Covid-19 has infected more than 379M people and killed over 5.6M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

WHO's emergencies chief Mike Ryan urged countries to chart their own path out of the pandemic and not blindly follow others in relaxing measures.
WHO's emergencies chief Mike Ryan urged countries to chart their own path out of the pandemic and not blindly follow others in relaxing measures. (AP)

Tuesday, February 1, 2022 

WHO: Omicron yet to peak in many countries, caution needed

Many countries have not reached their peak in cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus and measures to curb its spread should be eased slowly, the World Health Organization's technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said.

WHO's emergencies chief Mike Ryan urged countries to chart their own path out of the pandemic and not blindly follow others in relaxing measures. 

“If you open doors quickly you better be able to close them pretty quickly as well,” he said.

Denmark scraps most restrictions

Denmark has become one of the first European Union countries to scrap most pandemic restrictions as the Scandinavian country no longer considers the Covid-19 outbreak “a socially critical disease.” 

The reason for that is that while the Omicron variant is surging in Denmark, it's not placing a heavy burden on the health system and the country has a high vaccination rate, officials have said.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told Danish radio it's too early to know if measures may have to make a comeback.

Pfizer to seek green light to vaccinate kids 5 and under

Pfizer and BioNTech will soon ask US regulators for emergency authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine for children aged five and under, US media reported.

This is the last age group in the United States that is not yet eligible for coronavirus shots.

As early as Tuesday, the companies could seek emergency authorization for a two-dose vaccination regimen for children under five and as young as six months, The New York Times and other news outlets said.

Portugal's PM tests positive

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who was re-elected for a second term on Sunday, has tested positive for Covid-19 and will stay in isolation for a period of seven days

"He does not have any symptoms and will respect an isolation period of seven days," his cabinet said.

South Africa adjusts isolation rules

South Africa will no longer require people who test positive for Covid-19 to isolate if they have no symptoms.

The move was the result of a substantial rise in the proportion of coronavirus-immune individuals exceeding 60-80 percent in several sero-surveys that test people's blood samples to pinpoint trends in the outbreak, the country's Presidency said in a statement late on Monday.

"Based on the trajectory of the pandemic and the levels of vaccination in the country, Cabinet has decided to make changes to Adjusted Alert Level 1 with immediate effect," said the statement.

WHO warns of Covid-19 medical waste threat

The World Health Organization has warned that the vast amount of waste produced in tackling the pandemic posed a threat to human and environmental health.

The tens of thousands of tonnes of extra medical waste had put a huge strain on healthcare waste management systems, the WHO said in a report.

The extra waste is "threatening human and environmental health and exposing a dire need to improve waste management practices", the UN health agency said.

As countries scrambled to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to cope with the crisis, less attention was paid to disposing of Covid-19 health care waste safely and sustainably, the WHO said.

The report looked at the 1.5 billion units, approximately 87,000 tonnes, of PPE procured between March 2020 and November 2021, and shipped out to countries via the United Nations system, a small fraction of the global total.

Swim world championships in Fukuoka moved to 2023

The swimming world championships scheduled to take place in the Japanese city of Fukuoka this year have been postponed until July 2023 because of Covid-19 risks, organisers said.

Swimming's governing body FINA said the world championships after that, in the Qatari capital Doha, will be delayed until January 2024. 

Russia reports new record of daily cases

Russia has reported a daily record number of cases as the Omicron variant spreads across the country, authorities said.

New daily cases jumped to 125,836, up from 124,070 a day earlier.

The government task force also reported 663 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Tokyo's hospitalisations mount, cross 50% threshold

More than half of Tokyo's hospital beds set aside for patients were occupied, a level that officials have previously flagged as a criterion for requesting a state of emergency.

The capital and most of Japan are now under curbs to contain record cases driven by the contagious Omicron variant.

Tokyo has set aside almost 7,000 hospital beds and admissions have risen sharply this month, reaching 50.7 percent on Tuesday. New infections numbered 14,4 45.

Beijing Olympics confirms 24 new cases among personnel

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee has said that a total of 24 new cases were detected among games-related personnel on January 31.

Eighteen of the cases were found among new airport arrivals, according to a notice on the Beijing 2022 official website.

Six others were among those already in the "closed loop" bubble that separates all event personnel from the public, five of whom were classified as either an athlete or a team official, the notice said.

Study shows 'stealth Omicron' spreads faster than original strain

A sub-variant of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus strain is even more infectious than the original version, according to a Danish study.

Sub-variant BA.2, also called "stealth Omicron", was detected earlier this year and has displaced the first Omicron variant, known as BA.1, as the dominant strain in Denmark.

A person infected with BA.2 has a 39 percent chance of transmitting the virus to someone else in their household within a week, compared to a 29 percent risk with BA.1, Denmark's SSI health authority said in a statement.

SSI doctor Camilla Holten Moller said BA.2 was more likely to infect unvaccinated people than BA.1.

Greece to fire health workers if not vaccinated by March 31

Greece's Health Minister said that health care professionals who fail to get fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by March 31 will be fired from the National Health System (ESY).

Speaking on Skai TV, Thanos Plevris also clarified that by that date, there will be an overall measure on whether there must be obligatory vaccination for health care s taff every year after the pandemic.

Plevris added that Greece will as of February 7 require a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated.

South Korea breaks another daily Covid case record

South Korea has reported 18,343 new Covid-19 cases for, the highest daily record, amid the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

Mexico reports 198 Covid deaths

Mexico has registered 198 more deaths from Covid-19, according to Health Ministry data, bringing the country's overall death toll in the pandemic to 306,091.

Brazil registers 77,947 Covid cases

Brazil has had 77,947 new cases of the coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 284 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 25,426,744 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 627,138, according to Ministry data.

CDC advises travel against Mexico, Brazil, and Singapore 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against travel to a dozen destinations, including Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Ecuador, Kosovo, Philippines and Paraguay.

The CDC now lists nearly 130 countries and territories with Covid-19 cases as "level four: very high".

It also added Anguilla, French Guiana, Moldova and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to its highest level.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies