As of Wednesday evening, more than 229.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In Europe, Germany will stop sick pay for unvaccinated people who have to go into quarantine because of COVID-19. Previously, Germans could claim for income lost due to having to go into quarantine after returning from abroad or coming into contact with a positive case.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said the move was a matter of "fairness," arguing that by the time the new rule comes into force on Nov. 1, everyone who wants a vaccine will have had an opportunity to get one. Those who choose not to "will need to bear responsibility for this then, including the financial costs," he said.
Germany has fully vaccinated 63.4 per cent of its population. The government has said it wants to achieve a vaccination rate of 75 per cent to prevent a sharp rise in cases during the winter months.
The Asia - Pacific
In the Asia-Pacific region, officials in the northeast China city of Harbin say national level health officials have been sent to the city to deal with what may be a coronavirus outbreak. The city of 9.5 million people reported three infection cases on Wednesday, a day after discovering a first case of community transmission.
After the initial finding, authorities started mass testing and closed schools. The city also ordered businesses such as mahjong parlours, cinemas and gyms to shut. City authorities say residents must display a negative virus test to be able to leave for only essential travel. Otherwise, people are being told to stay home.
In the Middle East, as coronavirus infections plummet and vaccinations accelerate in the United Arab Emirates, authorities have loosened a long-standing face mask mandate.
The Gulf Arab sheikhdom said Wednesday that residents no longer need to wear masks while exercising outdoors or visiting beaches and pools in the country. Those who receive medical or beauty treatments may also forgo the mask. However, face masks will still be required in indoor spaces such as shopping malls and public transportation.
In the Americas, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, just back from the United Nations, isolated himself at home on Wednesday and cancelled a trip after his health minister tested positive for COVID-19 and had to stay in quarantine in New York.
Meanwhile, United Airlines officials said 97 per cent of its U.S. employees are fully vaccinated, with less than a week to go before United employees face a deadline to get the shots or get fired. The Chicago-based airline has 67,000 U.S. employees.
In Africa, officials with the World Health Organization's Africa region said this week that 14 countries on the continent had reached a goal of fully vaccinating 10 per cent of their populations by the end of September. But the same health officials noted that a "crippling vaccine supply shortage" remains a major issue for countries across Africa.