(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.2 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 778,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Just 59.3% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Nov 30, 7:22 am
Omicron was circulating in the Netherlands 11 days ago, authorities say
Dutch health authorities announced Tuesday that they have detected omicron in two previously tested samples, dating back as much as 11 days, indicating that the new variant was already circulating in western Europe before it was first identified in southern Africa.
The Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said it discovered omicron in samples dated Nov. 19 and Nov. 23, preceding the cases found among people traveling from South Africa to the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on Nov. 26.
“It is not yet clear whether these people had also visited southern Africa,” the institute said in a statement Tuesday.
Out of 624 passengers returning from South Africa who were tested for COVID-19 at the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on Nov. 26, 61 tested positive, including 14 with the omicron variant.
“Laboratory tests identified several different strains of the omicron variant,” the institute said. “This means that the people were very probably infected independently from each other, from different sources and in different locations.”
The omicron variant was first reported to World Health Organization from South Africa on Nov. 24.
Nov 30, 6:48 am
Top South African scientist slams travel bans in response to omicron
One of the South African scientists who helped identify the omicron variant took to Twitter to slam the travel bans imposed on southern African countries as a result of their discovery.
Tulio de Oliveira, director of the Center for Epidemic Response and Innovation in Stellenbosch, South Africa, tweeted Monday night that he had “spent a big part” of his day speaking with genomic and biotech companies because “soon” his team “will run out of reagents as airplanes are not flying to South Africa.”
In a series of tweets last week, de Oliveira urged the world to “provide support to South Africa and Africa and not discriminate or isolate it.”
“We have been very transparent with scientific information. We identified, made data public, and raised the alarm as the infections are just increasing. We did this to protect our country and the world in spite of potentially suffering massive discrimination,” he tweeted.
“This new variant is really worrisome at the mutational level. South Africa and Africa will need support (financially, public health, scientific) to control it so it does not spread in the world. Our poor and deprived population can not be in lockdown without financial support,” he said in another tweet.
De Oliveira, who is leading a team of scientists analyzing the genomic sequencing of the new variant, issued an appeal to billionaires and financial institutions to support South Africa and the African continent.
“We do have funding for science, but South Africa and Africa need financial help to support their deprived population and health system,” he tweeted. “By protecting its poor and oppressed population we will protect the world.”
Nov 30, 5:16 am
Japan confirms 1st case of omicron variant
Japan confirmed on Tuesday its first case of the omicron variant, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.
Matsuno told a press conference that the patient is a man in his 30s who tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival at Japan’s Narita International Airport on Sunday after traveling from Namibia. A genome analysis confirmed Tuesday that he was infected with the new variant, which was first identified in southern Africa last week.
The man was isolated and is being treated at a hospital, according to Matsuno, who refused to disclose the patient’s nationality. His travel companions and the passengers who sat nearby have been identified and referred to Japanese health authorities, Matsuno said.
Earlier this week, Japan announced that it will ban all foreign visitors starting Tuesday as an emergency precaution against omicron, which the World Health Organization has classified as a “variant of concern.” The government is also requiring Japanese nationals and foreigners with resident permits to quarantine 14 days upon entry.
-ABC News’ Anthony Trotter
Nov 29, 7:04 pm
3rd omicron case detected in Canada
A third person in Canada has tested positive for the omicron COVID-19 variant, health officials announced Monday.
The province of Quebec has confirmed its first case of the variant, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube told reporters at a press conference in Montreal.
The woman who tested positive had traveled to Nigeria, said Canada Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda.
Two cases of the variant had been previously detected in Ontario, officials said Sunday.
-ABC News’ Darren Reynolds
Nov 29, 6:06 pm
Pfizer to ask FDA to authorize boosters for people 16-17: Source
Pfizer is going to ask the Food and Drug Administration in the coming days to authorize COVID-19 booster shots for 16- and 17-year-olds, a source familiar with the discussions confirmed to ABC News.
This would expand booster access from everyone over 18 to everyone over 16.
Pfizer vaccines were authorized for adolescents in May, so many fully vaccinated people are nearing their six-month mark amid growing concern over the omicron variant.
-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett
Nov 29, 4:15 pm
CDC strengthens booster recommendations
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday strengthened its recommendation on booster doses for adults.
The previous recommendation was that all adults 50 and older should get a booster, and those 18 to 49 may want to get boosters. Now, the CDC says all adults should get a booster shot six months after their Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two months after the Johnson & Johnson shot.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky said, “I strongly encourage the 47 million adults who are not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible and to vaccinate the children and teens in their families as well because strong immunity will likely prevent serious illness.”
-ABC News’ Eric M. Strauss
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