Regional COVID-19 Report: Month of December, 2021
Alyssa Schmidt, Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2) Team; Federica Calissano, Iris Raith, Martyna Dobrowolska, EUCOM Team; Leslie Acebo, AFRICOM Team; Muskan Muskan, Akshat Sharma, Filipe Neves, Shamsuddin Karimi, Sofia Pantoula, Alberto Suarez Sutil, Yechezkel Mehlman, CENTCOM Team; Marina Amador, Extremism Team, Nicholas Fegreus, Dyuti Pandya, Tiffany Dove, Indirah Canzater, NORTHCOM Team; Tiberius Hernandez, Halle Morel, Matthew Dean, PACOM
Cassandra Townsend, Senior Editor
Week of Monday, December 27, 2021
Map of Major Outbreaks
Worldwide Cases: 290,319,169
Worldwide Deaths: 5,445,346
*Updated as of January 3, 2022
As of December 31, 2021, there are 9,659,957 confirmed cases of COVID-19 from 55 African countries, with over 188,696,109 vaccines delivered across the continent. However, as of mid-December, 2021, only 20 African countries had vaccinated at least 10% of their people. Due to poor vaccination rates, the new Omicron variant will almost certainly continue to spread. Low vaccination rates will likely create additional issues, as there will very likely be higher rates of illness in a population with a low vaccination rate, which likely allows more opportunities for the virus to mutate and will likely weaken the healthcare systems. To improve vaccination rates and make the delivery of these vaccination shipments more effective, governments will almost certainly need to prioritize COVID-19 and make the vaccine more accessible to the public. Since resources are dedicated to treating other crises such as malaria, COVID-19 has not prioritized ministries of health's priority list in Africa, particularly in zones with displaced persons. This lack of urgency is almost certainly a contributing factor for the vaccination delay.
Morocco and Tunisia were the two most affected countries in the North African region as of December 30, 2021. COVID-19 infections are on the rise in Morocco, with an average of 767 cases reported each day. As a result, Morocco shut its borders in late November 2021 and will reopen them at the end of January 2022. The Omicron variant is almost certainly the reason for the border closure. Morocco's economy will most likely suffer, as tourism provides significant revenue. In Tunisia, COVID-19 infections are increasing, with an average of 411 new cases reported daily. Although Tunisia has progressed in its vaccination campaign, the number of COVID-19 cases is likely to rise as more people are infected with the Omicron variant. This new wave of COVID-19 will likely intensify poverty and inequality in Tunisia, reversing the government's poverty-reduction efforts.
As of December 30, 2021, Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, and Nigeria reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the region. The Omicron variant will almost certainly exacerbate the violence in West Africa by adding more vulnerabilities to a region that is already facing humanitarian crises and conflict. This new wave will almost certainly result in a lockdown, disrupting education and worsening the population's socioeconomic status, likely increasing poverty levels. West Africa continues to be one of the continent's least vaccinated regions. Due to poor vaccination rates, the region will likely continue to witness increased cases, putting a strain on the already fragile healthcare system.
Kenya and Uganda have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in the week of December 13, 2021. Within three weeks, the positivity rate in Kenya has increased from 1% to 30%, the country's highest positivity rate at the time of this report. Zimbabwe has also seen an increase in cases which has prompted the government to impose new restrictions on enterprises and incoming travelers. The economy will most likely be impacted by these new restrictions, as many of these businesses will be forced to close, further exacerbating poverty in the region's impoverished areas. Due to Omicron's high contagiousness, and the region's and neighboring regions' low vaccination rates, we will almost certainly continue to observe an increase in cases. These countries will almost certainly need to continue rolling out vaccinations to reopen and recover economically.
As of December 11, 2021, Central Africa remained the least vaccinated region in Africa, with nations including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad having fewer than 5% of their populations vaccinated. The Democratic Republic of Congo reports an average of 731 new infections per day, and COVID-19 cases in Burundi are at an all-time high, with an average of 725 new infections reported daily. Low vaccination rates, along with Omicron's high infection rate, will almost certainly facilitate its spread. Due to the delay in reporting and insufficient testing, it is difficult to accurately see how the new strain has affected the region, which will likely cause delays in assistance and government response. Governments in the region will almost certainly need to collaborate with international partners to boost vaccination rates and ensure vaccinations reach the entire region.
There has been a drop in new COVID infections from 27,000 new reported cases on December 16, 2021 to 15,424 new cases on December 21, 2021 in South Africa. This likely suggests that the rapid rise in Omicron variant cases in the country has peaked and continues to decline. However, new cases are still rising in other countries in the region, such as Mozambique and Botswana. Large gatherings over the holiday season are likely to increase cases. Both countries have yet to meet their immunization targets, and the low vaccination rate will almost certainly contribute to the rise in cases. In the coming weeks, it will very likely be crucial to increase vaccination rates and implement tactics to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan:
During December 2021, the daily COVID-19 cases reported remained significantly low in Afghanistan. It is almost certain that the lack of transparent information and the weak health care system hinders the efforts to identify the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in the country. On December 29, 2021, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide testing kits for the Omicron variant. Neighboring countries have reported cases of the Omicron variant and while Afghanistan is still unable to detect it, it is almost certain that the variant has already spread in Afghanistan. Afghanistan will likely keep underreporting COVID-19 cases amid the worsening humanitarian situation.
In the week of December 20 2021, Saudi Arabia experienced a surge in cases due to the Omicron variant, with 1,668 new cases, marking a 203.83% increase from the previous week. This surge very likely indicates that travel restrictions from countries where the Omicron variant is present have not been effective in containing the spread of the virus. From December 30, 2021, masks and social distancing have been reintroduced. The Saudi Ministry of Health made statements regarding the importance of vaccination, dismissing fallacies over children not getting the virus. The Saudi government's insistence on vaccination and dispelling false information on children getting infected from COVID likely indicate that fake news on vaccines being harmful to children are shared in Saudi Arabia.
On December 29, 2021, 104 COVID-19 cases and two deaths were reported in Oman. The two deaths and sudden increase of cases very likely indicate the Omicron variant is present in the country. However, the week of December 27, 2021 recorded 195 cases, 1.18% lower than the previous week. Limitations adopted by the government on reducing visitors to commercial establishments 50% in light of the increase in cases subsequently very likely reduced cases during the week of December 27, 2021.
Bahrain experienced a surge in cases with 1,108 confirmed cases during the week of December 20, 2021. The celebration of Bahrain’s National Day on December 16 very likely contributed to this increase, with social activities and family gatherings likely facilitating the spread of the virus.
Kuwait is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases, with an average of 291 new infections per day. Average daily infections are 16% higher than the number of COVID-19 infections per day around July 6 2021, when the highest number of daily cases was reported. The increase in cases is likely attributed to malls, wedding venues, and cinemas reopening in November 2021. Additionally, cases are almost certain to increase around New Years when people gather and travel to celebrate the occasion. Kuwait reported 12 Omicron cases from passengers arriving from European nations on December 20, 2021. Citizens will be required to have a booster shot to improve virus immunity. The increase in COVID-19 cases will almost certainly result in a new lockdown with non-essential work and schools being remote.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases with an average of 2,004 infections per day, the highest number of cases since March 2021, with an increased total death toll of 2,164 as of the week of December 27, 2021. The high number of cases is likely the result of the country's return of tourism, with events such as Expo 2020, Dubai Shopping Festival and New Year celebrations attracting tourists. Despite having strict travel restrictions, such as mandatory booster shots, the UAE fails to control tourist attractions such as malls, restaurants, clubs, and events. There is almost certainly going to be a spike in the Omicron variant number of cases after New Years parties and families gathering. The UAE Ministry of Education announced schools will be offering distance learning for the first two weeks of the new school year, with the decision applying to schools, colleges, and training centers. As of January 10, 2022, travelers must have a booster shot to enter and leave the country. The implementation of new policies indicates the government will likely revert to limiting entry to public places and perhaps impose a curfew to limit public presence at crowded events and locations.
Qatar is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases, with an average of 430 cases reported a day, a 23% peak since June 2021. Hosting the Arab FIFA Soccer Cup and National Day festivities almost certainly contributed to the rise of cases, with people gathering in crowded football stadiums, hotels, malls, restaurants, and even the streets. Cases are almost certainly to increase during New Year's weekend, as public and private events will be hosted for locals and tourists. Despite having 91% of the population vaccinated, Qatari health officials are pushing citizens and residents to take the booster shot.
There have been 26,901 COVID-19 cases reported the week of December, 27, 2021. As of January 4, 2021 a total of 64% of the population had been fully vaccinated. Israeli authorities imposed restrictions on December 30, 2021, likely to prevent a spike in new cases due to New Year celebrations. These measures include requiring a Green Pass for outdoor cultural or religious events with 100 people or more, and presenting a negative COVID-19 test if unvaccinated. The Green Pass is Israel’s vaccination passport, which grants access to public spaces in the country. Israel also plans to shorten the amount of time required to get the booster dose from 5 months to 3 months.
During the week of December 27 2021, there were 2,215 weekly cases in Palestine and Gaza. As of December 20, 2021, 28% of the population had been fully vaccinated. On December 26, 2021, the Palestinian Health Ministry announced the first case of Omicron in Gaza, very likely indicating that the Omicron variant has entered the territory and is circulating amongst the population. This will almost certainly result in an increase of COVID-19 infections.
