Tue, 18 Jan 2022

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued on Monday a "level 4" recommendation against travel to France, Portugal, Jordan, Cyprus, Andorra, Liechtenstein and Tanzania, adding to a long list of destinations including Germany and Denmark.

NEW YORK, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- The total number of reported COVID-19 cases in the United States is to hit 50 million, while the Omicron variant had been found in 19 U.S. states as of Monday, five days after the first known case in the country was reported in California, a sign of its potentially heightened transmissibility.

Johns Hopkins University tallied the country's coronavirus cases as nearly 49.3 million as of Tuesday noon, while "public health experts nationwide are stressing that the overwhelming majority of the nation's coronavirus cases are still caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant, which has led to some of the worst spikes of the pandemic," reported The Washington Post.

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MORE CONTAGIOUS

Early reports from South Africa seem to indicate the Omicron variant of coronavirus is much more contagious than previous variants while causing milder disease, though experts there warn definitive data won't be available for weeks, reported USA Today on Tuesday. Omicron is causing large-margin rise of COVID-19 cases in South Africa, but not of deaths.

"This virus comes with both barrels loaded -- high infectivity and potentially the ability for immune evasion. But maybe what it's lacking is pathogenicity," Warner Greene, director of the Center for HIV Cure Research at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, was quoted as saying.

Omicron is the most recently discovered variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. It was first detected in southern Africa and named a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26.

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TRAVEL RECOMMENDATIONS

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued on Monday a "level 4" recommendation against travel to France, Portugal, Jordan, Cyprus, Andorra, Liechtenstein and Tanzania, adding to a long list of destinations including Germany and Denmark.

The advisory for France came as the country is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases among young people. The country took action on Monday, announcing that nightclubs will be closed for four weeks and COVID-19 regulations in primary schools, mainly when it comes to masks, would be heightened.

The U.S. State Department issued an aligning warning against travel to France, Portugal, Jordan, Cyprus, Andorra, Liechtenstein and Tanzania and added Fiji to it's "Do Not Travel" list because of COVID-19 "related restrictions."

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PILLS TO COME

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to soon authorize a pill made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, called molnupiravir, which reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 by 30 percent if taken within five days of the onset of symptoms, reported The New York Times on Tuesday.

Another antiviral pill, developed by Pfizer, may perform even better. An interim analysis showed that the drug was 85 percent effective when taken within five days of the start of symptoms. The FDA could authorize it by year's end. The two pills "are expected to work against all versions of the virus," said the report.

Since the start of the pandemic, scientists have hoped for convenient options like these: pills that could be prescribed by any doctor and picked up at a local drugstore. "These two pills may be just the beginning," and an arsenal of drugs needs to be deployed, "especially if those variants erode the protection of existing vaccines," it added.

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