Global: New Covid cases fell 21 per cent around the world in the past week, the World Health Organization reported. Meanwhile, the global Covid death toll has passed 5.9 million, with a figure of 5,904,723 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 427 million to a world wide figure of 427,358,056.
People infected with the Omicron coronavirus variant are nearly 75% less likely to develop serious illness or die than those who contract the Delta variant, real-world data released by South Korea’s health authorities showed.
News by region
US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 78.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 938,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Covid-19 hospitalizations in New York state have declined by more than 1,000 in the past week, Governor Kathy Hochul said Tuesday. The state reported 2,461 hospitalizations, down from 3,504 on Feb. 15. The rate of positive Covid tests was less than 2.5% for a fourth straight day, Hochul said. One month ago, New York had more than 10,000 hospitalized for Covid and a positive test rate of 9.23%.
Apple Inc. has dropped its mask requirement at most retail stores across the US, following reduced Covid-19 cases and changes in local mandates. The iPhone maker also is ramping up for the return of in-store classes. The company announced the changes this week to employees at eligible stores and has updated its website to reflect which locations are no longer requiring masks. Apple, however, will continue to recommend that customers wear masks and will provide them upon request. Apple retail workers will still be required to wear masks, employees say.
Chicago, the third-largest US city, will lift its mask mandate for indoor public places on 28 February, following similar plans announced earlier this month by the state of Illinois, city officials announced. This represents “a huge step forward in our effort to overcome Covid-19,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference. The city will still require masks in some congregate settings like public transit. Chicago will also lift its rule requiring proof of vaccination in sites such as restaurants.
Brazil: Brazil has reported 816 daily Covid deaths and 105,776 new cases.
UK: The UK has reported 205 daily Covid-19 deaths within 28 days of a positive test compared with 15 deaths on Monday. A further 41,130 new cases were reported compared with 38,409 cases the previous day.
The UK government’s Covid dashboard will no longer be updated at weekends, the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed. As of this week, the dashboard will be updated from Monday to Friday, while daily cases and deaths by report date published on Mondays will include figures from the weekend.
People attempting to order free lateral flow tests in England are struggling to do so as the system has been overwhelmed with the scramble for free tests while they are still available.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s system of mandatory vaccine passports for nightclubs and sports venues is to end next week, Nicola Sturgeon has announced. On 21 March, assuming there was no new surge in infections, the regulations requiring face masks on public transport and in shops will also end, to be replaced by guidance recommending them.
Northern Ireland’s health minister has warned he will not be rushed into making decisions around Covid tests.
Ireland: Ministers in Ireland have approved plans to remove almost all Covid-related restrictions, including the wearing of face masks, on Monday. The use of masks will only be required in healthcare settings.
Italy: Italy has reported 322 coronavirus-related deaths up from 201. There were a further 60,029 daily Covid-19 cases against 24,408 the day before, the health ministry said.
Denmark: New data from Denmark show that it’s possible to be infected twice with two different types of the Omicron variant. Out of 2 million positive tests since November, 67 people have had both the BA.1., and the BA.2. variant with 20 to 60 days interval, Denmark’s institute for infectious diseases said in a statement on Tuesday. Of those, 47 first caught the BA.1. and were predominately young and unvaccinated, suffering only mild symptoms. Denmark lifted all restrictions on 1 February and declared that Covid-19 was no longer a threat to society, despite record-high daily virus cases. The so-called reproduction rate fell to 0.8 on Tuesday, meaning the outbreak is shrinking.
Hong Kong: All 7.4 million Hong Kong residents must undergo three rounds of compulsory coronavirus testing in March, the chief executive, Carrie Lam, said.
Hong Kong should impose a strict, city-wide lockdown for nine days to rein in its escalating Covid outbreak rather than prolong social-distancing restrictions that are strangling business, lawmaker Michael Tien said. All non-essential businesses would be shuttered and residents tested three times over the lockdown period, Tien, a pro-China lawmaker in the city’s Legislative Council and a Hong Kong deputy to China’s National People’s Congress, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday. Tien is the first legislator to call so prominently for a mainland-style lockdown, with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam repeatedly dismissing the prospect, instead saying the city will engage in a mass testing effort and may consider localized stay-at-home orders. Lam unveiled details late Tuesday of a plan to test the city’s 7.4 million residents three times in March, and to extend social-distancing curbs – including limits on restaurant dining and family gatherings – until at least mid-April.
China: China is racing to defuse Omicron flareups in Wuhan, where a business meeting last week led to the spread of the variant among participants and their families. Local media reported that the meeting was a training session organized by Nu Skin Enterprises Inc., a US skincare and health supplement direct-selling company. Wuhan has reported 14 infections this week, with 13 of them having attended the training and the other being one of their family members. Meanwhile, Beijing also reported 10 cases on Wednesday, among people that local media reports suggest returned from the Nu Skin meeting in Wuhan. The east coastal city of Qingdao also reported an infection linked to the Wuhan cases.
Singapore: Singapore’s daily cases reached a new high of over 25,000 on Tuesday, prompting moves by the Ministry of Health to conserve medical resources. The current wave of infections may take a few weeks to subside, the ministry said. Singapore detected 25,731 new local Covid cases as of noon Tuesday, including those detected through rapid testing, almost double the 13,476 recorded the day before, the latest ministry data showed. Singapore plans to substantially ease travel and social restrictions once the current wave of Covid infections peaks amid mounting evidence that the Omicron variant is less threatening than its predecessors.
Africa and Middle East
Uganda: Uganda plans to fine people who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid and imprison those who fail to pay, under a new public health law which lawmakers are scrutinising, its parliament has said.
Hong Kong: All HSBC retail branches in Hong Kong will be closed temporarily on Saturdays, the bank said in an emailed statement. Eleven HSBC outlets will be closed temporarily from Wednesday until further notice after several staff tested positive to Covid-19.