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March 23, 2022

Covid-19 update: Surge in cases as restrictions lifted -WHO

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 6 million, with a figure of 6,098,854 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 474 million to a world wide figure of 474,132,151.

News by region

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 79.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 973,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Europe

A third of European nations, including Germany, France and the UK, are seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases after “brutally” easing restrictions, the World Health Organization’s regional head said. 

“The countries where we see in particular an increase are the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, France, Italy and Germany,” Hans Kluge, the WHO’s director for Europe, said at a briefing in Moldova on Tuesday. “Those countries are lifting restrictions brutally from too much to too few.”

Europe is trying to leave Covid-19 behind, but the rush to unwind restrictions is now setting the stage for a revival of pandemic risks. Newly confirmed cases climbed to 5.4 million in the past seven days, up from 4.9 million at the end of February, according to WHO data. More than 12,400 people died from Covid in the past week, according to WHO.

Asia pacific

Pakistan: Pakistan has reported no deaths from the coronavirus for the first time in almost two years, according to a Twitter post by its National Command and Operation Centre. The South Asian nation last week removed all coronavirus-linked restrictions. It has vaccinated about half of its population.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong still sees citywide mass testing as a feasible option to find remaining Covid cases once the current wave ebbs, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at briefing. The resumption of quarantine-free travel with mainland China remains “a top priority,” but there’s no timetable for the reopening, Lam said. The city will resume discussions with the mainland on reopening once conditions permit. Hong Kong will resume full-day, in-person classes if 90% of students and all school staff receives two doses of vaccination, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said at the briefing.

China: China’s worst Covid outbreak in more than two years continued to fester, with daily infections nearing 5,000 on Wednesday. The northeastern province Jilin, which has been put under lockdown, reported some 2,800 cases. Infections in Shanghai rose to almost 1,000 after testing was expanded. Shanghai government denied online rumors that it will lock down the financial capital for one week, Chinese media cited local authorities as saying Tuesday night. The local authority urged residents not to hoard food and daily necessities.

Cases appear to be declining in Shenzhen, which ended a week-long lockdown earlier this week. The flare-up, fuelled by the highly infectious Omicron variant, has been spotted in 28 out of 31 provinces on the Chinese mainland. The country has also seen a steady rise in severe Covid cases, though the overall number remains small, at 50 as of Wednesday.

Each of China’s provinces should set up at least two to three makeshift hospitals to treat infections amid Omicron’s explosive spread in the country, according to the country’s National Health Commission. The nation updated its Covid treatment guidelines last week to reserve designated hospitals for those with severe conditions, while patients with mild symptoms should be sent to isolation facilities to avoid overwhelming the medical system. A total of 33 makeshift hospitals have been built, or are currently under construction, to provide 35,000 beds, Jiao Yahui, an official with National Health Commission, said at a briefing. Some 31 local governments are required to come up with plans to ensure the hospitals can be put into use within two days when needed.

Economy news

Thailand: Thailand is heading for a rare back-to-back current-account deficit as the outlook for tourist arrivals becomes less rosy with a flare-up in Covid cases globally and energy import bills ballooning amid soaring oil prices. The net-oil importer may post a shortfall of $4.6 billion this year, according to Bank of Ayudhya Pcl, which previously estimated a surplus of $5.8 billion in the current account – the broadest measure of trade and investment.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s new policies to ease quarantine rules and roll back social-distancing measures fail to address major concerns of the local and international business communities and threaten its standing as a financial hub, according to commerce groups.

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