Coronavirus digest: Omicron reported in 57 countries, WHO reports

Published on Dec 09, 2021 07:37 AM IST

The World Health Organization has said the omicron coronavirus variant is now present in 57 countries. South Korea has reported a record number of new covid cases.

Scientists are still assessing the efficacy of covid-19 vaccines against the new variant(Pavlo Gonchar/Zumapress/picture alliance )
Scientists are still assessing the efficacy of covid-19 vaccines against the new variant(Pavlo Gonchar/Zumapress/picture alliance )

The World Health Organization has said the omicron coronavirus variant is now present in 57 countries. South Korea has reported a record number of new covid cases.

The new coronavirus variant omicron has so far been found in 57 countries, the World Health Organization said, warning that the rate of hospitalization resulting from infection is likely to rise.

The WHO said it needed more data to evaluate the severity of the disease caused by the new variant.

"Even if the severity is equal or potentially even lower than for delta variant, it is expected that hospitalizations will increase if more people become infected and that there will be a time lag between an increase in the incidence of cases and an increase in the incidence of deaths," it said.

ALSO READ: Queensland detects new version of Omicron

In an interview with the AFP news agency on Tuesday, the WHO's Director of Health Emergencies Michael Ryan said it was "highly unlikely" that the new variant dodged vaccine protections entirely.

However, he cautioned against drawing full-fledged conclusions from preliminary data and said that health authorities needed to be careful about how they interpreted the data they received so far.

Here are the major developments on coronavirus from around the world

Africa

Botswana, one of the as not seen a rise in covid-19 hospitalization.

"Currently we only have one person in ICU (intensive care). But there is trend that we have noticed which is that those that get seriously ill have not been vaccinated," Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti said.

South Africa's health regulator SAHPRA on Wednesday approved a third booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The country recorded 20,000 new covid-19 cases on the same day, a record since the omicron variant was first detected there. It is not clear how many of the infections were caused by omicron.

Nigeria's health minister said some covid-19 vaccines donated by Western countries only had a two-week shelf life.

"Some manufacturers offered to extend the vaccine shelf life after the fact, by 3 months, a practice that, though accepted by experts, is declined by the Federal Ministry of Health, because it is not accommodated in our standards," Osagie Ehanire said.

Asia

The Philippines on Wednesday banned entry for travelers from France. France was the 15th country added to the Phillippines added to its "red list" to try and keep the omicron variant out. The ban is effective until 15 December.

South Korea reported more than 7,000 daily covid-19 cases for the first time since the pandemic began, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Wednesday.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the country registered 7,175 new cases and 63 deaths Tuesday.

Cases have skyrocketed in South Korea after the country lifted most restrictions and adopted a "living with covid-19" strategy in early November.

However, stricter measures limiting gatherings and mandating vaccine passes were implemented this week.

Prime Minister Kim told a covid response meeting that South Korea would mobilize additional health personnel to oversee covid patients who were treating themselves at home.

An emergency transfer system is being developed to help move patients to hospitals if they developed severe symptoms.

The prime minister urged the elderly to get their booster shots since 35% of infections were found among those above 60 years old. They accounted for 84% of severe cases.

The vast majority of the new cases have been reported in the Seoul area, Kim said.

Europe

A booster dose of thePfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine appears to provide strong protection against the omicron variant. The company said on Tuesday the booster increased people's levels of virus-fighting antibodies against the omicron variant by 25-fold.

The Norwegian government announced tighter coronavirus rules on Tuesday, citing rising cases of the omicron variant. Norway has detected 29 cases of the variant so far.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the situation was serious enough to warrant restrictions.

From Thursday midnight, people will be allowed to host a maximum of 10 people at their houses and people will have to wear masks if they can't maintain distance from each other. Bars will be limited to offering only table service.

The measures are expected to last through the holidays.

The United Kingdom reported 131 new cases of omicron compared with 180 a day earlier.

On Wednesday, Germany reported 69,601 new covid-19 cases and 527 deaths, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute, the country's public health authority. With that, the country recorded its highest level of covid deaths since February.

The city of Munich has imposed an alcohol ban in pedestrian zones and at a popular central food market to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The Bavarian capital announced that rules would come into force from Wednesday between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily. It would also remain in place through the holidays.

The Dresdner Morgenpost newspaper reported Wednesday that a pastor in the eastern city of Dresden refused to allow a mobile vaccination team to offer the jab to homeless people in the church cafe.

According to the paper, the pastor said he wanted to prevent "further polarization" on the subject.

Meanwhile, scientists at the ifo Center for Macroeconomics and Surveys of the University of Munich said restrictions on the unvaccinated are boosting vaccination uptake.

Andreas Peichl, head of the ifo center, said the announcement of the "2G" rule in Austria in early November seemed to lead to an increase in vaccination rates.

However, the general lockdown, which has been in effect in Austria since November 22, seemed to weaken the trend, according to the study.

"Targeted restrictions for the unvaccinated therefore seem to increase the willingness to vaccinate more strongly than a lockdown for everyone," said Hannes Winner, professor of Economics at the University of Salzburg and co-author of the study.

Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced the country's fourth lockdown will end on Sunday but only for people who are vaccinated or have recovered from covid-19. Restrictions will remain for unvaccinated people.

"By getting vaccinated these troubles can be quickly put aside and that then common freedom can actually be lived together, '' Nehammer said.

Italy's ​​Teatro alla Scala, among the famous opera houses in the world, opened its new season with the gala premiere of Verdi's 'Macbeth' to a fully seated house on Tuesday.

Despite the glittery evening, the mood was more restrained than usual.

While theaters remain closed in other parts of Europe, attendees at La Scala were required to show proof of either being fully vaccinated or having recovered from the illness. Masks were also mandatory.

Middle East

Kuwait has detected its first case of omicron on Wednesday. A European traveler returning from a trip to Africa tested positive with the variant.

Americas

The Caribbean island of Martinique has imposed a new curfew to curb an increase in coronavirus cases.

The curfew begins Wednesday evening and requires all journeys during curfew hours to be justified by health or professional reasons.

Oceania

Papua New Guinea on Wednesday held its first mass burial of people who died of the coronavirus. Some 54 people, whose remains were unclaimed for months, were buried.

The under-resourced Melanesian nation is planning to hold a series of mass burials after 300 bodies piled up at a morgue, overwhelming a facility designed to hold just 60.

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