* Germany decided on Thursday to bar the unvaccinated from all but the most essential business and the United States prepared further travel restrictions as the world scrambled to curb the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
* The European Union's public health agency said the Omicron variant could be responsible for more than half of all infections in Europe within a few months, but no cases of severe disease had yet been identified in the region.
* Britain recorded 53,945 new cases, the highest daily figure since July 17, government figures showed, as the dominant Delta variant spreads and measures come in to curb the Omicron variant.
* Dutch health authorities said most of the 62 people who tested positive after arriving on two flights from South Africa last week had been vaccinated, lending weight to a call for pre-flight testing regardless of vaccination status.
* Norway is reintroducing some nationwide restrictions to curb the spread following the emergence of the Omicron variant, the government said, as a fifth case of the latter was confirmed and more expected.
* France reported its first two cases of the Omicron variant, as the government's top scientific adviser said it could become dominant in the country by the end of January.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Israel said it was halting the use of mobile phone tracing to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, a practice that had been challenged by privacy watchdogs.
* South Africa is seeing an increase in reinfections due to the Omicron variant but symptoms for reinfected patients and those infected after vaccination appear to be mild, a scientist studying the outbreak said.
* Ghana detected the Omicron variant in 34 samples from travellers who returned to the country from November 21-25, according to data from the state institute responsible for coronavirus testing.
* The US has confirmed the Omicron variant in three states.
* President Joe Biden will lay out his strategy to fight the Omicron and Delta variants over the winter, including free and insurer-funded at-home testing and new requirements for international travellers.
* The Biden administration will lay out details on whether or not private health insurance companies will get government money to reimburse customers for over-the-counter tests when it releases guidance on the issue in January, the White House said.
* The emergence of the Omicron variant sparked a two-week delay on Australia's long-awaited international reopening.
* India reported its first two Omicron cases but the government said it had no immediate plan to authorise booster vaccine shots despite demands from lawmakers.
* Hong Kong authorities will launch a new "health code" mobile phone application next week that travellers to mainland China would be required to use.
* Japan reversed a ban on new inbound flight reservations, revealing confusion between government agencies and the public over Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's strategy to keep out the Omicron variant.
* The European Union's drug regulator said it had started a rolling review of the protein-based vaccine from French biotech firm Valneva.
* South Africa is in talks with Pfizer and Merck for COVID-19 pills, Bloomberg News reported.
* Global shares fell Thursday, reversing gains from the previous session, as a lack of information about the Omicron variant left markets volatile, while crude oil futures extended losses.
* The euro zone's recovery from a pandemic shock is still incomplete and the recent inflation shock along with a new pandemic wave are endangering the rebound, European Central Bank policymaker Fabio Panetta said.
Australian Associated Press