Covid-19 has infected more than 283M people and killed over 5.4M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
China’s Xi’an in lockdown for seventh day
A lockdown of 13 million people in the Chinese city of Xi’an has entered its seventh day, with many unable to leave their residential compounds and relying on deliveries of necessities as new infections persisted.
Xi’an reported 151 domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms for Tuesday, or nearly all of the 152 cases nationwide.
The total number of local Xi’an cases is nearly 1,000 during the December 9-28 period. No cases of the Omicron variant have been announced in the city so far.
People in the city have not been allowed to leave town without clearance from their employer or community authorities.
Australia’s PM calls emergency meeting as infections surge
Cases have surged across Australia as an outbreak of the Omicron variant exploded, prompting Prime Minister Scott Morrison to schedule an emergency national Cabinet meeting.
The surge has already overwhelmed testing stations, prompted new vaccine mandates and caused at least one state to cut back on elective surgeries.
Scott Morrison said on Australia needed “a gear change” to manage overburdened laboratories and get people out of isolation.
Tunisia approves Russia’s Sputnik Light vaccine as booster
Tunisia’s Ministry of Health has approved the Russian one-shot Sputnik Light vaccine as a booster shot, Russia’s RDIF sovereign fund said in a statement.
Poland reports highest daily number of deaths
Poland has reported 794 deaths, the highest daily number in the fourth wave of the pandemic, Deputy Minister of Health Waldemar Kraska said on private television Polsat News.
Poland has been dealing with persistently high daily case numbers in a fourth wave that has forced authorities to tighten restrictions.
On Wednesday, Poland reported 15,571 new cases.
Thailand warns of spike in cases after “super-spreader” event
Thai health authorities have warned that residents should brace themselves for a potential jump in cases after classifying the country’s first cluster of the Omicron variant as a super-spreader incident.
The Omicron cluster identified in the northeastern province of Kalasin on Christmas eve has been linked to a couple who had travelled from Belgium and visited bars, concerts and markets.
US averaging record 267,000 daily cases
United States has broken a record for average daily infections, according to the New York Times, which reported 267,000 fresh Covid cases in the country.
It comes after the hard-hit country decided to shorten the recommended Covid-19 isolation and quarantine period from 10 days to five, drawing criticism from some medical experts who said it could create more confusion and fear among Americans.
“The previous US daily cases record was set on January 11, 2021 when the seven-day average was 251,232,” Times reported, adding Mid-Atlantic areas like Washington, Maryland and Virginia broke records for daily cases a day ago.
Meanwhile, the US guidance has raised questions about how it was crafted and why it was changed now, in the middle of another wintertime spike in cases, this one driven largely by the highly contagious omicron variant.
WHO: Omicron risk remains very high
The risk posed by the Omicron variant is still “very high”, the World Health Organization has said, after Covid-19 case numbers shot up by 11 percent globally last week.
Omicron is behind rapid virus spikes in several countries, including those where it has already overtaken the previously-dominant Delta variant, the WHO said in its Covid-19 weekly epidemiological update.
US regulator says rapid home test may not be as accurate with Omicron
Rapid Covid home tests are more likely to give a false negative with the heavily-mutated Omicron variant compared to earlier strains, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.
The news comes as the country is facing a massive surge in cases that experts say is being under-captured as a result of a testing crunch, with long wait times for the more accurate PCR tests, and home kits in extremely short supply.
In a statement, the FDA said it was collaborating with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the performance of home tests, also known as “antigen” tests, against patient samples containing live versions of the Omicron variant.
France hits new record in daily cases
France has posted a new record for daily coronavirus cases, registering nearly 180,000 infections in the past 24 hours.
According to data released by the country’s public health agency, 179,807 cases and 290 fatalities were recorded. The previous high was registered on December 25 at 104,611 infections.
To prevent the country from embarking on yet another round of lockdowns, the government has announced new measures involving working from home, restrictions on large gatherings, and accelerating the vaccine campaign for the third booster shot.
Greece sees a new record for daily cases
Greece shattered its record for daily coronavirus cases, with the Health Ministry reporting 21,657 new infections in the last 24 hours.
It is the highest daily tally the country has seen since the start of the pandemic and more than double Monday’s record of 9,284.
The Attica region, where Athens is located, hit a record 9,882 cases alone, with the country’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, registering 2,665 infections.