December 29 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Rhea Mogul, Adam Renton, Tara John and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 0601 GMT (1401 HKT) December 30, 2021
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4:20 a.m. ET, December 29, 2021

China's Covid-19 cases continue to rise as authorities battle Xi'an outbreak

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

A health worker tests a resident for Covid-19 in Xi 'an, Shaanxi Province, China, Dec. 29.
A health worker tests a resident for Covid-19 in Xi 'an, Shaanxi Province, China, Dec. 29. (Cang Hai/Costfoto/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

China recorded 197 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said, as the nation battles an outbreak in the city of Xi'an that forced its 13 million residents into a strict lockdown last week.

Of the new cases, 152 are locally transmitted and 45 imported, according to the NHC. 

All but one of the locally transmitted cases were reported in Xi’an in the northwest Shaanxi province, the NHC said. One case was reported in the eastern province of Jiangsu, it added. 

Since December 9, Shaanxi province has reported a total of 982 local cases, of which 962 were found in Xi'an, 10 in Xianyang, nine in Yan'an, and one in Weinan.

Authorities in Xi'an further tightened lockdown measures and rolled out the fifth round of mass testing on Monday, in line with China's rigid zero-Covid strategy. All residents must stay at home unless permitted to go outside for mass testing. Previously, each household was allowed to send one designated person out to buy groceries every two days.

China has reported a total of 101,683 Covid-19 cases and 4,636 deaths, according to state-run People’s Daily.

11:37 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

India authorizes Novavax's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use

From CNN's Jen Christensen

India's drugs controller-general granted emergency use authorization for Novavax's Covid-19 vaccine, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

The vaccine will be manufactured locally by the Serum Institute of India under the name Covovax, the statement said.

It does not need any kind of special refrigeration and can be stored and transported using the current vaccine supply chain, the statement said. It should help in areas that are hard to reach, it added.

“No one is safe until everyone is safe, and today’s authorization marks a vital step for India, where additional vaccine options and millions of doses are needed in the country’s ongoing efforts to control the pandemic,” said Stanley C. Erck, president and CEO of Novavax.

The vaccine is in use in other countries, including Indonesia and the Philippines, according to the company. Novavax will submit its data for authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine in the United States by the end of the year.

1:57 a.m. ET, December 29, 2021

Indonesia records its first locally transmitted Omicron case

From CNN's Akanksha Sharma

Domestic tourists arrive ahead of the end of year holidays season amid at the Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia on December 22,
Domestic tourists arrive ahead of the end of year holidays season amid at the Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia on December 22, (Johannes P. Christo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Indonesia has recorded its first locally transmitted case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, state news media Antara reported Tuesday.

"The Omicron case from local transmission was reported in a man, with no history of foreign travel nor having come in contact with foreign travelers," Siti Nadia Tarmizi, the director of prevention and control of vector and zoonotic diseases at the Health Ministry, said in a virtual news conference in Jakarta, according to Antara's report.

The 37 year-old man had traveled from Medan and arrived in Jakarta on December 6. Two weeks later, when he was going back to Medan, his antigen test came back positive, Tarmizi said.

The PCR test a day later also came back positive.

“On December 26, 2021, based on laboratory results, it was confirmed that the patient was exposed to the Omicron variant”, Siti Nadia Tarmizi said, adding the infected man is asymptomatic and currently isolated. 

Contact tracing is ongoing and his wife who accompanied him in his travels, has tested negative for Covid-19, Tarmizi added.

Indonesia reported its first case of the Omicron variant on December 16.

Since then the government says it has upped security at the country’s borders, urged people not to travel abroad and expedited vaccination to meet the national target, Antara's report said.

8:46 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

A guide to the CDC's new Covid-19 quarantine and isolation recommendations

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday released new isolation and quarantine guidelines for people infected with or exposed to Covid-19.

Important to note: These are guidelines, not mandates, but many industry groups and organizations use them to set their own policies. While these guidelines offer more detail, the old adage applies: If you feel sick, stay home.

Here is a list of basic things to know:

For people who test positive for Covid-19:

  • Stay home and isolate for five days, regardless of whether you have symptoms. For symptomatic people, Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms developed.
  • If you have no symptoms OR if symptoms are resolving after five days, you can leave isolation but should wear a mask around others — even at home — for five more days.
  • If you have a fever — even a low fever that is going down — you should continue to isolate until your temperature is normal. 
  • There’s no need to test out of isolation after five days; tests can remain positive for months after Covid-19 infection, although you are no longer infectious. 

For people exposed to Covid-19:

These are based on what studies show about how and when people are likely to infect others.

If you are boosted, have received your first two Pfizer or Moderna doses in the past six months or your single J&J dose in the past two months: 

  • No need to quarantine at home after exposure.
  • Always wear a mask around others for 10 days.
  • Test if you develop symptoms, or five days after exposure. People can be infected even without symptoms.
  • If you test positive, you should begin to follow isolation guidelines.

If you are unvaccinated, or are eligible for a booster and haven't received one: 

  • Quarantine at home for five days, and continue to wear a mask around others for five more days to be sure you don’t infect someone else.
  • Test if you develop symptoms or five days after exposure.
  • If you test positive, you should begin to follow isolation guidelines.
1:22 a.m. ET, December 29, 2021

Covid-19 cases surge in Sydney, Australia

From CNN's Angus Watson in Sydney

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), reported a near doubling of its daily Covid-19 case tally Wednesday with 11,201 new infections — up from 6,602 the previous day.

Most of the cases were found in state capital Sydney. 

Three new deaths were also announced by NSW Health in its Wednesday statement.

“There are currently 625 COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital, with 61 people in intensive care, 23 of whom require ventilation,” NSW Health said.

Speaking to Sydney radio station 2GB Tuesday NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet defended his decision to relax restrictions earlier this month, including reintroducing broad freedoms for unvaccinated people.

“We’ve always said as we open up, case numbers will increase,” Perrottet said. “These are the difficulties we’ll go through.”

“I think NSW, despite this, is in a very strong position, and I’m very confident about 2022,” Perrottet added.

9:04 p.m. ET, December 28, 2021

Mexico allows cruise ships with Covid-19 positive passengers to disembark

From CNN's Michelle Velez, Matt Rivers and Valentina Di Donato

Cruise ships with Covid-19 positive passengers will be allowed to disembark in Mexico and the country will provide them with medical assistance, according to a news release Tuesday from the Mexican government. 

“In accordance with the biosafety protocols established in the national and international spheres, the Government of Mexico will receive in its maritime ports cruise ships that request to dock in our country,” the statement said. 

“The Secretaries of Health and Tourism of the Government of Mexico reiterate the commitment to respect the provisions of the International Health Regulations of the World Health Organization (WHO), for which cruises will be received in ports maritime of the country,” the statement continued.

Mexico has no testing requirement for entry into the country. “People who do not present symptoms will be able to carry out their tourist activities with respect to the basic prevention measures,” the release said.