Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.2 million, with a figure of 5,237,087 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections passed 264 million world wide.
The risk of reinfection from the Omicron coronavirus variant is three times higher than for any previous variant, according to a South African study of infections since the start of the pandemic. The finding provides evidence of Omicron’s “ability to evade immunity from prior infection,” according to the authors, Juliet Pulliam of the South African Center for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis and Harry Moultrie of the National Center for Communicable Diseases.
South Africa: The Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading faster in the Gauteng province, the epicenter of the latest outbreak in South Africa, than the delta strain or any of the earlier mutations, an adviser to the provincial government said. There is the “strongest acceleration in community transmission ever seen in South Africa,” Bruce Mellado, the adviser, said in a presentation on Thursday. This is “consistent with dominance of a variant that is more transmissible,” he said.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe has identified its first case of the Omicron variant, a day after announcing a 10-day mandatory quarantine of all travelers entering the country. President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday announced rules imposing quarantine on all travelers entering the country, including returning residents. Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who work and live in neighboring South Africa, which was first to disclose detection of the new variant, are expected to travel home over Christmas.
Singapore: Singapore has detected two imported cases who tested preliminary positive for the Omicron variant, after both individuals arrived on a flight from Johannesburg. They were isolated upon arrival in the island state on 1 December and had not interacted in the community. Both individuals, who tested negative during their pre-departure tests, are fully vaccinated and have mild symptoms.
US: California is reporting its second confirmed case of the Omicron variant in as many days. Hawaii says it detected a case in an unvaccinated Hawaii resident with no recent travel history. New York reported five cases. Colorado has confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant, in an adult female resident who had recently traveled to South Africa, according to a statement from state officials. A Minnesota man who recently visited New York City for a crowded anime convention has tested positive for the Omicron variant. “We should assume there is community spread of the variant in our city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday in a statement.
Finland: Finland confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant on a person who had returned from Sweden.
Greece: Greece has found its first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Health Minister Thanos Plevris told reporters Thursday. The case was detected on the island of Crete in a Greek citizen who had arrived from southern Africa he said.
Norway: Oslo is heading back to working from home and using face masks after an outbreak at a Christmas party raised the prospect of a jump in Omicron variant infections. Home office will now be required for part of the week in Norway’s capital and 21 other municipalities, while face masks must be worn in shops, public transport, bars and restaurants, Health and Care Services Minister Ingvild Kjerkol told reporters on Thursday. Bars will have to serve customers at tables, guests will need to register to receive notices of infection exposure and limits will be placed on events held inside.
India: India confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant in the southern state of Karnataka, home to the nation’s Silicon Valley. The two infected individuals have mild symptoms and are males aged 66 and 46, Lav Agarwal, a senior health ministry official, told reporters at a Thursday briefing in New Delhi, without elaborating.
US: Covid -19 infections have passed 48.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 785,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Omicron is stealing most of the attention, but it’s the Delta variant that’s pressuring the US health-care system. The seven-day average of hospital admissions with confirmed Covid-19 has climbed 18% in the past two weeks to 6,691, the highest since 13 October, according to US Department of Health and Human Services data. The numbers are ticking higher in 39 states and the nation’s capital.
President Joe Biden called on health providers to expand the availability of vaccines and booster shots, aiming to combat a winter surge of infections — and hold off the new Omicron variant. Biden outlined a new strategy to curb the pandemic in a speech at the National Institutes of Health on Thursday, with cases rising in several states. He said his administration would also make free home Covid tests more available by requiring insurers to pay for them and “accelerate efforts to vaccinate the rest of the world.” “My plan I’m announcing today pulls no punches in the fight against Covid-19,” he said.
Illinois’s one-day Covid-19 case count nearly doubled, according to data reported Thursday on the state department of public health website. The state reported 11,524 probable and confirmed cases on Thursday, up from 6,119 the day before and the highest number since December 2020. The jump in cases is accompanied by “a record high number of tests across the entire pandemic” and a higher test positivity rate, according to an emailed statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
New York state reported 11,300 new Covid-19 cases, the most since January, as dozens of hospitals neared capacity.
Germany: Germany is reporting a further 74,352 new daily Covid cases and 390 deaths, according to recently released figures from the Robert Koch Institute.
Germany imposed nationwide restrictions on people who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 and limited attendance at soccer games and other public events to check a brutal surge in infections.
In one of her final acts as chancellor, Angela Merkel held talks with her incoming successor, Olaf Scholz, and Germany’s 16 regional premiers on Thursday, where they agreed on new curbs including allowing only people who are vaccinated or recovered into restaurants, theaters and non-essential stores. The officials also backed a plan to make Covid shots mandatory, saying that the lower house of parliament would vote on it soon. Scholz said he expects the measure to pass.
UK: The UK reported the most new coronavirus cases since before its so-called “Freedom Day” on Thursday, amid fears that the Omicron variant could disrupt the holiday season for another year. A further 53,495 cases were reported, the highest since 17 July, although there have been a handful of days close to that number before today. That’s compared to a 7-day rolling average of about 44,600 new cases a day.
New Zealand: New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland celebrates after emerging from a gruelling 107 days in lockdown.
South Korea: South Korea reports another 4,944 cases of Covid-19 and 34 deaths. The figures are a drop on Thursday’s record of more than 5,200 daily infections as concern grows over the sharp rise in patients with severe symptoms.
China: A continuing outbreak in a Chinese city of Manzhouli on the Russian border has prompted more freight shutdowns as authorities seek to control it. The country reported 96 new Covid cases for 2 December, up from 73 cases a day earlier.
Middle-east and Africa
South Africa: South Africa reports another 11,535 new cases and 44 deaths — a significant jump from Wednesday’s 8,561 new cases, up from 4,373 the day before and 2,273 on Monday.