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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10:37 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Nepal detects first 2 cases of Omicron variant

From CNN's Swati Gupta and Eric Cheung

Nepal has detected its first two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the country's ministry of health and population said on Monday.

The two people were identified as a 66-year-old foreign national and a 71-year-old local citizen, the ministry said in a statement. The local citizen was infected after meeting with the foreign national, who recently arrived in Nepal, the statement also said.

Both people are currently in stable condition and in isolation, the ministry's statement added.

9:58 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

New York City will implement vaccine mandate for all private sector workers

From CNN's Aaron Cooper

A sign in a restaurant window informs customers that they will need to show proof that they are at least partly vaccinated for Covid-19 to be allowed in the business on August 20, 2021 in New York City. New York City has begun checking people’s vaccination status at museums, gym’s, restaurants and other public establishments as it becomes the nation’s largest city to exclude the unvaccinated from public places.
A sign in a restaurant window informs customers that they will need to show proof that they are at least partly vaccinated for Covid-19 to be allowed in the business on August 20, 2021 in New York City. New York City has begun checking people’s vaccination status at museums, gym’s, restaurants and other public establishments as it becomes the nation’s largest city to exclude the unvaccinated from public places. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

All private sector employers in New York City will now be required to implement a Covid-19 vaccine mandate by Dec. 27, the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced Monday.  

Public sector workers were already subject to vaccine mandates.  

This new move, announced on MSNBC, means everyone who works in the city will now be subject to a vaccine mandate.  

“The more universal they are, the more likely employees will say okay, it's time. I'm going to do this. Because you can't jump from one industry to another or one company to another. It's something that needs to be universal to protect all of us,” de Blasio said. 

Children, ages 5 to 11 in New York City, will now also be required to show proof of at least one shot before being allowed access to indoor dining, fitness and entertainment, the mayor announced. 

Adults will now be required to proof of two vaccinations for those areas.  

The mayor said he is confident the mandates will hold up in court.  

“Our health commissioner has put a series of mandates in place. They have won in court, state court, federal court every single time. And it's because they're universal and consistent. And they're about protecting the public right now from a clear and present danger,” de Blasio said.  

The mayor is set to hold a news conference at 10 a.m. ET.

8:51 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

Stricter testing requirements for travelers entering the US start today. Here are key things to know. 

From CNN's Marnie Hunter and Forrest Brown

Medical workers at a Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care Covid-19 testing site in the international terminal at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, December 2nd, 2021. 
Medical workers at a Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care Covid-19 testing site in the international terminal at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, December 2nd, 2021.  (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

President Biden announced Dec. 2 new measures aimed at curbing the pandemic.

All inbound international travelers will be required to test within one day of departure for the United States starting Monday.

All flights departing after 12:01 a.m. ET Dec. 6 must abide by a new CDC testing order, which was posted Thursday evening.

This new testing time frame will apply to everyone, "regardless of nationality or vaccination status," the plan outlined on the White House website says.

Documentation of having recovered from Covid-19 in the past 90 days is also accepted.

Through Sunday, Dec. 5, vaccinated travelers are required to test within three days of their departure. There is a requirement for foreign travelers arriving in the United States to be fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated Americans and legal permanent residents are allowed to enter the country with a test taken within one day of departing for the United States. The new rule will make the testing time frame one day for everyone.

Biden also announced that the federal mask mandate requiring travelers to wear masks in airports, on planes and on other modes of public transportation such as trains and buses has been extended through March 18.

Here are some more key things to know: 

  • Does "one day" mean 24 hours? No. Per the CDC, the "one day" time frame is used to "provide more flexibility to the air passenger and aircraft operator." Acceptance of the test does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day the test sample was taken. "For example, if your flight is at 1 p.m. on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday," the CDC says on its website.
  • Does the testing requirement apply to children? Yes, it applies to all air passenger 2 years or older flying into the United States.
  • Does it apply to land border and seaport arrivals? No, the requirement is just for air travelers.
  • Is there a post-arrival testing or quarantine requirement? There is not. "We're not announcing any steps on post-arrival testing and quarantine," a senior administration official said in a press briefing on Wednesday evening. "I will say — look, if additional measures are recommended, if additional measures can be implemented well and are effective, we won't hesitate to take them, but we're not taking them today," the official said, according to a White House transcript of that briefing.

Read more about the new requirements here.

8:24 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

US reevaluating travel bans on a daily basis, Fauci says

From CNN Health’s Jamie Gumbrecht

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaking at a press briefing in the White House Press Briefing Room on December 1st 2021.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaking at a press briefing in the White House Press Briefing Room on December 1st 2021. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa/AP)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a US travel ban on South Africa and several other African countries is being reevaluated every day.

He said the US was aware of the hardship the bans have placed on the countries.

Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said the ban was put in place when the US was "in the dark" and just learning about a surge in cases in South Africa due to the Omicron variant and added the ban was meant to provide time to assess the situation. 

The United States barred entry to travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, but the variant has now been identified in dozens of countries and several US states.

Many other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Canada, India and Russia, as well as the European Union, have also imposed new travel restrictions because of the Omicron variant.

"Now, as you mentioned, as we're getting more and more information about cases in our own country and worldwide, we're looking at that very carefully on a daily basis. Hopefully we'll be able to lift that ban within a quite reasonable period of time," Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union on Sunday.

8:23 a.m. ET, December 6, 2021

WHO says service disruptions during the pandemic led to more malaria cases and deaths

From CNN Health’s Jamie Gumbrecht

A health worker prepares a malaria vaccination for a child at Yala Sub-County hospital, in Yala, Kenya, on October 7th, 2021
A health worker prepares a malaria vaccination for a child at Yala Sub-County hospital, in Yala, Kenya, on October 7th, 2021 (Brian Ongoro/AFP/Getty Images)

The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted malaria programs in many high-risk countries, leading to an increase in malaria cases and deaths in 2020, according to a new report from the World Health Organization.

WHO’s new report estimates there were 241 million malaria cases in 2020 – an increase of 14 million from 2019. It also estimates there were 627,000 malaria deaths globally in 2020 – 69,000 more than in 2019. The report links 47,000 of the deaths to disruptions in malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment during the pandemic.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 95% of all malaria cases and 96% of deaths in 2020, WHO said. About 80% of deaths in the region were among children younger than 5.

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