* Europe crossed 75 million COVID-19 cases according to a Reuters tally, as the region braces for the new Omicron variant at a time when hospitals in some countries are already strained by the current surge.
* France has reported 12 cases of the Omicron variant.
* A rise in the prevalence of infections in England in the latest week was driven by the dominant Delta variant rather than Omicron, Britain's Office for National Statistics said.
* The Irish government announced strict new limits on the hospitality sector and home visits as it moved to push down infection rates after officials warned the new Omicron variant was likely to add to pressure on the health service.
* Russia's death toll has reached at least 578,020, the third-worst in the world, according to Reuters calculations based on official statistics for October, the country's deadliest month so far.
* Greece will offer all adults booster shots three months after they have had their second vaccine shot or tested positive, down from six months now, to help protect them from the emergent Omicron variant, officials said.
* Dutch health authorities said they were worried some passengers arriving from South Africa in the past week were testing positive on arrival despite having been vaccinated and testing negative before their flight departure.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* South Africa is being hit by a fourth wave of infections driven by the new variant which has been detected in seven of the country's nine provinces, its health minister said.
* Missouri has detected its first case of the Omicron variant in a resident of St. Louis who had recently travelled domestically, according to the state health department.
* Canada has discovered a total of 12 cases of the new Omicron variant and severe illness trends across the country could start to rise again, public health officials said.
* A Philadelphia man in his 30s has tested positive for the Omicron variant, city health officials said, the first reported case in Pennsylvania.
* A sixth US state - Nebraska - reported the Omicron variant after detecting six confirmed cases of the highly contagious strain, the state's health department said.
* A leading infectious diseases expert has called into question Australia's decision to shut the border to several African nations due to the Omicron variant.
* Malaysia and Sri Lanka reported their first Omicron cases.
* Gennady Golovkin's world title fight against Ryota Murata in Japan has been postponed due to the spread of the new variant.
* The Omicron variant likely acquired at least one of its mutations by picking up a snippet of genetic material from another virus - possibly one that causes the common cold - present in the same infected cells, according to researchers.
* The US FDA authorised the use of Eli Lilly's dual-antibody therapy in treating mild to moderate symptoms in all children, including newborns, who are at risk of severe illness.
* Vaccine makers have contingency plans to deal with the Omicron variant that include a combination vaccine against the original version and the variant as well as a variant-specific booster dose, a top US health official said.
* Global equities and benchmark US bond yields tumbled in volatile trade after data showed US job growth slowed considerably in November and the Omicron variant kept investors on edge.
Australian Associated Press