Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.7 million, with a figure of 5,777,230 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have raced past 400 million to a world wide figure of 403,224,427.
CVS Health Corp. said demand for Covid tests and vaccines is expected to fade this year, as the virus appears to recede after the Omicron variant infected millions of people in recent months. The US drugstore giant expects to administer about half as many virus tests and up to 80% fewer shots this year compared with 2021, it said in a news release Wednesday.
News by region
US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 77 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 912,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The US government is planning to roll out Covid-19 jabs for children under the age of 5 as soon as 21 February. The US Food and Drug Administration is considering authorising the use of the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE vaccine in the age group even though it did not meet a key target in a clinical trial of two- to four-year-olds.
A federal appeals court declined to lift an injunction blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a Covid-19 vaccination requirement for federal workers. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in a 2-1 vote, will allow the injunction to remain in place while the court determines whether the vaccine order exceeds the president’s authority.
New York City’s subway system carried more than 3 million customers on Tuesday, the highest amount of riders in one day since the Omicron variant slowed activity in mid-December and halted an increase in workers returning to offices.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul is lifting a mask mandate for businesses that don’t check Covid-19 vaccination status, citing high inoculation rates and low transmissions across the state. The rule, which Hochul implemented amid the Omicron-induced surge in infections, was set to expire on 10 February. It is now being done away with altogether, effective on Thursday.
UK: Prime minister Boris Johnson plans to abolish the last domestic Covid restrictions in England, including the requirement for people with the virus to self-isolate, in less than two weeks, a month earlier than initially proposed, he announced. The move will be part of the government’s strategy for “Living with Covid” to be announced 21 February, Johnson told the House of Commons on Wednesday, as long as “the current encouraging trends in the data continue.”
Italy: Italy is planning to increase the capacity in Italian football stadiums and other open-air sports events to 75% from 50% as of 1 March, according to the country’s Health and Sport ministries. The goal is to gradually re-introduce full capacity, should the decrease in virus cases continue. In the week ending on 6 February, Italy reported 282,050 fewer new cases than the week before.
Sweden: Sweden scrapped almost all of its few pandemic restrictions and stopped most testing for Covid, even as the pressure on the healthcare systems remained high and some scientists begged for more patience in fighting the disease.
Germany: Germany reported 247,862 new Covid-19 cases, compared with 234,250 the day before, according to the country’s public health authority RKI.
Czech Republic: Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said he expects “very few” pandemic measures to be in place after March 1 if the spread of the virus in the country slows, as experts predict. Face masks in shops or public transport will remain in place.
Poland: Poland is seeing “the beginning of the end” of the pandemic, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said at a press conference in Warsaw, where he announced the easing of some restrictions. As of 15 February, isolation for people with Covid will be shortened to seven from 10 days. Children will return to schools as of 22 February, a week earlier than planned, Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek said at the same briefing.
New Zealand: New Zealand has announced a record 306 new community infections of Covid-19, while police have arrested more than 120 people at a protest against public health measures on parliament’s grounds in Wellington. Case numbers have been tracking upward since Omicron arrived several weeks ago.
Indonesia: The government reported 46,843 new Covid cases, the highest since July, as hospitalizations steadily increase. The bed-occupancy rate for coronavirus patients has exceeded 40% in Jakarta and Bali, with the national figure at 24%. That compares with rates as low as 2% at the end of last year. Indonesia is starting to tighten restrictions in the capital and surrounding areas, imposing capacity limits at shops and restaurants while halting in-person school attendance. Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin has warned that daily cases could peak at as high as 285,000 this month as the more transmissible Omicron variant spreads through the country.
China: China reported eight domestic Covid-19 infections on Thursday, down from the double-digit daily caseload seen for months as the country battled concurrent flareups across the country. All but one of the infections were from the southwestern border town of Baise, which has seen some 200 cases in less than a week as the Omicron variant seeded an outbreak during the Lunar New Year holiday last week.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong will report more than 980 new Covid cases Thursday, according to local media outlets, a day after new infections topped the 1,000 level for the first time. The city will also announce 300 preliminary positive cases, the reports said.
Mandarin Oriental International Ltd. Chief Executive Officer James Riley is pushing for his executive team to be based temporarily outside Hong Kong as the city has become a “very poor” base because of strict virus curbs, the Financial Times reported, citing him.
Japan: Japan is set to extend Covid restrictions in Tokyo and 12 prefectures by three weeks as the Omicron variant continued to spread. The country has been breaking daily records for coronavirus cases and deaths amid a surge in infections driven by Omicron.
Meanwhile, Yuji Hirako, the president of All Nippon Airways Co., Japan’s biggest airline, has urged the country’s government to ease its strict border controls, which have effectively shut the nation to foreigners, saying they’re hurting the economy and the aviation industry.
Thailand: Thailand reported 14,822 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, the highest single-day count since 11 September, a day before the government’s main virus task force is scheduled to review containment measures.
Afghanistan: Only five hospitals in Afghanistan still offer Covid treatment, with 33 others having been forced to close in recent months for lack of doctors, medicines and even heating, the Associated Press reports. It comes as the economically devastated nation is hit by a steep rise in the number of reported coronavirus cases.
Middle East and Africa
Palestine: Palestinian authorities have ramped up Covid testing and vaccinations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and have warned that public indifference to calls for mask-wearing and social distancing is hampering efforts to fight the pandemic. The Palestinian Authority health ministry registered more than 64,000 active cases of Covid on Wednesday.
Americas: Blockades on the busiest border bridge between Canada and the US to protest against coronavirus rules could have a serious impact on the economies of both countries, disrupting the automotive industry, agricultural exports, and causing multimillion-dollar losses, the two countries’ governments have said.