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(Reuters) - Three U.S. studies show that a third dose of an mRNA vaccine is key to fighting the Omicron coronavirus variant, providing 90% protection against hospitalization due to COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* European Union health ministers were told to prepare to deploy a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as data showed it was needed, as the bloc faces a surge in cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
* The UK Health Security Agency has designated a sub-lineage of the dominant and highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant as a variant under investigation, saying it could have a growth advantage.
* Ireland is to scrap almost all its COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday after coming though the storm of the Omicron variant that led to a massive surge in infections, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a national address.
* In India, Delhi will remain under curfew over the weekend and overnight to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant, the city's disaster management authority said.
* China reported the lowest daily tally of confirmed locally transmitted cases in nearly two months, while infections edged up in the capital Beijing amid a high virus alert.
* A judge in Texas ruled that President Joe Biden could not require federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and blocked the U.S. government from disciplining employees who failed to comply.
* New coronavirus cases are falling in parts of the United States hit hardest by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, according to a Reuters analysis of public health data, offering an early indication the virus might once again be in retreat.
* Canada is seeing early signs that a wave of infections caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may have peaked, but hospitals are still under intense strain, chief public health officer Theresa Tam said.
* The U.S. Transportation Department said it would suspend 44 China-bound flights from the United States by four Chinese carriers in response to the Chinese government's decision to suspend some U.S. carrier flights over COVID-19 concerns.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* The World Bank has approved a loan of $750 million to South Africa linked to COVID-19, aiming to help protect the poor and support economic recovery from the pandemic, the National Treasury said.
* In very young children, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus causes less severe disease than the Delta variant, according to a new study.
* Risk aversion dominated markets on Friday as stocks slumped on Wall Street and in Europe, oil prices fell from seven-year highs earlier in the week and bond prices surged with traders scurrying for the relative safety of government debt. [MKTS/GLOB]
* The German government will cut its economic growth forecast for this year to 3.6% from its October estimate of 4.1%, according to a draft of the annual economic report seen by Reuters.
(Compiled by Juliette Portala, Marta Frackowiak and Vinay Dwivedi; Edited by Milla Nissi, Kirsten Donovan and Sriraj Kalluvila)