South Korea softens borders; Joe Biden’s reversal of justice: virus update

Germany reported a record number of new coronavirus cases for the third day in a row as the highly transmissible omicron variant swept through Europe’s biggest economy. The UK is set to scrap Covid passes this month, The Times reported, citing a government official it did not identify.

Hong Kong will extend the ban on flights from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan and the Philippines until February 4, reported the South China Morning Post. Chief Executive Carrie Lam will announce the measures at a press conference later Friday, the newspaper said.

At least a dozen Hong Kong-based chief executives at banks ranging from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. Morgan Stanley and UBS Group AG are stuck in countries ranging from the United States to Australia due to flight bans, people familiar with said the matter.

  • Virus Tracker: cases nearly 320 million; deaths exceed 5.5 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: more than 9.6 billion vaccines administered
  • US spotlight: Covid hospital admissions show omicron spreading on west coast
  • Chaos at Hong Kong quarantine camp leaves some inmates trapped
  • China outbreak reaches six provinces as omicron takes hold

No need to wear masks outdoors in Paris (2:23 p.m.)

Parisians are no longer required to wear masks outdoors after an administrative court invalidated a local rule put in place from December 31 to try to stem the spread of omicron, Les Echos reported on Friday. . The court decision followed another in the neighboring department of Versailles which called the measure an “excessive” and disproportionate interference with individual rights, the newspaper said.

Hong Kong Bankers Stuck Overseas (1:53 p.m. HK)

Among those blocked are division heads in investment banking, wealth and asset management and other functions, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing internal affairs. The banning of flights from eight countries, as part of an aberrant Covid Zero strategy, threatens the city’s appeal as a regional financial hub.

Australia’s worst outbreak near peak (1:15 p.m. HK)

The country’s most recent wave of Covid-19 could peak within weeks, government officials have said, potentially easing pressure on overcrowded hospitals and businesses struggling with supply issues. The country is experiencing its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic with more than 100,000 cases reported daily, fueled by the now-dominant omicron strain. The variant accounts for around 90% of cases and two-thirds of intensive care admissions in its most populous state, New South Wales.

Australian Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said he expected to see a decline in the number of new cases as early as late January or early February, adding that infections in NSW may have already reached their maximum.

Philippines Limits Record Cases (12:19 p.m. HK)

The Philippines will maintain movement restrictions in its capital from January 16 to 31, with daily Covid-19 infections and the percentage of positive tests hitting record highs. Metro Manila, which accounts for a third of economic output, will remain under Alert Level 3, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a Friday briefing. Outdoor restaurants can operate at half capacity, while cinemas, gyms and other indoor businesses are limited to 30% capacity.

Closure of auto factories in China (11:33 a.m. HK)

Global automakers have been caught up in the latest coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Tianjin. A plant operated by Volkswagen AG’s joint venture with FAW Group has been closed since Monday, along with a gearbox supplier controlled by the German giant. They join a factory of Toyota Motor Corp. closed for five days.

Hong Kong Extends Restrictions (11:20 a.m. HK)

The city will extend social restrictions through the end of the Lunar New Year to help contain an outbreak of omicron that has brought local cases to around 60, local media reported.

Existing restrictions that have kept social venues closed and shortened dining hours at restaurants will remain until Feb. 3, local channels Cable TV and HK01 reported, citing unidentified people. The restrictions began on January 7 and were originally scheduled to last two weeks. The two-week addition means they will be in place throughout the Chinese New Year holiday which occurs during the first three days of February. An announcement regarding the extension is expected to be made in the afternoon, Cable TV said.

Germany Cases Hit Record High (10:41 a.m. HK)

Infections rose by 92,223, the largest one-day increase since the start of the pandemic, according to figures released Friday by the country’s RKI public health institute. The seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people hit a record high of 470.6.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz this week issued an urgent plea for Germans to get vaccinated against Covid-19, saying failure to do so puts others at risk as the nation grapples with the omicron. More than 72% of the population is fully vaccinated with two injections and more than 45% received a booster injection, according to the latest data from the RKI. But there remain pockets of intense opposition to inoculations.

Citigroup Vaccine Compliance (10:01 a.m. HK)

Citigroup Inc. said 99% of its U.S. employees have complied with its vaccination mandate, one of the strictest on Wall Street. The company expects more employees to comply with the order before Friday’s deadline, human resources manager Sara Wechter said in a LinkedIn post Thursday. As part of the mandate, staff members were able to benefit from exemptions.

Airlines Slash Services to China (9:58 a.m. HK)

China is more cut off from international travel than at any other stage of the pandemic as it tries to stamp out Covid with strict controls on movement. Airlines in key markets have responded by cutting services to already low levels, with fewer than 500 flights to China scheduled this week compared to around 10,000 this time two years ago.

German business soars;  Bankers stranded in Hong Kong: virus update

Covid Cases in China (9:03 a.m. HK)

The country reported 143 new confirmed local infections on Thursday, including 98 in Henan province, 34 in Tianjin city, eight in Xi’an, two in Shanghai and one in Zhongshan, according to the National Health Commission. China also reported four new local asymptomatic cases on Thursday, including 3 in Shanghai and 1 in Tianjin.

UK Ready to Ditch Covid Passes (8:14 a.m. HK)

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has decided Covid-19 certification is no longer needed as the Omicron wave subsides in the UK, The Times reports, citing an unidentified government source. There has always been a very high threshold for the policy to require proof of vaccination or a negative test to participate in major events in England, and it looks like in a few weeks that threshold will no longer be met, according to the source governmental.

South Korea Expands Help for Small Businesses (7:51 a.m. HK)

The country is expected to ease restrictions on private gatherings for three weeks starting Jan. 17 as the Lunar New Year approaches in early February. The government will allow up to six people, out of the current four, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Friday.

The government plans to allocate additional fiscal support to small business owners and traders affected by the spread of the coronavirus, and a proposal will be presented to lawmakers ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday later this month, Kim said. As officials prepared to relax private gathering rules, they said closing hours for cafes and restaurants would remain unchanged at 9 p.m.

Canada Bans Entry of Unvaccinated Truckers (6:42 a.m. HK)

Canada is sticking with its plan to impose a vaccine requirement on all truckers entering the United States starting Saturday, despite fears it could undermine supply chains and hurt the economy. In a statement Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government confirmed its intention to refuse entry to the country to unvaccinated truckers if they are foreign nationals. Meanwhile, unvaccinated Canadian drivers will lose an exemption from testing and quarantine requirements.

US Nurses Protest Worsening Workplaces (5:25 p.m. NY)

Chicago nurses joined colleagues across the country on Thursday in protesting working conditions they say have rapidly deteriorated as hordes of Covid-19 patients push hospitals to the limit.

The protests, organized by National Nurses United, a union with 175,000 members nationwide, were part of a busy day of action in 11 US states and Washington, DC today “to demand that the industry invest in safe staff and to demand that President Biden follow through on his campaign promise to protect nurses and put public health first,” according to the union. In Chicago, members are still working and taking action. was part of their bargaining process, but other sections are on strike.

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