Covid-19 has infected more than 296M people and killed over 5.4M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

France is allowing health workers who are infected with the coronavirus to work, but have few or no symptoms, caused by an unprecedented explosion in infections.
France is allowing health workers who are infected with the coronavirus to work, but have few or no symptoms, caused by an unprecedented explosion in infections. (AP)

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

France allows infected medics to work

France is allowing health workers who are infected with the coronavirus but have few or no symptoms to keep treating patients rather than self-isolate.

Its an extraordinary stop-gap measure aimed at alleviating staff shortages at hospitals and other medical facilities caused by an unprecedented explosion in infections.

The special exemption to France's quarantine rules being rolled out to hospitals, elderly care homes, doctors' offices and other essential health services testifies to the growing strain being placed on the French medical system by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

French Health Minister Veran tells parliament that today's number of new confirmed cases is around 335,000 in France.

US daily cases average up 98 percent

The seven-day daily average of Covid-19 cases is up 98 percent from the prior week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said at the briefing. 

The average for hospitalisations was up 63 percent and for deaths was up 5 percent, she said.

Croatia reports record 8,587 new cases

Croatia reported 8,587 new Covid-19 cases, a 47 percent rise from the 5,845 recorded a day earlier, with other countries in the Western Balkans also reporting sharp increases in the number of cases amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

Croatia has vaccinated 55.7 percent of its population so far.

Israel reports very few myocarditis cases among 12-15 year olds after booster

Only two cases of myocarditis were reported in Israel among 44,000 youngsters aged 12 to 15 who received a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.

The heart inflammations developed by two male teens were both mild, the ministry said.

Studies have shown that while the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine marginally increases the risk of heart inflammation, the risk is higher among those infected with the coronavirus.

UK to relax travel testing rules

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that arrivals in England would no longer need to take a pre-departure test and could take a rapid lateral flow test rather than a PCR test once they arrive.

More than one in 20 people in Britain had Covid-19 in the last week of 2021, the highest infection rate recorded during the pandemic.

Britain reported 194,747 further cases of Covid-19 and 334 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

Austrian police raid suspected vaccine pass forgers

Austrian police said they had raided two dozen homes, seizing equipment and placing 22 people under investigation on suspicion of forging vaccine certificates, weeks before Covid vaccines become mandatory.

Investigators suspect the 22 people were forging documents not just for themselves but for friends and acquaintances.

Dutch cases hit new record

New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands jumped to a record high of around 24,500 as the Omicron variant has become dominant in the country.

Infections were up almost 60 percent from last week despite a strict lockdown that has closed all but essential stores as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places since Dec 19.

Sweden: Health officials advise expanded use of vaccine pass

Public health authorities in Sweden advised restaurants, cultural venues and leisure centres on Wednesday to ask their customers to show digital proof of vaccination against the coronavirus starting next week. 

The recommendation from the Swedish Public Health Agency isn’t a legal requirement but voluntary guidance for businesses. 

Sweden's digital certificates only show vaccination status and not proof of a negative test or recent recovery from Covid-19.

Anti-vaccination protesters attack Guadeloupe hospital staff

Dozens of anti-vaccination protesters in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe attacked a hospital director and other medical staff following recent violent demonstrations against vaccines and restrictions.

The attack occurred on Tuesday outside the University Hospital Center as police tried to escort the director and other staff elsewhere for safety. 

The hospital said the director briefly lost consciousness and that the crowd ripped the clothes of the deputy general director. 

India's new cases double in four days to 58,097

India has reported 58,097 new Covid-19 cases, twice the number seen only four days ago, according to health ministry data, taking the total to more than 35 million.

Deaths rose by 534, including the southern state of Kerala's updated death toll of 423, lifting the national total to 482,551.

Hungary reports 5,270 new cases in sharp weekly rise

Hungary has reported 5,270 new Covid-19 cases, a sharp rise from the 3,005 recorded a week ago, amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

Omicron accounted for more than 11 percent of new cases, the government said.

Tokyo may seek emergency measures as cases rise

Tokyo authorities may ask Japan's government to reinstate emergency measures as a rise in Covid-19 cases spurs concern that the capital is experiencing a sixth wave of infections, the Sankei newspaper reported.

Tokyo metropolitan government officials are preparing to make the request for a declaration of what are known in Japan as quasi-emergency measures, the paper reported, citing unidentified sources.

Such measures, which include restrictions on restaurant and bar opening hours, were lifted across Japan in September. 

UK opposition leader Starmer tests positive

The leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, has tested positive for Covid-19, his spokesperson said. 

Starmer had been due to face Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a question and answer session in parliament. His deputy, Angela Rayner, will take his place, the spokesperson said.

Starmer previously tested positive for Covid in October.

Hong Kong announces new measures, including flight bans

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said the government will introduce a series of new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, as she warned the global financial hub was on the verge of another outbreak.

The new rules include a ban on flights from eight countries for two weeks from January 8, affecting Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Philippines, France and India.

Lam was speaking as Hong Kong authorities launched a city-wide search for the contacts of a Covid-19 patient and ordered a Royal Caribbean "cruise to nowhere" ship to return to port early, as health officials feared a fifth wave of infections. 

Australia records highest single-day cases

Australia has recorded the highest single-day Covid-19 cases as the country battles with the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Health Ministry said.

During the past 24 hours, Australia reported 64,767 new cases, bringing the total caseload to 612,106 and 2,289 related deaths.

In a bid to counter the spread of Omicron, authorities have sped up vaccinations, especially booster shots. In a statement, Health Minister Greg Hunt said a record 176,223 boosters were provided across Australia.

Australia has so far fully vaccinated 91.6 percent of people of age 16 and above, while 94.5 percent of people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Israel records highest daily rise in Covid infections

Israel's health ministry announced nearly 12,000 new coronavirus cases, constituting the largest daily rise in infections since the beginning of the pandemic nearly two years ago.

According to the figures, 11,978 new Covid cases were detected over the course of Tuesday, surpassing the country's previous record high of 11,344 cases recorded on September 2 last year.

While there were currently nearly 60,000 people with Covid in Israel, the number of serious cases was only 125, according to the health ministry.

Nearly 4.3 million of Israel's 9.4 million inhabitants have received three shots of coronavirus vaccine.

In recent days, authorities began administering fourth shots to at-risk groups.

Philippines cancels 'Black Nazarene' parade again

Philippine authorities have cancelled an annual procession, which normally draws millions of Catholic devotees accompanying a black wooden statue of Jesus Christ through the streets of Manila, for a second straight year due to coronavirus concerns.

The government's coronavirus task force cancelled the "Black Nazerene" procession, which is one of the country's largest religious festivals, before celebrations related to the January 9 procession, were due to start on Friday because of rising Covid-19 infections.

Unlike last year, there will be no in-person masses in the church housing the centuries-old statue, and police will be deployed to discourage people from gathering outside the building, authorities said.

The health ministry reported 10,775 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily spike since Oct. 10, and more then 60 times the 168 cases recorded on December 21.

France breaks daily record for Covid cases

France shattered its previous record for the highest number of daily Covid-19 cases, registering over 271,000 infections in a single day.

According to data from the public health department, 271,686 people tested positive and the death toll climbed to 351 in the last 24 hours.

The figure reflects a significant jump from December 31, when 232,200 cases –– the highest number to date at the time –– was recorded. In the coming days, the figure is expected to surpass 300,000 cases.

US CDC posts explanation for short isolation period

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained the scientific rationale for shortening its Covid-19 isolation and quarantine recommendations, and clarified that the guidance applies to kids as well as adults.

The CDC also maintained that, for people who catch Covid-19, testing is not required to emerge from five days of isolation — despite hints from other federal officials that the agency was reconsidering that.

The agency announced the changes last week, halving the isolation time for Americans who catch the coronavirus and have no symptoms or only brief illnesses.

Brazil's Rio de Janeiro cancels carnival due to Omicron threats

Rio de Janeiro has cancelled its world-famous Carnival parade for a second year due to an increase in Covid-19 cases and the threat from the arrival of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the city's mayor said.

Rio mayor Eduardo Paes announced after a meeting with health authorities that the city would call off the event that draws hundreds of thousands of Carnival revelers each year.

Other Brazilian capitals are also canceling their Carnival parades. Last week, the northeastern city of Salvador announced it would not celebrate the event.

Golden Globes to go with no audience

A stripped-down Golden Globes will go ahead with no audience or media on Sunday, as the event traditionally known as Hollywood's biggest party reels from an industry boycott over ethical lapses by its organisers.

Nonetheless, honors in film and television will be announced Sunday from the Globes' usual Beverly Hills hotel venue, in a program the organization said was set to highlight "the long-established philanthropy work of the HFPA."

No audience will be present for the 79th Golden Globe Awards, the group said, citing health concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies