* Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania all hit their highest COVID-19 infection rates of the pandemic, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, but were reluctant to impose sweeping curbs to limit the spread.
* The BA.2 sub variant of Omicron , which is dominant in Denmark, appears more contagious than the more common BA.1 sub-lineage, Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said.
* German lawmakers agonised over whether to impose compulsory shots, as record daily infections and the country's stuttering vaccination campaign forced them into an ethical and constitutional dilemma.
* Italy will ease restrictions for all visitors from European Union countries starting from February 1.
* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected opposition calls to resign for attending parties during lockdown but accepted that a rule that ministers should lose their jobs if they had knowingly misled parliament applied to him.
* New cases in the Americas in the past week have been the highest since the pandemic began and Omicron has clearly become the predominant variant, the Pan American Health Organisation said.
* The United States has shipped 400 million vaccine doses as part of its earlier pledge to donate about 1.2 billion doses to low-income countries, the White House said.
* South Korea's daily new cases exceeded 13,000 for the first time, as the government seeks to revise its anti-virus response to focus on Omicron.
* Hong Kong may not reopen until early 2024 because of its strict policies, which could trigger an exodus of foreign firms and staff and jeopardise the city's role as a financial hub, its European Chamber of Commerce said in a draft report.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
* Israel broadened eligibility for a fourth vaccine dose to include adults under 60 with underlying medical conditions, their caretakers, and others over 18 at significant risk of exposure.
* Tunisia extended a night curfew and banned all gatherings for another two weeks.
* Vaccines using mRNA technology do not affect fertility outcomes during in-vitro fertilisation, researchers have found.
* The world's first medical trial authorised to deliberately expose participants to coronavirus is seeking more volunteers as it steps up efforts to develop better vaccines.
* US stocks retreated on Wednesday, erasing strong gains, after the Federal Reserve signalled an interest rate hike could be coming soon, while supply concerns stemming from tension between Russia and Ukraine saw oil prices touch highs not seen since 2014.
* The Bank of Canada will soon starting hiking interest rates from record lows to combat inflation, Governor Tiff Macklem announced, saying the economy no longer needed help to deal with the effects of the pandemic.
Australian Associated Press
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