Covid-19 has infected more than 396M people and killed over 5.7M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

The WHO survey's timing coincided with surging Covid-19 cases in many countries in late 2021 due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The WHO survey's timing coincided with surging Covid-19 cases in many countries in late 2021 due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. (Reuters)

Monday, February 7, 2022

Health services worldwide 'severely impacted' by Covid: WHO

Disruptions in basic health services such as vaccination programmes and treatment of diseases like AIDS were reported in 92 percent of 129 countries, a World Health Organization survey has shown.

The survey, conducted in November-December 2021, showed services were "severely impacted" with "little or no improvement" from the previous survey in early 2021, the WHO said in a statement.

"The results of this survey highlight the importance of urgent action to address major health system challenges, recover services and mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic," the WHO said.

Emergency care, which includes ambulance and ER services, actually worsened with 36 percent of countries reporting disruptions versus 29 percent in early 2021 and 21 percent in the first survey in 2020.

Elective operations such as hip and knee replacements were disrupted in 59 percent of the countries and gaps to rehabilitative and palliative care were reported in about half of them.

The survey's timing coincided with surging Covid-19 cases in many countries in late 2021 due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, piling additional strain on hospitals.

Sweden to lift travel curbs on Nordic countries, the EU

The Swedish government has decided to lift entry restrictions for foreign nationals travelling to Sweden from Nordic countries and the rest of the European Union and European Economic Area from Wednesday.

The travel bans, which were introduced to slow the spread of the coronavirus, will be lifted on the same day that Sweden is due to lift pandemic restrictions that had been extended last month.

Italy reports over 40,000 cases, 326 deaths

Italy reported 41,247 Covid-19 related cases, against 77,029 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths rose to 326 from 229.

Italy has registered 149,097 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth highest in the world.

The country has reported 11.7 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 18,675, up from 18,498 a day earlier.

There were 70 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 105 on Sunday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 1,423 from a previous 1,431.

UK records 57,623 new cases, 45 deaths

Britain has reported 57,623 new Covid-19 cases and 45 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official data showed.

The figures compared to 54,095 cases and 75 deaths reported the previous day.

Germany eyes easing Covid rules

The German government is working on plans to relax coronavirus restrictions after the peak in new cases has passed, likely by the end of February.

Unlike some of its European neighbours, Germany still has many pandemic restrictions in place that exclude unvaccinated people from restaurants, public venues and some stores.

“Perspectives for opening are being developed,” government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann said, adding that the measures would be discussed at a meeting of federal and state officials on February 16.

The measures would only take effect when authorities can be sure that Germany's health system won't be overwhelmed. “According to experts, that could be by mid-to-end February,” she said.

Germany has seen a sharp spike in newly confirmed cases in recent weeks due to the Omicron variant. About 74.4 percent of the German population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 54.3 percent have had a booster shot.

Pharmacists in the country are scheduled to begin offering vaccinations on Tuesday, after parliament changed the rules so that they, dentists and vets could also administer the shoots.

Indonesia to tighten curbs as infections climb

Indonesia will tighten social restrictions in Jakarta and Bali, as well as in two other cities on Java island, in a bid to contain a spike in coronavirus infections.

Separately, the transport ministry clarified that overseas tourists would still be able to enter the country through the capital Jakarta, after the ministry indicated otherwise in a statement issued on Sunday.

It earlier said foreign tourists and Indonesians returning from holidays abroad would be temporarily banned from flying into Jakarta, as a further precaution against Covid-19.

Papua New Guinea PM tests positive in Beijing

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape tested positive for Covid-19 when he arrived in Beijing last week to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games and had to cut short his stay. 

Marape was immediately given medical treatment, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

Marape missed Friday’s opening ceremony and returned home Sunday night, canceling a planned trip to France. 

Japan to consider early approval for Shionogi Covid pill

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government would consider granting conditional early approval for the oral Covid-19 treatment being developed by Shionogi & Co Ltd, as the firm prepares to start a late-stage global trial.

