Covid-19 has infected more than 398M people and killed over 5.7M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:
Tuesday, February 8, 2022
Spain ends mask mandate outdoors as Covid surge ebbs
Spain is scrapping a mandate to wear masks outdoors, as Covid-19 infection rates drop and hospitals report lower admissions.
Mask-wearing will not be necessary outside beginning Thursday, government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez said after a weekly Cabinet meeting.
The rule change includes children at school during their breaks outside between classes.
However, masks remain mandatory in indoor public spaces, including public transportation, and when people are unable to keep a safe distance of 1.5 meters (4 feet) between them.
Official Health Ministry data showed contagion has slowed down, with the 14-day figure dropping to just under 2,000.
Authorities credit a strong vaccination rate of nearly 81percent of Spain's 47 million people for a lower hospital admission rate of Covid-19 patients than in previous infection surges.
Turkiye sees record number of cases in single day
Turkiye has reported more than 111,000 coronavirus cases, the highest single-day figure in the country since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Health Ministry confirmed 111,096 new Covid-19 infections, 241 deaths, and 82,168 recoveries over the past day.
Democratic-led US states roll back mask mandates
Several Democratic-run US states have announced plans to lift mask mandates in indoor places and schools as coronavirus infections decline in America.
California governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state's indoor mask mandate would end for vaccinated residents on February 15.
Newsom's announcement came after New Jersey governor Phil Murphy announced that children and staff would not need to wear masks in schools from March 7.
In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont said he was recommending that school boards drop mandatory mask-wearing in schools after February 28.
Delaware governor John Carney announced that his state's indoor mask mandate would expire on Friday, and that masks in schools will end by March 31.
In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown tweeted that she "will lift mask requirements no later than March 31."
Italy reports 101,864 cases, 415 deaths
Italy has reported 101,864 Covid-19 related cases, against 41,247 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the number of deaths rose to 415 from 326.
France to scrap Covid test rule for vaccinated travellers
France will soon drop its requirement of a negative Covid test for vaccinated travellers from outside the European Union, as daily infection numbers continue to fall, Europe Minister Clement Beaune said.
"We again required tests in December over the Omicron variant. In the coming days we will announce that tests are no longer needed for vaccinated people," Beaune told France 2 TV.
Currently anyone coming from outside the EU, including Britain, has to show a negative test result from the previous 48 hours, regardless of vaccination status.
UK records 314 new deaths, 66,183 cases
Britain has reported 314 new Covid-19 deaths and a further 66,183 cases, official data showed.
The figures compared to 45 deaths and 57,623 cases reported a day earlier.
Japan reports daily record of 159 deaths
Japan has reported 159 coronavirus deaths, a daily record, Kyodo news agency said.
It also recorded 101,278 new cases, Kyodo added, amid a surge in infections driven by the Omicron variant that has prompted the government to reinstate curbs in most parts of the country.
A total of 1,141 coronavirus patients were in serious condition across Japan, the Health Ministry said, down from the previous day yet hovering around a four-month high.
Kyodo had earlier reported 155 deaths, but then updated its report with figures from more prefectures.
Chinese scientists say new virus test gives results within minutes
Chinese scientists said they have developed a new coronavirus test that is accurate as a PCR lab test but gives results within four minutes.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are widely considered the most accurate and sensitive for the virus that causes Covid-19, but they usually take several hours.
Some countries have experienced severe backlogs in the face of heavy testing demand, fuelled by the explosive spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The researchers said their method offers speed, ease of operation, high sensitivity and portability.
Hong Kong further tightens its tough rules
Hong Kong will limit public gatherings to two people and close sites such as churches and hair salons, leader Carrie Lam said, as the Asian financial hub battles a growing coronavirus outbreak that has caused record infections.
Existing social distancing measures will be extended to February 24, Lam told a media briefing.
These include a ban on dining in restaurants after 6 pm and the closure of gymnasiums and cinemas.
Poland puts off mandatory jabs for teachers, police, army
March 1 deadline for full vaccination of teachers and so-called uniformed services is being pushed back indefinitely because it cannot be met.
Last year the government said teachers, medics, police, armed forces and the firefighters need to be inoculated by March 1 if they want to perform their jobs.
Poland is going through the pandemic’s fifth wave, with almost 36,000 new cases and almost 290 Covid-19 related deaths reported.
Some 57 percent of the population of 38 million is fully immunised.
Quarter of UK employers cite long Covid as driving absences
A quarter of British employers have cited long Covid as a main cause of long-term sickness absences, a survey by a professional body found, adding that it raised questions over how workers with the condition were being supported in their jobs.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading a strategy for the country to live with Covid, lifting restrictions as booster shots and the lower severity of the Omicron variant weaken the link between cases and death.
However, Britain is still averaging around 80,000 cases each day, and mild cases of Covid-19 can still lead to debilitating long Covid and associated symptoms of fatigue, memory issues and brain fog.
India's Modi defends handling of pandemic
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended his government's efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years, saying they led to high economic growth and middling inflation, unlike the situation in some advanced economies.
Economic growth is estimated at 9.2 percent in India's fiscal year ending in March and at 8 to 8.5 percent the next, after a contraction of 6.6 percent in fiscal 2019/20, while retail inflation hovers around 5.5 percent, well within the central bank's target of 2 percent to 6 percent.
The government has distributed free food grain to 800 million people during the pandemic, while taking steps to tame inflation, Modi told the upper house of parliament in remarks that triggered an opposition boycott of his speech.
Russia sees 698 more fatalities
Russia reports 698 deaths and 165,643 new coronavirus cases in past 24 hours.
The cases were 171,905 cases on previous day.
US Congress' members hold moment of silence for Covid deaths
Democratic leaders in the US Congress have held a moment of silence to commemorate the 900,000 American lives lost to the Covid-19 pandemic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will gather on the steps of the US Capitol building at 7 pm ET (0000 GMT), joined by the congressional leadership and a bipartisan group of legislators, according to Pelosi's office.
The United States reached the milestone of 900,000 deaths from Covid-19 on Friday, according to data collected by Reuters news agency, totaling 906,017 deaths as of Monday.
The figure marks an increase of more than 100,000 US Covid-19 fatalities since December 12, coinciding with a surge of infections and hospitalisations driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus.
South Africa approves China's Covid vaccine
South Africa's health regulator has announced that it has registered China's Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine for use in the country.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) said it authorised use of the vaccine based on acceptable safety, quality and efficacy data submitted to Sahpra over the July 23 to December 22, 2021, period.
Omicron, Delta detected in Central African Republic
The omicron and delta coronavirus variants are both circulating in the Central African Republic, the Pasteur Institute of Bangui confirmed.
"Based on genomic surveillance data, 80 complete SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences obtained from 179 samples, the Pasteur Institute of Bangui reports a significant circulation of the omicron variant," the institute said in a press release.
Of this number of sequences, it reported 72 cases of Omicron and four of the Delta variant, while 50 samples are being sequenced at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, where the samples are being sent.
Canada pushes back against GOP support for Covid protests
Canada's public safety minister said that US officials should stay out of his country's domestic affairs, joining other Canadian leaders in pushing back against prominent Republicans who offered support for the protests of Covid-19 restrictions that have besieged downtown Ottawa for more than a week.
A day after the city declared a state of emergency, the mayor pleaded for almost 2,000 extra police officers to help quell the raucous nightly demonstrations staged by the so-called Freedom Truck Convoy, which has used hundreds of parked trucks to paralyze the Canadian capital's business district.
Trudeau said everyone is tired of Covid-19 but this is not the way. He said the restrictions won't last forever and noted that Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
Mexico reports 206 Covid deaths
Mexico's Health Ministry has reported 9,242 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 206 more deaths, bringing the total number of infections in the country since the pandemic began to 5,160,767 and the death toll to 309,752.
Brazil's Covid cases and death toll rise
Brazil has recorded 66,583 new coronavirus cases and 428 Covid-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.
Brazil has now registered over 26.6 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 632,621, according to Ministry data.
Four US' states to end school mask mandates
The governors of four states have announced plans to lift statewide mask requirements in schools by the end of February or March, citing the rapid easing of the Covid-19's Omicron surge.
The decisions in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Oregon were announced as state and local governments grapple with which virus restrictions to jettison and which ones to keep in place.
The changes also come amid a growing sense that the virus is never going to go away and Americans need to find a way to coexist with it.