Global: The global Covid-19 death toll has passed the grim milestone of 5.5 million, with a figure of 5,539,681 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections surged past 325 million to a world wide figure of 328,122,701.
A cargo of vaccines that arrived in Rwanda on Saturday night pushed Covax, the program created to deliver Covid-19 inoculations more equitably, over the one-billion mark in shots delivered so far, the World Health Organization said.
News by region
US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 65 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 850,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy defended the Biden administration’s response to the surge of infections caused by the Omicron variant, conceding though that health officials need to “close that gap” in the severe shortage of testing. “We have more to do,” Murthy said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that the spike in infections outstripped what he said was an eight-fold increase in testing over the last month. President Joe Biden and his top health officials are coming under increasing criticism, from the lack of tests to overcrowded hospitals around the nation. A new CBS News poll shows that a majority of Americans find coronavirus information from health officials confusing, with changing guidelines on masking and isolation periods for those who are infected. He said the outbreak is likely to worsen, that “a tough few weeks” are ahead.
With new infections in Idaho spiking, primary care offices and clinics are seeing a record number of patients seeking Covid-19 tests and treatment, the Idaho Statesman reported. Primary Health Medical Group tested a record 2,000 people a day last week and saw 2,500 patients. Positive test results Monday through Friday hit 46.7%, the newspaper reported. Hospitalizations in Idaho are rising quickly, though not to the point of the deadly wave caused by the virus’s delta variant last year.
UK: A total of 70,924 people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland tested positive for coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the government reported on Sunday.
England lowered the age threshold for Covid booster shots to 16, expanding access after the health service delivered more than 30 million of the shots to people over 18.
Ministers are seeing “encouraging” signs that plan B Covid restrictions in England could be lifted in 10 days’ time, the chair of the Conservative party, Oliver Dowden, has said.
Meanwhile, People in the UK may no longer be legally required to self-isolate after catching Covid, according to unsourced reports in the Telegraph.
Russia: Russia reported 29,230 new cases in the past day, the highest daily figure since mid-December, according to the government’s reporting center. While the number of new cases has risen for six days, the number of deaths fell to 686 in the past day, the lowest since the start of July.
Austria: Austria will impose fines on those without Covid-19 vaccinations from mid-March after a transition phase that starts in February, said Chancellor Karl Nehammer.
Greece: Greece from Monday intends to fine all people ages 60 and over who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 as a way to boost lagging inoculation levels and reduce pressure on health care. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has told seniors the simplest way to avoid the levy is to get vaccinated. Greek authorities say the non-vaccinated remain at high risk for hospitalization from the coronavirus. Some nine in 10 Covid-related deaths in Greece have been among people 60 and above, while seven in 10 of those hospitalized from the virus are over 60. And of those, eight in 10 are unvaccinated.
Malta: Hundreds of people marched in Malta against new measures requiring a Covid certificate to enter entry most venues including restaurants, gyms and bars.
Italy: Amnesty International has urged Italy to change its strict anti Covid-19 restrictions to avoid discriminating against unvaccinated people.
Meanwhile, Italian police arrested a nurse in Palermo for allegedly pretending to give Covid vaccines to anti-vaxxer activists so they could benefit from official health certificates to travel and access bars, restaurants and public transport in the country.
Germany: Germany’s health institute RKI reported a record in the 7-day incidence on Sunday, reaching 515.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Earlier, Germany reported 52,504 new cases.
France: France’s parliament has given final approval to the government’s latest measures to tackle Covid-19, including a vaccine pass contested by anti-vaccine protesters. France is in the grips of its fifth Covid wave with daily new cases regularly hitting record levels over 300,000 though the number of serious cases putting people in ICU wards is much lower than the first wave in March-April 2020.
Netherlands: Thousands of people have demonstrated in Amsterdam city centre in opposition to Covid-19 measures and the vaccination programme.
China: The Chinese city of Xi’an has gradually begun lifting restrictions after over three weeks of lockdown as authorities sought to stamp out a local outbreak, AP reported, citing state media. State-owned broadcaster CCTV reported Sunday that certain counties and development zones in Xi’an had begun restoring production, citing a news conference by Xi’an officials.
New Zealand: New Zealand has begun its vaccine roll-out for children aged 5-11. Over 120,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been delivered and is available at 500 sites throughout the country, including walk-ins, drive-throughs, pharmacies, and general practices. Those aged 18 years and older who have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine are also now eligible to book a booster dose.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s flagship airline, Cathay Pacific, has been singled out as the government looks to shift blame over the spread of Omicron to at least 50 people in the last week.
Japan: Japan’s government has started discussions to apply a quasi-state of emergency on the capital Tokyo and its surrounding areas within the week, broadcaster FNN reports.
India: India’s Gennova Biopharmaceuticals is reportedly working on an Omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine while an mRNA vaccine candidate nears completion, sources say.
Indonesia: The current wave of cases in Indonesia could peak in mid-February or early March, said Luhut Panjaitan, the minister who is overseeing the pandemic response. The government has no plans to impose tighter restrictions despite daily new cases exceeding 1,000 on 15 January for the first time since October. People should limit gatherings and avoid in-person meetings unless necessary to curb the spread of the virus, Panjaitan said.
Middle-east and Africa
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia will begin vaccinating children aged from 5 to 11 against coronavirus, the Ministry of Health said in a tweet. People in Saudi Arabia can now take the third vaccine dose, or booster, three months after the second dose. In December, Saudi Arabia advised citizens to avoid “unnecessary” travel outside the country amid rising coronavirus cases and the new Omicron variant.