Coronavirus: Latest from around the world - Friday, February 4

The European Union's drug regulator said it would support a filing for approval of an upgraded vaccine targeting only the new Omicron variant if that is the quickest way to broaden the offering of available shots.

According to Worldometer, there have been 386,687,032 cases of COVID-19 recorded globally, with 5,722,825 deaths. 


The European Commission proposed a change to rules on certificates that would allow participants in vaccine trials to get a valid pass.

Austria's upper house of parliament began debating a bill to make coronavirus vaccines compulsory for adults and was widely expected to pass it.

The number of adult Danes infected may be double the official tally, Danish scientists said, after releasing data suggesting one third of the adult population has been infected in the past three months.

Russia and Argentina are working on a new vaccine contract, the Kremlin said ahead of talks between presidents Vladimir Putin and Alberto Fernandez in Moscow.

Local Olympics organisers need to tighten up the handling of health information after a hotel manager was told before the Norwegian team two biathletes were possible close contacts of a COVID-19 case, a chef de mission said.


Mexico surpassed 5 million total confirmed cases on Wednesday, according to health ministry data.

Major airlines, business and travel groups urged the White House to end pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers travelling to the United States.


Malaysia kicked off a mass vaccination programme for children aged between 5 and 11.

Hong Kong said it would extend a work-from-home plan for civil servants as health officials warned tougher measures could follow amid a worsening outbreak.

Daily cases in Japan exceeded 100,000 for first time since the pandemic began, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, while the country's former vaccine tsar, Taro Kono, said he hoped strict border curbs can be eased from March.

Africa and Middle East

The emerging BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron is not yet of concern for Africa based on studies so far, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention head said, while a World Health Organization scientist said it had been found in five African countries.

Africa needs to speed up vaccinations six-fold if it hopes to beat the pandemic, and people on the continent should not become complacent because of reports Omicron is milder than previous variants, the WHO's Africa director said.

Saudi Arabia said citizens will be required to take the booster shot to be able to travel abroad starting Feb. 9, state media reported.

Medical developments

Britain approved Novavax's two-dose vaccine for use in adults, bringing a fifth coronavirus shot to the country amid a rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

South Africa's Afrigen Biologics has used the publicly available sequence of Moderna's mRNA vaccine to make its own version, Afrigen's top executive said.

The prices of drugs used to treat COVID-19 for those at risk of serious illness are "reasonably aligned" with how much they help patients, according to a draft report from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review.

Singapore has approved Pfizer's oral medicine Paxlovid, its Health Sciences Authority said.

Economic impact

The euro and sterling edged lower as the European Central Bank and the Bank of England faced their inflation challenges, while stock markets turned red again after a downbeat status update from the firm formerly known as Facebook.