(Reuters) – Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic asked an Australian court to block his deportation ahead of the Australian Open after the government cancelled his visa for the second time over COVID-19 entry regulations.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Hindu worshippers gathered on the banks of India’s Ganges river for a holy bathe despite a 30-fold rise in coronavirus cases in the past month.
* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s authority took yet another hit after revelations that his staff had partied in Downing Street as Queen Elizabeth mourned her husband, at a time when mixing indoors was banned.
* Italy lifted an entry ban on people who had visited any of eight southern African states which it imposed in November as the Omicron variant began to spread.
* Swedish prime minister has tested positive for COVID-19, her spokesperson said, as a growing wave of infections swept the country.
* Norway will offer COVID-19 vaccines to all children aged 5 years and above, the government said, having previously only offered vaccines to children aged 12 and older.
* Brazil is suffering a sharp rise in cases as the Omicron variant spreads through the country, putting pressure on health services and weighing on an already sputtering economy.
* The U.S. Supreme Court blocked Joe Biden’s vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses, a policy the conservative justices deemed an improper imposition on the lives and health of Americans, while endorsing a separate federal vaccine requirement for healthcare facilities.
* China suspended four more incoming U.S. flights, bringing the total cancellation this year to 74, as infections caused by the Omicron variant soared to record highs in the United States.
* Hong Kong will suspend for a month transit flights from around 150 countries and territories considered high risk, deepening the global financial hub’s isolation.
* The Philippines will push through with its plan next week to ban from public transportation people who are not vaccinated.
* A South Korean court ruled that large shops and teenagers should be temporarily excluded from vaccine pass mandates in the capital Seoul.
* A Johnson and Johnson vaccine booster shot is 85% effective in protecting against being hospitalised by the Omicron variant for 1-2 months after it is received, the head of South Africa’s Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said.
* Thailand’s health minister said the country planned to develop the anti-viral pill molnupiravir to combat rising infections.
* Unvaccinated people infected with the Omicron variant may be less prone to severe illness and requiring hospital care or dying than was the case with previous variants, a South African study showed.
* European stocks dropped in early trading after more Fed policymakers signalled they will start to raise U.S. interest rates in March to combat inflation. [MKTS/GLOB]
* China posted a record trade surplus in December and in 2021, as exports outperformed expectations during a global pandemic.
* The German economy grew 2.7% in 2021 after plunging 4.6% in the first coronavirus crisis year, data showed, as microchip shortages hurt the car industry and further restrictions slowed down the recovery of Europe’s largest economy.
* Britain’s economy grew strongly in November to finally surpass its size just before the country went into its first lockdown, official data showed.
(Compiled by Marta Frackowiak and Sherry Jacob-Phillips; Edited by Milla Nissi)