Kazakhstan has administered vaccine doses for approximately 47.3% of the population as of December 19, 2021. As of December 30, 2021, 2,418 patients with COVID-19 are being treated as in-patients in Kazakhstan healthcare facilities. The Kazakh Health Minister stated that as of December 21, 2021, more than 8.9 million people have received their first dose, representing 80% of the population. Air travel to Egypt from Kazakhstan is likely to remain closed in January 2022 to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant in the country. Travel restrictions will also likely be tightened in 2022 as the government is considering to mandate travelers to provide a negative PCR test as well as adhere to the 7-day quarantine irrespective of their vaccination status.
In the last year in Turkmenistan, there have been zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 with zero deaths reported to WHO; however, a senior official of WHO has expressed doubt over the country’s claim on zero COVID-19 cases. Turkmenistan has become one of the first countries to approve the use of Russian COVID-19 vaccines, including Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona, and Sputnik Light. This will almost certainly assist the country in the vaccination drive efforts to further secure the country in preparation of any future variants.
As of December 12, 2021, Kyrgyzstan administered vaccine doses adequate for 17.5% of the country’s population. Kyrgyzstan currently has an average of 39 cases and two deaths per day, which is almost certainly an improvement from the peak average of approximately 1,400 cases and 12 deaths per day in July 2021. As of December 12, 2021, Uzbekistan administered total vaccine doses adequate for 58.1% of the country’s population. Uzbekistan currently has an average of 145 cases and two deaths per day, which is almost certainly an improvement from 2021’s peak average of 918 cases and seven deaths per day in August 2021.
As of December 19 2021, Tajikistan administered a total of vaccine doses sufficient for 33.7% of the total population. Tajikistan currently has a weekly average of zero daily cases and deaths. Lack fo reported cases likely indicates manipulation of actual COVID-19 statistics to manufacture a positive outlook of the management of the pandemic by the Tajikistan government. Tajikistan’s Emergency COVID-19 project received a $25 million grant from the WHO, which will almost certainly strengthen the country’s vaccine rollout programs and likely assist the healthcare infrastructure.
During the week of December 27, 2021, Yemen confirmed 16 COVID-19 cases. Although weekly cases declined in December 2021, Yemen has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world; as of December 2, 2021, 1.23% of the population were fully vaccinated. The Yemeni government has not confirmed any cases of the Omicron variant. If the strain enters the country, the government will almost certainly be unable to contain the virus since the government does not control Yemen's entire territory. It is highly likely that actual COVID-19 infections are higher than confirmed cases as testing capacity in Yemen remains low. On December 15, 2021, the United Nations (UN) announced that it had launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign for stranded migrants in Yemen. Since the goal is to inoculate approximately 7,500 migrants, it is unlikely to curb the spread of the virus in the country.
Syria currently has an average of 42 cases per day and 4 daily deaths. Lower daily case rates and the WHO’s recent humanitarian effort to assist in healthcare services will almost certainly lighten the burden on Syria’s healthcare infrastructure. Japan’s decision to provide approximately 150,000 manufactured doses of the COVAX vaccine will almost certainly further assist vaccination efforts in Syria. While all ports on coastal areas have been opened, travel restrictions of conditional quarantine and a negative PCR test will still likely be required in the future to prevent Omicron variant outbreaks.
On December 9, 2021, Iran detected the first case of the Omicron variant from a traveler returning from the UAE. Since then, there have been 34 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country. The spread of Omicron in dozens of Iranian provinces will likely alarm the Raisi Administration due to the possibility of a sixth wave of COVID-19. The government’s decision to close land borders from the neighboring countries including Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and Armenia, along with a ban on travelers from Western Europe until January 9, 2022 will likely curb the spread of the variant. With the development of the world's first antigen-based rapid detection kit for the Omicron variant by a domestic Iranian company, with turnaround time as fast as 20 minutes, the nation will very likely begin detecting asymptomatic patients due to enhanced testing. Iran also introduced new regulations that mandate citizens to provide vaccination certificates or a negative PCR test to access indoor public spaces and transportation services, likely to incentivize citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Iraq has yet to record any cases of the Omicron variant and COVID-19 cases have been low since August 2021. In the week of December 26, 2021, the Ministry of Health reported 172 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths across the country. It is very likely a new wave of cases is imminent due to Christmas gatherings and New Year Eve celebrations. Current sanctions from the US, UK, and the EU are very likely to put a hold on medical equipment and medicine, which will almost certainly cause issues for Iraq's medical system and see vaccination levels decrease. A crisis in the medical system would likely persuade individuals to rely on non-State actors and non-governmental organizations for COVID-19 and other medical related care, which would likely cause a loss of faith in the central government.
