Omicron live updates: India expands vaccine drive as variant looms

Omicron live updates: India expands vaccine drive as variant looms

India will start giving Covid-19 vaccines to children aged 15 and older, and offer booster shots to at-risk adults as the Omicron coronavirus variant threatens to bring a third wave of infections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision in a late-night address to the nation on Saturday.

The vaccination of children between 15 and 18 years will begin on January 3, while a third “precaution dose” will be available to healthcare and frontline workers, senior citizens and people with underlying health conditions, from January 10. “Coronavirus is not gone. The world is now talking about Omicron,” Mr Modi said.

“This decision is taken to not only fight against corona but also to give a sense of relief to those students and their parents who are going to schools and colleges."

The government on Sunday gave emergency use approval to the home-grown Covaxin vaccine for immunising 12 to 18-year-olds.

It is the second shot to get the nod for use in children after ZyCoV-D, a locally developed vaccine requiring three doses, which received approval in November.

The vaccination of children comes as schools and colleges across the country reopen after nearly two years. Nearly 8 per cent of India's 1.3 billion population is between 15 and 18 years of age.

Holiday travel headaches and safety concerns swelled on Monday, with the number of global passenger flights cancelled now topping 8,300.

As Omicron cases continue to rise, events are also being scrapped, even as people wrap up their Christmas celebrations. Aside from the flight cancellations, tens of thousands more passengers suffered delays over the weekend, a time acknowledged as one of the busiest travel periods of the year, with multiple airlines saying that spikes of the new variant have prompted staffing shortages.

Over the weekend, China reported the highest number of local cases since January, further darkening the year-end holiday period.

Authorities reported 162 locally transmitted cases and began widespread disinfection measures in the western city of Xi’an, where an outbreak presents one of China’s biggest challenges yet to its Zero Covid policy.

Singapore will require foreigners seeking to work, study or reside in the country to be vaccinated, as the business hub tightens some restrictions. New daily omicron infections in the US have surpassed those in the Delta wave, figures suggest.

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