Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.4 million, with a figure of 5,472,675 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections raced past 300 million to a world wide figure of 300,309,930.
Global: The more infectious Omicron variant appears to produce less severe disease than the globally dominant Delta, but should not be categorised as “mild”, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
US: Alaska Airlines cut 10% of its remaining January flight schedule Thursday as an “unprecedented” level of employees unable to work because of the Omicron variant undercut its ability to operate reliably. Alaska cut 120 flights Thursday, or about 16% of its total, according to FlightAware.com, as more than 1,980 flights were canceled across the industry because of winter weather and employee illness. Alaska grounded nearly 15% of its flights from Dec. 24 through Wednesday, FlightAware data showed. Another 38% were delayed.
Chicago’s Omicron surge is filling up its intensive care unit beds. The city’s positivity rate is 23%, and 89% of its 1,026 ICU beds were in use 5 January, according to the city’s dashboard. Patients with the virus make up about 30% of the overall ICU bed use, according to the data.
Canada: Quebec has tried everything from restaurant closures to a curfew to slow down hospitalizations as the Omicron variant rages on. It’s now adding a more draconian measure to its arsenal: Requiring vaccination proof to enter government-owned alcohol and pot stores. From 18 January, residents will need a vaccine passport to enter Societe des alcools du Quebec (SAQ) and Societe quebecoise du cannabis stores, Health Minister Christian Dube said Thursday. Other restrictions targeting unvaccinated people will follow, he said.
Australia: New South Wales authorities suspended non-urgent elective surgery, and banned singing and dancing in hospitality venues as Omicron cases surge. The changes follow 70,000 infections in two days in the state and a jump in hospitalizations. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet urged people to minimize mingling.
Hong Kong: Four Hong Kong lawmakers have been quarantined for attending a large party where someone is believed to have Covid-19, as the number of officials who flaunted government guidance to attend the event during an Omicron outbreak grows. Legislative Council President Andrew Leung said Friday that 19 members of the 90-seat Legislative Council attended the Monday birthday party for Witman Hung, head of a mainland Chinese economic agency in Hong Kong.
Argentina: Argentina posted a record number of cases for a third consecutive day as the Omicron variant surges across Latin America. Argentina’s health ministry reported 109,608 cases on Thursday, more than double the number of infections seen on 31 December. Yet the death toll as well as hospital occupancy remained relatively low: 40 people died of the virus and only 38% of intensive-care units were taken – about half the peak level seen last year for ICUs.
Mexico: Mexico is likely to surpass 300,000 deaths from Covid this week – the fifth highest death toll worldwide – as infections rise after the holiday season, fuelled by the Omicron variant and largely unrestricted tourism.
Peru: Peru raised its pandemic alert level in numerous cities and tightened some restrictions amid a third wave of infections caused by the spread of the Omicron variant.
News by region
US: Covid -19 infections have passed 58 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 833,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Johnson & Johnson has confirmed a real-world study shows that its single shot Covid vaccine produced long-lasting protection for up to six months against breakthrough infections and hospitalisations.
The White House and US Postal Service are making final plans to deliver 500 million coronavirus test kits to households, the Washington Post reported, citing four unidentified people familiar with the plans. The Biden administration will launch a website to let individuals request rapid tests, and officials aim to begin shipments by mid-January, the newspaper said.
Bank Of America Corp. is pushing back its return to office another week as it monitors the surge in Covid-19 cases. The company encouraged US employees to work remotely through the week starting 10 January as the bank evaluates its next move, according to an internal memo sent Thursday. The firm had earlier advised workers to stay home through at least this week.
Brazil: Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has criticised the country’s health regulator Anvisa for authorising the vaccination of children aged five to 11 years against Covid. His comments came as the country reported reported 35,826 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number of infections since September.
Chile: Chile will begin offering a fourth shot of the Covid vaccine next week to immunocompromised people, making it the first country in Latin America and one of the first in the world to offer the extra dose.
UK: Britain’s first wave of coronavirus raised the risk of death by more than 40% for most adults regardless of their underlying health and other factors, research suggests.
Germany: Germany is considering shortening self-isolation periods over fears that critical services could grind to a halt, according to health ministry plan. Workers in critical sectors, such as hospitals or electricity suppliers, would be able to end their isolation after five days, provided they get a negative PCR test, under the draft proposals.
UK: Pre-departure tests for people travelling to England are to be scrapped. Boris Johnson announced that the requirement would be lifted from 4am on Friday, along with the need for travellers to self-isolate on arrival until they receive a negative PCR test result.
Philippines: The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, has ordered the arrest of unvaccinated people who violate stay-at-home orders aimed at curbing “galloping” infections driven by the Omicron variant.
China: Shenzhen authorities said anyone leaving the city will require a negative Covid test after two infections were detected. The change in the major technology and trade hub takes effect on Saturday, according to a government statement. China is one of the only countries left practicing a zero-tolerance Covid strategy that relies on strict border controls, extensive testing and lockdowns.
India: India’s cumulative coronavirus deaths probably reached between 3.1 million and 3.4 million by July 2021, six or seven times higher than official tallies, according to a new study published in Science. The researchers – including Prabhat Jha from the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health – analyzed an independent nationally representative survey of 140,000 Indians to compare Covid-19 mortality during the country’s 2020 and 2021 waves to expected all-cause mortality. India’s reported Covid death totals are widely believed to be under-reported because of incomplete data, inaccurate attribution to chronic diseases and occurrence in rural areas without medical care, wrote the researchers. If the findings are confirmed, they may require a substantial upward revision to the World Health Organization’s count of deaths from Covid globally, they said.
Australia: A double-vaccinated 23-year-old with no significant underlying health conditions died of Covid-19 in Sydney this week, the New South Wales government said, as cases in the state surge. The man was James Kondilios, a scientist and athlete who won bronze at the 2015 classic powerlifting world championships in Finland in 2015, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. NSW reported 38,625 daily cases Friday, with 1,738 in hospital, including 134 people in intensive care.
Middle-east and Africa
Nigeria: Nigeria is working to develop a Covid vaccine, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a televised interview on Thursday, as the country battles growing cases of the virus.