November 30 Omicron coronavirus variant news

By Adrienne Vogt, Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Sheena McKenzie and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021
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5:24 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021

A mother’s Covid-19 infection does not seem to hurt her baby's developing brain, small study shows

From CNN's Jen Christensen

Covid-19 did not seem to hurt the developing brains of babies born to mothers who had mild or moderate infections, according to a new unpublished study presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting Tuesday. 

Researchers performed magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scans to examine the brain development of the fetuses developing in the bodies of 33 patients at about 28 weeks of pregnancy. There was no indication that the infection, which the mothers got around 18 weeks into their pregnancies, had affected fetal brain development.  

Mothers with more severe infections were not included in the study. 

“Since the impact of severe infection on brain development in the fetus has not been conclusively determined, active protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy remains important,” said study co-author Sophia Stöcklein, a professor in the Department of Radiology at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany. 

Stöcklein added that she hopes people who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant get vaccinated.

“Therefore, despite the encouraging results of our study, pregnant women should strongly consider vaccination,” Stöcklein said.

Pregnant women are immune compromised and at high risk of severe complications of Covid-19, and these include miscarriage.

Covid-19 can also pose serious problems for mother and child. Another study published Tuesday in PLoS Medicine showed that people who were pregnant and tested positive for Covid-19 had a higher number of deaths, premature or induced birth, fetal distress, pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension, hemorrhage before or after birth, and cesarean sections. They were also admitted to the ICU much more frequently.

8:50 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021

Germany's next chancellor mulls tougher Covid-19 restrictions after court ruling

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Olaf Scholz, Germany's designated next chancellor, speaks at a news conference in Berlin on November 24.
Olaf Scholz, Germany's designated next chancellor, speaks at a news conference in Berlin on November 24. (Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with her designated successor Olaf Scholz Tuesday to discuss tougher Covid-19 restrictions amid a fourth wave gripping the country.

The meeting comes after Germany's Federal Constitutional Court earlier on Tuesday ruled that emergency measures introduced in April were legal -- rejecting claims they were unconstitutional.

The springtime measures included curfews, restricted contacts and school closures -- which could be applied nationwide once seven-day case incidences surpassed certain limits.

Experts say the ruling could now pave the way for a future lockdown in Germany.

The country's seven-day incidence rate on Tuesday stood at 452.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the national agency for disease control and prevention -- a slight decrease on the previous day.

On Monday alone there were 45,753 new cases in a country with a population of roughly 83 million people. The same day, there were 388 Covid-19 related deaths -- bringing the total number of fatalities since the start of the pandemic to 101,344.

Meanwhile Germany's vaccination rate is one of the lowest in western Europe, at 68.4% fully vaccinated, according to the country's health ministry. Those number dip in the country's eastern states of Saxony and Thuringia, where the vaccination rates are 60.5% and 64.4% respectively.

3:49 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021

Breakthrough Covid-19 infections are more common and more severe in the immunocompromised, study finds

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

Breakthrough Covid-19 infections among people who the fully vaccinated are more common and more severe in those who are immunocompromised, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of Medical Economics.

“While some Covid-19 vaccine breakthrough infections among those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are expected, the findings of this study show that they are rare and less likely to result in hospitalization or death in those without an IC condition,” wrote the authors, from Pfizer and Genesis Research.

The authors looked at 1,176,907 people who were fully vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine and at least 14 days of follow-up data. They were split into immunocompromised and non-immunocompromised groups.

The proportion with breakthrough infections was three times higher in the immunocompromised group, the authors said.

In August, the US Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorization for Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines so that certain immunocompromised people could have an additional dose.

The study findings support the FDA decision, the authors say, while noting that further research is necessary to continue monitoring the rates of general population breakthrough infections.

Some limitations of the study include that vaccination status information may not have been comprehensive — an unvaccinated study group wasn’t included — and that some breakthrough infections may have been missed.

The study was carried out before the emergence of the Omicron variant.

3:51 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021

Japan confirms first case of Omicron variant

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Photo taken on Nov. 29, 2021, shows quarantine staff working at Narita airport near Tokyo.
Photo taken on Nov. 29, 2021, shows quarantine staff working at Narita airport near Tokyo. (Kyodo News/Getty Images)

Japan has detected its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the country, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a news conference Tuesday.

The infection was detected in a man in his 30s who traveled from Namibia to Tokyo and tested positive at Narita Airport on arrival Sunday.

Matsuno said the man is in quarantine at a government facility and his close contacts have been traced. 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was planning to hold an emergency meeting with ministers, he added.

Japan is the 19th country or territory to diagnose a case of Omicron, according to analysis and data compiled by CNN.

Omicron has been labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization. There is no indication yet whether the variant is more transmissible or more deadly than previous mutations of the coronavirus.

1:54 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021

Australia confirms sixth case of Omicron variant

From CNN's Lizzy Yee in Hong Kong

Australia has reported a sixth case of the Omicron coronavirus variant after a traveler who recently arrived in the state of New South Wales from Qatar was found to be positive for the virus.

The patient, who is fully vaccinated, flew on flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney on November 25, according to a statement by NSW Health. The person had previously been in southern Africa.

According to the statement, the person had visited a number of venues in Sydney and the Central Coast before new arrival restrictions were enacted. The infected traveler is now isolating at home on the Central Coast.

Two people who had been on the same flight, QR908, have also been confirmed as Covid-19 cases, but genomic testing is still underway to determine if it is the Omicron variant, according to NSW Health. Neither traveler had spent time in southern Africa.

Australia has now identified five Omicron cases in New South Wales and one infection in the Northern Territory. 

1:53 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021

Island of Reunion identifies first Omicron case in French territory

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

The first case of the Omicron variant recorded on French territory has been detected on the island of Reunion, Dr. Patrick Mavingui, research director at French tropical disease center PIMIT, said Tuesday.

The patient, a 53-year-old man, had recently travelled to Mozambique via South Africa, before returning to Reunion on November 19, Mavingui told Reunion First Radio.

He was symptomatic and authorities had placed him and his entourage in quarantine.

In an effort to halt the Omicron variant’s spread, France imposed a temporary ban on flights between southern Africa and French territories on Friday.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran said Sunday that eight possible Omicron cases had been identified in France, adding it was possible the variant was already circulating in the country.

8:52 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021

Australian state of Tasmania restricts international arrivals 

From CNN's Lizzy Yee

The Australian state of Tasmania has banned arrivals from overseas, with the exception of New Zealand's South Island, following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Travelers who have spent time abroad in the 14 days prior to Sunday, November 28, will not be permitted to enter the state unless approved as an "essential traveler," according to new guidance issued by the Tasmanian government.

If approved as an "essential traveler," arrivals must present a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to entry and complete a 14-day quarantine on arrival. 

The new measures are in addition to national restrictions and requirements already issued by the Australian government.

Earlier, Australia announced a ban on entry by foreign nationals who had traveled in the previous 14 days to nine southern African countries: South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles.

12:58 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021

Hong Kong heightens quarantine for inbound travelers from some African countries

From CNN's Lizzy Yee in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has tightened quarantine restrictions for arrivals from some African countries following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

From Tuesday, four African countries have been added to a list of high-risk locations with special additional quarantine requirements: Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia. 

Hong Kong residents who travel from these four countries must spend seven days after arrival in a government quarantine facility where they will undergo daily Covid-19 testing. They must then spend an additional 14 days in compulsory quarantine at a hotel.

The requirement had already been put in place for Hong Kong residents arriving from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Non-residents traveling from these countries can not enter Hong Kong.

High-risk list: In addition, from Thursday, nine more countries will be added to Hong Kong's list of high-risk places, but without the need for additional quarantine in a government facility.

Those countries are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, and Italy, all of which have identified at least one confirmed case of the Omicron variant.

Only fully vaccinated Hong Kong residents will be allowed to enter from these countries, after which they must undergo 21 days of hotel quarantine. Non-Hong Kong residents who have visited these countries within 21 days are no longer allowed to enter Hong Kong.

1:40 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021

Singapore-Malaysia border reopens for vaccinated travelers

From CNN's Teele Rebane in Hong Kong

People board a bus in Singapore on November 29, under the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) for border-crossing passengers to Malaysia's southern state of Johor.
People board a bus in Singapore on November 29, under the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) for border-crossing passengers to Malaysia's southern state of Johor. Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

Singapore and Malaysia reopened their shared land border Monday to vaccinated travelers for the first time since the pandemic began almost two years ago.

Citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders of the country they are entering may now cross the border quarantine-free on designated Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) buses, according to a statement by the Prime Minister of Singapore's office. 

However, those who travel to Singapore by other means, including private transport or walking across the causeway, will be subject to border control measures, which include serving a seven-day Stay-Home Notice, the Singaporean government said in a statement. 

All travelers must be fully vaccinated, have a negative Covid-19 ART or PCR test taken within two days of departure, and have remained in Malaysia, Singapore or any other VTL country for at least 14 days prior. They will also have to take a Covid-19 test on arrival. 

The two countries "aim to progressively expand" the VTL to include general travelers from mid-December 2021 onwards, "taking into account the public health situation," Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Monday.

"The Covid-19 situation in both countries is now stabilizing. Both have made good progress in vaccinating our populations. Hence it is timely for us to reopen our borders, progressively and safely," Lee said. 

"We are all watching anxiously the new Omicron variant, to see how it will behave," he added. "But even if Omicron disrupts these plans, our goal will still be to have more open borders between Singapore and Malaysia, and I am quite confident that after some time we will be able to make further progress."