from South Africa and several neighbouring countries on Thursday, citing the threat of the new variant.

The UK's flight ban applies to six countries -- South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe -- and begins on Friday.

"More data is needed but we are taking precautions now," UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Twitter.

The governments of Italy, Malta and Singapore announced on Friday that they would impose similar restrictions, the report said.

"Our scientists are at work to study the new B.1.1.529 variant," Italy's Health Minister, Roberto Speranza, said in a statement, using the variant's scientific name.

European Union's executive arm President Ursula von der Leyen also said in a Twitter post on Friday that it would propose restricting air travel to European countries from southern Africa because of concerns about the variant.

In the past two days, scientists detected the variant after observing an increase in infections in South Africa's economic hub surrounding Johannesburg. So far only a few dozen cases have been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel, and Botswana.

In a statement posted on Friday on a government website, South Africa said it would urge the UK to reconsider its travel restrictions.

"The UK's decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering the UK seems to have been rushed, as even the World Health Organisation is yet to advise on the next steps," the statement reads.

In December last year, South Africa was the first nation to report the appearance of the Beta variant, which has now spread to nearly 70 countries.


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