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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Jan. 2 to Jan. 8, India's new cases hit 7-months high

Citigroup to fire vaccine holdouts this month; Tokyo's Ueno Zoo to close for January

A health care worker takes a swab from a man in Delhi on Jan. 7: The following day, India reported 141,986 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily number since the end of May.   © Reuters

Nikkei Asia is tracking the spread of the coronavirus that was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Cumulative global cases have reached 302,937,207, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 5,479,135.

For more information about the spread of COVID-19 and vaccination progress around the world, please see our interactive charts and maps.

-- Global coronavirus tracker charts

-- Status of vaccinations around the world


Saturday, Jan. 8 (Tokyo time)

1:15 p.m. India reports 141,986 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily number since the end of May, as the omicron variant of the coronavirus overtakes the delta strain in the cities. The health ministry also reported 285 new deaths, taking the total to 483,463. Total infections stand at 35.37 million.

11:30 a.m. Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic begins a third day in Australian immigration detention, joined by Czech women's player Renata Voracova, as a blame game between Australian authorities over the handling of COVID-19 vaccine exemptions escalates. The Serbian superstar, a vocal opponent of vaccine mandates who came to Australia in hopes of winning his 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open, has been detained since Thursday in a modest Melbourne hotel since having his visa cancelled due to problems with a medical exemption. His lawyers are preparing a legal challenge to his visa cancellation, which is scheduled to be heard by a federal court on Monday.

More than 90% of U.S. nonbranch employees are already in compliance with Citigroup's vaccine mandate, a spokesperson says.   © Reuters

7:04 a.m. Citigroup will fire U.S. office workers who fail to submit proof of vaccination by Jan. 14 under a mandate announced this past October. They will be placed on unpaid leave and let go at month's end.

Religious and medical exemptions are being allowed. Branch staff also face a vaccine mandate. More than 90% of employees are already in compliance, with the share rising rapidly, a Citi spokesperson says.

4:42 a.m. Conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court raise doubts over the legal standing of a vaccine-or-testing mandate for larger businesses ordered by the White House, Reuters reports, however the nine justices appear more receptive to a vaccine requirement for health care facilities at a time of surging cases.

Republican state officials and business groups had asked the justices to block the Biden administration's rule affecting businesses with at least 100 workers -- a policy affecting more than 80 million employees. States challenged the administration's vaccine mandate affecting about 10.3 million workers at about 76,000 health care facilities.

4:10 a.m. Calls are growing in the U.S. for allowing fourth coronavirus vaccine shots as states struggle to contain surging omicron infections.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to direct the FDA and CDC to authorize a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccines to the state's at-risk population.

"First of all, it'll save a bunch more lives," Justice said at a news conference on Thursday. "But secondly, if we do nothing, we're going to end up with a run on our hospitals like you can't imagine."

Panda twins Lei Lei, left, and Xiao Xiao, center, play alongside their mother Shin Shin at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo.    © Tokyo Zoological Park Society

3:45 a.m. Tokyo's Ueno Zoo will close from Jan. 11 to Jan. 31 along with some other city attractions as part of the capital's efforts to contain rising coronavirus infections.

People with tickets to see the zoo's twin pandas will be able to go on Jan. 12 to Jan. 14.

Other changes taking effect Jan. 11 will limit the size of groups of diners at restaurants to four or fewer, down from eight or fewer now, at establishments that have met Tokyo's infection control standards. Larger groups will need to show proof of vaccination.

Tokyo has yet to ask Japan's government for approval to take measures to stop of the virus, which some other parts of Japan have moved to do. Gov. Yuriko Koike says Tokyo will "respond rapidly" if that need arises.

Friday, Jan. 7

11:05 p.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration shortens the stipulated time between the primary series of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and a booster dose by a month, down to a minimum of five months, for people 18 or older.

10:37 p.m. U.S. employment grows less than expected in December amid worker shortages, and job gains could remain moderate in the near term as spiraling COVID-19 infections disrupt economic activity. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 199,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department says in its employment report.

But data for November has been revised upward to show U.S. payrolls advancing by 249,000 jobs instead of the previously reported 210,000. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.9% from 4.2% in November, underscoring tightening labor market conditions.

5:31 p.m. Thailand's government is limiting the hours alcohol can be served at eateries as coronavirus cases surge again, as well as extending its suspension of quarantine-free entry for fully vaccinated tourists. Restaurants with the government's highest hygiene certification are currently allowed to serve alcohol in certain tourist destinations, including Bangkok, but the government is ordering them to stop offering such drinks after 9 p.m.

5:13 p.m. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says three Japanese prefectures hit by surging COVID-19 cases will be placed under a quasi-state of emergency, in line with requests by local governors, who linked the recent sharp gains to U.S. military bases. The quasi-emergency declarations for Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima, will be effective from Sunday to Jan. 31, allowing local governments to bolster anti-coronavirus measures and request dining establishments to shorten their business hours.

1:42 p.m. India reports 117,100 cases in the last 24 hours -- up from 90,928 the previous day and the highest daily count in seven months -- bringing the country total to 35.23 million. Deaths rose by 302 to 483,178. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed omicron cases in the country has jumped to 3,007 from 2,630 on Thursday, according to the country's latest update.

A sign informs customers that COVID-19 tests are out of stock at a pharmacy in Miami. The U.S. currently has the highest number of infections in the world.   © Reuters

12:04 p.m. Global coronavirus infections top 300 million as the spread of the highly infectious omicron variant has spurred a rapid increase, according to Johns Hopkins University. It took more than a year to reach a cumulative total of 100 million cases since the pandemic began, and about another six months to top 200 million. After that, it took roughly five months to hit 300 million. The U.S. has the most cases with 58.4 million, or about 20% of the total, followed by India with 35.1 million and Brazil with 22.3 million.

11:31 a.m. Japan's Okinawa Prefecture says daily coronavirus infections are expected to top 1,400 -- up from 981 a day earlier and a new record. The Japanese government is set to place Okinawa and parts of two other prefectures -- Hiroshima and Yamaguchi -- under a quasi-state of emergency as surging cases pressure local hospitals. Governors in the region have said the recent jump is due to the spread of omicron at U.S. military bases. The Japanese government has requested that U.S. military personnel in Japan stay inside their bases to prevent further spread of the virus.

Weak consumer demand in Japan is stalling an economic rebound as the country struggles to recover from the pandemic.   © Reuters

9:15 a.m. Japan's household spending fell 1.3% in November from a year earlier, an annual drop for the fourth straight month and much weaker than the market forecast of a 1.6% gain in a Reuters poll. The weak data -- despite lower COVID-19 infections than during the summer -- threw into doubt hopes that recovering consumer demand could boost the economy.

8:40 a.m. North Korea blamed "hostile forces" and the worldwide pandemic for not being able to attend the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing and accused the United States and its allies of trying to prevent the Games' success, state media says. North Korea's Olympic Committee and Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports sent a letter to counterparts in China, including the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, expressing their support for the Games despite their absence, according to KCNA news agency.

6:20 a.m. Johnson & Johnson says that a real-world study showed that its single shot COVID-19 vaccine produced long-lasting protection for up to six months against breakthrough infections and hospitalizations, reports Reuters.

4:38 a.m. GlaxoSmithKline says it has signed agreements with the Canadian government to supply 20,000 doses of the COVID-19 drug Sotrovimab, reports Reuters. The new purchase agreement follows October's initial purchase agreement with Canada to supply 10,000 doses of Sotrovimab.

4:28 a.m. Norwegian cruise and travel operator Hurtigruten Group will cut short a voyage in the Antarctica region following an outbreak of the coronavirus, the company says. Ten people on board the MS Roald Amundsen cruise vessel had tested positive for COVID-19. The ship, carrying some 362 passengers and crew, had set out for an 18-day cruise from Punta Arenas in southern Chile and will now return to the same port.

3:56 a.m. Chile will begin offering a fourth shot of the coronavirus vaccine next week to immunocompromised citizens, the government says. It will be the first country in Latin America to offer the extra dose.

Thursday, Jan. 6

10:45 p.m. Philippine residents who have not received COVID-19 shots will be arrested if they disobey stay-at-home orders, President Rodrigo Duterte says, asking community leaders to look for unvaccinated people and ensure they are confined to their homes. Daily infections in the Philippines hit the highest since Sept. 26 at 17,220 on Thursday, the health ministry says, including those caused by the omicron variant.

7:58 p.m. A Hong Kong government minister has been sent to a quarantine facility after he attended a Chinese official's birthday party where a guest subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Home Affairs Secretary Caspar Tsui will quarantine at Penny's Bay Quarantine Centre while nine other government officials, who also attended the party, will self-isolate. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she was "very disappointed" with the officials as the city faces more local transmissions of the highly infection omicron variant.

5:03 p.m. Tokyo reports 641 new cases, the highest daily number since Sept. 18 and a big jump from the 390 reported the previous day, amid concerns over the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant. The seven-day average of new cases is 218, more than four times the level of the previous week. Osaka also hits the highest daily number since Sept. 23, with 505 new cases.

4:02 p.m. More cities in central China have resorted to tough curbs as new coronavirus infections in Henan Province rose sharply, Reuters reports, with authorities taking urgent action to contain clusters ahead of the Winter Olympics and Lunar New Year peak travel season. Although the numbers are tiny compared with many places in the world, and no cases of the highly transmissible omicron variant have been reported so far in Henan, several cities there imposed new limits on travel or economic activities in response to a rash of new cases.

India's new cases nearly doubled to 90,928 in a single day.   © Reuters

2:13 p.m. India witnesses an exponential rise in its daily COVID cases as it logs 90,928 new infections over 24 hours -- up 56.5% from the previous day's figure of 58,097 -- pushing the cumulative total to 35.12 million. Fatalities rose by 325 to 482,876. Confirmed omicron cases have reached 2,630 since the new variant was first detected in early December, with the states of Maharashtra and Delhi reporting the most such infections, at 797 and 465 respectively, says the health ministry. India's cumulative vaccination coverage has meanwhile crossed 1.48 billion doses, with 91% of its adult population of 944 million receiving at least one shot and 66% getting both doses. Over 12.76 million in the 15-18 age group, with a total population size of 74 million, have also received their first dose since the launch of the inoculation drive for them on Jan. 3.

1:54 p.m. Japan's blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average weakens further during Thursday afternoon trading, at one point plunging over 800 points, or 2.8%, after U.S. stocks closed down overnight. The Nasdaq plunged over 3% following the release of U.S. Federal Reserve meeting minutes signaling that the central bank is poised to move faster to raise interest rates as concern over inflation grows. The recent climb in Japan's daily coronavirus cases has also made investors uneasy, with stocks in sectors like transportation and airlines falling. Along with the Tokyo market, equity benchmarks in South Korea, mainland China, Taiwan and Australia were all trading lower.

12:10 p.m. Okinawa decides to ask the Japanese government to place the southern island prefecture under a quasi-state of emergency. Gov. Denny Tamaki says the number of daily cases is expected to rise sharply to around 980, from 623 cases confirmed the previous day. A daily count that high would be a record for Okinawa.

U.S. military bases in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan have introduced stricter measures to tackle an increase in cases, and the Japanese government has expressed grave concern over the outbreak. The measures include requiring U.S. military personnel to wear masks off base, according to a press release, and stricter testing mandates. Earlier, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi requested U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that U.S. service members be restricted from leaving base, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

12:07 p.m. Japan's blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average falls over 600 points, or 2.1%, during Thursday morning trading after U.S. stocks closed down overnight. The Nasdaq plunged over 3% following the release of U.S. Federal Reserve meeting minutes signaling that the central bank is poised to move faster to raise interest rates as concern over inflation grows. Along with the Tokyo market, equity benchmarks in South Korea, mainland China, Taiwan and Australia were all trading lower.

Macao will halt all passenger flights from outside China for 15 days starting Jan. 9.   © Reuters

10:22 a.m. Macao will halt all passenger flights from foreign countries from Jan. 9 to 23 to prevent entry of COVID-19 cases. "The Health Bureau prohibits civil aircrafts from carrying passengers from places outside China to Macao," the government said in a statement.

9:57 a.m. China reports 189 confirmed coronavirus cases for Jan. 5, versus 91 a day earlier, its health authority says. Of the new infections, 132 are locally transmitted, according to the National Health Commission, up from 41. Most of the new local cases are in Henan and Shaanxi provinces. Zhejiang also reports new cases. China reports 45 new asymptomatic cases, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, compared with 71 a day earlier.

8:08 a.m. Pfizer expects to get by April the latest results from a clinical trial for children under age 5 who receive the COVID-19 vaccine that it developed with Germany's BioNTech, Reuters reports, citing a top company scientist. "The study has been amended to give a third dose to everybody who's less than 5 at least eight weeks after their last vaccination," Pfizer vaccine researcher Dr. Alejandra Gurtman said at a meeting of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. She said the company aims to have data for the age group by the end of March or the beginning of April.

6:45 a.m. Australia denies entry by Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open, claiming he failed to meet entry requirements, local media report. He is scheduled to be flown out of the country later in the day, but his lawyers are expected to challenge the decision.

6:09 a.m. Italy on Wednesday made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people age 50 and above, one of very few European countries to take such steps, in an attempt to ease pressure on its health service and reduce fatalities. The measure is immediately effective and will run until June 15.

3:32 a.m. Canadians are angered by people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says, promising that more than 100 million rapid tests will be distributed quickly to provinces. Most of Canada's 10 provinces have reimposed limits on businesses and gatherings as medical professionals warn that health care systems could be swamped by the omicron variant.

"When people see we're in lockdowns, or serious public health restrictions right now, because of the risk posed to all of us by unvaccinated people -- people get angry," Trudeau told reporters, saying governments and health workers are frustrated.

Official data shows that as of Dec. 18, 87.3% of people in Canada 12 and older had received two vaccine doses.

3:00 a.m. Top-ranked Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic remains stranded at an Australian airport because of a visa mix-up that could keep him from entering the country. Djokovic received a medical exemption to play at the season's first Grand Slam tennis tournament without disclosing his COVID-19 vaccination status. His team had apparently applied for visas that do not allow medical exemptions. Djokovic's father, Srdjan, told Serbian media that his son was waiting alone in a room at the airport under armed guard for a final decision on whether he could enter Australia.

2:40 a.m. Turkey has recorded 66,467 daily new cases, the most on record, health ministry data shows. It also logged 143 COVID-19-related deaths, according to the data. Daily new cases in Turkey have more than doubled in just over a week as the omicron variant has became dominant there.

2:30 a.m. The U.S. should keep schools open despite a surge in cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant, the White House says.

"We know how to keep our kids safe in school," COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said at a White House briefing. "About 96% of schools are open. Parents want schools open, and experts are clear that in-person learning is best for kids' physical and mental health and further education. And the president couldn't be clearer: Schools in this country should remain open."

1:30 a.m. While India has approved Merck's COVID-19 pill for emergency use, the antiviral drug has yet to be included in national treatment guidelines because of "major safety concerns," the head of the Indian Council of Medical Research says.

A medical worker takes care of a patient suffering from COVID-19 at a hospital in India's Greater Noida.   © Reuters

The drug molnupiravir can cause muscle damage, and women who take it should use contraception for three months first to prevent any health problems in unborn children, Balram Bhargava tells a media briefing.

Wednesday, Jan. 5

11:10 p.m. A diabetic man who died in the northwestern state of Rajasthan becomes India's first fatality from the omicron COVID-19 variant, the health ministry says, as overall infections double to 58,097 during the past four days. India's total omicron infections have risen to at least 2,135, the ministry says, just over a month since the first case was detected in the country.

8:00 p.m. Singapore will require booster shots for residents to maintain "fully vaccinated" status, the government says. It had signaled this change earlier.

Effective Feb. 14, people age 18 and above will have to receive a third dose within 270 days of their second shot. In Singapore, not being fully vaccinated means one is restricted from entering many places, including restaurants and shopping malls.

Boosters have already been given to about 42% of the country's total population.

6:10 p.m. Tokyo reports 390 new coronavirus cases, up from 151 the previous day and hitting the highest level in three months. The jump came after the daily tally hit triple digits for the second straight day, sparking concerns about what may be a sixth wave of COVID-19 infections in Japan. Wednesday's number also marks the first time since Sept. 26 that the figure has surpassed 300 in the Japanese capital.

Tokyo is, once again, facing rising coronavirus cases. (Photo by Kosuke Imamura) 

5:15 p.m. Hong Kong will bar incoming passenger flights from eight countries, starting Saturday, in an effort to control rising imported omicron cases, Carrie Lam, the territory's chief executive, says. The eight countries are Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the U.K. and the U.S. Incoming passengers who have transited in those countries will also be prohibited from flying. The government will also cancel large-scale events, including the Cyclothon, and shut theme parks, bars, nightclubs, spas and karaoke venues for 14 days, starting Friday. The measures come as the city faces a "major dire outbreak" after it recorded its first untraceable local transmission of COVID-19.

4:30 p.m. China reports a major drop in local infections in the northern city of Xi'an, which has been under a tight lockdown for the past two weeks. The National Health Commission announces 35 new cases in the metropolis, down from 95 the day before. The latest figure also shows a downtrend since daily new cases topped 100. Xi'an has had more than 1,600 cases but no deaths during the wave.

4:10 p.m. Japan's Okinawa Prefecture reports 623 new coronavirus cases, the highest since Aug. 28. The prefectural government plans to hold a meeting of medical experts in the evening to discuss measures to stop the spread.

India reported 58,097 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours on Jan. 5, up from 37,379 the previous day and the highest single-day count in six and a half months.

2:12 p.m. India's daily COVID caseload continues to surge alarmingly, with the country reporting 58,097 new infections in the last 24 hours, up from 37,379 the previous day and the highest single-day count in six and a half months, bringing the total number of cases to 35 million. Deaths, too, rose sharply from 124 a day ago to 534, bringing the total number of fatalities to 482,551. The country's confirmed omicron case count has now climbed to 2,135 from 1,892 on Tuesday, with the states of Maharashtra and Delhi accounting for the most such infections, at 653 and 464, respectively.

12:00 p.m. Hong Kong health authorities have ordered a Royal Caribbean "cruise to nowhere" ship to return to port early after nine of about 2,500 passengers were found as close contacts of a preliminary-positive case. The ship embarked on Sunday and was originally due to return on Thursday. Hong Kong has restricted cruises to short trips in nearby waters, with ships asked to operate at reduced capacity and to only allow vaccinated passengers who test negative for the virus.

"Spectrum of the Seas" is pictured at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on Oct. 22, 2021. On Jan. 5, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was ordered back to port after nine of about 2,500 passengers were found as close contacts of a preliminary-positive case.   © Reuters

9:30 a.m. The U.S. has reported a global single-day record for coronavirus cases, topping 1 million new infections on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University, as the omicron variant barrels across the country. The Joe Biden administration is finalizing contracts for 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests that it plans to distribute free to Americans who request them, spokeswoman Jen Psaki says, adding that the website to be used to request kits will be up and running later this month.

9:00 a.m. The International Monetary Fund will release its World Economic Outlook on Jan. 25, a week later than planned, to factor in the latest COVID-19 developments, a spokesperson for the global lender says amid signs another downgrade is coming. "The World Economic Outlook update will be [delayed] to allow our teams to incorporate the latest developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic," the spokesperson says.

4:57 a.m. COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy was not associated with preterm delivery or underweight newborns, according to a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

1:55 a.m. The U.S. government agrees to buy an additional 10 million courses of Pfizer's COVID-19 oral therapy, the company says, bringing the total amount of order by the government to 20 million courses.

The International Monetary Fund appears to signal that another downgrade is on the way as it delays its World Economic Outlook.   © Reuters

Tuesday, Jan. 4

10:25 p.m. Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, Reuters reports, citing a palace statement.

10:05 p.m. Novak Djokovic, the world's top-ranked men's tennis star, will compete in the Australian Open after receiving a medical exemption that allows him to play without a COVID-19 vaccine.

9:12 p.m. Japan's daily count of coronavirus cases has exceeded 1,000 on Tuesday for the first time in three months as the omicron variant continues to spread in the country. Nationwide, 1,268 cases were reported on Tuesday, according to a Kyodo News tally. In Tokyo, the metropolitan government has confirmed 151 cases, marking the second consecutive day the count has hit triple digits.

8:00 p.m. The Chinese city of Yuzhou, in the central province of Henan, has locked down its 1.1 million residents on reports of new coronavirus cases as officials rushed to contain even small outbreaks just over four weeks before the start of the Winter Olympics. Yuzhou, 700 km (434 miles) southwest of Beijing, has ordered all residents to remain indoors and not to leave town, authorities said in a statement on Monday.

6:06 p.m. Amid rising COVID cases driven by the omicron variant, the Delhi government on Tuesday announced a weekend curfew in India's capital. "[I] appeal to people to stay indoors on Saturday and Sunday unless it is essential, such as a medical emergency," said Delhi's deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia.

A night curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. has already been in place in the city -- which on Monday reported 4,099 cases -- for the past week. Omicron has been found in over 80% of new COVID infections in Delhi in recent days. Sisodia said all city government employees -- except those engaged in essential services such as medical, security and fire services -- will now work from home, while private offices will be permitted to function physically with 50% capacity. Buses and metro railways will run at full capacity, but all travelers must wear masks, he added.

4:40 p.m. More Hong Kong venues on Feb. 24 will require visitors to have had at least one vaccine shot, the city's chief executive on Tuesday announced in a bid to boost vaccination rates. Unvaccinated people will be banned from entering restaurants, schools, libraries and museums. In the territory, 69% of the population is fully vaccinated, but of those 70 and older, only 34% are. Hong Kong, which has pursued a "zero covid" strategy, is on the verge of another wave now that an omicron cluster has sprung out of a restaurant.

2:49 p.m. India logs 37,379 new cases in the last 24 hours, the highest daily count in about four months, bringing the country's total to 34.96 million. Deaths rose by 124 to 482,017. The nation's total omicron cases have reached 1,892 since it first detected the variant on Dec. 2, with the states of Maharashtra and Delhi reporting the largest number of such infections, at 568 and 382 respectively. Delhi's health minister, Satyendar Jain, said on Monday the new variant was detected in 84% of new COVID cases reported in the city in the last two days. Meanwhile, Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi's chief minister, tweeted on Tuesday that he tested positive for COVID with "mild symptoms."

1:10 p.m. China's strict adherence to a zero-COVID policy will backfire in 2022, consultancy Eurasia Group predicts in its list of top political risks for the year, causing problems far beyond the country's borders. The U.S.-based group also sees the growing influence of tech giants and the American midterm elections as key risk factors to watch. Overall, the analysts warn, the lack of global leadership "is clearer than ever."

11:00 a.m. China reports 175 coronavirus cases for Monday, up from 161 a day earlier. Of the new infections, 108 were locally transmitted, compared with 101 a day earlier. Most of the new local cases were in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, where the capital Xi'an has been locked down. Zhejiang and Henan provinces also reported new cases. In addition, China reported 54 new asymptomatic cases, which it differentiates from confirmed cases, compared with 35 a day earlier.

9:50 a.m. Sony's movie studio says it is delaying the release of Marvel's "Morbius" until April 1. The film starring Jared Leto has been postponed several times during the pandemic. Its most recent planned release date was Jan. 28. For movie theater operators, the delay is a setback as they try to rebound from extended COVID-forced closures.

9:00 a.m. Australia's cases hit a fresh high amid an omicron surge in its two most populous states. New South Wales and Victoria record a combined 37,151 new cases, just shy of the national one-day high of 37,212 hit a day earlier. Tasmania reports 702 new cases. People admitted in New South Wales hospitals rose to 1,344, a new peak, topping the 1,266 reached in September. Numbers have more than doubled in a week.

Monday, Jan. 3

11:46 p.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizes a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15 and narrows the time for all booster shots to five months from six months after primary doses. The agency also authorizes a third shot in children ages 5-11 who are immunocompromised.

A teenager receives a COVID-19 vaccine in New Orleans.   © Reuters

8:00 p.m. Spending more time indoors under lockdowns, closures and other curbs might seem a natural catalyst for more sex -- and condom use -- but the world's biggest maker of the prophylactics says otherwise.

In an interview with Nikkei Asia, Goh Miah Kiat, CEO of condom giant Karex, said use of its products actually declined as much as 40% in the last two years. Read more.

6:40 p.m. India has supplied 500,000 doses of its homegrown Covaxin vaccine to Afghanistan, as humanitarian assistance, and producer Bharat Biotech tweets that another batch of half a million will be sent to the Taliban-ruled country in the "coming weeks."

5:45 p.m. Tokyo confirms 103 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the first tally above 100 in three months, Kyodo News reports. The daily figure is up from 84 reported on Sunday, and comes as Japan braces itself for a potential rebound in infections driven by the omicron variant.

Tokyo's daily coronavirus cases have hit the highest level in months.   © Reuters

5:35 p.m. Indonesia will introduce COVID-19 booster shots for the general public on Jan. 12, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin says, according to Reuters.

The country gave boosters to health workers in the middle of last year, and now wants to cover all adults who took their second shots over six months ago. The move comes amid concerns over the omicron variant's ability to evade two doses. The minister says Indonesia will need 230 million doses for boosters and has secured nearly half.

Reuters reports Indonesia has detected over 150 omicron cases, most in international travelers.

4:00 p.m. Two people who died in South Korea last week tested positive posthumously for the omicron coronavirus variant, the country's Yonhap News Agency reports. The patients, who were both in their 90s, are believed to be South Korea's first deaths connected to the new strain. The report says authorities are still looking into the exact causes of the deaths.

3:25 p.m. India starts vaccinating 15- to 18-year-olds, expanding its inoculation effort to cover the world's largest adolescent population amid fears the omicron variant will drive a new surge of infections. Authorities report 33,750 new cases and 123 deaths. The total number of cases of the fast-spreading omicron variant came to 1,700, the health ministry says.

11:36 a.m. Australia's government says omicron's milder impact will allow it to go ahead and reopen the economy even as new infections hit a record of more than 37,000 and the number of hospitalizations rise. The nation records more than 37,150 cases, exceeding Saturday's 35,327 cases, with Western Australia and the Northern Territory still to report. "We have to stop thinking about case numbers and think about serious illness, living with the virus, managing our own health and ensuring that we're monitoring those symptoms and we keep our economy going," Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.

10:29 a.m. China reports 161 confirmed cases for Sunday, down from 191 a day earlier, the country's health authority says. Of the new infections, 101 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission, down from 131 a day earlier. Most of the new local cases were in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, where the capital Xi'an is locked down. Zhejiang Province also reported new cases.

9:07 a.m. The Singaporean economy grew 7.2% last year, rebounding from a pandemic-induced 5.4% contraction in 2020, according to preliminary data. The government is aiming for a further recovery in 2022, driven by a combination of reopening and booster vaccinations. The highly contagious omicron variant, however, has clouded the outlook.

7:10 a.m. Israel will offer a fourth vaccine shot to people over 60 and medical staff as it faces a surge in omicron infections, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says. Israel last week approved a fourth dose of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for people who are immune-compromised and elderly people living in care homes.

5:25 a.m. Over 4,000 flights were canceled around the world on Sunday, more than half of them U.S. flights, adding to the toll of holiday week travel disruptions due to adverse weather and the surge in coronavirus cases.

Sunday, Jan. 2

1:17 p.m. India reports 27,553 new infections over the past 24 hours as omicron cases rise, data from the health ministry shows. COVID-19 fatalities rose by 284, taking the total death toll to 481,770, according to the health ministry. India has recorded a total of 34.88 million COVID infections.

11:45 a.m. New Australian COVID-19 cases dip as testing slows over the holiday weekend but remain well over 30,000. Hospitalizations rise further in New South Wales as concerns grow about potential strains on the national health system.

10:32 a.m. China reports 191 confirmed cases for Saturday, down from 231 a day earlier, the country's health authority says. Of the new infections, 131 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission, down from 175 a day earlier. Most of the new local cases were in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, where the capital Xi'an is locked down. Zhejiang and Henan provinces also reported new cases.


To catch up on earlier developments, see last week's latest updates.

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