Israeli researchers said they found that a three-jab course of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine provided significant protection against the Omicron variant, Reuters reports.
The findings were similar to those presented by BioNTech and Pfizer earlier in the week, which were an early signal that booster shots could be key to protect against infection from the newly identified variant. The study compared the blood of 20 people who had received two vaccine doses five to six months earlier with the same number of individuals who had received a booster a month before. “People who received the second dose five or six months ago do not have any neutralisation ability against the Omicron. While they do have some against the Delta (strain),” Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Sheba, told reporters.
The first six cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus have been detected in Turkey, health minister Fahrettin Koca was reported as saying on Saturday by state broadcaster TRT Haber.
Five of the cases were in the western city of Izmir and one in Istanbul, but none of those affected needed hospital treatment, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
Three West Indies cricketers and a member of the team management have tested positive for Covid-19 after they arrived in Pakistan for the upcoming tour.
There was confusion on Saturday about which age groups in England are now eligible to book a booster jab with the NHS, after an apparent glitch allowed younger people to book before they were expected to qualify.
People aged 30 and over in England were expected to be able to book a Covid-19 booster from Monday as long as it has been three months since their second vaccine dose, but many 30-somethings reported on social media that they had been able to book their appointments already.
The NHS website still said on Saturday evening that “the NHS is working on plans to offer a booster dose to everyone aged 18 to 39 years old”, and that people should note that this service is not yet available to book via their portal.
“Please wait to be contacted by the NHS,” a disclaimer on the website added.
Almost twice the number of coronavirus patients could be admitted to hospital in England compared with last year due to the Omicron variant, new modelling suggests.
Experts from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have calculated figures which propose that a large wave of infections could occur over the next few months if tougher Covid measures are not brought in, PA reports.
The study projects a median peak of 7,190 daily hospital admissions in England in the worst case scenario – which could see the variant evading vaccines at a high rate as well as low effectiveness against the variant from boosters.
The most optimistic scenario (low rate of the variant evading vaccines, high effectiveness of boosters) “is projected to lead to peak daily hospital admissions around 60% as high as the peak in January 2021 in England”.
This would mean a median peak of 2,410 daily admissions compared with 3,800 daily admissions in January this year, the study said.
France has also reported 120,383 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, Reuters reports.
France has reported 53,720 new coronavirus cases.
The country has had more than 8.1 million cases overall.
Here is more on the protests in Vienna against mandatory vaccines and confinement orders for people who are unvaccinated.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, a former UK government adviser, has tweeted the following:
More than half of Angola’s doctors will indefinitely continue a national strike over pay and conditions as the coronavirus pandemic strains the African nation’s depleted public health services.
Angola resorted to asking China and Cuba for help to fight the first Covid-19 wave last year with more than 250 Cuban doctors arriving, AFP reports.
According to 2020 figures, Angola has 5,200 doctors.
The country’s national doctors’ trade union on Friday said 3,000 of its members would “continue the national doctors’ strike in all public health units” after the industrial action began at the start of the week.
Tens of thousands gathered in Austria’s capital Vienna to protest mandatory Covid vaccines and home confinement orders for those who have not yet received the jabs.
Police said an estimated 44,000 people attended the demonstration, the latest in a string of huge weekend protests since Austria last month became the first EU country to say it would make Covid vaccinations mandatory.
A partial confinement since last month ends on Sunday for the vaccinated, but those who have not received the required doses will have to remain at home, AFP reports.
UK Covid death toll increases by 132
The UK recorded 54,073 cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total to 10,771,444.
There were also 132 deaths recorded, bringing the total to 146,387.
More data from Italy. Patients in hospital with Covid – not including those in intensive care – stood at 6,539 on Saturday, up from 6,483 a day earlier.
There were 76 new admissions to intensive care units, the same as the previous day, Reuters reports.
The total number of intensive care patients edged up to 818 from 816 on Friday, which compares with 708 a week earlier.
Some 565,077 tests were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 716,287, the health ministry said.
Dozens of US Navy medics have deployed to New Mexico to treat a Delta variant-fueled surge in Covid-19 patients as part of a military operation to treat virus hotspots across western and midwest states.
New Mexico is suffering one of the highest levels of new coronavirus infections in the country, its hospitals reaching record capacity levels.
Nearly 50 Navy medics are treating Covid patients at the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, northwest New Mexico, where critical care patient numbers have been over 200% of capacity for weeks, Reuters reports.
The speed at which scientists worked to develop the first Covid jabs was unprecedented. Just nine months after the UK went into lockdown, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan officially became the first person in the world outside a trial to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
But the virus is mutating, and the emergence of the Omicron variant last month is already focusing attention on the next generation of jabs.
Italy reported 96 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, the health ministry said.
The daily tally of new infections rose by 21,042, Reuters reports.
Italy has registered 134,765 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth highest in the world.
The country has reported 5.2m cases to date.