What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·3 min read
A healthcare worker assists a patient being treated at a makeshift hospital run by charity organisation The Gift of the Givers, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Johannesburg

(Reuters) - Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

South Africa readies hospitals

South Africa is preparing its hospitals for more admissions as the Omicron coronavirus variant pushes the country into a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

South Africa's daily infections surged last week to more than 16,000 on Friday from roughly 2,300 on Monday.

Neighbouring Namibia has detected the variant in 18 of 19 samples sequenced between Nov. 11-26, its health ministry said.

Omicron spreads in India

Cases of the Omicron variant have risen to 21 in India and people must step up for vaccination, officials said on Monday.

Neighbouring Nepal has detected its first two cases of the variant, the health ministry said.

Thailand detects first case of Omicron

Thailand has detected its first case of the Omicron variant in a U.S. citizen who had travelled to the country from Spain late last month, a health official said on Monday.

The confirmed case makes Thailand the 47th country to have found the new variant, Opas Karnkawinpong, Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, told a news conference.

Argentina detects first Omicron case

Argentina has detected its first case of the Omicron variant in a person who had travelled from South Africa, the South American country's Health Ministry said late on Sunday.

The passenger is a resident of the western Argentine province of San Luis, who arrived on Nov. 30 from South Africa on a flight via the United States and has been in isolation since.

Italy tightens curbs on unvaccinated

Italy tightened restrictions on Monday on people still not vaccinated against COVID-19, limiting their access to an array of places and services.

The measures were announced last month, even before the discovery of the Omicron variant, and come as cases of coronavirus are starting to tick up across the country, albeit at a slower rate than in many other European nations.

Poland to announce further pandemic curbs this week

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his government would present a new package of pandemic restrictions this week in response to the new variant and was considering how to handle the approaching Christmas holidays.

"The situation is indeed not looking good... We have many deaths," Morawiecki told a news conference.

Philippines tentatively reopens schools

Some children in the Philippines' capital Manila returned to school on Monday after a near two-year suspension as the country, which has imposed some of the world's toughest coronavirus curbs, tries to get life back to normal.

Wearing face masks and sitting at desks fitted with plastic screens, the children are part of a trial at 28 schools in the capital region. The government aims to reopen all schools in January.

Next pandemic could be more lethal than COVID, vaccine creator says

Future pandemics could be more lethal than COVID-19 so the lessons learned from the outbreak must not be squandered and the world should ensure it is prepared for the next viral wave, one of the creators of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine said.

"This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods," Sarah Gilbert said in the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, the BBC reported.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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