In the week of December 20, 2021, Jordan recorded 17,952 COVID-19 infections, a 34.32% decrease from the previous week. There is a roughly even chance infections will rise in the coming weeks due to New Year celebrations and the presence of the Omicron variant in the country. As of December 30, 2021, Jordan reported 802 Omicron cases. This increase in cases likely indicates travel restrictions were insufficient to prevent the spread of the new variant to Jordan. Jordan's low vaccination rate will likely accelerate Omicron's spread. As of December 27, 2021, 38.47% of the population were fully vaccinated. The Jordanian government implemented Defense Order No. 35 on January 1, 2022, imposing fines up to $7,000 USD for public and private institutions breaking Defense Order No. 35 and denying entry to public and private institutions unless the individuals are completely vaccinated. While the government's implementation of Defense Order No. 35 is likely to eliminate the possibility of new cases being recorded, it may backfire due to public outrage over the high cost of fines and possible strike action by employees.
On December 9, 2021, Lebanon recorded its first case of the Omicron variant. Authorities reported 1,994 new daily cases with five deaths, which spiked to 2,017 daily cases with 15 deaths on December 26, 2021. This surge in infections will likely worsen hospitalization rates, resulting in increased pressure on the health sector and the government. The deteriorating economic and political situation of the country will likely further undermine the capability of the hospitals to admit new cases and provide appropriate treatment, which will likely increase the death rate in the country. The government imposed tourism restrictions will likely continue to negatively impact the struggling economy.
During December 2021, the reported COVID-19 cases reached a plateau in Pakistan at an average of 2,200 weekly cases. On December 13, 2021 the National Institute of Health confirmed the first Omicron case in the country. As of December 27, 2021, Omicron cases had increased to 75 cases. On December 31, 2021, the government announced that 30% of the population had been fully vaccinated. Despite the enhanced vaccination program, the country will likely see a surge in cases in the upcoming weeks due to the poor healthcare system, dense population, and high transmissibility of the Omicron variant. New Year celebrations and public gatherings will likely worsen the situation, increasing pressure on already overwhelmed hospitals. Without proper measures, the new variant will very likely lead to a new wave of infections in the nation.
The COVID-19 Omicron variant is spreading in Europe, and European countries are reimposing COVID-19 restrictions, especially between Christmas and New Years’ celebrations. On January 2, 2022, France reported 174,296 new registered COVID-19 cases; England reported 128,685; Italy reported 78,300; Turkey reported 32,176; and Spain reported 48,675. It is very likely the number of cases will increase in the holidays’ aftermath.
New Restrictions after Omicron Spread:
The Omicron variant has been quickly spreading through Europe and has been defined as much more contagious and transmissible than previous variants. European countries have been adopting new restrictions to prevent the variant’s spread during the Christmas period, which is usually characterized by large gatherings. Several similar measures can be observed across the region; such as in Albania which has imposed a night-time curfew from 2300 to 0600 local time, and mandated face masks indoors and on public transport. Austrian restaurants have a 2300 local time curfew, and masks are required on public transport and indoor spaces.
The Italian government has adopted a color-code method, and most Italian regions are now in the lowest-risk white zone, with outdoor dining allowed and hotels open. Italy’s state of emergency is in place until the end of March 2022, with the government holding power to implement new laws with short-period notice. In the Netherlands, the government imposed a strict lockdown until January 14, 2022. Non-essential shops, bars, restaurants, and other public facilities will be closed. A maximum of two guests are allowed into people’s homes, excluding individuals under 13 years old. Depending on the infections recorded after the holiday season, it is very likely that these measures will be prolonged until the end of January 2022.
Vaccine Rule Changes
The increased spread of the Omicron variant compared to other variants is very likely to promote stricter vaccination rules throughout the EUCOM region. Although the WHO has suggested mandatory vaccination as the “absolute last resort,” some countries have already taken steps in that regard. The European Commission Head, Ursula von der Leyen, started an EU-wide discussion on the possibility of introducing mandatory vaccination at the beginning of December 2021. Austria is the first European country whose Parliament decided on a mandatory vaccination starting on February 1, 2022, which applies to everyone aged 14 and older with high fines for people not following the mandate. Germany is very likely to follow the Austrian example. On December 27, 2021, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced that the Belgian government is considering mandatory vaccination against COVID-19. Given the widening discussion of national governments about introducing this mandate, it is very likely that more countries will start considering this option.
After several EU States, including Cyprus, Latvia, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and Austria, unilaterally decided to introduce additional negative test results for entering EU citizens, the EU set a binding nine-month validity for the EU digital vaccination pass after the second dose. The validity of the COVID-19 vaccination certificates is also likely to be gradually changed. This rule is scheduled to be implemented on February 1, 2022. This is very likely to promote an easier process when accounting for health requirements at entry points such as airports and train stations. A harmonized health pass approach is very likely to ensure free movement of people within the EU, in contrast to single countries introducing their individual and distinct travel rules.
Countries with increased vaccine skepticism will likely be compelled to impose stricter measures in 2022 to promote vaccination campaigns and stop rising death tolls. During the last two months, Russia has seen a peak in deaths and persisting vaccine skepticism regarding the national Sputnik vaccine. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government hopes to promote a country-wide vaccination rally in 2022. Due to a low vaccination rate in light of skepticism, Ukraine has already announced a prolonged imposition of its COVID-19 restrictions until the end of March 2022.
Due to the increased spread of COVID-19 cases in Europe, the majority of EU countries imposed strict travel restrictions for incoming travelers, particularly from southern African countries and England, which have been particularly affected by the Omicron variant. The EU established a traffic light system according to the epidemiological situation in each Member State, which keeps European countries’ travel restrictions up-to-date. Travelers arriving in Germany need to present one of the three documents: proof of vaccination, proof of recovery from COVID-19, or negative test results, regardless of where they come from. Those who want to enter Italy, EU nationals included, need to submit a passenger locator form and show negative test results upon arrival, regardless of their vaccination or recovery status.
Most European countries will almost certainly continue to suffer financial losses without foreign tourists because foreign tourism fuels national economies. During the weekend of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, more than 8,000 flights were canceled due to the current COVID-19 situation. Due to fear of being infected during their holidays and being blocked in the host country, many tourists around Europe will almost certainly cancel their travel packages for the year 2022 until the spread of COVID-19 decreases. As a result, many restaurants, hotels, and travel agencies will likely be forced to close again, leaving many people without employment.
Approved COVID-19 Vaccines:
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the following vaccines for their efficacy and safety by the time of this report: BioNTech and Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, and Novavax. As Europe faces an increase in COVID-19 cases, some steps have been made in order to tackle the spread of COVID-19: on December 16, 2021, EMA approved Pfizer's experimental COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid, ahead of its formal authorization as an emergency measure to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to Pfizer, the pill showed about 90% efficacy in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients if administered during first symptoms. On December 28, 2021, Germany announced it bought 1 million doses of Paxlovid. The EMA’s formal authorization to use Paxlovid as additional medicine will very likely help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across Europe. The European Commission approved a fifth vaccine, Novavax, on December 20, 2021, after a recommendation from the European Medical Agency (EMA). Despite the increase in COVID-19 cases, on December 22, 2021, Turkey approved the domestic COVID-19 vaccine Turkovac for emergency use.
Due to its high infectivity rate, the Omicron variant will almost certainly become the dominant variant in Europe. However, it is likely the number of COVID-19 cases will decrease in response to the new restrictions in the majority of EU countries. It is very likely the number of protests against the new restrictions will increase around Europe, almost certainly followed by an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Vietnam has maintained a high level of COVID-19 infections, reporting about 16,000 COVID-19 infections per day, the highest of any nation in the region, during the week of December 26th, 2021. India has the second most daily infections the week of December 26th, 2021, with an average of 14,600 cases per day; however, India is experiencing the most COVID-19 deaths per day, reporting about 298. The next highest amount of infections is in South Korea, which as of December 27, 2021, has about 4,500 cases and 64 deaths per day. Malaysia had the fourth most infections per day as of December 26, 2021, with about 3,300 infections reported daily, although deaths in the country are on a decline from previous weeks. The nation with the fifth most infections is Thailand, with about 2,700 daily cases of COVID-19 being reported by local medical officials during the week of December 27, 2021.
Asian countries have worked to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the severity of associated health complications by purchasing vaccines or receiving them by donation. As of December 27, 2021, countries such as China, Malaysia, and Singapore reported a population vaccination rate of over 80% and are trying to get individuals vaccinated with the booster. These vaccination rates will very likely help reduce the spread of the virus since Asia has a large population with the majority living in urban areas, almost certainly leading to an environment highly susceptible to increased transmission. However, many poorer States in Southeast Asia have slow vaccination rates, which will likely hinder the overall progress of reducing infection rates and preventing hospitalizations and deaths in the region.
In January 2022, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam are collectively set to receive 124,824,590 COVID-19 vaccines through the Covax donation program. The US has contributed the largest number of donated vaccines at 90 million, followed by several wealthier Asian States such as China, Japan, and India. Taiwan and other Asian States have also donated face masks to help slow the spread of the virus.
Slow vaccination rates amongst poorer Asian States have almost certainly contributed to their lagging economies in 2020 and 2021 through employment instability with rising infections, halting tourism, and shutting down industries to reduce infection rates. However, the donation of vaccines will very likely help poorer Asian States’ economies become more resilient as their populations will almost certainly become healthier and better able to productively contribute to enhancing the nation's economy. By maintaining stable economies, Asian States will almost certainly be better equipped to afford and implement preventative health measures for future variants. Additionally, the need for further vaccine donations in the form of boosters to these Asian States will very likely become necessary as new variants continue to develop.
Vaccine Complications & New Vaccines:
As of December 28, 2021, India approved two new vaccines, expanding its program due to concerns of a third wave fueled by Omicron. The new vaccines, Serum Institute of India’s Covovax and Biological E’s Corbevax, have been authorized for “restricted use in an emergency situation.” South Korea, India, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan will likely further cut the interval for coronavirus booster vaccines for all adults from five months to three as countries struggle to fight record levels of infections amid concerns over the Omicron variant. The spread of the Omicron variant will likely cause these countries to seek more vaccines, produce new vaccines and boosters, and accelerate coronavirus vaccination rates for 2022 to protect against the new Omicron variant and reopen their countries for international travel.
United States (US):
On December 27, 2021, the US hit its highest nationwide COVID-19 case number over a seven-day average of more than 265,000 new cases per day since the beginning of the pandemic, very likely due to the rise of the Omicron variant. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that about 62% of the US population is fully vaccinated, which makes it likely that cases will be less severe than in previous waves. It is likely that the spike of cases is due to delays caused in testing and the closure of testing centers over the holidays. It is likely that the rise in infections will strain the health sector beyond capacity.
The Omicron variant is currently impacting children at an increasingly faster rate than other populations. This is likely attributed to the delay from local health authorities in providing vaccines to younger age groups. With increased cases and hospitalizations, it is likely elementary and high schools will return to online learning.
In December 2021, Canada saw an increase in COVID-19 cases, with 207,418 active cases. New restrictions in major areas of Canada have been implemented to combat the rise in cases across the country. In Ontario, school reopening has been pushed to January 5, 2022 in response to the increase in cases. With the Omicron variant contributing to the increase in cases across the country and the holiday season ending, it is likely that case numbers will continue to rise. The increase will also likely put a strain on resources for COVID-19 testing across the country. Ontario shortened the length of isolation for fully vaccinated individuals who contract COVID-19 from ten days to five days. This will likely allow for more people to return to work more quickly. However, this will also likely increase COVID cases nationwide if individuals are not following proper protocol.
As of December 2021, Mexico confirmed its first confirmed cases of Omicron and is only testing an average of eight people per 100,000 per day. Mexico has not experienced a significant increase in COVID-19 infections in recent months; the low number of COVID-19 infections is likely due to increased vaccination rates over the past year and the wave of infections from the Delta variant providing immunity to recovered individuals. Inadequate testing capacity has also likely contributed to the low number of reported cases. This likely means that the true prevalence of the Omicron variant throughout the country is unknown. With about half the country fully vaccinated, along with the continued influx of international tourists, Mexico will almost certainly begin to experience rises in case COVID-19 cases in the coming months. 
Protests in Response to COVID-19 Measures:
In December 2021, the increase in COVID-19 infections due to the new Omicron variant resulted in governments implementing new social restrictions and tightening existing ones on a global scale. In Europe, the limitation of social gatherings and travel combined with pressure to receive the vaccine have led to protests in multiple countries, often resulting in violent altercations. In countries such as Germany, the UK, and Belgium, there have been frequent clashes between protesters and the police and a significant number of injuries in demonstrations against COVID-19 measures. It is very likely that after the Christmas period the number of COVID-19 cases will increase, very likely leading to further measures restricting citizens' freedoms. Countries such as France and Greece have already announced the implementation of new measures including public gathering limitations, working from home, and mandatory use of face masks in indoor spaces starting on January 3, 2022. Further restrictions will almost certainly result in more protests where the virus will very likely spread easily among attendees, almost certainly posing a risk to their safety and health.
Anti-vaxxers and far-right extremists have continued to infiltrate anti-COVID-19 protests held in December 2021, leading to the storming of public and institutional buildings. At a protest held in Bucharest, Romania, on December 21, 2021, demonstrators, most of whom were members of the far-right, committed acts of vandalism and attempted to storm the Parliament. In the UK, a group of dozens of anti-vaxxers stormed a National Health Services (NHS) center on December 29, 2021, destroying healthcare equipment and PCR tests while shouting and displaying banners with anti-vaccine slogans. The increased frequency and violent nature of COVID-19 protests across Europe are almost certainly providing an opportunity for anti-vaxx and far-right extremist groups to incite social unrest. It is very likely that extremist groups will continue to vandalize institutional buildings as a form of protest against COVID-19 mandates in the following months, very likely posing a threat to the safety of the workers and visitors of such facilities. Healthcare facilities, vaccination centers, and testing laboratories are likely to become targets of attack. Looting and vandalism at these sites would very likely result in shortages of vaccination doses and delayed treatment of COVID-19 patients, almost certainly worsening the existing healthcare crisis caused by the pandemic.
Social media platforms have continued to play a key role for protesters to organize mass demonstrations against COVID-19 measures in December 2021. The proliferation of online forums where users discuss the evolution of the pandemic almost certainly resulted in many of the participants in these discussions being more likely to attend demonstrations. The high amount of conspiracy theories and criticism of government and law enforcement shared in online communities almost certainly increased the frustration of its users against the system, very likely making them more prone to react violently at demonstrations. It is very likely that individuals who are against COVID-19 vaccine and mandates will continue to organize mass protests through online platforms since they allow them to reach large audiences. It is recommended that security forces monitor the online activity of anti-vaxx and far-right individuals to anticipate potential violent demonstrations and design an effective response in advance. Tracking discussions held by extremist individuals on social media platforms could very likely help identify the organizers of anti-vaccine protests and the approximate number of attendees, which would almost certainly assist the police in being prepared with a proportionate number of officers and resources.
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 Morocco, Reuters, December 2021 https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/morocco/
 Tunisia, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/tunisia/
 COVID-19 (WHO African region), World Health Organization, December 2021, https://who.maps.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/0c9b3a8b68d0437a8cf28581e9c063a9
 Number of administered coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine doses per 100 people in Africa as of December 11, 2021, by country, Statista, December 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1221298/covid-19-vaccination-rate-in-african-countries/
 Weekly Bulletin on Outbreaks and Other Emergencies: Week 51: 13 – 19 December 2021, World Health Organization, December 2021, https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/350880/OEW51-1319122021.pdf
 Many African Countries Toughen Covid Restrictions as Fourth Wave Spreads, The New York Times, December 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/25/world/africa/africa-coronavirus-omicron.html
 Why there is low uptake of Covid-19 vaccine in Africa, The East African, December 2021, https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/science-health/low-uptake-of-covid-19-vaccine-in-africa-3658218
Democratic Republic of Congo, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/democratic-republic-of-the-congo/
 Burundi: Coronavirus Tracker, Reuters, January 2022, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/burundi/
 South Africa’s decline in new COVID-19 cases may indicate omicron peak has passed, PBS, December 2021, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/south-africas-decline-in-new-covid-19-cases-may-indicate-omicron-peak-has-passed
 Botswana, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/botswana/
 Saudi Arabia reintroduces mask, social distancing mandates as coronavirus cases surge, Saudi Gazette, December 2021, https://www.saudigazette.com.sa/article/615279/SAUDI-ARABIA/Saudi-Arabia-reintroduces-mask-social-distancing-mandates-as-coronavirus-cases-surge
 MoH: Spike in coronavirus cases linked to Omicron, Saudi Gazette, December 2021, https://www.saudigazette.com.sa/article/615178/SAUDI-ARABIA/MoH-Spike-in-coronavirus-cases-is-linked-to-Omicron
 104 new coronavirus cases, 2 deaths reported in Oman, Times of Oman, December 2021, https://timesofoman.com/article/111180-104-new-coronavirus-cases-2-deaths-reported-in-oman
 Commercial establishments urged to adhere to COVID-19 precautionary measures in Oman, The Times of Oman, December 2021, https://timesofoman.com/article/110927-commercial-establishments-urged-to-adhere-to-covid-19-precautionary-measures-in-oman
 Kuwait reports highest number of new infections since August, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/kuwait/
 Kuwait confirms 12 new cases of Omicron, calls to defer travel, Kuwait Times, December 2021, https://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/kuwait-detects-12-new-cases-of-omicron-calls-to-defer-travel/
 Kuwait reports highest number of new infections since August, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/kuwait/
United Arab Emirates reports highest number of new infections since March, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/united-arab-emirates/
 UAE records `most amazing` travel season as Expo 2020,New Year`s celebrations attract tourists, Khaleej Times, December 2021, https://www.khaleejtimes.com/uae-holidays/uae-records-most-amazing-travel-season-as-expo-2020-new-years-celebrations-attract-tourists
 Covid: UAE bans foreign travel for citizens without booster jab, BBC News, December 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-59845833
 COVID-19: UAE announces distance learning for schools, universities in the country from next week, Gulf News, December 2021, https://gulfnews.com/uae/education/covid-19-uae-announces-distance-learning-for-schools-universities-in-the-country-from-next-week-1.1640706884416
 UAE requires coronavirus booster shots for citizens seeking to travel abroad, The Washington Post, January 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/01/03/uae-coronavirus-booster-shot-foreign-travel/
 Qatar has been consistently increasing for 7 days, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/qatar/
 Qatar reports highest number of new infections since April, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/qatar/
 Israel slaps curbs on gatherings, masks on partygoers ahead of New Year’s Eve, Times of Israel, December 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-slaps-curbs-on-gatherings-masks-on-partiers-ahead-of-new-years-eve/
 Israel tightens COVID 'green pass' rules, sparking protest, ABC News, October 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/israel-tightens-covid-green-pass-rules-sparking-protest-80376179
 Israel to offer 3rd COVID-19 vaccine after 3 months, Reuters, December 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-offer-3rd-covid-19-vaccine-after-3-months-2021-12-27/
 Occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard With Vaccination Data, World Health Organization, December 2021, https://covid19.who.int/region/emro/country/ps
 First case of Omicron coronavirus variant detected in Gaza, The Times of Israel, December 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/first-case-of-omicron-coronavirus-variant-detected-in-gaza/
 Kazakhstan, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/kazakhstan/
 2,418 people with COVID-19 under inpatient treatment in Kazakhstan, KAZINFORM, December 2021, https://www.inform.kz/en/2-418-people-with-covid-19-under-inpatient-treatment-in-kazakhstan_a3879930
 Seventy-Five Percent of Eligible Population in Kazakhstan Fully Immunized Against COVID-19, The Astana Times, December 2021, https://astanatimes.com/2021/12/seventy-five-percent-of-eligible-population-in-kazakhstan-fully-immunized-against-covid-19/
 Kazakhstan suspends air traffic with Egypt over Omicron variant from today, Asian News International, December 2021, https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/kazakhstan-suspends-air-traffic-with-egypt-over-omicron-variant-from-today20211203131322/
 Kazakhstan Considers Tightening Restrictions as Omicron Variant Spreads Globally, The Astana Times, December 2021, https://astanatimes.com/2021/12/kazakhstan-considers-tightening-restrictions-as-omicron-variant-spreads-globally/
 Amid Emergence Of Omicron, Here's A List Of Countries With No Reported Cases Of COVID-19, Republic World, December 2021, https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/rest-of-the-world-news/amid-emergence-of-omicron-heres-a-list-of-countries-with-no-reported-cases-of-covid-19.html
 Turkmenistan Becomes One of First Countries to Register Sputnik Light Vaccine, Caspian News, December 2021, https://caspiannews.com/news-detail/turkmenistan-becomes-one-of-first-countries-to-register-sputnik-light-vaccine-2021-12-25-56/
 Kyrgyzstan, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/kyrgyzstan/
 Kyrgyzstan, Worldometer, December 2021, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/kyrgyzstan/
 Uzbekistan, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/uzbekistan/
 Uzbekistan, Worldometer, December 2021, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/uzbekistan/
 Tajikistan, Reuters, December 2021, https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/tajikistan/
 Tajikistan, Worldometer, December 2021, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/tajikistan/
 If Only It Were That Easy: Tajikistan Declares Itself COVID-19 Free, The Diplomat, January 2021, https://thediplomat.com/2021/01/if-only-it-were-that-easy-tajikistan-declares-itself-covid-19-free/
 Tajikistan’s COVID-19 Response to Benefit from Additional World Bank Support, World Health Organization, December 2021, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/12/22/tajikistans-covid-19-response-to-benefit-from-additional-world-bank-support
 UN launches coronavirus vaccination of migrants in Yemen, Associated Press, December 2021, https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-health-saudi-arabia-united-nations-yemen-df0b6f99be01f0925ec793db8f7b27b0
 Syria, Worldometer, December 2021, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/syria/
 EU bolsters WHO’s COVID-19 response in Syria, World Health Organization, December 2021, http://www.emro.who.int/syria/news/eu-bolsters-whos-covid-19-response-in-syria.html
 The Provision of COVID-19 vaccines to the Syrian Arab Republic through the COVAX facility, Reliefweb, December 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/provision-covid-19-vaccines-syrian-arab-republic-through-covax-facility
 Iran announces first case of Omicron COVID variant, Reuters, December 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/19/iran-announces-first-case-of-omicron-variant
 Iran closes Afghan border as Omicron surges, Tehran Times, December 2021, https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/468580/Iran-closes-Afghan-border-as-Omicron-surges
 Iran not to apply travel restrictions to all air passengers, Tehran Times, December 2021, https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/468470/Iran-not-to-apply-travel-restrictions-to-all-air-passengers
 Omicron rapid test kit produced domestically, Tehran Times, December 2021, https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/468625/Omicron-rapid-test-kit-produced-domestically
 Iran imposes restrictions on unvaccinated in new COVID plan, Reuters, December 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/6/iran-imposes-restrictions-on-unvaccinated-in-new-covid-plan
 Iraq braces for new coronavirus wave 'at any moment', The National News, November 2021, https://www.thenationalnews.com/mena/iraq/2021/11/30/iraq-braces-for-new-coronavirus-wave-at-any-moment/