The latest on the Omicron variant

By Ivana Kottasová and Kathryn Snowdon, CNN

Updated 6:31 a.m. ET, December 7, 2021
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8:11 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Remember the man trying to fool a vaccine nurse with a fake arm? It turns out he's a dentist

From CNN's Livia Borghese in Rome

A new detail has emerged in the story of a 50-year-old man who tried last week to pass off a silicon arm as his own at a Covid-19 vaccination clinic in an attempt to get a vaccine certificate without actually getting inoculated, in northern Italy.

The man is a dentist.

The doctors' association in the Italian town of Biella confirmed his occupation without giving further detail.

"When we learned that it was a dentist enrolled in our local association, we felt deep indignation. All doctors and dentists have given a lot in these 2 years of pandemic, dealing with the health requirements of citizens with self-denial and a spirit of service, even putting their own existence at serious risk," the doctors' association added. 

Read the full story here.

8:02 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Italy’s new Covid-19 ‘super green pass’ comes into force

From CNN's Sarah Dean

ATM personnel check Covid-19 health passes of passengers on a bus as new measures come into effect to fight the spread of Covid-19 and to boost vaccinations in Milan, Italy on December 6th, 2021.
ATM personnel check Covid-19 health passes of passengers on a bus as new measures come into effect to fight the spread of Covid-19 and to boost vaccinations in Milan, Italy on December 6th, 2021. (Piero Cruciatti/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Italy’s new Covid-19 "super green pass" has now become mandatory in bars, restaurants, theaters and other closed entertainment venues.

Starting Monday, only fully vaccinated people or those who have a proof of recovery from coronavirus can enter these venues. 

The "super green pass" is an extension to Italy’s existing green pass, which requires full vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative Covid test. The original green pass still applies in work spaces and has been extended to local public transport. 

As opposed to the normal green pass, the "super green pass" does not accept a negative test in lieu of the vaccine -- a move by the government to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

The new measures will apply until at least January 15 across the country.  

7:39 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Next pandemic could be more lethal, warns Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine researcher

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford University, and co-developer of the AstraZeneca vaccine, at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, on October 11, 2021 in Cheltenham, England.
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford University, and co-developer of the AstraZeneca vaccine, at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, on October 11, 2021 in Cheltenham, England. (David Levenson/Getty Images)

As the world continues to grapple with the challenges posed by the new Omicron coronavirus variant, the co-creator of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has warned that the next pandemic "could be more contagious or more lethal, or both."

Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said the Covid-19 pandemic "will not be the last time the virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods." 

Gilbert made the remarks during the annual Richard Dimbleby lecture, which is set to be broadcast on the BBC on Monday. 

"The truth is the next one could be worse," she said, adding:

Just as we invest in armed forces and intelligence and diplomacy to defend against wars, we must invest in people, research, manufacturing and institutions to defend against pandemics.

She said that recent surges in case numbers, the imposition of lockdowns and mandatory vaccinations and the discovery of the Omicron variant have shown that "this pandemic is not done with us."

7:34 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Taiwan makes vaccines mandatory for workers in education, entertainment and other sectors

From CNN's Wayne Chang in Hong Kong

Elderly people await to be vaccinated against Covid-19 coronavirus at the Hsinchuang Stadium in New Taipei City on June 15, 2021.
Elderly people await to be vaccinated against Covid-19 coronavirus at the Hsinchuang Stadium in New Taipei City on June 15, 2021. (Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images)

Taiwan announced tougher vaccine requirements on Sunday, including mandatory shots for employees in education, childcare, elderly services, entertainment, hospitality and the cosmetic industries.

Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said the workers will be required to be fully vaccinated by January 1, meaning they need to receive their second dose by December 17 at the latest.

Here is a list of establishments that will require their workers to be vaccinated:

  • All grades of education from kindergartens to senior high schools; after school care centers; community colleges; test preparation programs; learning establishments for adults, infant care facilities; childcare centers
  • Competitive and leisure sport centers; swimming pools
  • Arts and performance groups for all education levels up to senior high schools
  • Social welfare community activities and programs (including elderly services); dementia help centers; holistic health improvement businesses
  • Visual media projection businesses; arcades; internet cafes; karaoke establishments; board game and mahjong establishments
  • Ballroom restaurants and wedding venues
  • Cosmetics-related establishments
  • Exhibition halls
  • Nightclub-related businesses, including bars, bistros, and establishments such as saunas and special teahouses
7:14 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Russia detects first two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant 

From CNN's Zahra Ullah

Russia has detected its first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in two people arriving from South Africa, the country's public health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said on Monday, according to Russian state media, TASS.

Rospotrebnadzor said 10 people who arrived in Russia from South Africa tested positive for coronavirus and their samples were being analyzed to determine the variant.

The new Omicron variant was detected in two of the passengers. No information has been disclosed yet about when they returned to Russia. 

TASS reported that the public health watchdog said the Omicron variant was detected as a result of genome-wide sequencing conducted by the Central Research Institute of Epidemiology that’s run by Rospotrebnadzor.

7:11 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Omicron coronavirus severity appears 'mild' so far, Asia Pacific health ministries say with caution

From Lizzy Yee in Hong Kong

Minister for Health Greg Hunt during a press conference at Parliament House on March 24, 2020 in Canberra, Australia.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt during a press conference at Parliament House on March 24, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

Several health ministries in the Asia Pacific region have said that while it's too early to make firm conclusions, Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant appear to be "mild."

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a news conference on Friday that while there is "no doubt" that the Omicron variant is transmissible, there is "no real evidence … of an increase in severity" compared to previous variants of Covid-19. 

Of the 25 Omicron cases confirmed in the Australian state of New South Wales, the state most heavily impacted by the new variant, none were admitted to hospital for Covid-related care, officials said Monday.  

Meanwhile, South Korea's health agency, the KDCA, warned that while it is staying cautious, all of the country's confirmed Omicron cases were "stable and mild so far."

The country has so far reported 24 confirmed cases of the variant, one of the highest numbers recorded in Asia Pacific.  

In addition, Singapore’s Ministry of Health said on Sunday that while "it is early days to conclude on the severity of the disease," cases globally "have mostly displayed mild symptoms," including a "sore throat, tiredness and cough."

India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also published a statement saying that while the evidence is evolving, "the severity of the disease is anticipated to be low."

In Hong Kong, three of the Omicron cases confirmed there are being treated in hospital, which is a requirement of all people who test positive for Covid-19. Those infected and in the hospital are stable, the hospital authority said in a statement. Another patient has already been discharged and is in 14-day isolation, it added. 

7:21 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Thailand, Fiji and Argentina detect first Omicron cases

From CNN's Eric Cheung, Kocha Olarn and Marlon Sorto

Airport staff clean the check-in kiosks at Suvarnabhumi International Airport as officials rehearse reopening procedures to welcome the first group of vaccinated tourists without quarantine on November 1, in Bangkok on October 27th, 2021.
Airport staff clean the check-in kiosks at Suvarnabhumi International Airport as officials rehearse reopening procedures to welcome the first group of vaccinated tourists without quarantine on November 1, in Bangkok on October 27th, 2021. (Lillian Suwanrumphal/AFP/Getty Images)

More countries are detecting their first cases of the Omicron variant, with health authorities in Fiji and Thailand confirming cases on Monday.

Fiji's Ministry of Health and Medical Services said two cases of Omicron were detected in two Fijian citizens who traveled from Nigeria and arrived on a Fiji Airways flight from Hong Kong on November 25.

The two tested positive for Covid-19 last week, and results from their genomic sequencing on Monday confirmed they had the Omicron variant. Other passengers on the flight tested negative.

The statement added the two citizens had entered a government quarantine facility upon their arrival, and do not have any symptoms.

Meanwhile, Thailand's Ministry of Public Health said a 35-year-old American businessman who arrived in Bangkok from Spain on November 30 tested positive for Covid-19 the following day.

Subsequent genomic sequencing confirmed he was infected with the Omicron variant.

The patient has been vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in June, and did not have any symptoms.

On Sunday, Argentina's health ministry said the country had detected its first case of the Omicron variant.

The patient, who's 38 and fully vaccinated, was attending a work event in South Africa, returning to Argentina on November 30. He has been in quarantine since his arrival, the health ministry added.

6:01 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Study: Young people recovered quickly from heart inflammation linked to vaccines

From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox

A physician assistant prepares a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA on May 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. - The campaign to immunize America's 17 million adolescents aged 12-to-15 kicked off in full force on May 13. 
A physician assistant prepares a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA on May 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. - The campaign to immunize America's 17 million adolescents aged 12-to-15 kicked off in full force on May 13.  (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

Teens and young adults who developed a type of heart inflammation known as myocarditis after getting the Covid-19 vaccine in the US had mild symptoms, none died and most recovered quickly, researchers reported Monday.

A review of 139 cases of myocarditis reported up to July 4 of this year showed virtually all cases occurred after the second dose of an mRNA vaccine – either Pfizer/BioNTech’s or Moderna’s vaccine, the researchers reported in the journal Circulation.

“Risk factors and mechanisms for the development of suspected myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccination are unknown,” the researchers wrote.

Even though most patients were White, so were most of those who got vaccinated, they noted.

Chest pain was the most common symptom, although close to a third of patients also had a fever and a quarter had shortness of breath. Fewer than 20% were admitted to ICUs.

5:40 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Fauci: Omicron severity signals are 'a bit encouraging'

From CNN Health’s Jamie Gumbrecht

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks to CNN on Sunday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks to CNN on Sunday. (CNN)

Early signals on the severity of Covid-19 caused by the Omicron variant are “a bit encouraging,” but it’s too soon to make a clear statement about whether it can cause severe disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious diseases expert, told CNN on Sunday.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said data so far suggests the variant is not causing more severe illness. He said:

But we really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or really doesn't cause any severe illness comparable to Delta. But thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity. But again, you got to hold judgment until we get more experience.

Fauci said the United States remains in constant communication with experts in South Africa. He said the Omicron variant is clearly becoming dominant in South Africa, especially as cases there were at a low level when the variant was identified. 

He said it was not clear what would happen in the US and in other countries, where the highly transmissible Delta variant still dominates.

The question for us here in the United States, now that it is clearly here in at least 15 or more states and in about 40 countries, is: What is it going to be as it competes with a very dominant variant, Delta?

Fauci said booster doses of the coronavirus vaccines “are going to be really critical in addressing whether or not we're going to be able to handle this.” 

Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said all adults should get a coronavirus vaccine booster.