Corona December 17 Highlights: Centre’s new Omicron warning amid fresh surge; WHO says ‘pandemic far from over’

Covid-19 India News, New Omicron Variant Cases in India, Coronavirus Vaccine Statistics and Registration Latest Update, December 17 Highlights: India records 101 Omicron cases across 11 states; Omicron to likely outpace Delta variant where community transmission occurs, says WHO

Coronavirus Omicron India Live Updates, travel guidelines, vaccine, new variant
The country's first two cases of the Omicron variant were detected in Karnataka on December 2. (Picture: The Indian Express)

Coronavirus Vaccine Registration, Coronavirus Omicron Variant Cases in India December 17 Highlights: The Omicron variant of Coronavirus continues its spread across the globe. The World Health Organization has warned that the new strain is spreading at an unprecedented rate and it may have already reached most countries around the world. In India, so far 83 cases have been detected, with 10 fresh infections reported on Thursday; Karnataka, Delhi and Gujarat reported five, four, and one fresh case of the Omicron variant, respectively. Maharashtra has so far witnessed the highest number of Omicron cases at 32, followed by Rajasthan at 17, Union Territories of Delhi (10), Karnataka (8), Gujarat (5), Kerala (5), Telangana (2), Tamil Nadu(1), West Bengal (1), Andhra Pradesh (1) and Chandigarh (1). The country’s first two cases of the Omicron variant were detected in Karnataka on December 2.

As Omicron cases continue to rise, Union Home Secretary reviewed the Covid-19 situation in the country and the preparedness of the health infrastructure of all UTs. He urged them to check the availability of medical oxygen and equipment on a daily basis in order to be ready for any surge in Coronavirus infections. The highly transmissible Omicron variant, though mild in nature, threatens a spike in new Covid-19 cases. The government has advised people to follow appropriate Covid protocol and take vaccines. There have been talks on booster doses in several quarters amid the spread of Omicron. According to sources, the government will review its vaccination programme by December end. It may take a call on booster and vaccine for kids during the review meeting.

Meanwhile, India reported 7,447 fresh Coronavirus infections taking its overall tally of Covid-19 cases to 3,47,26,049, while the number of active cases declined to 86,415, according to data from the Union Health Ministry data on Friday. With 391 fresh fatalities, the Covid-19 death toll surged to 4,76,869, the Health Ministry said. The single-day rise in new Coronavirus infections has remained below 15,000 for the past 50 days now. The active Covid-19 cases comprise 0.25 per cent of the total infections, the lowest since March 2020, the Health Ministry said.

Ahead of the New Year festivities, several states/UTs have reimposed Covid restrictions in order to limit the spread of Coronavirus infections.

Financial Express Online brings you the latest updates on the Coronavirus pandemic. Stay tuned.

Live Updates

Omicron Live Update

10:32 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Assam reports 135 new COVID-19 cases, no death

Assam reported 135 new COVID-19 positive cases but no death due to the pandemic on Friday taking the caseload to 6,19,298, said the bulletin issued by the National Health Mission here. The number of active cases in the state is currently 1,094 as against 1,099 on Thursday. The number of positive cases detected during the day was 135, lower than the previous day's 180. The positivity rate declined to 0.40 per cent from Thursday's 0.58 per cent, it said. Kamrup (Metro) reported the highest number of 66 new positive cases, followed by eight in Kamrup (Rural) and six each in Barpeta and Nagaon, the report said. – PTI

9:58 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: WHO approves Novavax vaccine for emergency use against COVID

The World Health Organisation has given emergency approval to a coronavirus vaccine made by US-based Novavax and the Serum Institute of India, paving the way for its inclusion in the UN-backed programme to get such vaccines to poorer countries around the world. – PTI

9:00 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Kerala logs 3,471 new COVID-19 cases

Kerala recorded 3,471 new positive cases and 22 COVID-19-related deaths on Friday, taking the total affected in the state to 51,99,468 and the death toll to 44,189. The state health department tested 54,715 samples in the last 24 hours and there are six wards across five local self government bodies with a weekly infection population ratio above ten per cent. Among the districts, Ernakulam recorded the highest number of fresh cases today–680, followed by Kozhikode with 354 cases and Thrissur 263. Along with the 22 deaths, today's toll has also added 221 deaths, which were reported over the last few days and were also designated as COVID-19 deaths after receiving appeals based on the new guidelines of the Centre and the directions of the Supreme Court, a department release said. – PTI

8:10 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Jammu and Kashmir records 136 fresh Covid cases, 2 deaths

Jammu and Kashmir recorded 136 fresh Covid cases on Friday, taking the infection tally to 3,39,540, while two new deaths were reported from the Union Territory in the past 24 hours, officials said. Out of the fresh cases, 40 were from the Jammu division and 96 from the Kashmir division of the Union Territory, the officials said. Srinagar district recorded the highest of 54 cases followed by 18 cases in Jammu district. There are 1,448 active cases in the Union Territory, while the number of recovered patients was 3,33,582, the officials said. The death toll in the Union Territory due to the pandemic was 4,510 as two fresh fatalities were reported in the past 24 hours. Meanwhile, the officials said there were 50 confirmed cases of mucormycosis (black fungus) in the Union Territory as no fresh case was reported since Thursday evening. PTI

7:05 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: 28 from overseas detected with S-gene drop fuel suspicion of Omicron: Tamil Nadu Health Minister

As many as 28 people who arrived from both 'high-risk' and 'non-risk' countries till date have tested Covid-19 positive along with S-gene drop, raising the suspicion of being infected by Omicron, Tamil Nadu Minister Ma Subramanian said on Friday. The Minister for Medical and Family Welfare said the samples of the 28 passengers have been sent for genomic sequencing analysis. Talking to reporters, here, Subramanian said he would seek the Centre's approval to hold mandatory RT-PCR testing on passengers arriving from 'non-risk' countries on completion of their seven-day home quarantine. Currently, travellers arriving from 'high-risk' countries undergo mandated RT-PCR testing at the international airport while the Health Department randomly conducts RTPCR sampling to 2 per cent of passengers arriving from 'non-risk' countries. – PTI

6:23 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Japan to speed up booster shots amid fear of omicron spread By Mari Yamaguchi

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday his government is accelerating COVID-19 booster shots and securing oral medicines after speaking with Pfizer Inc. CEO Albert Burla. Japan has confirmed a handful of omicron variant cases, while revealing a cluster of infections of about 100 U.S. troops on Japan's southern island of Okinawa since earlier this month. Japan, which lacks home-developed vaccines, has so far approved booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna. Japan is also moving to shorten the interval between the second jab and boosters. Kishida said the government will start giving booster shots to elderly people seven months after their second shot starting February. He also said he and Burla agreed on Pfizer's supply of 2 million doses of oral medicine for COVID-19, in addition to Merck pills expected to be approved by the end of the month. Japan on Dec. 1 started giving booster shots to medical workers using the Pfizer vaccine, with the elderly expected to be next in line. The Health Ministry on Thursday granted fast-track approval for the Moderna boosters. Japan already uses both, as well as the AstraZeneca vaccine, for the first two shots. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters Japan signed deals with Pfizer and Moderna for a combined 170 million doses, which he said would be “enough to cover necessary doses.” Kishida was believed to have asked Burla to speed up the supply schedule. But the prime minister declined to give details of the vaccine supply and only said further details are still negotiated. (AP)

6:13 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Andhra Pradesh logs 127 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

Andhra Pradesh on Friday logged 127 new COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 20,75,546, while the death toll rose to 14,477 with three more fatalities. Active cases stood at 1,758, a state government bulletin said providing details of the past 24 hours ending 9 AM today. As many as 180 people recovered from the disease leaving the total number of recoveries at 20,59,311, according to the bulletin. Krishna, Prakasam and West Godavari districts reported one death each. Over 33,000 samples were tested during the past 24 hours. The total number of samples tested so far are over 3.09 crore. East Godavari topped the chart with highest number of active cases with 367 followed by Chittoor (287). (PTI)

6:02 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: German health minister expects “massive” fifth coronavirus wave

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, a former epidemiology professor famed for his bearish COVID-19 forecasts, said he expected the omicron variant of the coronavirus to unleash a “massive fifth wave” of the pandemic. He added during a visit to the region of Lower Saxony that Germany had to prepare for a challenge “that we have never seen in this form before”. (Reuters)

5:53 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Sputnik V shot induces ‘neutralising’ antibody response to Omicron variant, says Russia fund

Russia's Sputnik V vaccine induces a “robust neutralizing” antibody response to the Omicron variant, which is further strengthened by the Sputnik Light booster, the Russia Direct Investment Fund said in a statement on Friday. A preliminary lab study by the Gamaleya Center shows that Sputnik V demonstrates “high virus neutralizing activity” against Omicron and “is expected to provide strong defence against severe disease and hospitalisation,” the statement said.

5:40 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Omicron spreading fast across Europe, other parts of world; avoid non-essential travel, says Govt

As many as 101 positive cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus have been detected across 11 states and union territories so far, the government said on Friday and advised people to keep new year celebrations at low intensity. It said that though daily COVID-19 cases are below 10,000 for the past 20 days, there is a need to stay vigilant in view of the new variant and rising cases in other countries. With the coronavirus' Omicron variant spreading very fast across Europe and other parts of the world, people need to avoid non-essential travel. They must also avoid mass gatherings, and new year celebrations need to be at low intensity, the government said. Giving details of Omicron cases in India, it said Maharashtra has reported 32 cases of the variant, Delhi (22), Rajasthan (17), Karnataka (8), Telangana (8), Gujarat (5), Kerala (5), Andhra Pradesh (1), Chandigarh (1), Tamil Nadu (1) and West Bengal (1), the government said. Citing the World Health Organization (WHO), it also said that the Omicron variant is spreading faster than the Delta variant of the coronavirus in South Africa, where Delta circulation was low. It is likely that Omicron spread will outpace Delta variant where community transmission occurs, the government said citing the WHO. On the COVID-19 situation in the country, it said 19 districts are reporting weekly positivity between 5 and 10 per cent and five districts over 10 per cent. Districts with over 5 per cent Covid case positivity rate need to ensure restrictive measures until it is below 5 per cent for at least two weeks, the government said. It assured that sufficient systematic and strategic sampling is being undertaken for genome sequencing for detection of Omicron cases in India. On COVID-19 vaccination, the government said that India has so far administered 82.8 crore first doses and 53.72 crore second doses. More than 136 crore doses have been administered in the country which is 2.8 times the total doses administered in the US, it said. (PTI)

5:23 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: India’s Omicron cases jump to 101

India has detected a total of 101 cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, a health ministry official said on Friday, adding some districts were showing a rise in overall infections relative to tests. (Reuters)

5:10 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: German govt considers classifying Britain as virus variant area

The German government is looking into whether Britain should be classified as a virus variant area, said a Health Ministry spokesperson on Friday. The government is expected to make a decision later on Friday, said the spokesperson. Under German COVID rules, travellers returning from virus variant areas must quarantine for two weeks, even if they are vaccinated. Britain is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases in part due to the more contagious Omicron coronavirus variant. (Reuters)

5:03 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Health Ministry assures sufficient sampling undertaken for Omicron detection

Sufficient systematic and strategic sampling is being undertaken for genome sequencing for detection of Omicron cases in India: Govt. (PTI)

4:53 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Omicron spreading faster than Delta variant in South Africa

Omicron spreading faster than Delta variant of coronavirus in South Africa where Delta circulation was low, says govt citing WHO. (PTI)

4:49 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Daily Covid cases below 10,000 for past 20 days

Daily Covid cases below 10,000 for past 20 days but need to stay vigilant in view of Omicron variant, rising cases in other countries: Govt (PTI)

4:41 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Govt gives an update on weekly Covid positivity rate

19 districts reporting weekly Covid positivity between 5-10 pc; 5 districts reporting over 10 pc: Govt (PTI)

4:31 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Odisha reports 154 new Covid-19 cases, one more fatality

Odisha on Friday recorded 154 new COVID-19 cases, 19 less than the previous day, with the caseload increasing to 10,52,472, a health department bulletin said. The death toll rose to 8,441 as one more person succumbed to the disease in Kalahandi district, it said. Fifty-three other coronavirus patients have died due to comorbidities so far, according to the official data. Khurda reported the maximum number of fresh cases at 79, followed by Cuttack at 20. Twenty-six children were among new patients, the bulletin said. Odisha now has 1,976 active cases. At least 166 people recuperated from the disease in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of recoveries to 10,42,002, it said. The state conducted 59,733 sample tests during the period, and the positivity rate stood at 0.26 per cent. Nearly 2.86 crore people have received the first jab of COVID vaccines, and more than 1.83 crore beneficiaries have been administered the second dose, the bulletin added. (PTI)

4:17 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Breakthrough infections generate strong immunity to COVID-19 variants, says a study

People who are infected after getting vaccinated develop a greatly enhanced immune response to variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, according to a lab study. The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), shows that a breakthrough infection generates a robust immune response against the Delta variant. The findings suggest that the immune response in such people is likely to be highly effective against other variants as the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to mutate. “You can't get a better immune response than this. These vaccines are very effective against severe disease,” said study senior author Fikadu Tafesse, an assistant professor at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in the US. “Our study suggests that individuals who are vaccinated and then exposed to a breakthrough infection have super immunity,” Tafesse said. The study found that antibodies measured in blood samples of breakthrough cases were both more abundant and much more effective — as much as 1,000 per cent — than antibodies generated two weeks following the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The results suggest each exposure following vaccination actually serves to strengthen immune response to subsequent exposures even to new variants of the virus. “I think this speaks to an eventual end game. It doesn't mean we are at the end of the pandemic, but it points to where we are likely to land,” said study co-author Marcel Curlin, an associate professor at OHSU School of Medicine. “Once you are vaccinated and then exposed to the virus, you are probably going to be reasonably well-protected from future variants,” Curlin said. The study implies that the long-term outcome is going to be a tapering-off of the severity of the worldwide epidemic, the researchers said. Vaccine immunity, they said, is currently undergoing a real-world test against the new Omicron variant. “We have not examined the Omicron variant specifically, but based on the results of this study we would anticipate that breakthrough infections from the Omicron variant will generate a similarly strong immune response among vaccinated people,” Tafesse said. (PTI)

4:05 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: EU to place order with Pfizer for COVID shots adapted to Omicron

European Union governments have agreed to order over 180 million doses of an adapted version against Omicron of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, the head of the European Commission said. But Pfizer said it was not aware of the order. The EU drugs regulator has so far said that there is no evidence that adapted vaccines are needed against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. “The Member States have agreed to trigger a first tranche of over 180 million extra doses of adapted vaccines, in our third contract with BioNTech-Pfizer,” Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference last night at the end of a regular summit with EU leaders. (Reuters)

3:57 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Ladakh logs 21 new Covid-19 cases, 17 recoveries

Ladakh has reported 21 fresh COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 21,886 while the active cases in the union territory have gone down to 167, officials said on Friday. Of these active cases, 155 were reported in Leh and 12 in Kargil, they said. Seventeen patients were cured and discharged from hospitals, taking the total recorded recoveries to 20,503, they said. The Union Territory has recorded 216 COVID-related deaths — 158 in Leh and 58 in Kargil — since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, they said. According to the officials, 665 sample reports in Ladakh were found negative. (PTI)

3:43 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Miss World 2021 contestant from India Manasa Varanasi tests Covid positive, event ‘temporarily postponed’

As the third wave of Coronavirus pandemic looms large with the discovery and spread of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the Miss World 2021 pageant finale has been postponed keeping in mind the health and safety of contestants, crew, general public and staff after additional positive cases were confirmed in Puerto Rico that was hosting the event this year. The finale schedule for Thursday will be rescheduled and held in the next 90 days. The pageant officials on social media said that the decision was taken after discussing with the Puerto Rico Health department and virologists hired to oversee the Miss World 2021 event. The announcement added that additional safety measures were implemented for the best interest of the production team, contestants and audience understanding the risks at the stage or dressing room , but with positive cases increases the decision for postponing the cases was made. READ MORE

3:33 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: S Africa says vaccines, prior infection contributing to mildness of COVID-19 infections

South Africa's health minister said on Friday that the government believed that vaccines and high levels of prior COVID-19 infection were helping to keep disease milder in a wave driven by the Omicron variant. There have been early anecdotal accounts suggesting that the Omicron variant driving the fourth wave, which saw the country report a record number of daily infections earlier this week, is causing less severe illness than previous variants in South Africa but scientists say it is too early to draw firm conclusions. “We believe that it might not necessarily just be that Omicron is less virulent, but … coverage of vaccination (and) … natural immunity of people who have already had contact with the virus is also adding to the protection,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla told a news conference. (Reuters)

3:19 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Telangana reports 2 fresh Omicron cases

Two more Omicron cases have been reported in Telangana, taking the total number of cases of the new coronavirus variant recorded at the city's international airport to nine, a health official said on Friday. The nine includes a boy from West Bengal who flew to Kolkata with his family members without entering the city after his samples were collected at the international airport. Observing that all the eight cases in the state were passengers who arrived from abroad, state Director of Public Health G Srinivasa Rao said neither community transmission nor locals testing positive for Omicron occurred in Telangana so far. One of the positive cases is a woman who came from the UK and belongs to Hanumakonda at Warangal in Telangana. (PTI)

3:06 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: USFDA study shows Evusheld retains neutralising activity against Omicron – AstraZeneca

