Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.5 million, with a figure of 5,574,354 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections surged past 340 million to a world wide figure of 342,597,394.
Covid-19 vaccinations won’t affect a couple’s chances of conceiving a child, but an infection of SARS-Cov-2 (Covid-19) can temporarily diminish male fertility, an NIH-funded study found. The study, published on Wednesday in the American Journal of Epidemiology, marks the latest effort to show that the vaccines can help avert the risks Covid-19 poses on pregnancy or the baby.
News by region
US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 69 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 860,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio treated a record number of Covid-19 patients, most of them unvaccinated, the Dayton Daily News reported. Of the 60 children treated last week, 20 were in intensive care, the newspaper reported. Children in the US have been hospitalized at a higher rate during the surge of the Omicron variant compared with previous viral waves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
US president Joe Biden has admitted that more should have been done in terms of Covid-19 testing availability earlier in the pandemic.
Evidence of Omicron appeared in US sewage samples collected as early as 21 November, state and local health officials from California, Colorado, Houston and New York City said in a study published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first infection in a US patient was confirmed on 1 December in California. “The findings give strong early evidence that the Omicron variant was likely present or more widely distributed in these communities than originally indicated by clinical testing alone,” the authors said in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Signs of the Omicron variant that’s fueling a worldwide surge in Covid-19 cases were present in the US a week or more before it first appeared in California, and spread widely in the weeks afterwards, according to a study showing the power of wastewater analysis for tracking outbreaks.
San Francisco’s infections are falling rapidly from a peak a week and half ago, the city’s department of health said Thursday. The seven-day average of cases has dropped to about 1,076 per day from 2,164 on 9 January, while hospitalizations are also expected to peak in the next few days at a level that’s within the health system’s capacity.
The US hospital-staffing shortage exacerbated by the latest Covid-19 wave is showing signs of easing, but many West Coast and rural states are still seeing the worst of it. The numbers are still concerning to state leaders, but are at least returning to the levels seen in October and November, before the Omicron spike.
Canada: Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the government will begin to ease restrictions in Canada’s most populous province at the end of January, as the worst of the Omicron wave appears to be over. He also laid out a plan to further loosen measures over the next two months.
Ireland: The Irish government has been given the green light to lift the majority of the state’s Covid restrictions.
France: In France, Covid-19 restrictions will be loosened from February onwards, the prime minister has said, shortly after country’s Covid vaccination pass comes into effect. Jean Castex said on Thursday the pass will come into effect on 24 January, provided it is approved by the Constitutional Council.
UK: England will soon scrap virtually all Covid measures, the health secretary confirmed.
Citigroup asked its London staff to come into the office at least three days a week. “We are now free to gather in our offices, without restriction, where we are better able to generate the energy and collaborative spirit on which Citi thrives,” EMEA Chief Executive Officer David Livingstone and UK head James Bardrick said in an email to staff seen by Bloomberg.
Germany: Germany reported another record rise of 133,536 daily new cases. It is the second consecutive day the European country has broken a pandemic record, with 234 deaths also reported, according to recently updated figures from the Robert Koch Institute.
Austria: Austrian lawmakers passed the European Union’s first law making coronavirus vaccinations mandatory as other member states ease restrictions in the latest wave of the pandemic. The parliament’s lower house approved the policy on Thursday with additional support from most deputies in two opposition groups. The far-right Freedom Party rejected the plan. The mandate will come into force next month, and officials will start imposing fines as high as 3,600 euro ($4,084) for dissenters from mid-March.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong will likely suspend face-to-face teaching in secondary schools from 24 January, local media reports.
Hong Kong added 50 new locations – including the airport, shopping district and one of the city’s best-known noodle houses – where mandatory tests are required for visitors to these sites.
The move came after officials said they were more confident about links between pet hamsters and Covid in the city. “Given some of the hamster samples of a pet shop collected earlier were tested positive, four specified premises are included in the compulsory testing notice,” the government said, adding to an earlier list of pet stores.
Thailand: Thailand will resume its ‘Test & Go’ quarantine waiver for vaccinated arrivals starting on 1 February, the country’s coronavirus taskforce said on Thursday.
Japan: Japan recorded a daily rise of 41,377 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, shattering the record it set a day earlier by about 10,000 as the government puts more prefectures under a quasi-state of emergency.
Malaysia: Children aged 5-11 in Malaysia will be jabbed starting February with the Pfizer vaccine.
Australia: Australia’s drugs regulator has for the first time approved oral treatments for Covid-19 which should help address supply shortages of other treatments. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Association has also given provisional approval to the protein-based Novavax Covid-19 vaccine.
The state of Western Australia has cancelled plans to reopen its borders on 5 February, citing health risks from a surge in Omicron cases elsewhere in the country, as the tally of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began topped two million.
New Zealand: New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has said restrictions will be tightened if there is a community transmission of Omicron.
Middle-east and Africa
Africa: Cases of Covid have sharply declined in Africa and deaths are declining for the first time since the emergence of the Omicron variant, the World Health Organization has said.
Israel: Israel will give a third Pfizer-BioNTech dose to at-risk children ages 5 to 11, as Omicron continues to spread, the Health Ministry said. The decision would apply to fewer than 200 children, according to Haaretz.
Separately, the country will from next Thursday exempt schoolchildren from quarantine if they are exposed to a Covid carrier but show no symptoms, Haaretz and Army Radio reported. The students will be tested on the day of exposure and again three days later, without any requirement to quarantine during that time. About 100,000 students across Israel are currently in isolation, significantly higher than in previous waves, Haaretz said.