Covid-19 has infected more than 415M people and killed over 5.8M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:
Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Deaths stable, but cases drop by 19% globally: WHO
The number of new coronavirus cases have dropped by 19 percent globally in the last week while the number of deaths remained stable, according to the World Health Organization.
The UN health agency said in its weekly report on the pandemic that just over 16 million new Covid-19 infections and about 75,000 deaths were reported worldwide last week.
The Western Pacific was the only region to report a rise in new weekly cases, an increase of about 19 percent, Southeast Asia reported a decrease of about 37 percent, the biggest drop globally. The number of deaths rose by 38 percent in the Middle East and by about one-third in the Western Pacific.
The biggest number of new Covid-19 cases was seen in Russia. Cases there and elsewhere in Eastern Europe doubled in recent weeks, driven by a surge of the hugely infectious omicron variant.
WHO said that all other coronavirus variants, including alpha, beta and delta, continue to decline globally as omicron crowds them out.
New Zealand virus cases spike
New Zealand Covid-19 infections have reached a record high as anti-vaccine protesters claimed victory after police failed to clear vehicles blocking the streets around parliament.
Health authorities reported 1,160 new coronavirus cases, the most since the pandemic began, as the Omicron variant continues to spread in a country that was largely virus-free until August.
While there have only been 53 virus deaths in the nation of five million, some protesters have taken to the streets railing against Covid-related restrictions and a government vaccination drive.
Demon strators inspired by Canada's "Freedom Convoy" jammed roads with cars, trucks and campervans last week, then set up camp on the lawns of parliament in the capital Wellington.
UK to offer vaccine to all children aged 5-11
All children aged five to 11 in England will be offered a Covid-19 vaccine, the UK government said, following similar announcements in the rest of the UK.
The move, coming nearly two months after British regulators approved Pfizer and BioNTech's shot for use among the age group, sees Britain following the lead of the United States, the European Union and other countries.
Hours earlier, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Scotland would also start jabbing five to 11-year-olds, while Wales unveiled the same policy the previous day. Northern Ireland also followed suit.
Italy reports 59,749 cases, 278 deaths
Italy reported 59,749 Covid-19 related cases, against 70,852 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths fell to 278 from 388.
Austria to drop most restrictions next month
The Austrian government has said that it plans to end the country's main Covid-19 restrictions on March 5, though wearing masks will remain obligatory in some places.
Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced the decision at a news conference in Vienna, stressing that the pandemic is not yet over but the situation allows Austria to open up step by step.
In a first step starting Saturday, proof of vaccination or recent recovery will no longer be required to attend events, go to restaurants, bars or hairdressers and various other activities. Proof of a negative test will suffice for those things.
From March 5, most restrictions will be dropped, with night clubs reopening and restrictions on opening hours for restaurants and bars ending.
Germany to start lifting curbs as Omicron passes peak
Germany will start rolling back most of its coronavirus restrictions as the country's falling infection rate suggests the Omicron-fuelled wave has peaked, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.
The three-step plan, which includes allowing unvaccinated people back into shops and restaurants, will see Germany reach its "freedom day" on March 20, as media have dubbed it.
"After two years we deserve for things to be better again and it looks like that's happening now," Scholz told reporters.
Turkish foreign minister tests positive for Covid
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has announced that he tested positive for Covid-19.
“My test result came back positive for Covid-19 today,” he wrote on Twitter.
Cavusoglu said he has mild symptoms and will continue to work at home without any break.
BioNTech to ship mobile vaccine labs to Africa
Germany's BioNTech, which together with Pfizer developed the first mRNA vaccine against the coronavirus, unveiled mobile vaccine production units housed in shipping containers, aimed at bringing manufacturing to Africa.
"The question was, can we make the process compact enough to fit in a container?" the CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, said.
The company said it expected to ship the so-called "BioNTainers" to Rwanda, Senegal, or both countries.
Swiss lift most restrictions as infections decline
Switzerland became the latest European country to ease coronavirus restrictions, including ending health checks for incoming travelers and the need to have Covid-19 passes to enter many public venues.
Cases decline for sixth week in Americas: PAHO
New Covid-19 infections have continued to decline across the Americas region, by 31 percent in the last week, but deaths are still on the rise, rising 5.6 percent this week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said.
Mexico, Brazil report hundreds of new Covid deaths
Mexico has reported 21,207 confirmed Covid cases and 643 more Covid-related fatalities, according to the Health Ministry, bringing the case count to 5,321,744 and the death toll to 313,608.
Brazil's Health Ministry said they registered 120,549 new cases and 854 deaths, rising the count number in the South American country to 27,650,052, while the overall death toll rose to 639,689.
South Korea reports daily record of infections
South Korea has reported a daily record of 90,443 new coronavirus cases, a drastic surge from 57,177 a day before, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.
Singapore reports record daily Covid cases
Singapore has reported a record 19,179 local coronavirus infections.
The city-state has recorded 191,882 cases of the virus over the last 28 days, but 99.7 percent of them had no or mild symptoms.
Of Tuesday's local cases, 16,102 were detected through antigen rapid tests (ART).
They are assessed to have no or mild symptoms and carry low risk.
The Netherlands to go back to normal
The Netherlands has said it will drop almost all coronavirus restrictions, the latest European country to try to return to normal despite still-high Omicron variant infections.
Dutch bars, restaurants and nightclubs will go back to pre-pandemic opening hours and health passes will be scrapped by February 25, the health minister said.
Social distancing and face masks will no longer be obligatory in most places, while the quarantine period for those with Covid-19 will be shortened to five days.
Biden seeks $30B from Congress to fight Covid
The Biden administration is seeking $30 billion in additional funds from Congress to fight the Covid-19 pandemic to bolster vaccines, treatments, testing supply, and research, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The $30 billion request includes $17.9 billion for vaccines and therapeutics, two sources familiar with it said.
Administration officials and congressional staff have been in talks about the issue, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson confirmed.