The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world on Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

6:55 am Coronavirus cases in Slovakia hit a daily record despite the country entering a national lockdown last week, the Health Ministry reported on Friday.

The ministry said Slovakia confirmed 15,278 new cases on Thursday, nearly 5,000 more than the previous record set on November 23. The government ordered a two-week shutdown that began on November 25.

However, the ministry attributed the size of the most recent daily increase to some test results not reaching the information system from the labs on Tuesday; Those results were added to Thursday’s tally, he said.

Other data confirmed that infections are increasing in Slovakia. The country registered 61,515 new cases in the last seven days, compared to 57,992 the previous week.

6:30 a.m With the news that Ontario is opening third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone 50 years of age and older, many will wonder if all Ontario residents with two injections will need another injection.

In short, chances are, we just don’t know when. It is also unclear whether a third dose will be deemed necessary to fully vaccinate or serve as a booster, and how it will spread to those under 50 in the future.

What we do know is that research to date shows that people 50 and older, who are at higher risk of hospitalization and death if they contract COVID, benefit from a significant increase in protection with a third injection.

Read more from Star’s Kenyon Wallace and May Warren.

6:05 am While all eyes are on the new and poorly understood Omicron variant that is popping up across the country, the Delta form of the coronavirus has not finished wreaking havoc in the US, flooding hospitals with record numbers of patients. in the Midwest and New England. .

“Omicron is a spark on the horizon. The delta variant is the fire that’s here today, ”said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Maine, where an unprecedented 334 people were in hospital with COVID-19 in the middle of week.

The United States recorded its first confirmed omicron infection on Wednesday, in a Californian who had been to South Africa, where the variant was first identified a week ago. Several more cases were reported Thursday, five in the New York City area and one in Minnesota, Hawaii and Colorado, in circumstances that suggest the variant has begun to spread within the United States.

6 a. M. The measures used to counter the Delta variant should remain the basis for fighting the coronavirus pandemic, even in the face of the new Omicron version of the virus, World Health Organization officials said on Friday, although they acknowledged that the travel restrictions imposed for some countries they can buy time. .

While around three dozen countries around the world have reported Omicron infections, including India on Thursday, the numbers so far are small outside of South Africa, which is facing a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and where the new variant may be dominating. Still, much remains to be clarified about Omicron, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, makes people sicker, or can evade the protection of the vaccine.

“Border control can delay the arrival of the virus and buy time. But every country and every community must prepare for further increases in cases, “Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, told reporters on Friday during a virtual press conference from the Philippines.” The positive news in all of this is that none of the information we currently have on omicron suggests that we should change the directions of our response. “

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Read more from The Associated Press.

5:45 am President Joe Biden looked at an audience of government scientists and framed his latest plan to combat COVID-19 as an opportunity to finally end divisions over the virus, calling the politicization of the issue a “sad, sad comment.” .

And then he did a political dig.

Some people “on the other team,” he said Thursday, threatened to halt government spending and jeopardize the nation’s credit out of resentment over vaccination requirements.

“Imagine,” he added.

It was a brief aside in a speech from Biden that otherwise adopted a largely bipartisan tone. But it served as new evidence that after taking it on the chin for months, Biden and his allies are increasingly willing to fight back, presenting Republicans as the true obstacle to the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.

Read more from The Associated Press.

5:40 am Germany’s health minister said on Friday that more than 1 percent of the population is currently infected with the coronavirus, and asked citizens to get vaccinated if they have not already done so.

The country confirmed 74,352 new daily cases of COVID-19 and 390 additional deaths, figures released by the federal disease control agency showed. According to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute, some 925,800 people in Germany are considered actively infected with the virus.

Health Minister Jens Spahn noted that the number of unvaccinated residents who are infected and seriously ill is much higher than their percentage of the general population.

“If all German adults were vaccinated, we would not be in this difficult situation,” he told reporters in Berlin.

About 68.8% of people in Germany are fully vaccinated, while the government has set a minimum target of 75%. For the first time since the summer, more than 1 million doses were administered in a single day on Wednesday.

05:30 am The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is set to release new guidance this morning on the use of booster COVID-19 vaccine as public health faces the threat of the Omicron variant.

The new variant came to light late last week and has prompted tougher border measures around the world, as the World Health Organization warns that the large number of mutations could indicate that it is more transmissible than previous strains. .

The government issued an urgent request to the advisory committee for new guidelines on the eligibility criteria for boosters to protect Canadians against the new version of the virus.

“We know Canadians are increasingly asking whether they should … get reinforcements, and that question is obviously of greater importance now with the new variant,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a conference on Tuesday. press.

“We are explicitly asking NACI to quickly present a revised vision of where, how and to whom these reinforcements should be administered.”

Still, cases of Omicron have already appeared across the country. Although most involve recent travel, one case, reported in Alberta, involved home transmission.

5:25 am. Ontario is opening COVID-19 booster shots for people over 50 in time to socialize on Christmas and to avoid the new Omicron variant that appears to spread faster than the dominant Delta strain.

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Those age 50 and older can begin reserving and receiving their boosters starting Dec. 13, as long as they are 168 days after their second dose, Medical Director Dr. Kieran Moore said Thursday.

“We want to be able to provide the third dose in a timely manner before immunity wears off, especially as we are seeing increases in Delta-related cases and the potential threat from Omicron,” he added when Ontario reported 959 new infections, the highest daily count. since June.

Read more from Rob Ferguson from Star.

5:20 am Regarding President Joe Biden’s announcement Thursday of new COVID measures against the Omicron variant that has created a wave of global anxiety over the past week, many Toronto Star readers will wonder: what does this mean for Canadians?

So let’s start there: any Canadian who plans fly To the US for a visit this winter you will need to show proof of a negative COVID antigen test taken within one day of your arrival (rather than within three days as required above).

That’s it, unless you’ve somehow booked a layover flight in Botswana, or one of the other southern African countries from which to travel to the U.S. It’s now prohibited (although I would have wanted to rethink that from anyway, since Canada has forbidden to travel of those who have visited the same countries, and more).

Read more from Edward Keenan from Star.

5:15 am The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is officially in the GTA with cases confirmed Thursday in the Halton and Durham regions and others under investigation.

A Toronto East Detention Center staff member living in Durham was confirmed to be infected with the Omicron variant. Additionally, four inmates at Scarborough jail tested positive for COVID-19, but it was not yet known, Toronto Public Health said, if they were also infected with the variant that causes health problems worldwide.

That raises the specter of a large-scale outbreak in addition to the smaller travel-related ones now showing up in the Toronto region.

Few details were provided about the Durham resident except that they are “linked” to the detention center, which has had large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks in the past. The Star, however, has confirmed that the infected person works there.

Read more from Star’s David Rider and Alyshah Hasham.

4:45 am President Joe Biden set out to turn the tables on the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday with a 10-point winter offensive against the Omicron variant that further complicates flights from Canada to the United States on the eve of the Christmas travel season.

As early as Monday, Canadians and all other foreign visitors traveling to the US by air will need to obtain a COVID-19 test no later than one day before their departure.

Biden is cutting the testing window, currently three days for fully vaccinated travelers, as part of a set of public health measures aimed at slowing and limiting the spread of a highly mutated variant about which there are more questions than answers.

“All incoming international travelers must be tested within one day of departure, regardless of their vaccination status or nationality,” Biden said in outlining the plan at the National Institutes of Health headquarters in Bethesda, at north of DC.

“This more stringent testing schedule provides an additional degree of protection and scientists continue to study the Omicron variant.”

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