What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Dec 14 (Reuters) - Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Pfizer vaccine less effective against hospitalisation - study

Two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine appear to have given 70% protection against hospitalisation in South Africa in recent weeks, according to a major real-world study which suggests weaker efficacy against the new Omicron variant.

The study said this compares with 93% efficacy against hospital admission during South Africa's outbreak of the Delta variant.

Pfizer on Tuesday said final analysis of its antiviral COVID-19 pill still showed near 90% efficacy in preventing hospitalisations and deaths in high-risk patients, and recent lab data suggests the drug retains its effectiveness against the Omicron variant.

Eli Lilly, Regeneron antibody therapies lose out against Omicron

German researchers have found that COVID-19 therapies developed by Eli Lilly and Regeneron lose most of their effectiveness when exposed in laboratory tests to the Omicron variant.

The group of Cologne and Berlin-based scientists found that protection from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir's antibody cocktail Xevudy held up when exposed to Omicron in a lab experiment but that this was not the case for Lilly's antibodies bamlanivimab and etesevimab and the antibodies in Regeneron's Ronapreve drug.

British PM Johnson faces rebellion in parliament

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a large rebellion among his Conservative lawmakers on Tuesday in a parliamentary vote over new restrictions to try to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

The measures, including ordering people to work from home, to wear masks in public places and use COVID-19 passes to enter venues, are expected to be approved by parliament but with Johnson relying on the opposition Labour Party for votes.

Omicron is showing a higher rate of reinfection than other variants and its growth rate is shortening in the United Kingdom, the Health Security Agency's chief medical adviser said on Tuesday.

Long queues formed at vaccine centres in England as hundreds of thousands of people rushed to get booster shots.

The chair of Britain's vaccine group said on Tuesday that calling an earlier and faster booster campaign would not necessarily have been the right policy given the scientific evidence at the time.

COVID-19 rattles major Chinese manufacturing province

Multiple companies have suspended operations in one of China's biggest and busiest manufacturing hubs as authorities double down to contain a COVID-19 outbreak, halting production of goods from batteries and clothing to textile dyes and plastics.

Zhejiang has reported 217 locally transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms in just eight days since the first case on Dec. 6. Prior to the current outbreak, it had reported just one local case this year.

Singapore mulls boosters requirement to qualify as 'fully' vaccinated

Singapore is considering requiring its residents to get a booster shot to qualify as fully vaccinated against COVID-19, its health minister said on Tuesday, as it seeks to protect its population from the Omicron variant.

The city-state of 5.5 million people currently allows only those counted as fully vaccinated - or recipients of two shots - to enter malls or dine in at restaurants or at hawker stalls.
Compiled by Linda Noakes, editing by Ed Osmond

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