The latest on the Omicron coronavirus variant – CNN International

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By Ivana Kottasová, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN
Our live coverage had ended for the day. Read the latest here.
From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin in London

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday it is not clear yet whether the Omicron coronavirus variant is more transmissible or causes more or less severe illness. 
“It is yet to be seen how and whether the latest COVID-19 variant of concern Omicron will be more transmissible or more or less severe,“ WHO’s Regional Director for Europe Dr. Hans Kluge said at a news conference.
There have been some positive signs coming from South Africa, where the Omicron variant accounts for the majority of new coronavirus infections. Doctors there have reported that cases caused by the variant are generally mild, although they cautioned these are early days.
During the briefing, which focused on Europe and Central Asia, Kluge said that while the Omicron variant is “in sight and on the rise,” it is the Delta variant that is the problem in the region right now.
“However we succeed against Delta today is a win over Omicron tomorrow before it eventually surges,” Kluge said, adding: “We are in the business of stabilizing a pandemic and that means not one variant at a time, but all variants at once.”
From CNN’s Beijing Bureau

Officials in the Inner Mongolian city of Manzhouli have launched a campaign to track those who failed to join the city-wide mass testing, vowing to “test everyone who should be tested” and “quarantine everyone who should be quarantined,” the municipal government said on Tuesday.
The campaign was announced days after two Chinese officials were dismissed and four reprimanded over the weekend for “poor performance of duty” and “slack response” over the Covid-19 outbreak in Manzhouli. 
The Inner Mongolia’s border city has conducted daily city-wide mass testing drives in the past 10 days for its 300,000 residents since the outbreak started on November 27. The latest round started on Tuesday morning, according to the municipal government.
Overall, China reported 60 locally-transmitted cases of coronavirus on Monday, of which 55 were reported in northern China’s Manzhouli Municipal Government.
Two cases were reported in northeastern Heilongjiang province, two cases in southwestern Yunnan province and one case in the southeastern Zhejiang province, according to the country’s National Health Commission.
The total number of the cases linked to the outbreak in Inner Mongolia’s border city of Manzhouli stands at 377, according to a CNN tally.

Scientists are emphasizing that it is still too early to make any firm conclusions on the severity of the Omicron coronavirus variant, and health experts are encouraging people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, as well as taking other precautions.
Yet — while the new variant appears to spread very quickly — there is some heartening evidence in the early data from South Africa, which suggests that Covid-19 cases caused by Omicron might be relatively mild.
Dr. Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and member of the African Task Force for Coronavirus, told CNN on Monday that doctors treating patients with Omicron have reported seeing infections that were generally mild. 
“One has to be very careful in overinterpreting that because it’s still very early days in that severe cases, you know, usually take longer, they occur in weeks two, three and four,” he added.
Meanwhile, Omicron is still spreading worldwide, and many countries continue to battle the Delta variant. This includes the United States, which is reporting 120,000 new daily Covid-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
From CNN’s Luke Henderson and Lauren Kent

England has detected community transmission of the Omicron coronavirus variant, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Monday.
“We can conclude there is now community transmission across multiple regions of England,” Javid said in the House of Commons. 
Javid said the United Kingdom has confirmed 261 Omicron cases in England, 71 in Scotland, and 4 in Wales, for a total of 336 confirmed Omicron variant cases. “This includes cases with no links to international travel,” Javid added.
“Recent analysis from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant than for the Delta variant,” Javid said.
“But we don’t yet have a complete picture of whether Omicron causes more severe disease or indeed how it interacts with the vaccines, and so we can’t say for certain at this point whether Omicron has the potential to knock us off our road to recovery,” he added.
Last week, the UK Health Security Agency told CNN that community transmission of the Omicron variant was detected in several cases found in Scotland.
From CNN’s Stephanie Halasz
The German branch of McDonald’s has tweaked its marketing slogan to “Vaccination — I’m lovin’ it” on Tuesday, while Nestlè turned its own tagline into “Have a break — Have a shot.”
The two companies have joined more than 150 brands in Germany to temporarily change their advertising slogans to urge people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Germany is struggling with vaccine hesitancy as it battles the fourth wave of the epidemic, with high hospitalizations and infection rates.
Under the hashtag #ZusammenGegenCorona, or #TogetheragainstCorona, the brands are trying to help spread awareness of the benefits of vaccinations.
Porsche, for example, simply says: “Vaccinate.” Condor, the airline, tells people “We love vaccinating,” changed from their usual  “We love flying.” BMW, instead of “Joy from driving,” has “Joy from vaccinating.” 
Antoni, the Berlin advertising company behind the campaign, said the idea was simple: “Literally ask every brand in Germany to change their slogan into a call to action to encourage vaccinations.” 
The brands answered, Antoni said in a statement. Within a couple of days, companies such as Burger King, McDonalds, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Edeka and Lidl were on board.
From CNN’s Jen Christensen
The World Health Organization made a strong recommendation Monday against using convalescent plasma to treat Covid-19 patients, saying there was no indication it helped patients and that it took time and resources to administer.
Convalescent plasma is made from the blood of people who have recovered from an infection such as Covid-19. Plasma is the liquid portion of blood carrying immune cells and antibodies — proteins the body makes to fight infection. The plasma can be infused into a sick person in the hope of speeding recovery with from some diseases.
The new WHO recommendations, which were published in the British Medical Journal, said:
Convalescent plasma treatment has been around since the late Victorian era and has been used to treat two other deadly coronaviruses, including MERS and SARS.
WHO said it changed its recommendations because it recognized “no clear benefit for critical outcomes such as mortality and mechanical ventilation for patients with non-severe, severe, or critical illness, and significant resource requirements in terms of cost and time for administration.”
For patients with non-severe illness, the guidance said, it was not justified. For patients with severe and critical illness, there was “sufficient uncertainty” to warrant the continuation of trials.
The decision was based on evidence from 16 trials involving 16,236 patients with non-severe, severe, and critical Covid-19 infection. 
Monday’s guidance also recommended against the use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine and added to previous recommendations for the use of corticosteroids in patients with severe or critical Covid-19 and for the use of interleukin-6 receptor blockers, as well as conditional recommendations for the use of monoclonal antibody treatments in some patients.
From CNN’s Esha Mitra in New Delhi 
More than 100 people who arrived in India from abroad now appear to be untraceable after some of their cellphones were switched off and residence addresses provided on self-declaration forms were found to be locked, an official from the city of Kalyan-Dombivali, near Mumbai, said Monday. 
India imposed new rules on international arrivals last week, in reaction to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
People arriving in the country must now submit a self-declaration form to an online government portal that includes a 14-day travel history and a proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to their departure. 
On Monday, chief of Kalyan Dombivali’s administrative body, Vijay Suryawanshi, was quoted by Press Trust of India (PTI), an Indian news agency, saying 109 of 295 recent foreign arrivals are untraceable.
While Suryawanshi did not elaborate on where the passengers had flown in from, he told PTI that everyone flying into India from an “at risk” country would have to quarantine at home for seven days in keeping with federal guidelines.
From CNN’s Forrest Brown and Marnie Hunter
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put five places in Europe — including one of the world’s biggest tourism powerhouses — on its list of destinations for “very high” Covid-19 travel risk.
France and four of its European neighbors moved to Level 4, the CDC’s highest-risk category, on Monday. France was the world’s top destination for international tourist arrivals pre-pandemic, according to 2019 figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Two other places — one in the Middle East, the other in East Africa — were also moved to Level 4. Those seven nations are:
Destinations that fall into the CDC’s “Covid-19 Very High” Level 4 category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.
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