Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.6 million, with a figure of 5,688,009 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections surged past 380 million to a world wide figure of 381,724,054.
Hospitalization rates remained far higher for unvaccinated adults than the vaccinated even after the surge of infections with Omicron, which has been found to be less severe than other strains. Unvaccinated adults were 23 times more likely to be hospitalized for Covid-19 than those who were immunized and boosted after Omicron became dominant during the week ending 8 January, according to a study in Los Angeles County. Compared with the vaccinated who hadn’t received a booster, unvaccinated adults were five times more likely to be hospitalized, according to the data published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The WHO has said the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron, sometimes known as a “stealth” subvariant, is starting to outcompete BA.1. The BA.2 sub-variant has now been detected in 57 countries and accounted for more than half of all sequenced Omicron cases, the UN agency said. The emerging subvariant of Omicron doesn’t seem to be any more severe than the original form, an official of the World Health Organization said, according to Reuters.Vaccines also continue to provide similar protection against the different forms of Omicron, Boris Pavlin of the WHO’s Covid-19 response team told an online briefing, according to the news service.
News by region
US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 75 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 890,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
In the US children under five, the last group of Americans still ineligible for vaccines against Covid-19, may soon receive emergency authorisation for the shots, but getting all children vaccinated remains a serious challenge.
New Orleans is requiring Covid vaccinations for all students ages 5 and up beginning 1 February, making it one of the first major school districts to require such mandates. Families may still claim exemptions for philosophical, religious, or medical needs.
Covid-19 infections in New York state have fallen 92% from the state’s peak of roughly 90,000 a few weeks ago, Governor Kathy Hochul said at a press briefing at North Central Bronx Hospital. There were 7,119 new positive cases as of Monday, according to state data.
US hospital admissions for Covid-19 are receding in 34 states and the nation’s capital. In the past week, the number of new Covid-19 patients has dropped 31% in New Jersey and in Maryland, the biggest declines in the country, according to datafrom the US Department of Health and Human Services.
France: France will begin lifting coronavirus restrictions including mandatory outdoor mask-wearing on Wednesday in a bid to ease citizens’ daily lives, dividing opinion as the country only last month reported record Covid-19 infections.
Norway: Norway is easing most of the measures to curb infection and aims to remove the rest in a couple of weeks as it bets a high level of vaccination will be enough to shield the health system from overloading. Limits on guests at private gatherings, a curb on the service of alcohol in bars and restaurants, and testing after arriving at the border have all been removed, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters in Oslo on Tuesday. Face masks will still need to be worn in shops, shopping centers and on public transport where a distance of a meter (3 feet) can’t be maintained.
Germany: Germany reported a record 208,498 new cases, compared with 162,613 the day before, according to the country’s public health authority. Reported new deaths associated with the virus rose by 196, bringing the total to 118,170.
UK: The Covid pandemic has “destroyed morale” among school leaders in England, who feel they have been scapegoated for government failures during the crisis instead of being hailed as heroes for their role on the frontline, MPs will be told in a briefing on Wednedsay.
Tonga: Tonga has entered a lockdown after recording two Covid-19 cases among port workers helping distribute international aid in the wake of the volcanic eruption and tsunami that devastated the Pacific country last month.
China: China reported 63 confirmed coronavirus cases for 1 February, down slightly from 66 a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Wednesday.
Meantime, at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, 32 new Covid infections were detected among Games-related personnel on 1 February.
India: Health workers on the frontline of the Covid vaccination programme in India say people are being officially registered as double vaccinated without receiving both doses because of pressure to meet government targets.
Australia: Australia recorded 69 Covid deaths as the country continued to battle the spread of the Omicron variant with worrying outbreaks in some remote communities.
New Zealand: New Zealanders will be able to get a vaccine booster shot after three months rather than four months, starting from 4 February, according to an emailed statement from Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins. The announcement means 1 million more people will be eligible for a booster from this weekend. More than 1.3 million people in the nation of about 5.1 million have already received a third shot.
Japan: A Japanese health ministry panel will meet as early as 10 February to consider whether to approve Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 drug Paxlovid, the Yomiuri newspaper reports without attribution. Formal approval is expected to follow soon afterward. Merck & Co.’s antiviral pill molnupiravir was approved for use in Japan in December.
Two years into the pandemic in Japan, some residents in former tourist hotspot Kyoto admit that they have learned to embrace life without foreign visitors.
Australia: Labor shortages are becoming an increasing challenge for mine operators across Western Australia. The state is one of the world’s last Covid-Zero strongholds, having abandoned plans to loosen Covid-related border controls in January. The Western Australian resources industry relies on flying in explosives experts, truck drivers and other workers to remote sites, often from other states. Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. reported a 20% rise in costs over the past 12 months, in part due to increased labor overheads, while BHP Group Ltd., the world’s largest miner, reported that temporary rail labor shortages had been a headwind.
US: The White House is lowering expectations for this week’s US jobs report, saying that brief absences of workers due to Omicron could overstate the number of unemployed people for last month. Several White House officials have teed up Friday’s report with warnings, saying that the week when surveys were taken for the January payroll numbers was the height of illness absences in the aftermath of the holidays. Federal Reserve officials delivered similar words of caution.
EU: European Union states spent only about a third of the more-than 3 trillion euros ($3.4 trillion) in aid they budgeted for to save their economies from the pandemic, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.