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WHO expects to have more information on Omicron transmission ‘within days’

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WHO expects to have more information on Omicron transmission 'within days'
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: WHO Technical lead head COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove attends a news conference organized by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Gene

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization expects to have more information on the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus within days, its technical lead on COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said in a briefing on Wednesday.

That was faster than the “weeks” the WHO had predicted last week that it would take to assess the data available on the variant after designating it a “variant of concern”, its highest rating.

Whether the variant is more transmissible or evades vaccines are some of the major questions that still need answering.

Vaccine developers have said it will take about two weeks to assess whether their shots are effective against it.

Van Kerkhove said one possible scenario was that the new variant, which was first reported in southern Africa, may be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant. She said it was not yet known if Omicron makes people more ill.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said the agency believes the existing COVID-19 vaccines will work against the variant.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergency director, reiterated the agency’s opposition to the blanket bans on flights to and from southern Africa that have been imposed by Britain and other countries, saying it would not prevent the variant’s spread:

“The idea you can just put a hermetic seal on some countries is not possible. I can’t see the logic from an epidemiological or public health perspective.”

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Coronavirus

NHL postpones 14 games, will not resume before Tuesday

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NHL postpones 14 games, will not resume before Tuesday
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Jan 26, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; A view of a puck and the NHL logo and the face-off circle before the game between the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) – The National Hockey League (NHL) pushed back its return from the holiday break by another day after postponing Monday’s 14-game schedule to allow the league and teams time to complete COVID-19 tests and assess their ability to compete.

With the latest postponements taking the total to 64 games, the NHL said in a statement on Friday that it plans to resume the regular season on Tuesday.

“In order to allow the league an adequate opportunity to analyze league-wide testing results and assess clubs’ readiness to play, the target date for resumption of game play will be pushed back an additional day,” the league said.

“Teams will return to practice on Dec. 26 and it is expected that the league will provide an update on its return to play plans by the end of day on Sunday.”

The league was originally set to shut down from Friday to Sunday for Christmas but the NHL and its players’ union agreed this week to bring the shutdown forward to Wednesday-Saturday as coronavirus cases surge.

NHL players will not compete in the men’s ice hockey tournament at next year’s Beijing Winter Games due to COVID-19 concerns. The league said it would use the Olympic window to reschedule postponed games.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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Coronavirus

Two more members of K-pop group BTS test positive for COVID-19

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Two more members of K-pop group BTS test positive for COVID-19
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope of BTS arrive at the 2021 American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Aude Guerrucci

By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – Two more members of the K-pop group BTS on Saturday tested positive for COVID-19 following their return to South Korea from the band’s first pandemic-era concerts in the United States, their management company Big Hit Music said.

Rapper RM, 27, and vocalist Jin, 29, were diagnosed with COVID-19 a day after Suga, a songwriter and rapper for the seven-member group, tested positive.

All three had completed second doses of a coronavirus vaccine in August, the company said.

Since their 2013 debut, BTS have spearheaded a global K-Pop craze with catchy, upbeat music and dances, as well as lyrics and social campaigns aimed at empowering young people.

The concerts in the United States were BTS’ first in the country since 2019, when they toured across Asia, Europe and North America.

RM, whose real name is Kim Nam-joon, and Jin, whose real name is Kim Seok-jin, initially tested negative on returning to South Korea earlier this month.

RM, who tested positive as he prepared to leave mandatory quarantine, is showing no symptoms, Big Hit Music said.

Jin tested negative a second time as he left quarantine, but was later diagnosed after experiencing symptoms, which the company said were mild.

Neither Jin or RM had any contact with other group members after their return to South Korea, the company said.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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Bethlehem celebrates muted Christmas with few pilgrims to bring cheer

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Bethlehem celebrates muted Christmas with few pilgrims to bring cheer
© Reuters. Worshipers attend Christmas morning mass at Saint Catherine’s Church, in the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, December 25, 2021. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

2/5

By Stephen Farrell

BETHLEHEM (Reuters) – The bells of Bethlehem rang out under grey skies on Christmas morning across streets whose closed pastel or green shutters were like an Advent calendar that nobody had turned up to open.

Shopkeepers and hotel owners in the Palestinian city reported far lower business than the years before coronavirus closures halted the arrival of wealthy foreign tourists, devastating the economy of the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

In Manger Square, hundreds of Christians – mostly those who live, work or study in Israel and the occupied West Bank – gathered near the tree and crib to sing carols and bring some cheer to the scene outside the Church of the Nativity.

But Joseph Giacaman, whose family has sold souvenirs around the square for a century, said business was around 2% of pre-pandemic years. “We were closed until three weeks ago. I have sold maybe two or three olive wood cribs. In normal years, we’d sell three or four each day throughout the year,” he said.

The back streets were virtually empty.

Star Street had been renovated in recent years in the aim of drawing crowds, but here as elsewhere the Omicron variant dashed those hopes in November when Israel began closing its borders.

‘OPEN HEARTS TO HOPE’

Earlier in December, Bethlehem mayor Anton Salman had sought to bolster morale by walking along the cobbled street at night, shaking hands of those selling mulled wine and olive wood carvings. But the market’s opening could not continue its momentum with no foreign coach parties to sell to.

Across town, Bethlehem’s grandest hotel, the Jacir Palace, lay closed and padlocked.

And in the nearby Nativity Hotel, receptionist Victor Zeidan said he was doing a 12-hour shift at lower pay to get a rare day’s work checking in Palestinian Christian and Filipino care workers who briefly boosted occupancy.

“I haven’t even celebrated this year, I didn’t get much work before so now I am taking the chance,” he said.

Jerise Qumsieh, of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told Reuters that this year was better than last because there were at least some domestic visitors compared with the tighter restrictions of 2020, but that foreign tourism was “zero”.

Nevertheless, in the early hours of Saturday the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, urged a reduced midnight mass congregation to search for hope.

“In this time of health emergency and prolonged political emergency, many different voices are heard in families: some undermine confidence, take away hope, extinguish love; others, however, are more encouraging,” he said.

“We need to seek and find the voice that leads us to Jesus and to salvation, that opens hearts to hope.”

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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