Shionogi Chief Executive Isao Teshirogi said that the company could file in Japan for early approval of the drug as soon as next week, and that it could deliver enough doses for 1 million people by the end of March.

Antiviral pills from Pfizer Inc and Merck & Co are already being used in several countries and have demonstrated efficacy in trials of adults with Covid-19 who are at risk of serious illness.

Covid cases in South Korea at over 1M 

South Korea has now recorded over million Covid-19 cases in total in a third day of more than 35,000 infections.

During the past 24 hours, South Korea recorded 35,286 new cases, bringing the total caseload to 1.04 million as Omicron variant spreading across the country.

So far, South Korea has fully vaccinated over 86 percent of its 52 million population.

Nepal to reopen schools, other venues

Nepal's capital announced it would ease strict pandemic measures, with plans to reopen schools and sports venues and slowly return city life to normal, as Covid-19 cases began to decline.

The Nepalese government imposed tough restrictions last month as virus cases broke records, fuelled by the Omicron variant. 

Schools were shut, religious festivals banned, and restaurants were limited to serving small numbers of customers.

South African regulator approves Sinopharm vaccine

South Africa's health regulator said it had approved a Covid-19 vaccine from China's Sinopharm, although a senior health official said the government was not planning to procure doses for now.

South Africa, the country worst-hit by the pandemic in Africa in terms of reported Covid-19 infections and deaths, has used the Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) shots in its vaccination campaign, after signing supply deals with the two US companies.

China study warns against easing curbs 

Restoring normal population mobility to "Covid-zero regions" like China will cause some two million deaths in a year and the key to controlling the virus is developing vaccines that are better at preventing infection, Chinese researchers said.

China's "zero-Covid" restrictions have come under growing scrutiny in recent weeks as it hosts the Winter Olympics in Beijing while using sweeping restrictions to try to prevent the spread of the more infectious Omicron variant.

Chinese scientists and public health specialists have reiterated the need for maintaining the stringent controls, saying the risks of transmission were too high and that mass infection would put intolerable pressure on the health system.

More Covid deaths reported in Brazil

Brazil has registered 59,737 new cases of coronavirus over the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.

The country had 391 new Covid-19 deaths, the ministry added.

China locks down city on Vietnam border as cases rise

Authorities in China's southwestern city of Baise have ordered residents to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel as they enforced curbs that are among the toughest in the nation's tool-box to fight rising local infections of Covid-19.

The outbreak in Baise, which has a population of about 3.6 million and borders Vietnam, is tiny by global standards, but the curbs, including a ban on non-essential trips in and out, follow a national guideline to quickly contain any flare-ups.

The effort takes on extra urgency during the staging of the Winter Olympics, which began on Friday and run until February 20, as well as a busy travel season for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Honduran president tests positive

Honduran President Xiomara Castro has tested positive for Covid-19, she said on Twitter, adding that she has mild symptoms and will be working in isolation.

Canada declares state of emergency over Covid protests

The mayor of Canada's capital has declared a state of emergency and a former US ambassador to Canada said groups in the US must stop interfering in the domestic affairs of America's neighbour as protesters opposed to Covid-19 restrictions continued to paralyse Ottawa's downtown.

Mayor Jim Watson said the declaration highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government. It gives the city some additional powers around procurement and how it delivers services, which could help purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders.

Thousands of protesters descended in Ottawa again on the weekend, joining a hundred who remained since last weekend. 

Residents of Ottawa are furious at the nonstop blaring of horns, traffic disruption and harassment and fear no end is in sight after the police chief called it a "siege" that he could not manage.

Schools in Nepal demand reopening

Schools in Nepal have demanded the government open up physical classes that were shut down for weeks as the number of Covid-19 cases began to decline.

Teachers say online education was limited to only a small part of the population living in the urban parts of the Himalayan country while a majority of students were being deprived of their chance to learn.

The number of coronavirus cases fuelled by the Omicron variant has peaked in the past weeks but was declining in the last few days.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies