(Bloomberg) -- New restrictions are showing up across the world as authorities try to stem the spread of the omicron strain of Covid-19. France shut nightclubs for four weeks, New York City called for a private sector vaccine mandate and Hong Kong imposed quarantine requirements on more countries. 

South Africa’s rate of positive tests climbed to 26.4%, but the surge hasn’t overwhelmed hospitals so far, prompting some cautious optimism that omicron may cause mostly mild illness. Experts warned, however, that it’s too soon to draw conclusions.

The variant has reached Russia and Fiji. It is spreading in the U.K. 

Key Developments:

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 266.3 million; deaths pass 5.2 million
  • Vaccine side-effect database helped sow doubt in vaccinations
  • Omicron mutations signal vaccine evasion, but similar symptoms
  • Scientist who first sequenced omicron worried by speed of change
  • Travel insurance may save peace of mind but not much money
  • What we know about omicron: QuickTake

Fiji Confirms Two Omicron Cases (6:30 a.m. HK)

Fiji said two citizens who tested positive for Covid were confirmed to have the omicron viariant. The fully vaccinated individuals returned from Nigeria, via Hong Kong, on Nov. 25 and tested positive positive while in quarantine, according to Fiji’s health ministry. They don’t have any symptoms and tested negative before leaving Nigeria. The omicron diagnosis was confirmed after sequencing in Australia. 

“The indications are that we have averted community transmission at this time,” the ministry said on its website.

N.Y. Halts Elective Surgery at 30 Hospitals (4:10 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is ordering about 30 hospitals in the state to halt elective surgeries amid a surge in Covid-19 admissions.

Covid-19 hospitalizations have surged 80% in New York state in the past month. An executive order that took effect Dec. 3 allows the state health department to limit non-essential procedures at hospitals with limited bed capacity.

As of Thursday, 56 hospitals had a bed capacity of 10% or less, including Albany Medical Center Hospital, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, according to the state health department.

Hochul said she hopes the National Guard deployment and reinforcements from downstate hospitals can help ease the stress at some hospitals seeing increased cases.

Moderna Drops as Investors Await Variant Data (2:10 p.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. fell as much as 16% on Monday, making it the worst-performing stock in the S&P 500 Index, a troubling turn for the vaccine maker that led the benchmark just last week. 

It’s the biggest drop in a month for Moderna, and it comes as investors weigh the risks of the omicron variant against a broader economic reopening. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signaled hope that existing vaccines could work on the virus variant, while country’s virus expert, Anthony Fauci, said in a CNN interview that the severity of illness may not be as bad as feared. 

France Shuts Nightclubs for Four Weeks (1:30 p.m. NY)

France will close nightclubs for four weeks and open vaccination to vulnerable kids, in a bid to prevent hospitals from getting saturated this winter as the number of new Covid cases rises to around 40,000 per day.

The country could open vaccination to children between ages 5 and 11 by early 2022, Prime Minister Jean Castex said. He recommended that the French avoid large gatherings and try to work remotely. Health measures will also be strengthened in schools, he said.

“A curfew, a lockdown would be disproportionate, but the situation requires individual and collective efforts,” Castex said during a press conference in Paris. “We shouldn’t panic. While the number of cases is high, the situation isn’t the same as a year ago, as the French are massively vaccinated.”

Castex said that without the high immunization level -- around 90% of adults are vaccinated -- hospitals would already be saturated, “and we would probably have a lockdown like in other European countries.” Castex “solemnly” asked non-vaccinated people to get the jab but cautioned that wouldn’t suffice to keep French hospitals afloat in coming weeks. He said the Pasteur Institute recommended reducing the infection rate by at least 10% “to exit the danger zone.”

Norway Plans to Tighten Restrictions (11:10 a.m. NY)

Norway’s authorities are set to announce new measures on Tuesday to reduce contacts due to a new wave of infections with the delta variant and a quick spread of the omicron strain, Health and Care Services Minister Ingvild Kjerkol was cited as saying by NRK. Norway registered 2,576 new cases on Monday, 855 more than a week earlier.

NYC Calls for Private Sector Vaccine Mandate (9:40 a.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a private sector vaccine mandate on Monday without elaborating how the city would enforce the requirement.

He also strengthened the vaccine rules for access to indoor dining, entertainment and fitness, which currently requires people to have received at least one dose. Starting Dec. 27, people will have to be fully vaccinated to enter establishments. Kids age 5-11 will also be required to have at least one shot to enter restaurants, de Blasio said.

Omicron Mutations May Provide Origin Clues (8:29 a.m. NY)

Omicron’s unusually large number of mutations on the gene that helps the coronavirus spread may provide clues as to how it developed, according to a computational analysis of the variant. 

According to researchers, some of the hypotheses about its development include that the strain emerged from an area where genomic surveillance is low or people have little access to health care. Alternatively, it could have developed in an immunosupressed person, who would have harbored the virus for a lengthy period, allowing it to mutate.

Another hypothesis is that the virus could have crossed back into an animal population, mutated, and then re-infected humans.

Germany’s New Leader Taps Health Minister (5:55 a.m. NY)

Germany’s incoming chancellor, Olaf Scholz, named a high-profile health expert who has taught at the Harvard School of Public Health to tackle a brutal surge in Covid-19 infections.

The Social Democrats’ Karl Lauterbach, a professor of epidemiology who has become a public figure during the pandemic, will be Scholz’s health minister when the new government is sworn in on Wednesday.


Russia Confirms First Cases (5 a.m. NY)

Two people recently returned from South Africa were diagnosed with Russia’s first cases of the omicron variant, the country’s health watchdog said in a statement Monday.

All citizens arriving from southern Africa will be quarantined in a special observatory, where they’ll face daily PCR testing, the agency said.

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