While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Jan 8

Medical staff treat a Covid-19 patient in intensive care at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. PHOTO: REUTERS

Omicron pushes US Covid-19 hospitalisations towards record high

Covid-19 hospitalisations in the United States are poised to hit a new high as early as Friday, according to a Reuters tally, surpassing the record set in January of last year as the highly contagious Omicron variant fuels a surge in infections.

Hospitalisations have increased steadily since late December as Omicron quickly overtook Delta as the dominant coronavirus variant in the US, although experts say Omicron will likely prove less deadly than prior iterations.

Health officials have warned that the sheer number of infections caused by Omicron could strain hospital systems, some of which have already shown signs of distress, partly due to staffing shortages.

"I don't believe we've seen the peak yet here in the United States," Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky told NBC News' Today programme on Friday, as schools and businesses also struggle with rising caseloads.


Killers of Black US jogger get life in jail in racially charged case

The three White men convicted of murder in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery while he jogged through their quiet Georgia neighbourhood almost two years ago were sentenced to life in prison, though one of them will be able to seek parole after 30 years.

Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and their neighbour William "Roddie" Bryan were found guilty in November of multiple charges including felony murder following a two-week jury trial, which included video of the February 2020 shooting that was captured by Bryan on his cellphone.

Georgia Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley, who was required by state law to give the men life behind bars, denied a request on Friday by the McMichaels to allow them the possibility of eventual parole. Walmsley said Bryan can seek parole after 30 years. Prosecutors chose not to pursue the death penalty.


No jab, no job: Citigroup to fire unvaccinated staff this month


Citigroup staff in the United States who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 by Jan 14 will be placed on unpaid leave and fired at the end of the month unless they are granted an exemption, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The US bank announced its plan to impose new vaccination rules in October and now becomes the first major Wall Street institution to follow through with a strict vaccine mandate.

Its move comes as the financial industry grapples with how to bring workers back to offices safely and get back to business as usual at a time when the highly infectious Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading like wildfire.


'It's like prison,' says Czech tennis player detained with Djokovic

Czech tennis player Renata Voracova, placed in the same Melbourne detention centre as Novak Djokovic after both had their Australian visas revoked, said on Friday her stay felt like "being in prison".

Voracova entered Australia on an exemption from the country's tight pandemic regulations, just like Djokovic, but both ended up in detention after authorities changed their minds.

"I'm in a room and I can't go anywhere," the 38-year-old Voracova, ranked 81st in doubles, told the Czech dailies DNES and Sport.


Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier dies at 94

Sidney Poitier, who broke through racial barriers as the first Black winner of the best actor Oscar for his role in Lilies Of The Field, and inspired a generation during the civil rights movement, has died at age 94, an official from the Bahamian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday.

Eugene Torchon-Newry, acting director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed Poitier's death.

Poitier created a distinguished film legacy in a single year with three 1967 films at a time when segregation prevailed in much of the United States.


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