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February 7, 2022

Covid-19 update: US coronavirus death toll passes 900,000

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.7 million, with a figure of 5,740,187 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 390 million to a world wide figure of 394,995,479.

News by region

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 76 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 902,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

New York state passed a marker in the decline of the latest viral surge: the percentage of tests returning positive is the lowest since the World Health Organization declared Omicron a variant of concern, on 26 November. New infections reported on Sunday were 5,680, with the percentage positive at 3.52%. Other measures of the Omicron surge remain elevated: Hospitalizations are roughly double the level of late November, and deaths are roughly four times as high.

More US schools are likely to begin lifting mask mandates soon as the overall risk from the Omicron wave eases, said Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. “We can start to lean forward and take a little bit more risk and try to at least make sure that students in schools have some semblance of normalcy for this spring term,” Gottlieb, a Pfizer Inc. board member, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “A lot of kids haven’t really known a normal school day for two years now.”

Canada: The mayor of Canada’s capital has declared a state of emergency as protesters opposed to Covid-19 restrictions continued to paralyse central Ottawa. Jim Watson said the declaration highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government.

Europe

UK: The UK reported another 54,095 Covid cases on Sunday, the lowest figure since 12 December. Infections have been declining since the Omicron wave peaked in early January, with the seven-day average down 5% to 83,474. Another 75 fatalities were reported Sunday. The country has stopped requiring those who test positive on lateral-flow devices to confirm the result with a laboratory PCR test. However, reinfections are also included as of last week.

UK travellers have been warned to check their half-term holiday plans to make sure they meet Covid vaccination rules when travelling to EU destinations as a growing number of countries impose new restrictions.

Meanwhile, Prime minister Boris Johnson’s desperate efforts to save his premiership have been undermined with one of his most loyal backbench supporters saying it was now “inevitable” that Tory MPs would remove him from office over the “partygate” scandal.

Asia pacific

Vietnam: More than 17 million Vietnamese students are due to return to school for the first time in about a year, the health ministry has said, as authorities announced plans to start vaccinating children from as young as five against Covid-19.

China: The Chinese city of Baise in Guangxi, population 3.57 million, has been locked down because of a Covid outbreak. The outbreak is tiny by global standards, but the curbs, including a ban on non-essential trips in and out, follow a national guideline to quickly contain any flare-ups. That news comes as China’s chief epidemiologist, Wu Zunyou, says that as long as there’s no other way to contain the spread of the virus, the country won’t adjust its “dynamic Zero Covid” pandemic control policy.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong is set to report another record number of coronavirus infections, ramping up pressure on the government to contain the worsening outbreak. The city saw more than 600 cases on Monday, local media reported, citing people they didn’t identify. All of the latest infections were local, with 136 listed as untraceable. Some 15 cases were detected in public housing estates in Tuen Mun and Sha Tin, where more than 7,200 residents have been tested, officials said. More than 300 preliminary positive cases were reported. “There are invisible transmission chains in the community,” Ronald Lam, director of health, said during the press conference. He added that is impossible to project the peak of the current wave.

India: Authorities in India have approved Russia’s one-jab Sputnik Light Covid-19 vaccine. It will be the second Russian-developed jab to be approved by the country, after Sputnik V was allowed in April 2021.

India’s central bank postponed its interest-rate review by a day as the nation and its neighbors mourn the death of celebrated singer Lata Mangeshkar after being diagnosed with Covid-19. She was 92 and had been hospitalized since 8 January. The Reserve Bank of India’s monetary policy committee will now meet February 8-10, the authority said in a statement late Sunday. Its decision will be announced Thursday.

Japan: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will instruct cabinet members to accelerate the pace of vaccinations to 1 million shots a day within the month, broadcaster NHK reported, without attribution. Kishida is to give the directive to health minister Shigeyuki Goto and others on Monday. Almost 79% of the population had two shots but only 4.8% had third as of Friday, when a little under 570,000 shots were reported.

The Japanese government is making final arrangements to extend a quasi-state of emergency in Tokyo and 12 other prefectures due to expire on 13 February, the Asahi reported, citing several unidentified officials.

Australia: Australia plans to open its borders to international tourists as soon as possible, a government minister said Sunday, following a report that they will be allowed back by the end of February after a Covid-related hiatus of almost two years. “We are getting ready to open as soon as we can,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said in an ABC TV interview. “We don’t have all the information we need to be able to take the decision, but we are very close.”

Meanwhile, A group of anti-vaccination demonstrators and conspiracy theorists have blocked roads and targeted businesses in the Australian capital of Canberra ahead of the return of federal parliament on Tuesday. Hundreds of cars and trucks waving Australian flags, military insignia and campaign banners for former US President Donald Trump descended on the city over the past week to call for the end to vaccination requirements in businesses and places of employment. The protests in Canberra have echoed similar demonstrations in the Canadian capital Ottawa.

Philippines: The Philippines started giving Covid-19 shots to children aged 5 to 11, after receiving 780,000 Pfizer doses last week. The Southeast Asian nation aims to inoculate 15.5 million from this age group, as economic managers see allowing more activities for kids and their families as key to reviving consumer demand.

South Korea: South Korea’s daily cases could increase to up to 130,000-170,000 at the end of February with the surge of the Omicron variant, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said. The numbers are based on forecast modeling conducted by experts. President Moon Jae-in said it is a serious situation as it’s difficult to predict how much the number of confirmed cases will increase and when the peak will be. But he said there is no need to be too concerned about the current situation. South Korea confirmed 35,286 more cases on Monday.

Thailand: Thailand’s Health Ministry will propose further easing of containment measures to the nation’s main virus task force later this week, the Bangkok Post reported, citing Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the ministry’s Department of Disease Control. The ministry will encourage people to live with the virus rather than cope with lockdowns, the newspaper reported. Opas didn’t give details of measures that may be relaxed.

Middle-east and Africa

Israel: The number of serious coronavirus cases in Israel reached 1,263 on Sunday, the highest reported since the beginning of the pandemic. Before Saturday the previous record of 1,193 severe cases was set in January 2021.  At the same time, the number of new daily infections is declining, with about 38,000 new cases on Friday, compared with 49,500 the previous Friday, and a peak of more than 85,000 at the height of the Omicron wave. Israel was one of the first countries to roll out vaccines and booster shots, offering a fourth dose to higher-risk people last month.

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