Covid-19 has infected more than 291M people and killed over 5.4M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

About 70 million people in Pakistan, or 32 percent of the population, have had two vaccine doses.
About 70 million people in Pakistan, or 32 percent of the population, have had two vaccine doses. (Reuters)

Monday, January 3, 2022

Pakistan sees most daily cases in two months

Pakistan has reported more than 700 cases in a single day, its highest tally in two months, as authorities warned of a fifth wave of infections.

At least 708 cases in the past 24 hours pushed the positivity ratio to 1.55 percent, the highest since October 24, according to data from the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) .

“There is clear evidence now of a beginning of another virus wave which has been expected for the last few weeks,” Asad Umar, the minister in charge of supervising pandemic operations, wrote on Twitter.

Genome sequencing has detected a growing number of cases of the Omicron variant, particularly in the largest city of Karachi, he said.

Germany reports over 3,500 new Omicron cases

Germany has reported 3,524 new cases of the Omicron variant, bringing the nationwide total to 30,325.

The Robert Koch Institute, the country's disease control agency, registered six Omicron-related fatalities so far, and confirmed that 314 people infected with the variant were admitted to hospitals.

It also cautioned that the figures may underestimate the true numbers due to lag in reporting during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

New cases surge during holiday season in Belgium

New cases have risen by 52 percent over the holiday season in Belgium, according to the latest data published by the country’s health institute. 

An average of 10,126 new infections were detected every day between December 24-30, the Public Health Institute Sciensano revealed.

During this period, 72,364 people tested positive out of the total 456,826 examined, indicating a 15.84 percent positivity rate.

Passengers leave cruise ship after five days stuck in Lisbon

Disconsolate passengers stuck on a cruise ship, moored in Lisbon's port for five days due to a virus outbreak, have begun disembarking.

The AIDAnova, carrying 2,844 passengers and 1,353 crew, had docked in Portugal's capital on Wednesday. 

The ship was en route to the island of Madeira for New Year's Eve celebrations, but the cruise was cut short after the virus was detected among the crew, 52 of whom tested positive between Wednesday and Friday.

By Monday 68 positive cases, including a handful among the passengers, had been detected, port captain Diogo Vieira Branco told the Lusa news agency. 

FDA expands Pfizer boosters for more teens

The US has been expanding booster shots as it confronts the Omicron surge, with the Food and Drug Administration allowing extra Pfizer shots for children as young as 12.

Boosters already are recommended for everyone 16 and older, and federal regulators decided they’re also warranted for 12- to 15-year-olds once enough time has passed since their last dose.

The FDA also said everyone 12 and older who's eligible for a Pfizer booster can get one as early as five months after their last dose rather than six months.

Omicron evades immunity better than Delta, Danish study finds

The Omicron variant is better at circumventing vaccinated peoples' immunity than the Delta variant, according to a Danish study published last week

Investigating nearly 12,000 Danish households in mid-December, the scientists found that Omicron was 2.7 to 3.7 times more infectious than the Delta variant among vaccinated Danes.

A virus can be more transmissible due to a number of reasons, such as the time it lingers in the air, its ability to latch onto cells, or its evasion of the body's immune system.

Italy reports over 68,000 new cases

Italy has reported 68,052 new cases, against 61,046 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of deaths rose to 140 from 133. 

Italy has registered 137,786 deaths linked to the virus since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, and has reported 6.4 million cases to date.

South Korea reports first deaths linked to Omicron

Two people who posthumously have tested positive for the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus appear to be the first such reported deaths in the country.

Officials are still investigating the exact cause of death for the two patients, who were both in their 90s, Yonhap news agency reported on Monday, citing health authorities in the city of Gwangju.

India vaccinates teens aged 15 to 18 as virus cases rise

Indian health authorities have begun vaccinating teens in the age group of 15 to 18, as more states started to enforce tighter restrictions to arrest a new surge stoked by the infectious Omicron variant.

State governments across India administered doses at schools, hospitals and through special vaccination sites amid a rapid rise in coronavirus infections, particularly in the country’s densely populated cities.

Data from the health ministry showed India confirmed over 33,000 new cases in the last 24 hours. Deaths increased by 123, bringing the total to nearly 482,000.

Australia to push ahead with reopening amid record cases

Australia's government has said the milder impact of the Omicron strain meant the country could push ahead with plans to reopen the economy even as new infections hit a record of more than 37,000 and the number of people hospitalised rose.

Record daily case numbers were reported on Monday in the states of Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, as well as the Australian Capital Territory.

The national daily total hit a record of more than 37,150 cases, exceeding Saturday's 35,327 cases, with Western Australia and the Northern Territory still to report.

US Defence Secretary Austin tests positive

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has said he had tested positive for Covid-19 and had mild symptoms, but would retain all authorities as he quarantined at home for the next five days.

In a statement, Austin on Sunday said he requested a test earlier on Sunday after having symptoms while at home on vacation.

He said he last met President Joe Biden on Tuesday, December 21, more than a week before he started experiencing symptoms.

Fauci warns of danger of hospitalisation surge

Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has said there was still a danger of a surge in hospitalisation due to a large number of cases even as early data suggests the Omicron variant is less severe.

"The only difficulty is that if you have so many many cases, even if the rate of hospitalisation is lower with Omicron than it is with Delta, there is still the danger that you will have a surging of hospitalisations that might stress the healthcare system," Fauci said in an interview on Sunday with CNN.

Another Chinese city imposes lockdown

Amid rising cases, another city in China has imposed lockdown, and suspended classes and public transport.

Authorities in Yuzhou, a city in the central province of Henan, announced the new rules on Sunday night as “two asymptomatic infections were detected,” Chinese daily Global Times reported.

This comes as the country’s latest hotspot Xian, capital of the northwestern Shaanxi province, reported less than 100 cases after nearly a week.

Poland may need new restrictions, the official says

Poland may decide to introduce new restrictions if cases of new coronavirus infections continue to grow, Polish health minister Adam Niedzielski has told radio station RMF FM.

Poland has been dealing with persistently high daily case numbers in a fourth wave that forced authorities to tighten restrictions in December.

Kuwaitis told to avoid European travel over Omicron

Kuwait has called on its citizens to avoid travel to several European countries hit hard by the Omicron variant.

In a series of statements overnight Sunday, the oil-rich Gulf state also urged Kuwaitis already there to return home because of the surge in cases on the continent.

The foreign ministry said they should "delay their trips" generally and, in particular, to France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy.

Brazil to investigate reports of cruise liners

Brazilian health authorities have said they will investigate reports of cruise liners violating protocols, after outbreaks hit three ships plying the coast.

The statement came after Brazilian media reported passengers on one of the Covid-hit ships, the Costa Diadema, violated quarantine orders to hold a booze-fuelled New Year's Eve party.

The crackdown comes after Covid-19 outbreaks erupted on the Costa Diadema and two other ships off the Brazilian coast at New Year's.

Mexico's Covid-19 death toll rises to 299,544

Mexico's Health Ministry has said the Covid-19 death toll in the country has reached 299,544 since the pandemic began.

The Ministry has previously said the real number is likely higher.

US CDC considers adding negative tests as part of its guidance

As the Omicron variant surges across the United States, top federal health officials are looking to add a negative test along with its five-day isolation restrictions for asymptomatic Americans who catch the virus, the White House’s top medical adviser said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now considering including the negative test as part of its guidance after getting significant “pushback” on its updated recommendations last week.

Under that December 27 guidance, isolation restrictions for people infected were shortened from 10 days to five days if they are no longer feeling symptoms or running a fever.

Israel approves fourth jab for people over 60

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said that a fourth  vaccine will be given to people over 60 and health workers amid a surge driven by the Omicron variant.

Israel on Thursday authorised a fourth vaccine for those with weakened immunity, becoming one of the first countries to do so.

Authorities on Sunday also reported 4,206 new infections over the past 24 hours, and a 195 percent increase over the past week.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies