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COVID-19

Omicron expected to infect more than half people in Europe in 2 months: WHO official

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(Last Updated On: January 12, 2022)

More than half of people in the entire European region will be infected with the Omicron strain within two months if the current rate of transmission continues, said a World Health Organization (WHO) official on Tuesday.

Since the beginning of the new year, the pandemic situation in many European countries has been severe. In countries including France and Denmark, the number of newly confirmed COVID19 cases in a single day has reached a new high since the onset of the pandemic. As the number of hospitalized cases and deaths continue to rise, some countries are tightening their pandemic control policies.

WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said at a press conference on Tuesday that in the first week of 2022, more than seven million cases were reported in Europe, which doubled the data two weeks ago. Kluge said that it is estimated that at the current rate of transmission, more than 50 percent of people in the entire European region will be infected with the Omicron strain in the next six to eight weeks.

Kluge said that the Omicron strain is super contagious compared with the previous variants, and its scope of spreading is unprecedented. He also emphasized the importance of vaccines in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

WHO officials said on Tuesday that in view of the uncertainty of the Omicron strain at this stage and the rapid development of the pandemic, the WHO opposes responding to the COVID19 pandemic in the same way as dealing with influenza.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe covers 53 countries, including European and some neighboring countries. Omicron strains have been found in at least 50 of these countries.

COVID-19

Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2022)

Tokyo recorded its fourth record number of daily COVID-19 infections on Saturday, breaking above 10,000, while Japan’s exceeded 50,000 for the first time as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.

The capital had 11,227 new coronavirus cases, the local government said a day after it reinstated curbs on mobility and business activity through February 13, Reuters reported.

Tokyo’s case count, exceeding Friday’s 9,699, were more than double the 4,561 logged a week earlier.

Three people in Tokyo died of COVID-19 and 12 were in serious condition on Saturday, the Tokyo government said.

Some 34.3% of hospital beds in the capital were being used by coronavirus patients. A rise in the occupancy rate to 50% would warrant a state of emergency with more severe restrictions, local officials have said.

Infections nationwide totaled at least 50,200 as nearly 30 of Japan’s 47 prefectures set records, broadcaster FNN reported.

As of Friday, 78.7% of Japan’s population had been fully vaccinated, but only 1.5% had received a booster shot, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, Reuters reported.

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China’s Beijing to maintain COVID emergency status as Winter Olympics loom

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2022)

China’s capital Beijing urged all its local districts on Saturday to maintain “full emergency mode” as the city continued to report new local coronavirus cases, less than two weeks before the start of the Winter Olympic Games.

A total of 27 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms and five local asymptomatic carriers have been found in Beijing since Jan. 15, Pang Xinghuo, an official at Beijing city’s disease control authority told a news conference on Saturday.

Elsewhere, the northeastern city of Harbin will conduct a city-wide exercise to test its roughly 10 million people for COVID19 from Monday, although it has had no recent cases, calling it a pre-emptive move ahead of the long Lunar New Year holiday.

The city government said on its official WeChat account it had made the decision in view of how the week-long holiday, which officially starts on Jan. 31, was a peak travel period for the country.

Cities across China have in recent weeks imposed tougher restrictions to try to control new outbreaks of COVID19, a task that has also taken on extra urgency as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics at the start of next month.

Many cities have advised residents to stay put or required travelers to report their trips days before their arrival.

Still, some state media outlets are warning against being too harsh, after a county-level government official in Henan province was quoted as saying that some people had ignored the advice to “maliciously return” to their hometown and that they would quarantine and detain such cases.

“It is human nature to return home during the Spring Festival for reunions, so why is it malicious?,” the official People’s Daily newspaper said on its Weibo account on Saturday after the comments triggered a heavy discussion on social media.

“Preventing and controlling the epidemic is a big task, but we cannot take a one size fits all approach…(it) must be done in a scientific and legal way, and every desire to return home must be treated compassionately.”

Mainland China reported 63 new COVID19 cases on Jan. 21, down from 73 cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Saturday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that 23 of the new cases were locally transmitted, the same as a day earlier, and the rest imported.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 43 from 31 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636.

As of Jan. 21, mainland China had 105,547 confirmed cases.

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U.S. COVID-19 cases exceed 69.16 million with death toll approaching 860,000

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(Last Updated On: January 21, 2022)

The cumulative total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States exceeded 69.16 million as of Thursday, with the death toll approaching 860,000, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, Reuters reported.

Specifically, the country’s case count rose to 69,168,407 while the death toll reached 859,931 as of 18:21 Eastern Standard Time (EST) Thursday. A total of 529,141,376 doses of vaccines have been administered in the country, according to the CSSE tally.

According to the report compared with 24 hours ago, the United States has seen 747,297 new cases and 2,378 new deaths.

Earlier on Tuesday, the country added over one million new COVID-19 cases again, after setting a global record of over 1.36 million daily cases earlier this month, according to the JHU.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 63.2 percent of Americans were fully vaccinated and 39.3 percent were boosted as of 20:00 EST Thursday.

The low vaccination rate in the United States is an obvious reason that the Omicron variant is “more likely to kill Americans,” the news website Daily Beast said Tuesday.

Some countries have weathered the Omicron wave with relatively low severe cases or deaths despite surging cases, according to the report, citing Singapore and South Africa as examples, Reuters reported.

But the United States have not seen the same degree of “decoupling” between infections and deaths, mainly due to its low vaccination rate, it added.

“The worry is that once spread occurs among older segments (of the population), hospitalizations and deaths might creep up,” said Edwin Michael, an epidemiologist at the Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research at the University of South Florida.

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