Covid-19 has infected more than 286M people and killed over 5.4M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

The UK is one of Europe's worst-hit countries with a death toll of 148,421.
The UK is one of Europe's worst-hit countries with a death toll of 148,421. (Reuters)

Friday, December 31, 2021

England hospital staff absences double due to Covid

Hospital staff absences due to Covid-19 have more than doubled in a month in England as the virus surge puts strain on beds.

The number of hospital staff ill or self-isolating due to the virus rose from 11,375 on November 29 to 24,362 on December 26, NHS England said.

The "sharply increasing staff absences" coincide with "a 10-month high for the number of patients," warned national medical director Stephen Powis.

The number of patients in hospital with Covid in the UK reached 11,898 on Wednesday, the highest level since early March, and a rise of 40 percent in a week.

Despite the surge in cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has opted not to increase virus curbs over the festive period in England, unlike the devolved governments of the other UK regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The prime minister is focusing on encouraging the public to take up booster jabs, so far administered to more than 33 million.

Italy reports record coronavirus cases, 155 deaths

Italy has reported a record 144,243 Covid-19 related cases, following 126,888 the day before, while the number of deaths fell slightly to 155 from 156.

Italy has registered 137,402 deaths linked to Covid-19 since February 2020, and has reported 6.125 million cases to date, according to the health ministry.

Turkiye's daily cases exceed 40,000 for first time in 8 months

Turkiye has reported more than 40,000 coronavirus cases in a single day for the first time over the past eight months.
The country has administered more than 131.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since it launched an immunisation drive in January.

The Health Ministry confirmed 40,786 new Covid-19 infections, 163 deaths, and 23,968 recoveries over the past day.

More than 56.9 million people have received a first jab, while over 51.6 million have been fully vaccinated, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Twitter shared a "New Year warning," saying: "Though there are no restrictions, we recommend that you act as if there are. We are in a time of increased risk."

He also called on people to prefer celebrating the new year with close family members only.
Greece reports new Covid-19 daily record, 76 deaths

Greece has reported 40,560 Covid-19 cases, setting a new record high for the fourth successive day following a surge of cases of the Omicron variant.

Health authorities added that 76 deaths had been reported.

Greece introduced new restrictions this week, ordering bars, restaurants and nightclubs to close at midnight, with no standing customers and no music. An exception is New Year's Eve, when establishments can close at 2 AM.

Portugal's cases hit record

Portugal has reported a new daily record of 30,829 coronavirus cases, up from 28,659 the previous day, with the rapidly spreading Omicron variant accounting for an estimated 83 percent of all new cases.

Health authority DGS registered 18 fatalities from Covid-19, up from Thursday's 16, but that was only a fraction of the more than 300 daily deaths suffered in late January, when Portugal had just begun its vaccination campaign.

South Africa lifts nighttime curfew

South Africa has lifted a nighttime curfew on people's movement with immediate effect as authorities believe Covid-19 cases are on the decline in the country.

Citing experts, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said in a televised media briefing that the Omicron variant has surpassed the peak in South Africa. “So, the curfew is now lifted as we monitor the situation.”

According to the Health Ministry, there was a 29.7 percent decrease in the number of new Covid-19 cases detected in the week ending December 25.

As many as 1,000 people are now allowed to gather indoors and 2,000 people outdoors.

“Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 per cent of the capacity of the venue may be used,” the government said.

South Africa has the highest number of Covid-19 infections on the continent. The country has so far reported 3.45 million cases and 91,061 fatalities.

Hong Kong says Omicron breachs its strict restrictions

Omicron variant of the coronavirus has made its way past some of the world's toughest Covid-19 restrictions in Hong Kong, with the city reporting its first cases outside its strict quarantine system, health officials said.

The findings raise risks that the global financial hub might keep its borders shut well into 2022.

It has largely isolated itself from the world hoping in turn to open the border with mainland China for a limited number of business travellers.

Philippines on alert as infections hit two-month high

Philippine has warned against a rise in Covid-19 cases over the New Year period as infections in the Southeast Asian country hit a two-month high, amid concerns that the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus could spread.

The health ministry recorded 2,961 new coronavirus infections and reported a positivity rate of 10.3 percent, double the  5 percent recommended by the World Health Organization.

Israel begins administering 4th vaccine dose

Israel has begun delivering a fourth vaccine dose for people most vulnerable to coronavirus, becoming one of the first countries to do so as it prepares for a wave of infections driven by the Omicron variant.

Israel, which led a world beating vaccination program in 2020, will administer a fourth dose of the vaccine to individuals with weakened immune systems along with elderly residents and employees in care homes.

New virus infections driven by Omicron soar in Australia

New coronavirus infections soared again in Australia to a record of more than 32,000, just days after surpassing 10,000 for the first time. 

Experts say the explosion is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant and a recent relaxation of restrictions in Sydney and other areas. 

More than 15,000 of the new cases were reported in Sydney. Another 5,000 cases came from elsewhere in New South Wales state, while almost 6,000 were confirmed in Victoria state, home to the second largest city of Melbourne.

India's Serum Institute seeks Covishield vaccine approval

Serum Institute of India has applied to the country's drug regulator and the health ministry for full approval of its Covid-19 vaccine Covishield.

Serum Institute, which produces AstraZeneca's vaccine under the brand name Covishield, has supplied more than 1.25 billion doses of the shot in India.

Serum Institute, which is also the world's biggest vaccine maker, was granted approval for emergency use of Covishield in India at the beginning of the year.

More than 1 in every 100 is Covid positive in Spain 

More than one in every 100 Spanish residents have tested positive for coronavirus in the last week, according to Health Ministry data.

This unprecedented figure comes as nearly 162,000 more people tested positive in a day, shattering the previous record of around 101,000.

The pressure in hospitals continues to grow, with 9 percent of all hospital beds and 19 percent of intensive care units now occupied by Covid-19 patients.

France reports over 200,000 cases for the second consecutive day

France has reported more than 200,000 Covid-19 infections for the second straight day, according to data released by public health authorities.

The data showed that 206,243 cases were registered in the past 24 hours. There were 208,099 infections recorded the previous day, which set a new record for the most detected in a single day in a European country.

Authorities say the unprecedented number of daily cases is due to the exceptional amount of testing carried out in the runup to Christmas festivities and New Year’s celebrations.

UK hits another record in Covid case numbers

Britain has reported 189,213 cases of Covid-19, a new record.

This brings the total number of confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic to over 12.7 million.

Local media reported that the daily total is likely to have been inflated at least slightly by the delayed reporting of figures over the festive period.

US CDC warns against cruises regardless of vaccination status

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned people not to go on cruises, regardless of their vaccination status, because of onboard outbreaks fuelled by the omicron variant.

The CDC said it has more than 90 cruise ships under investigation or observation as a result of Covid-19 cases. The agency did not disclose the number of infections.

Mexico's Covid-19 death toll reaches 299,285

Mexico has reported 153 more confirmed fatalities from Covid-19, bringing the official death toll in the country since the pandemic began to 299,285.

It has also reported 8,024 new cases, bringing the total to 3,969,686.

Mexico has previously said the real number is likely significantly higher.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies