Covid-19 has infected more than 327M people and killed over 5.5M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Austria has to date seen almost 14,000 Covid-related deaths and 1.4 million cases in a population of some nine million.
Austria has to date seen almost 14,000 Covid-related deaths and 1.4 million cases in a population of some nine million. (AP)

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Austria's mandatory vaccinations to begin next month

Austria will become the first European country to make vaccination compulsory for adults in February, Chancellor Karl Nehammer said, acknowledging that it was a "sensitive topic".

Nehammer, a conservative who took office in December, said those who didn't comply would face a hefty fine.

To date 71.5 percent of eligible Austrian residents have had their jabs — several percentage points below many of the country's EU neighbours.

Saturday saw some 27,000 people demonstrate in Vienna against the measure which opponents dub an attack on personal freedoms.

Denmark lifts virus curbs despite Omicron spread

Denmark has lifted a number of restrictions and allowed the reopening of certain venues despite the spread of the Omicron variant in the country.

Cinemas, zoos, museums and theatres were among the places that could welcome visitors again. Limited numbers of spectators also were allowed to attend indoor and outdoor sports events.

Visitors are required to wear masks at most of these places and provide proof that they have been vaccinated or have recovered or recently tested negative.

Italy reports over 149,500 cases 

 Italy has reported 149,512 related cases, after 180,426 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the number of deaths fell to 248 from 308.

Italy has registered 141,104 deaths linked since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth highest in the world. The country has reported 8.71 million cases to date.

Britain reports over 70,900 new cases

Britain has reported 70,924 new cases and 88 deaths within 28-days of a positive test.

That compares with 81,713 new cases on Saturday, and 287 deaths.

The government said data on new infections from Scotland was not included in Sunday's total due to a technical issue. 

China's Xi’an lifts some virus rules after 3-week lockdown

The central Chinese city of Xi'an has gradually begun lifting  restrictions after it entered a lockdown over three weeks ago to stamp out a local virus outbreak.

Officials told a news conference that lockdown measures had been either partially or completely lifted in some communities that have been designated as lower risk, allowing people to leave their homes for a limited time to purchase daily necessities.

Irish hospitalisations see first fall in Omicron wave

The number of patients in Irish hospitals has fallen week-on-week for the first time since the Omicron variant drove cases to record highs last month.

Ministers have said this week that they are increasingly confident of being able to end curbs introduced mainly on the hospitality and entertainment industry and that they will be guided by whether or not pressure on hospitals eases.

Thailand reports first death from Omicron variant

Thailand has reported its first death from the highly contagious Omicron variant, a health official said.

The death, a 86-year-old woman from the southern province of Songkhla, came after Thailand detected its first Omicron case last month that led to the reinstatement of its mandatory quarantine for foreign visitors.

"The woman is a bed-ridden, Alzheimer patient," Health Ministry spokesman Rungrueng Kitphati told Reuters.

COVAX delivers 1B doses to poor countries

The World Health Organization has said that a UN-backed programme shipping vaccines to many poor countries has now delivered 1 billion doses.

A shipment of 1.1 million vaccine doses to Rwanda on Saturday included the billionth dose supplied via the COVAX programme, the UN health agency said Sunday.

WHO has long criticised unequal distribution of vaccines and called for manufacturers and other countries to prioritise COVAX.

It said that, as of Thursday, 36 of its 194 member countries had vaccinated less than 10 percent of their population and 88 had vaccinated less than 40 percent.

The programme has made deliveries to 144 countries so far, “but the work that has gone into this milestone is only a reminder of the work that remains,” WHO said in a statement.

Beijing reports first local Omicron case ahead of Olympics

Beijing has reported its first local omicron infection, according to state media, weeks before the Winter Olympic Games are due to start.

The infected person lives and works in the city’s northwestern district of Haidian and had no travel history outside of Beijing for the past two weeks. 

The individual experienced symptoms on Thursday and was tested on Friday for Covid-19, officials said in a news conference Saturday. 

India daily case count hits 8-month peak

India has reported 271,202 new cases in the last 24 hours, its highest daily count in eight months, taking its total tally to 37.12 million, the federal Health Ministry said.

Deaths rose by 314 to 486,066, the ministry said on Sunday.

Omicron exposes inflexibility of Europe's public hospitals

A World Health Organization official has warned last week of a “closing window of opportunity” for European countries to prevent their health care systems from being overwhelmed. 

In France, Britain and Spain, nations with comparatively strong national health programmes, that window may already be closed.

The director of an intensive care unit at a hospital in Strasbourg is turning patients away. A surgeon at a London hospital describes a critical delay in a man's cancer diagnosis.

Spain is seeing its determination to prevent a system collapse tested as omicron keeps medical personnel off work. 

“There are a lot of patients we can’t admit, and it’s the non-Covid patients who are the collateral victims of all this,” said Dr. Julie Helms, who runs the ICU at Strasbourg University Hospital in far eastern France. 

UK drops requiring tests for fully vaccinated people

Britain's vaccinated travellers will be able to go on half-term holidays next month without taking Covid-19 tests on their return, The Times reported.

Transport minister Grant Shapps is in favour of ending the testing system for the double-jabbed in time for the February break, the report said.

An announcement on the change in guidance would be made on January 26, the report said.

Brazil registers 175 pandemic fatalities

Brazil had 48,520 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours and 175 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 22,975,723 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 659,934, according to ministry data.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies