Initial data from South Africa, the epicentre of the outbreak of the omicron variant, don’t show a resulting surge of hospitalisations. “Thus far, it doesn’t look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Anthony Fauci, US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on Sunday, while cautioning it’s too early to be certain.

Even as omicron has spread to at least 17 US states, Fauci said the Biden administration is re-evaluating the travel ban on southern African countries as more information becomes available. Moderna Inc President Stephen Hoge said there’s a “real risk” that existing vaccines will be less effective against omicron.

Anthony Fauci says early reports encouraging about Covid variant Omicron

Singapore will begin vaccinating kids aged 5-11 “soon,” as a country with one of the world’s highest inoculation rates moves to cover one of its last remaining demographics. More omicron cases were found in Australia’s New South Wales, which has been getting back to normal after months of lockdown.

Singapore will open Covid vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 “soon,” according to Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, a co-chair of the country’s task force on handling the virus.

Wong said in a Facebook post that Singapore plans to ease restrictions on school activities for the new term, which starts in early January. “At the same time, for greater peace of mind, Covid vaccines will be available soon for children aged 5 to 11. We will be putting out more details in due course,” he said.

Singapore has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, with school-aged children one of the last demographics left to inoculate.

The city-state also said rapid antigen tests were effective at detecting omicron and would remain part of its arsenal for handling the variant and pandemic.

Omicron: Around the world

A Japanese poll found that close to 90 per cent of respondents backed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s move to suspend new entry by foreigners amid omicron worries.

The Yomiuri newspaper survey carried out from December 3-5 also found support for Kishida rose to 62 per cent, roughly double that of predecessor Yoshihide Suga when he was forced from office amid criticism for being slow on Covid management.

Australia’s New South Wales state said genome sequencing has confirmed an additional nine omicron cases contracted from an outbreak in Sydney’s western suburbs, bringing the number of locally acquired infections to 14.

Including international arrivals, the state — home to Sydney — has now found 25 cases of the variant, none of which have been admitted to the hospital for treatment, health officials said in a statement Monday.

The omicron variant spread among two fully vaccinated travellers across the hallway of a Hong Kong quarantine hotel, underscoring why the highly mutated coronavirus strain is unnerving health authorities.

Omicron variant: Delhi's first case was double-vaccinated, showed no fever

Closed-circuit television camera footage showed neither person left their room nor had any contact, leaving airborne transmission when respective doors were opened for food collection or Covid testing the most probable mode of spread, researchers at the University of Hong Kong said in a study published Friday in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Schools were closed in the Zhenhai district of Ningbo city in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang on Monday after three people tested positive for Covid-19, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The new cases come as China — one of the world’s last Covid Zero holdouts — uses strict measures to try and stamp out an outbreak of the virus that spread to various spots across the country.

J&J on efficacy of Covid vaccine

Johnson & Johnson said preliminary results from an independent study showed that a booster shot of its vaccine administered six months after a two-dose primary regimen of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine raised both antibody and T-cell responses.

The study was conducted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center but included a subset of participants from a study sponsored by its subsidiary Janssen.

Georgia reported its first in-state infection caused by the omicron variant, of a person who recently travelled to South Africa. The person is isolating at home, the Department of Public Health said on Sunday.

Another Georgia resident returned home for two days after a trip to South Africa, then travelled to New Jersey, where she was diagnosed with the new variant, the two states reported on Friday.

The variant has so far been detected in these US states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

A Norwegian Cruise Line ship with at least 10 passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 docked Sunday in New Orleans, the Associated Press reported.

The Norwegian Breakaway had departed from New Orleans on November 28 and stopped in Belize, Honduras and Mexico. It has more than 3,200 people on board.

Louisiana has confirmed an Omicron case announced as “probable” two days ago, the state’s Department of Health announced on Twitter. The case involved a person in the greater New Orleans area who had travelled recently in the US.

Belgian police used tear gas to disperse a protest in Brussels Sunday afternoon.

The gathering turned violent when a few dozen rioters hurdled firecrackers and flares toward the police barricade that kept the protesters from occupying the Schuman roundabout in the capital’s European Quarter.

The protest was aimed at mandatory vaccination among health-care workers and the obligation to wear masks from the age of six.

Denmark had as of Sunday registered 183 cases of the Omicron variant, up from 135 a day earlier, SSI, the country’s institute for infectious diseases, said in a statement. The number of infections is rising at a “worrying” pace, Henrik Ullum, the head of SSI, said in the statement. “We now see infection chains among people who haven’t been travelling or have had connections with travellers,” he said.