Covid-19 has infected more than 300M people and killed over 5.4M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:
Friday, January 7, 2022
UK deploys troops to virus-hit London hospitals
The UK has deployed troops to hospitals in London to alleviate severe staff shortages caused by the Omicron outbreak.
Around 200 armed forces personnel joined health workers in the capital, which has been particularly badly hit by the recent upsurge in cases leading to mass staff absences in hospitals, the Ministry of Defence said.
“They have shown their worth time and again throughout this pandemic, whether driving ambulances, administering vaccines or supporting patients in hospital, and they should be proud of their contribution to this truly national effort,” said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
The deployment will include 40 military medics and 160 general duty personnel.
India’s Covid-19 cases set for new highs as Omicron spreads
India’s daily infections have jumped to 117,100, a five-fold increase in a week and on course to overtake its previous infection peak as the fast-spreading Omicron variant replaces Delta in cities.
Government officials have privately said they are working under the assumption that daily infections will surpass the record of more than 414,000 set in May.
“We will clearly surpass our record shortly and reach a new peak by early February,” M.D. Gupte, a former director of the state-run National Institute of Epidemiology and an immunisation adviser to the government, said.
“Given the size of our population, we will report more daily cases than the US. But what we have seen is that these cases are much more mild, so the need for hospitalisation and oxygen and all that is not picking up.”
US hospitals postpone surgeries amid Omicron surge
Hospitals across the United States are postponing elective surgeries to free up staff and beds due to a surge in Covid-19 cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Administrators say hospital staff shortages have been compounded in the last month by medical practitioners isolating or quarantining as they themselves are infected or exposed to the virus.
Hospital systems in nearly half of US states including Maryland, Virginia and Ohio have announced they would postpone elective surgeries, a Reuters review of public statements and local media reports found, and at least three state governments; New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts, have implemented or recommended state-wide delays.
Most of the areas where hospitals are suspending surgeries have seen either a peak or surge in daily Covid-19 hospitalisation rates during December or January, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
Suspending elective surgeries can create a backlog of cases, cause millions of dollars in lost revenue for hospitals, and in some cases lead to serious illness or deaths.
Hong Kong politicians sent to quarantine after birthday party
Dozens of senior Hong Kong officials and lawmakers have been ordered into quarantine after a coronavirus cluster widened at a birthday party attended by many of the city’s political elite.
The high-profile entries into Hong Kong’s 21-day quarantine facilities have left city authorities red-faced as they prepare to install a new “patriots only” legislature, which is scheduled to hold its first meeting next week.
Senior cabinet members, including police and immigration chiefs as well as 19 legislators, were among 170 people who attended a Monday night birthday bash for Witman Hung, a member of China’s top lawmaking body.
“All the people present at the party need to be quarantined,” Chuang Shuk-kwan from Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection told reporters.
The health department did not give a breakdown of the attendees headed to Hong Kong’s quarantine camp.
Germany mulls new Covid restrictions as Omicron advances
Germany’s leaders are set to consider possible new restrictions and changes to quarantine rules as the new Omicron variant advances quickly.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the country’s 16 state governors are likely to build on restrictions introduced just after Christmas that limited private gatherings to 10 people, among other things.
One restriction under consideration is toughening a measure that requires people to provide proof of full vaccination or recovery to enter restaurants or bars.
They could now be required to provide proof of either a booster shot or a fresh negative test.
Scholz and the governors also are expected to consider shortening required quarantine or self-isolation periods that are currently as long as 14 days, something that many other countries already have done.
The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, reported an official rate of 303.4 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days. Over the past 24 hours, 56,335 new cases were reported.
Sri Lanka vaccinates children as doctors warn of Covid surge
Sri Lankan health authorities have begun vaccinating children aged 12 to 15, as the island nation’s top medical specialists warned of a wave of Covid-19 infections in the coming weeks driven by the Omicron variant.
Under the new vaccination program, children will be given a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine, said the health ministry. Earlier, children above 15 could be vaccinated.
The latest effort begins as schools are set to fully reopen from Monday. Children were previously allowed to attend schools in two groups.
The move also comes as authorities take steps to make vaccination certificates compulsory to enter public places.
According to health officials, 47 Omicron cases have been detected so far in Sri Lanka.
Thailand tightens entry requirements due to Omicron spread
Thailand has announced it is tightening some entry restrictions while expanding its “sandbox” quarantine program to control the spread of Covid-19 fuelled by the Omicron variant.
The government did not announce any lockdown, but issued restrictions on alcohol consumption in restaurants.
People were instructed to avoid public gatherings, public transportation and travel around the country. Most schools will stay open, while bars and nightclubs will remain closed.
The decision came after reported daily coronavirus cases doubled to 7,526 in a matter of days following the new year’s holiday, mostly because of the Omicron variant.
Nineteen new deaths were recorded, the government said.
Italy reports highest daily Covid cases
Italy has registered its highest ever daily spike in Covid-19 cases with 219,441 infections diagnosed in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry announced.
More than 1.13 million coronavirus tests were conducted since yesterday, said the ministry.
The country’s total number of cases stands at over 6.97 million while there are nearly 1.6 million coronavirus patients in the country, among which 1,467 are currently receiving treatment in the intensive care units (ICUs) of hospitals.
French national assembly approves vaccine pass bill
After heated debates and fierce opposition, the French national assembly adopted the bill to transform health pass into vaccine pass that seeks to prohibit entry into public places to unvaccinated people.
Lawmakers approved the bill with 214 votes in favor, 93 against, and 27 abstentions. It will head to the Senate next week before seeking the final approval from the parliament.
Omicron dents UK retail recovery
Restrictions imposed in the wake of the Omicron coronavirus variant have “wiped out” much of a recent recovery enjoyed by UK bricks-and-mortar stores, the British Retail Consortium revealed.
The number of shoppers visiting UK stores slid 18.6 percent in December compared with two years earlier, or before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the BRC.
The UK, already among the worst hit countries in Europe by the pandemic with a virus death toll of nearly 150,000, has seen a fresh surge i n cases owing to the arrival of the Omicron variant in late November.
Mexico reports 128 more Covid deaths
Mexico has registered 128 more Covid-19 deaths, according to the Health Ministry data, bringing the death toll to 299,933.
Argentina breaks Covid-19 case record
Argentina has reported a record number of Covid-19 cases on Thursday for a third day in a row at nearly 110,000, as the highly infectious Omicron variant drives a third pandemic wave in the South American nation.
The record tally of 109,608 in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere summer holiday season with tourist centers full of travelers, has not translated into a similar exponential rise in Covid-related deaths, which totaled 40, the governnent said.
Argentina accelerated its vaccination campaign in recent months, which started with the Sputnik V vaccine, then added AstraZeneca and Sinopharm and, later, CanSino, Pfizer and Moderna.