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Dec. 2, 2021, 7:52 a.m. EST

U.S. to tighten testing requirements for travelers in light of omicron variant, and analysts expected limited authorization of Merck antiviral

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By Ciara Linnane

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Read now: ‘Don’t freak out’: Omicron is bound to disrupt supply chains. The question is, how bad will it be?

The WHO’s 194 member countries agreed unanimously to adopt a resolution to develop a new accord for handling future pandemics, AFP reported. The agreement came at a special meeting in Geneva.

“The adoption of this decision is cause for celebration and cause for hope that we all need,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in closing the three-day gathering.

The U.S. is still averaging almost 900 deaths a day from COVID, according to a New York Times tracker, and cases and hospitalizations are undesirably high. Michigan continues to lead other states by new cases measured on a per capita basis. It’s averaging more than 8,000 cases a day.

The CDC’s vaccine tracker, meanwhile, is showing that 197 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 59.4% of the overall population. That number is crawling higher after being static for weeks.

See: Confused about whether to get a COVID booster? Here’s what to know.

Elsewhere, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said Wednesday that the EU must consider mandatory vaccination because of the omicron variant, the Guardian reported. Von der Leyen said the EU’s 27 member states should rapidly deploy booster doses and a commission communiqué backed countries that are temporarily enforcing pre-travel PCR tests even within the bloc’s borders.

The EU will roll out Pfizer and BioNTech’s /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +0.11% COVID-19 vaccine version for 5- to 11-year-old children on Dec. 13, one week earlier than previously planned, Germany’s health ministry said on Wednesday, as Reuters reported.

Marcus Lamb, head of U.S. Christian television network Daystar, who railed against COVID vaccines, has died after contracting the illness, the Washington Post reported. The 64-year-old Lamb’s network made the virus a huge focus during the pandemic, calling it a satanic attack that should not be treated with vaccines.

Saudi Arabia became the first country in the Persian Gulf to detect a case of omicron, Al Jazeera reported. The case was in a Saudi national who had traveled home from a North African country.

Japan’s main airlines halted new reservations from overseas on Wednesday until the end of December after detecting a second omicron case, reported Reuters. The move came at the request of the transport ministry, which has also requested foreign airlines to halt all such reservations.

Don’t miss:   ‘Vaccine’ chosen as word of the year by Merriam-Webster

Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 263 million on Tuesday, while the death toll edged above 5.21 million, according to  data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University .

The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 48.6 million cases and 780,244 deaths. 

India is second by cases after the U.S. at 34.6 million and has suffered 469,247 deaths. Brazil has the second highest death toll at 614,681 and 22.1 million cases.

In Europe, Russia has reported the most fatalities at 271,091, followed by the U.K. at 145,414.

China,  where the virus was first discovered late in 2019,  has had 111,353 confirmed cases and 4,809 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively understated.

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