Passengers from 153 nations have been banned from transiting through Hong Kong airport, in the latest tightening of the city’s strict anti-virus travel measures.
Elsewhere, the Australian government on Friday cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time, saying the world tennis No 1, unvaccinated for COVID-19, may pose a risk to the community.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced yet more allegations of his office holding “boozy parties” while everyone else in the country was unable to mix because of strict rules on social distancing.
US President Joe Biden says his administration will procure 500m more rapid COVID-19 tests to better tackle the spread of the Omicron variant.
Here are the latest updates:
Omicron leaves Germany on brink of recession as growth dips
The risk of recession is looming for Germany after Europe’s biggest economy shrank at the end of 2021 and as it faces a bumpy start to this year, with the rapid spread of COVID-19’s Omicron variant deterring people from shopping and travel and supply bottlenecks holding back manufacturers.
Output in Germany fell by between 0.5 percent and 1 percent in the fourth quarter, the state statistics agency Destatis said.
Forecasts are also shaky for the first three months of 2022, and two straight quarters of falling output would leave Germany in recession, according to one commonly used definition.
Australian judge to hold emergency Djokovic hearing: court
The Australian judge who blocked Novak Djokovic’s deportation scheduled an emergency hearing late on Friday, after the government cancelled the tennis star’s visa for a second time.
“A directions hearing will be conducted tonight at 8:45 pm (09:45 GMT) before Judge Anthony Kelly of the Federal Circuit Court,” a court spokesman said in a statement.
Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood requested an injunction against the Serbian’s removal and appealed for him to be allowed to stay out of immigration detention as the case proceeds.
“We are very concerned about time,” Wood told an emergency hearing three days before Djokovic tries to defend his Australian Open crown.
Bangladesh tightens curbs as COVID cases rise
Bangladesh has enforced a new set of rules and guidelines to check a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections in the past week.
The South Asian country reported 3,359 new cases and 12 COVID-related deaths on Thursday, with a positivity rate of 12 percent, according to a daily bulletin issued by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
Read more here.
Philippines eyes ‘unvaccinated list’ amid Duterte’s arrest threat
The Philippine government is looking to issue an order that would allow village officials to go “house-to-house” and record the vaccination status of all residents as it extends limits on mobility until the end of January due to a new surge in COVID-19 cases.
The move comes after President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning last week that he will order the arrest of those of have not been vaccinated to contain the spread of the disease.
Read more here.
Swedish PM Andersson tests positive for COVID
Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has tested positive for COVID-19, according to her spokesperson.
“The prime minister has tested positive for COVID-19 in a rapid test. She is following current recommendations and will carry out her work from home,” the spokesperson was quoted by news agency TT as saying.
Thousands gather at Hindu festival in India as virus surges
Tens of thousands of devout Hindus, led by heads of monasteries and ash-smeared ascetics, took a holy dip into the frigid waters of the Ganges River in northern India despite rising COVID-19 infections in the country.
Hindu pilgrims congregated at the Sangam, the confluence of three rivers – the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati – in Prayagraj city, 200km (124 miles) northeast of Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, to participate in the Magh Mela festival, one of the most sacred pilgrimages in Hinduism.
They bathed in the Ganges waters, a ritual Hindus believe will wash away their sins and free them from the cycle of death and rebirth.
J&J booster 85 percent effective against Omicron: Study
A booster shot of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has shown 85 percent effectiveness in protecting against the Omicron variant for 1-2 months after it is received, according to the head of South Africa’s Medical Research Council (SAMRC).
Glenda Grey presented the findings of a SAMRC study at a South African health ministry briefing on the COVID-19 fourth wave, which has been driven by the new variant.
Australia cancels Djokovic’s visa again over vaccination
The Australian government cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time, saying the world tennis No 1, unvaccinated for COVID-19, may pose a risk to the community.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used discretionary powers to again cancel Djokovic’s visa, after a court quashed an earlier revocation and released him from immigration detention on Monday.
“Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” Hawke said in a statement.
Read more here.
Hong Kong airport suspends transit flights from high-risk countries
Hong Kong International Airport has said passenger transit flights from countries considered high-risk because of the coronavirus will be suspended from January 16 to February 15.
“Passenger transfer/transit services via Hong Kong International Airport for any persons who have stayed in Group A specified place(s) in the past 21 days will be suspended,” the airport said in a statement on its website.
Hong Kong considers 153 countries as high risk.
Read more here.
Shanghai cuts some tourism trips on COVID-19 cases again
The eastern Chinese financial hub of Shanghai has suspended some tourism activities as part of its efforts to head off a handful of sporadic new local transmissions, while it also faces an increase in COVID-19 infections from overseas.
Shanghai’s tourism and culture authority said travel agencies and online tourism companies must once again halt organising group tours between Shanghai and other provinces, regions or municipalities, after the city reported five new domestically transmitted infections, all linked to a previous arrival from overseas.
