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Some countries relax restrictions, anticipating omicron peak

A pedestrian walks past a covid-19 public health notice in London, Britain. The British government has announced that Plan B measures to stop the spread of the omicron variant are to be dropped across England starting 27 Jan. (Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
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Northern Ireland is easing its limits on gatherings and nightlife.

Officials in Thailand said Thursday that the country will restart a program meant to ease travel that was suspended in December.

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday that rules implemented to fight omicron in England, such as public masking and proof of vaccination for access to events, will lift.

Some countries are relaxing their coronavirus restrictions, hopeful that cases of the omicron variant will fall as quickly as they exploded last month.

France is still in the thick of an omicron wave and reporting some of the world’s highest daily coronavirus case counts. But Prime Minister Jean Castex said Thursday that restrictions there would gradually lift — with mask and remote work mandates easing early next month and nightclubs reopening later in February.

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Two Democratic lawmakers are urging the Federal Trade Commission to take action to prevent price gouging on at-home coronavirus tests.
New Mexico is tapping the National Guard and state employees as substitutes for teachers with the coronavirus. U.S. workers are out sick in record numbers, deepening the nation’s labor shortages.
New coronavirus cases and deaths are dropping in Africa for the first time since the omicron variant emerged, according to the World Health Organization.
The latest surge of cases powered by the omicron variant has caused extremely high numbers of employees to miss work because of illness.

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Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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