Covid-19 has infected more than 293M people and killed over 5.4M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Yuzhou's case count is tiny compared with outbreaks in many other places worldwide, but China is keen to keep outbreaks under control ahead of Winter Olympics.
Yuzhou's case count is tiny compared with outbreaks in many other places worldwide, but China is keen to keep outbreaks under control ahead of Winter Olympics. (AFP)

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Chinese city Yuzhou on lock-down over virus fears

A Chinese city has locked down its 1.1 million residents after reports of new coronavirus cases as officials rushed to contain even small outbreaks just over four weeks before the Winter Olympics begin.

The curbs in the city of Yuzhou, in the central province of Henan, are similar to those imposed for nearly two weeks in the industrial hub of Xi'an, which has become China's latest epicentre.

Yuzhou, 700 kilometres southwest of Beijing, has ordered all residents to remain indoors and not to leave town, the local Communist Party said in a statement.

France could hit 300,000 daily cases 

France could reach close to a record 300,000 new daily cases of infection on Tuesday, French Health Minister Olivier Veran has said in parliament.

Israeli study shows five-fold antibody rise with fourth jab

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said that an Israeli study indicated fourth vaccinations were "safe" and increased antibodies "fivefold."

Speaking during a visit to Sheba hospital near Tel Aviv, which administered fourth vaccines to 154 of its staff a week earlier as part of a study, the Israeli premier said that the extra shot "works".

Brazil cruises suspended over virus outbreaks

Brazil's cruise association has suspended trips until January 21 after outbreaks on three ships.

The pause is to "resolve differences" with authorities over "interpretations and applications of operational health and safety protocols," Cruise Lines International Association Brazil said in a press release.

Cruise ships currently on voyages will end their tours, the association said.

Sweden sets new daily case record as fourth wave grows

Sweden has set a new daily record for cases, registering 11,507 cases on December 30, health agency data showed.

The daily infection figures are typically revised up somewhat as any delayed records of additional cases are added to the national total for a given day. The previous record of 11,376 cases was set in late December 2020.

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia have also tested positive, the palace said in a statement.

Puerto Rico battles surge, imposes new measures

Puerto Rico has imposed new measures to fight a surge in cases that has overwhelmed medical staff in the US territory and led to temporary shortages of testing kits.

All private businesses that cater to the public must close from midnight to 5 am (0400 - 0900GMT) and gatherings of more than 250 people are banned. 

The government has reported more than 201,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,300 deaths.

US sets global record of over 1M daily cases

The United States has recorded more than one million Covid-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as the Omicron variant spread at a blistering pace.

There were 1,080,211 new cases in the country, a global record, with the number of cases doubling on the previous week. 

It comes a day after top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci said the country was experiencing "almost a vertical increase" in Covid-19 cases, adding the peak may be only weeks away.

India's Delhi imposes weekend curfew

India's capital Delhi will impose a weekend curfew to try and curb the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus as cases have risen in the past few days.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia told a news conference that most offices would have to make half their employees work from home. 

Meanwhile, India reported 37,379 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the most since early September.

Deaths rose by 124 to reach a total of 482,017. Total infections stand at 34.96 million.

Russia reports over 15,000 new cases

Russia has reported 834 deaths and 15,903 cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours.

Covid patients showing less severe symptoms – UK vaccine minister

People being hospitalised with Covid-19 in the United Kingdom are broadly showing less severe symptoms than before, Britain's vaccine minister has said.

"At the moment, if you look at the people who have been hospitalised, they are going in with less severe conditions than before," Minister for Vaccines and Public Health Maggie Throup told Sky News.

"The numbers that are in hospital beds is about half what it was a year ago - and that just shows the power of the vaccine."

France's lower house suspends review of vaccine pass bill

France's lower house of parliament has suspended debates over a bill to make it mandatory for people to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination to go to a restaurant or cinema or take the train.

Tense discussions of the new law, which would remove the option of showing a negative test result instead of having the innoculations, were halted after midnight on Monday after a majority of deputies voted to suspend the session.

The heads of the various parliamentary groups must now set a new date for debates to resume, the Vice-President of the National Assembly Annie Genevard said.

Once voted in the National Assembly, the new law needs to be voted in by the senate, before it comes into force on Jan 15.

A strained debate in parliament on Monday highlighted what the government and the opposition described as widespread fatigue with the pandemic and measures to tackle it.

The proposed tightening of the rules has angered anti-vaccination activists and some lawmakers say they have been subject to aggression including vandalism and violent threats.

Australia's hospitalisations hit pandemic high in NSW

Australia's Covid-19 cases have touched a fresh pandemic high amid an Omicron surge in its two most populous states as hospitalisations in New South Wales (NSW), home to Sydney, surpassed the record numbers hit during the Delta outbreak.

NSW and Victoria, home to more than half of Australia's 25 million people, saw another spike in infections, with 37,151 new cases reported between them, just shy of the national one-day high of 37,212 hit a day earlier.

Tasmania reported 702 new cases. Other states and territories are due to report their numbers later in the day.

People admitted in NSW hospitals rose to 1,344, a new pandemic peak, topping the 1,266 reached last September during the Delta wave. Numbers have more than doubled in a week, straining the health system.

More flights cancelled amid winter storm and Omicron

A winter storm that hit the mid-Atlantic has combined with pandemic-caused shortages of airline workers to push flight cancellations to a holiday-season high, creating more frustration for travellers just trying to get home.

More than 3,000 US flights and about 4,800 worldwide were canceled by late afternoon Monday on the East Coast, according to tracking service FlightAware. 

Another 13,000 flights were delayed, including more than 6,000 in the US.

Brazil reports 76 Covid deaths

Brazil has registered 76 Covid-19 deaths and 11,850 additional cases, according to data released by the nation's health ministry.

The South American country has now registered a total of 619,209 coronavirus deaths and 22,305,078 total confirmed cases.

Sony delays 'Morbius' amid Omicron fears

Sony Corp's movie studio is delaying the January release of Marvel superhero movie "Morbius" until April 1, the studio has said in a statement.

The film starring Jared Leto in the title role has been postponed several times during the Covid-19 pandemic. Its most recent planned release date was January 28.

For movie theater operators, the delay is a setback as they try to rebound from extended closures during the Covid crisis.

Omicron upends return to US schools and workplaces

Some school systems around the US have extended their holiday break Monday or switched back to online instruction because of the explosion in Covid-19 cases, while others pressed ahead with in-person classes amid a seemingly growing sense that Americans will have to learn to co-exist with the virus.

Caught between pleas from teachers fearful of infection and parents who want their children in class, school districts in cities such as New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit and beyond found themselves in a difficult position midway through the academic year because of the super-contagious omicron variant.

Across the US, new Covid-19 cases have tripled in the past two weeks to over 400,000 a day, the highest level on record, amid a rush by many Americans to get tested.

Canada's Ontario shuts schools, diners, and gyms

All schools in Canada’s most populous province will be shut down and move to online learning because of a record number of coronavirus infections fueled by the ultra-contagious Omicron variant, Ontario’s premier announced Monday.

Premier Doug Ford also announced the closure of indoor dining. Gyms and cinemas will also close and hospitals have also been told to pause all non-urgent surgeries.

Ford said they are expecting a "tsunami" of cases and noted just one percent of 100,000 new cases a day could overwhelm hospitals. Ontario has a population of more than 14.7 million.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies