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Australia records first omicron death

December 27, 2021

New South Wales has reported its first omicron fatality with the death of an elderly man. Hong Kong authorities have suspended Korean Air flights. DW has the latest.

Sydney Opera House is reflected in a puddle as people walk past wearing masks, during lockdown in Sydney, Australia
Fresh restrictions are in place in New South Wales after the first death from the omicron variant Image: Steven Saphore/AA/picture alliance

In Australia, the most populous state of New South Wales has confirmed the country's first death from the omicron variant of the coronavirus on Monday.

The death was of a man in his 80s who contracted the virus at a care home in western Sydney. He was fully inoculated but had other health issues.

On Monday, the state saw 6,324 new cases of COVID-19 infection, a dip from the record number of cases a day before.

Fresh restrictions went into force in New South Wales on Monday, including a cap of one person per 2 square meters (about 21 square feet) in bars and restaurants and mandatory "check-ins" with QR codes in all hospitality venues.


Cases of local symptomatic infections in China were on the rise again on Monday, with most recorded in the country's latest hot spot of Xian.

The northwestern city is in its fifth day of a lockdown.

China reported 162 new infections with confirmed symptoms, against 158 a day earlier.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has suspended Korean Air flights for two weeks, the company said on Monday.

The decision came after some Korean Air passengers traveling from South Korea to Hong Kong tested positive upon landing last week.

The suspension is set to last until January 8.

South Korea has approved the emergency use of Pfizer's antiviral COVID-19 pills, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said on Monday.

The drug, called Paxlovid, is "expected to help prevent serious deterioration of patients" and diversify COVID-19 treatments, drug safety minister Kim Gang-lip told the media. The pills will be used for patients aged 12 and above with mild to moderate symptoms who are deemed to be at high risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19.

India has announced that Bharat Biotech's Covaxin will be the only vaccine available to children aged 15 to 18 when inoculation begins for them from January 3. 


In Germany, tighter curbs will take effect in four states on Monday with the rest of the country set to toughen restrictions on Tuesday.

Contacts in private and public life will further be restricted as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads.

Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will be put under the new rules on Monday.

Germany reported 13,908 new coronavirus infections on Monday and 69 more deaths.

The seven-day incidence rose to 222.7 from 220.7 the previous day. The figure indicates how many people per 100,000 population have been infected with the virus in the past seven days.

A new survey shows about 80% of German hospitals are struggling to fill vacancies in their general and intensive care wards.

Stricter coronavirus measures are also set to be imposed in the Czech Republic on Monday, after the country's COVID-19 state of emergency expired on Saturday.

Under the new restrictions, it would be mandatory for travelers entering the Czech Republic from other EU nations to produce a negative COVID-19 test before crossing the border, even if they are vaccinated or have recovered from the infection.

Only those who have received a booster dose and unvaccinated children below the age of 12 are exempted from the testing mandate.

In France, Prime Minister Jean Castex has unveiled new lockdown measures. Outdoor mask mandates in city centers will be reintroduced for three weeks from January 3, there will be a ban on standing-room concerts and the consumption of food in restaurants, public transport and movie theaters. Businesses will be required to to offer at least three days of remote learning per week, gatherings are limited to 2,000 indoors and 5,00 outdoors. Booster eligibility has been reduced to three months, with a possible fourth dose. The penalties for false vaccine certificates have been strengthened. The health pass will only be available for vaccinated people, excluding the recently tested but unvaccinated. 

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that no further coronavirus restrictions will be introduced in England before the new year. But he did urge people to stay cautious and celebrate outside if possible.

Denmark and Iceland have both reported record levels of infections, thank to the rapid spread of the omicron variant. 

Greece has introduced new measures after recording the highest level of infections since the start of the pandemic. From January 3, high-protection or double masks will be mandated at supermarkets and on public transport. Entertainment venues will close at midnight, capacity will be cut to 10% at soccer stadiums, remote work and schedule changes will be expanded in the public sector and nursing home visits will only be permitted for people carrying a negative PCR test result.

About 100 British travelers have been refused entry to the Austrian ski region of Tyrol because they could not show show negative PCR tests or proof of booster vaccinations under the new entry rules.

Middle East

A hospital in Israel is testing a second booster shot, and today administered doses to a test group of health workers. The results of the trial will be submitted in two weeks.

In Oman, employees will not be permitted to enter their workplace — private or public — without a vaccine certificate that indicates they are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, the sultanate’s health minister told the media on Monday.

It will also be mandatory for foreign travelers of age 18 and above, entering Oman, to have received at least two doses of the COVID-19 jab.

Johannesburg struggles under omicron surge


After a recent flight from Seattle to Shanghai was told to turn around and return to Seattle, Delta Air Lines said the midair maneuver was prompted by new pandemic-related cleaning requirements at a Shanghai airport.

The US company did not provide details, but said that the new mandates at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport "require significantly extended ground time and are not operationally viable for Delta."

US President Joe Biden has pledged to ease a shortage of COVID-19 tests using the Defense Production Act and making it easier to find a nearby testing location using Google.

US airlines canceled nearly 1,000 flights on Monday due to staff shortages from COVID-19 infections and bad weather.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is investigating nearly 70 cruise ships due to outbreaks of COVID.

New York City's requirement for nearly all private-sector businesses to ban unvaccinated employees from the workplace has taken effect, with workers at roughly 184,000 businesses required to show proof they have received at least one vaccine dose.

jsi, dvv/dj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)