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The World Health Organization is monitoring sub-variants of the omicronImage: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa/picture alliance
HealthGlobal issues

COVID digest: WHO on alert over new omicron subvariants

April 11, 2022

The World Health Organization has announced it is monitoring two new subvariants. A politician in Thailand could be jailed for criticizing the monarchy in relation to the country's vaccine campaign. DW has the latest.

https://p.dw.com/p/49mV6

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that it is monitoring a few dozen cases of two new subvariants of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The WHO has added BA.4 and BA.5, siblings of the original BA.1 omicron variant, to its list for assessment to ascertain if they are more infectious or life-threatening. The WHO is already analyzing BA.1 and BA.2 as well as BA.1.1 and BA.3.

The UN healthy body said it had begun tracking them because of their "additional mutations that need to be further studied to understand their impact on immune escape potential."

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Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:

Europe

Germany has reached an agreement with CureVac and its British partner, GlaxoSmithKline, for domestically produced mRNA vaccines to boost supplies in case of public health emergencies. The deal allows for production of up to 80 million doses at short notice until 2029, German bio firm CureVac announced, adding that those doses could be for the remainder of the current pandemic or for future outbreaks.

Also in Germany, the number of youths with anorexia has risen during the pandemic, according to health specialists.

Berlin clubs welcome easing of restrictions

Passenger numbers at the UK's busiest airport have reached their highest level since the onset of the pandemic.

London's Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye said: "It is fantastic to see the airport coming back to life after two years."

London theaters emerge from pandemic crisis

Asia

Japan on Monday reported the country's first case of the variant XE. The Japanese Health Ministry said the variant was detected in a woman who arrived at Tokyo's Narita International Airport from the United States on March 26.

COVID-19: Japan eases some entry restrictions

The biggest city in China, Shanghai, has relaxed measures in some neighborhoods after rising tensions during strict regulations that have locked down some 25 million people, caused food shortages and left thousands in quarantine.

Authorities said they would gradually begin to allow those in areas with the least number of cases to leave their neighborhoods, although it was unclear how many people will be allowed out of their homes or when.

A prominent lawmaker in Thailand was granted bail on Monday after being indicted for insulting the king and violating a law governing cybercommunications.

The leader of the disbanded Future Forward Party, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, faces up to 20 years in prison after he criticized the government for overreliance on a royal-owned firm to supply vaccines.

The 43-year-old is accused of lese majeste and breaching the law during a Facebook Live stream that occurred in January 2021. The politician said the government had erroneously managed its vaccine process and unfairly favored Siam Bioscience, a firm owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Thailand has one of the world's strictest lese majeste laws, and a conviction carries a jail term of up to 15 years, while breaches of its Computer-related Crime Act are punishable by up to five years in prison.

Americas

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has tested positive for the coronavirus. His spokesperson made the announcement on the mayor's 100th day in office.

jsi/fb (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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