The order, in line with a national guideline to cut tourist activities in provincial divisions where new infections have emerged, came less than a month after Shanghai lifted a previous suspension that had come into effect in November, according to local government statements and a report by a newspaper managed by China’s tourism authority.
Cambodia begins fourth round of COVID vaccinations
Cambodia has begun a fourth round of vaccinations against the coronavirus following the recent discovery of cases of the Omicron variant, with high-risk groups being the first to receive their next shots.
Among those waiting at hospitals and clinics were frontline medical staff as well as members of the armed forces.
Government ministers, including Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, also received booster doses on Friday. Hun Sen has appealed to all Cambodians to get fully vaccinated, including a booster, saying that is the only way to make sure to keep their families and communities safe from COVID-19.
‘Alarm’ in China at latest outbreak
Al Jazeera’s Britt Clennett, reporting from Hong Kong, says there is growing “alarm” in China about the latest coronavirus outbreak.
The country confirmed 201 new cases for January 13, up from 190 a day earlier. Authorities also reported 42 asymptomatic cases, which China does not report among its confirmed cases.
Clennett says the concern is that cases from Tianjin, just 30 minutes by train from Beijing, could spread to the capital just as it is preparing to host the Winter Olympics. She says authorities are “taking no chances” and have ramped up checks on travellers to the capital.
Omicron set to become dominant in South Korea
Omicron is set to become the dominant variant in South Korea, with officials keeping a close eye on the spread of the virus ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year.
“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly especially from last week and is on the verge of becoming the dominant variant as it accounted for 20 percent of domestic cases two days ago,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said during a COVID-19 response meeting, according to Yonhap news agency.
“I request people to restrain from their hometown visits and meetings with relatives and families during the Lunar New Year holiday period.”
While the government is extending health curbs until February 6 given the concerns, it says it will also relax the rules slightly so that six fully vaccinated people can attend private gatherings rather than four. A 9pm curfew on restaurants, cafes and bars will continue.
Philippines to extend COVID-19 curbs until January 31
The Philippines’s coronavirus task force plans to extend movement curbs in the area around Manila and other provinces until the end of January, according to acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles.
The Southeast Asian nation is battling its biggest-ever surge in COVID-19 cases.
Online and physical classes at all public and private schools in Manila began a one-week suspension on Friday.
Australia’s NSW reports record deaths
The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths for a third day.
The state reported 29 of the 56 deaths announced in Australia on Friday.
The surge in Omicron cases is putting pressure on hospitals, but health officials say they expect admissions to reach their peak next week.
The state’s Health Deputy Secretary, Susan Pearce, told the media the number of patients in hospital was better than the best-case scenario in official modelling and plateauing “but that plateauing is obviously still at a relatively high level of COVID patients in our hospitals and in our (intensive care).”
More party revelations for UK PM Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing new allegations of his office partying while citizens were being told not to gather for social events because of COVID-19.
The Daily Telegraph says the latest gatherings took place on April 16 last year – the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral – despite rules limiting the size of gatherings both indoors and out.
Johnson is already under pressure, with some in his party calling for his resignation after he admitted on Wednesday that he attended a staff drinks gathering during the May 2020 lockdown. He told parliament that he thought it was a work event.
Boris Johnson has to go now. He broke the rules and presided over an arrogant culture of one rule for the Tories and another for the rest of us.
Tory MPs have a duty to remove him from office. It is their integrity on the line – and they won’t be forgiven if they refuse to act. https://t.co/JsPrHGiVFF
— Ian Blackford (@Ianblackford_MP) January 13, 2022
Dozens of people in the basement with a DJ, dancing and a suitcase full of booze? I still can’t conceive how anyone – anyone – thought any of this was OK. Especially when the rest of the country was doing their damndest to play by the rules, often at great personal cost. https://t.co/GvhFE32utY
— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonPC) January 13, 2022
Djokovic practises as clock ticks down on Australia visa decision
Tennis star Novak Djokovic has been out practising in Melbourne this morning as the Australian government prepares to announce its decision on his visa status.
Immigration officials cancelled his visa when he arrived in the country last week ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament, citing insufficient evidence of a medical exemption to COVID-19 vaccination.
That decision was reversed by a court.
The top men’s tennis player is awaiting a decision on his visa from Immigration Minister Alex Hawk.
WHO approves new COVID-19 treatments
A WHO expert panel has added two more drugs to its guidelines for recommended treatments for COVID-19.
The drug baricitinib, which is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, is “strongly recommended” for patients with severe or critical COVID-19, in combination with corticosteroids.
Sotrovimab, an experimental monoclonal antibody treatment, has been given a “conditional recommendation” for those with non-severe COVID-19 but at the very highest risk of hospital admission.
You can read more on that story here.
You can read all the updates from January 13 here.