economy

Israel to offer fourth covid-19 shot to over 60s

Israel to offer fourth covid-19 shot to over 60s

Israel said it would offer a fourth dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to the elderly and healthcare workers, as the government urged people to get inoculated amid concerns over the Omicron variant. The fourth shot would be administered to those over 60 years old and medical workers after at least four months have passed since the third dose, the government said late Tuesday, following a recommendation from the country’s panel of experts on the pandemic. The measure still needs formal approval from the country’s health ministry, which could take at least a few days. Senior ministry officials have publicly expressed support. Israel was among the first countries globally to start administering a booster shot of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine in July to help battle an outbreak of the virus’s Delta variant. The decision to offer a fourth shot, health officials said, is due to the expectation that the Omicron variant will surge through the country in the coming weeks—including among the vaccinated—and research that showed protection provided by the booster shot begins to wane within three to four months. In the United Arab Emirates, new infections hit a three-month high this week, with 452 cases and two deaths reported Tuesday, up from less than 50 on Dec. 6. The U.A.E. banned travelers from southern Africa last month after the Omicron variant emerged there, though it has remained open to the rest of the world. In Asia, Singapore said it would limit the number of travelers for its quarantine-free entry program, a new setback for border-reopening plans in the region as the Omicron variant spreads. The Ministry of Health said Wednesday that from Dec. 23 to Jan. 20 the government would suspend the sale of airline and bus tickets for those seeking quarantine-exempt entry to Singapore to reduce the country’s exposure to imported Omicron cases. Those who have already booked their tickets will be allowed to proceed with their travel plans without facing mandatory quarantine upon their return. The move is the first significant reversal of a gradual travel reopening that Singapore began in early September, when it started allowing vaccinated travelers from two countries—Germany and Brunei—to enter the country without quarantine. Over the following months, Singapore, a travel hub sometimes seen as a bellwether for the direction of Covid-19 policies in the region, expanded quarantine-free entry to roughly two dozen countries, including the U.S., U.K., India and Indonesia. Travelers had to be vaccinated to qualify for the program. Those arriving will be tested for Covid-19 every day during their first week in Singapore, according to protocols that were established in early December in response to Omicron. The government says its testing regime for travelers has helped detect 65 Omicron cases, and it says its policies have limited spread of the variant locally. A day before Singapore curbed travel bookings, Thailand, which relies heavily on tourism revenue, said it would suspend a program that allows quarantine-free entry for visitors because of the country’s increasing number of Omicron cases. Travelers to Thailand will instead have to enter through more restrictive programs, including lengthy stays in state-approved facilities. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday that the country’s near-total ban on new entry by foreigners, which was initially set to expire this month, would be extended indefinitely. He also said that anyone in close contact with an Omicron-positive person would be required to stay for 14 days in a government-designated facility rather than isolating at home. Dozens of people have tested positive for Omicron after entering Japan. The government has been seeking to prevent the variant from spreading among the general population, but the Health Ministry said Wednesday that three Omicron cases have been detected in Osaka among people who hadn’t traveled abroad and had no known contacts with Omicron-positive people. That suggests the variant has escaped the border net and could begin to spread. Australia’s government continues to pivot to living with the virus. Last week, it began allowing skilled migrants and students to travel to the country freely if they are vaccinated. As cases rise, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has resisted calls from epidemiologists and other medical experts to reintroduce a requirement for people to wear masks indoors. New South Wales state, home to Sydney, reported on Wednesday a daily record of 3,763 new cases. Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly estimated that 60% of the state’s new cases appear to be Omicron. This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text Download.

economy 2021-12-22 Livemint