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Global omicron case numbers to soar

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Case numbers are soaring around the world, with supply chains, hospitals and businesses struggling to cope.

The US is now reporting more than one million cases a day, as scientists and governments hope to reach the peak in omicron cases over coming weeks.

Doctors in the US, UK and Australia are expecting case numbers to surge even higher over the next fortnight, as testing sites come under unprecedented strain.

It comes as experts warn against continued vaccinations, and the UK government is ruling out new restrictions, for now.

WE CAN’T KEEP VACCINATING

A leading expert who helped create the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine says giving everyone in the world booster shots multiple times a year is not feasible

.”We can’t vaccinate the planet every four to six months. It’s not sustainable or affordable,”

Professor Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and head of the UK’s Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told The Daily Telegraph.

NO NEW UK RESTRICTIONS

British PM Boris Johnson says the NHS will be put on a “war footing” but he will be recommending to the cabinet that the current – plan B – level of restrictions remains in place. 

Adding that 90% of Covid patients in intensive care beds are unvaccinated.

Latest UK announcements:

  • 100,000 key workers in areas like food processing and transport are to be sent lateral flow tests to use every day from 10 January
  • Boris Johnson says now is the time for “utmost caution” – and anyone who thinks the battle with Covid is over is “profoundly wrong”
  • But there is a chance we can “ride out this Omicron wave” without shutting the country down again, Johnson adds
  • For now the PM says he wants the current, Plan B, level of restrictions to remain in England – other parts of the UK have different rules

CHINA LOCKDOWN

China has put a second city into total lockdown after just three asymptomatic Covid cases were discovered.

Yuzhou – which has a population of 1.1 million – saw its transport system shut down and all but essential food stores closed overnight.

It follows a similar lockdown in Xi’an, where 13 million have been confined to their homes since 23 December.

FOURTH BOOSTER

Israel has already begun its rollout of a fourth vaccine dose, offering it to all medical workers and people 60 and older.

 The German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach says Germans “will need a fourth vaccination” against Covid-19.

World

Authorities find drug-smuggler’s tunnel under the U.S. and Mexico border

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Anti-drug agents have found a smugglers’ tunnel including a rail track, electricity and ventilation system

A drug-smuggler’s tunnel has been unearthed under the U.S. and Mexican border.

It led from the Mexican city of Tijuana to a warehouse located 300 feet from the San Diego border.

Six people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the scheme.

They are accused of conspiring to distribute cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, among other crimes.

“There is no more light at the end of this narco-tunnel,” says the U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.

Authorities collect information about the people behind the tunnel.

The tunnel is believed to be over 1,750 feet long, and was fitted out reinforced walls.

Close to 100 tunnels have been found in the same area, but this was one of the largest.

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Ukraine Crisis

Finland and Sweden submit applications to join NATO

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Finland and Sweden have officially submitted their applications to join NATO

Finland and Sweden have handed in applications to join NATO.

It ends decades of political neutrality for both nations, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Chief of NATO says the applications are quote an “historic step”.

If their bid is successful, it will bring the alliance’s membership to 32.

While Russia strongly opposes the move, there are also members within NATO’s own ranks voicing their concerns.

Dubbed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the NATO alliance was founded in 1949

It follows one rule: an attack on one, is an attack on all.

It sought to counter Russian expansion in Europe after World War Two.

But following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of its former Eastern European allies joined the alliance, something that has raised concerns in Moscow.

Finland and Sweden need the support of all member states to join. If they’re successful, it will take the alliance to 32 members.

NATO members must spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. Finland already meets this target and Sweden says it will do so “as soon as possible”.

The two countries will also bring a range of military might.

Finland has over 19-thousand active troops, and Sweden has over 14-and-a-half thousand.

There are 220 tanks, and over 200 combat aircraft.

Russia believes NATO has been verging on its door stop and is warning both nations against joining.

Turkey’s President is also voicing concerns, saying the two Scandinavian nations should not send delegations to convince him of their bids.

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Tech

U.S. warns against hiring North Korean tech workers

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The U.S. is warning North Korean workers are trying to find IT jobs by hiding their identities

The U.S. believes workers are seeking to steal money for their home country.

Many of them are allegedly pretending to be from other parts of Asia, according to three U.S. agencies.

The State Department says thousands of highly skilled IT workers are sent around the world to generate revenue to help with North Korea’s weapons production.

“The DPRK [North Korea] dispatches thousands of highly skilled IT workers around the world to generate revenue that contributes to its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes, in violation of US and UN sanctions.”

U.S. State Department

If North Korea is employing workers to fund its missiles program, the move would be in violation of U.N. international sanctions.

“The United States is committed to disrupting illicit DPRK revenue-generating activities, which may facilitate criminal activity, provide direct support to the DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, and threaten international peace and security,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

The country has conducted several missile tests in recent months, including a banned intercontinental ballistic missile.

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