Drug firm AstraZeneca on Friday said that a preclinical study has concluded that its antibody combination Evusheld for the prevention of coronavirus infection has been found to have retained neutralising activity against the Omicron variant. The study was done independently by investigators at the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. The work was supported by US government research funds. Evusheld (tixagevimab co-packaged with cilgavimab) is a long-acting antibody combination for the prevention of COVID-19. In the study, Evusheld's Inhibitory Concentration 50 (IC50), a measure of neutralising potency of an antibody, was 171 ng/ml and 277 ng/ml in two confirmatory tests, which is within the range of neutralising titres found in someone who has been previously infected with COVID-19. (PTI)

3:01 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Brazil registers 124 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday

Brazil registered 124 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday and 3,720 additional cases, according to data released by the nation's Health Ministry, though the statistics were incomplete as six of the nation's 27 federative units failed to provide fully updated numbers following a Friday hacking incident. The South American country has now registered a total of 617,395 coronavirus deaths and 22,204,941 total confirmed cases.(Reuters)

2:52 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Sweden to reintroduce some COVID support measures for companies

Sweden will reintroduce some economic support measures for companies to help them get through the latest stage of the pandemic, news agency TT said on Friday, amid a surge in new infections of the COVID virus. The measures agreed between the Social Democrat government and the opposition include support for lost income for very small firms and subsidies for workers on shorter hours, TT said, quoting opposition Moderate Party finance spokeswoman Elisabeth Svantesson. (Reuters)

2:45 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Japan PM, Pfizer CEO hold call to discuss vaccine supply

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida spoke by phone with Pfizer Inc. CEO Albert Burla on Friday, apparently to ensure a fast supply of COVID-19 vaccines for booster shots amid the global spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Japan, which lacks home-developed vaccines, has so far approved booster shots from US pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna Inc. Japan is moving to shorten the interval between second jabs and boosters from eight months to six amid a global upsurge in cases and fears of more community transmissions at home. Kishida was believed to have asked Burla to speed up the supply schedule accordingly. (AP)

2:33 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Two new cases take Covid-19 tally of Andamans to 7,700

The COVID-19 tally of Andaman and Nicobar Islands rose to 7,700 as two more persons in the Union Territory tested positive for the disease in the last 24 hours, a health department official said on Friday. The death toll stood at 129 as no new fatality due to the infection was reported during the period, he said. No new case was detected in the archipelago on Wednesday. Two more patients were cured of the disease since December 16, taking the total number of recoveries to 7,568. The Union Territory now has three active cases, the official said. The local administration has adopted an approach of tracking, testing and treating to contain spread of the disease, he said, adding that people arriving here from the mainland are mandatorily required to undergo COVID test. Altogether, 5,82,471 people have been inoculated with 2,98,504 of them having received both doses of the vaccines. Of the total number of immunised people, 1,77,081 beneficiaries are in the 18-44 years age group. The Andaman and Nicobar administration has conducted over 6.48 lakh sample tests for COVID-19 so far, and the positivity rate stands at 1.19 per cent, he said. (PTI)

2:17 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: 27,743 new Covid-19 cases recorded in Russia

RUSSIA REPORTS 27,743 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES IN PAST 24 HOURS (Reuters)

2:00 (IST) 17 Dec 2021
Coronavirus Live Tracker: Delhi records 10 new cases of Omicron, confirms Delhi Health Minister

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Friday said 10 new cases of the new Covid variant Omicron have been detected in the national capital, taking the tally to 20. Ten of these patients have been discharged, he said. The minister said 10 out of the 40 samples sent for genome sequencing tested positive for the new variant. The minister had on Thursday said many international travellers are turning out Covid positive upon arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. On Tuesday, he had said the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has not spread in the community so far and the situation is under control. Delhi's first case of the Omicron variant — a 37-year-old man from Ranchi — was detected on December 5. He was discharged on Monday. He had travelled from Tanzania to Doha and from there, to Delhi on a Qatar Airways flight on December 2. He stayed in Johannesburg in South Africa for a week and had mild symptoms. Meanwhile, 40 people are currently admitted to the special facility at the Lok Nayak Hospital meant for isolating and treating suspected Omicron cases, Medical Director Suresh Kumar said. Under new norms, RT-PCR tests are mandatory for the passengers arriving from the “at-risk” countries and they are allowed to leave the airport only after the results come. Also, two per cent of the passengers arriving on flights from other countries are being tested randomly. (PTI)