Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.7 million, with a figure of 5,789,807 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have raced past 400 million to a world wide figure of 405,994,662.
Daily infections are nearing the quarter million mark in Germany, as the country reported 247,862 new Covid-19 cases, compared with 234,250 the day before, according to the country’s public health authority RKI.
Novavax says its Covid vaccine has proved safe and effective in a study of 12- to 17-year-olds. Armed with the new data, Novavax plans to soon seek expanded use of its shots down to age 12. Later this year, it plans to begin testing in younger children.
News by region
US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 77.4 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 915,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Nevada will no longer require masks in public, Governor Steve Sisolak announced Thursday in a press briefing. Earlier this week, other states with Democratic governors, including New York, New Jersey and Illinois, announced an easing of masking rules as the surge of infections caused by the Omicron variant subsides.
Federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies across the US are bracing for the possibility of a protest by truckers that could begin this weekend and carry into March, potentially including a cross-country caravan and disruptions to cities and major transportation routes. While it’s still not clear how serious the threat is, the US Department of Homeland Security warned law-enforcement agencies that protests could begin 13 February when the Super Bowl is played in Los Angeles and arrive in the nation’s capital in early March. Truckers could time their protests to coincide with President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Speech on 1 March, according to a DHS alert.
Canada: The city of Windsor, Ontario, is seeking a court injunction to end the protest that has blocked freight traffic on the Ambassador Bridge for nearly 72 hours, setting the stage for a potential confrontation with demonstrators. A provincial court will hear the application at 12 p.m. New York time Friday, a city spokesperson said. A court order would clear the path for police to make arrests or tow vehicles to clear the streets, if necessary, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said. The legal move comes as protesters are digging in at the base of the bridge that connects Windsor with Detroit. Police have tried to persuade them to move to an area that doesn’t block traffic, to no avail, Dilkens said in an interview.
EU: Brussels authorities have banned a pan-European “freedom convoy” of motorists protesting Covid restrictions from entering the Belgian capital, the regional government said in a statement. Reuters reports the convoy was expected to arrive at the home of European Union institutions and NATO on Monday. Authorities in Paris had earlier banned the convoy.
Spain: Spain dropped the mandatory use of face masks outdoors. Although they will remain compulsory at large open-air gatherings where social distancing is not possible, they will no longer be required in school playgrounds.
Netherlands: The Dutch government has said it aims to drop most of its coronavirus restrictions by the end of the month, as record levels of infections in recent weeks have only had a limited effect on hospital numbers.
UK: The UK recorded another 66,638 Covid infections and a further 206 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to the latest data on the government’s coronavirus dashboard.
Meanwhile, Covid passes are to be scrapped and the need to wear face coverings in certain venues removed later this month as coronavirus cases continue to fall, the Welsh government has announced. The changes will be confirmed on Friday during the first three-week review of Wales’s alert level zero measures.
Finland: Finland will end testing and contact tracing for the majority of the population, leaving it up to people to test at home and isolate on their own when they have contracted the virus. Testing and contact tracing will focus more on high-risk groups, pregnant women, health-care and social workers, according to a statement on Thursday.
Italy: Italian outdoor and indoor nightclubs will reopen Friday. Access will be allowed only to those showing a “reinforced green pass,” which can only be obtained with the vaccine or after recovering from Covid. Mandatory use of masks open-air in will end all over the country.
New Zealand: New Zealand has hit a new record daily of community Covid cases, with 446 announced on Friday. That is an increase of 140 cases from the previous record, which was set the previous day. Cases are expected to climb steadily now that Omicron is spreading within New Zealand.
More people have arrived outside New Zealand’s parliament, as protesters calling for an end to a vaccine mandate and Covid-19 restrictions refused to end their demonstrations despite arrests by the police. It’s been four days since protesters, inspired by truckers’ demonstrations in Canada, occupied the parliament lawns in the capital Wellington.
Australia: Australia’s immunization advisory body has recommended three doses of vaccine be required for people aged 16 and over to be considered “fully vaccinated.” People should not be considered up-to-date with their vaccinations if they have not received a booster within six months of their second dose of vaccine, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation said in its clinical advice, updated on Thursday. The application of the advice was up to governments and private entities, it said. People who have had Covid-19 can defer their next dose for as long as four months after infection, down from ATAGI’s previous recommendation of six months. Boosters are not recommended for people aged 5 to 15, it said.
China: China will fully support Hong Kong with its “dynamic zero” coronavirus strategy, its office overseeing matters in the city said, as the territory is expected to hit a new record for daily infections on Friday. The global financial hub will report at least 1,325 new coronavirus cases on Friday, broadcaster TVB reported, a new record.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s current social distancing rules won’t stop deaths, and nearly 1,000 residents may die by mid-June if there aren’t changes, according to researchers from the University of Hong Kong. Mitigation measures are needed to cut transmissions by 85% to get through the outbreak while minimizing fatalities, researchers said. The ultimate number of deaths depends on how long the city sustains the curbs now in place and any changes to them.
Middle East and Africa
Africa: Africa is transitioning out of the pandemic phase of its Covid outbreak and moving towards a situation where it will be managing the virus long term, the World Health Organization’s regional head for Africa said. Dr Matshidiso Moeti also said the number of Covid infections in Africa could be seven times higher than official data suggested, and deaths from the virus two to three times higher.
South Africa: The Omicron BA.2 subvariant makes up almost 100% of new coronavirus infections in South Africa, Tulio de Oliveira, a bio-informatics professor who runs gene-sequencing institutions and advises the country’s government on the pandemic, said on Twitter. BA.2 appears to be more transmissible than the original Omicron variant. There is no indication that it causes more severe disease. However, while South Africa was the first country to experience a major Omicron wave, the number of infections has tapered off. On Wednesday the country reported 3,628 new cases, down from a record of almost 27,000 on 15 December.
Americas: At least six auto plants around the US-Canada border have temporarily halted work as the impact from a protest blocking truck traffic into Detroit begins rippling through both nations’ economies. Toyota Motor Corp. said it will idle three plants in Ontario due to parts shortages caused by the bridge blockade. General Motors Co. canceled the evening shift Wednesday and Thursday’s day shift at an SUV factory in Lansing, Michigan. Ford Motor Co. shut down an engine plant and cut the schedule at an assembly plant, both in Ontario, while Stellantis NV canceled shifts Wednesday night at multiple facilities in the US and Canada.
UK: AstraZeneca Plc plans to expand a new unit focused on vaccines and immune therapies rather than sell it or spin it off, Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said in an interview. The business has been in the spotlight since the UK drugmaker in November announced its creation to focus on its Covid-19 shot, antibody combination and products targeting respiratory infections.