Covid-19 has infected more than 304M people and killed over 5.5M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

The massive number of people testing positive or in self-isolation has hit health staff numbers, prompting the defence ministry to announce it will send troops in to assist staff in hospitals.
The massive number of people testing positive or in self-isolation has hit health staff numbers, prompting the defence ministry to announce it will send troops in to assist staff in hospitals. (Reuters)

Saturday, January 8, 2022

UK coronavirus deaths top 150,000

More than 150,000 people have died after catching Covid-19 in the United Kingdom, the government said, in a milestone for one of the worst affected countries in Europe.

The government reported that deaths within 28 days of a positive  test had reached 150,057 since the start of the pandemic. Russia is the only European country with a higher death toll.

The number of daily reported cases has fallen since a record figure of more than 200,000 last week, with 146,390 cases reported in the last 24 hours.

Hundreds in Lebanon protest measures targeting unvaccinated

Hundreds of people have rallied in Beirut to protest measures imposed against the unvaccinated, saying individuals should have the right to decide whether to be inoculated or not.

Vaccination is not compulsory in Lebanon, but in recent days authorities have cracked down on people who are not inoculated or don’t carry a negative PCR test.

Saturday’s protest by nearly 300 people in downtown Beirut came a day after the daily number of new cases hit a record 7,974.

German health minister to revamp vaccination strategy

Germany must revamp its vaccination strategy to tackle the Omicron variant and to ensure it can develop a new vaccine rapidly if it faces a more deadly variant in the future, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said.

Lauterbach, who was appointed health minister last month, made his comments in an advanced release of an interview to be published in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.

Anti-vaccine protesters rally across France

Anti-vaccine protesters have rallied in cities across France, denouncing President Emmanuel Macron's intent to "piss off" people refusing shots by tightening curbs on their civil liberties.

Macron said this week he wanted to irritate unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting jabbed. Unvaccinated people were irresponsible and unworthy of being considered citizens, he added.

In Paris, protesters retorted by adopting his slangy wording, chanting "We'll piss you off".

Swedish Crown Princess Victoria tests positive

Swedish Crown Princess Victoria has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing cold symptoms, the Royal Court said, adding that the heir to the throne was fully vaccinated.

Earlier this week her parents, the king and queen of Sweden, both also tested positive. The Royal Court said in a statement that the crown princess, who has contracted the virus once before, was isolating at home with her family.

Turkiye confirms more than 66,000 new cases

Turkiye has confirmed more than 66,000 new cases, the Health Ministry said.

The ministry reported 66,237 new cases, 141 deaths, and 34,592 recoveries over the past day. As many as 418,264 virus tests were done in the past 24 hours.

To stem infection, the country has administered more than 135.99 million doses of vaccines since it launched an immunisation drive in January 2021, according to the latest figures.

Surge in India cases indicative of third wave

India is now facing the third wave of Covid-19 and the government needs to remain alert to ensure that the health system is not overrun, health experts and observers have said.

The country's daily cases crossed the 141,000 mark as many Indian cities continue to see a spike in infections. With this, the tally of cases in the country has reached 35.3 million.

Meanwhile, with 285 more deaths, the fatalities have risen to 483,463 nationwide.

Health Ministry officials say omicron is the predominant strain circulating in Indian cities, however they have not declared that the third wave is setting in.

"Given the rising numbers now, we need to prepare our health systems and remain alert to deal with any kind of situation that may arise. The situation looks alarming and there is no doubt that it is not a third wave. We just need to deal with it now," top Indian public health expert Rajesh Kumar told Anadolu Agency.

Noting that the sudden spike in cases was because of the omicron variant, he said the infection caused by this variant is less severe.

But if the number of cases rises exponentially, hospitalisations could also increase and we must remain prepared for this, he added.

Omicron surge pushes US hospitalisations toward record high

Covid-19 hospitalisations in the United States are poised to hit a new high as early as Friday, according to a tally by Reuters news agency, surpassing the record set in January of last year as the highly contagious Omicron variant fuels a surge in infections.

Hospitalisations have increased steadily since late December as Omicron quickly overtook Delta as the dominant coronavirus variant in the United States, although experts say Omicron will likely prove less deadly than prior iterations.

Canada: We need to do more to fight Omicron variant

Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has warned some of the country's 10 provinces that they needed to do more to fight the Omicron coronavirus variant and prevent healthcare systems from being swamped.     

New daily cases of Covid-19 soared by 65 percent in the last week across Canada, and hospitals say it is becoming increasingly hard to maintain staffing levels.

Mexico surpasses 300,000 deaths

The Mexican Health Department has said that it had registered 300,101 deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with 131 fatalities recorded in the last 24 hours.

With a record 28,923 cases, the highest figure since August 18, Mexico has 4,083,118 cases and an estimated 128,929 active infections.

The surge in cases follows the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and an increase in infections from the new omicron variant.

Mexico has primarily contributed to omicron infections in the Latin American region with 374 cases reported, according to the GISAID initiative, a worldwide initiative dedicated to tracking influenza viruses and the coronavirus.

UK: Booster shots still protects older people 

British health officials have said that Covid-19 booster jabs were continuing to provide high levels of protection against severe disease from the Omicron coronavirus variant among older adults.

Around three months after receiving a third jab, protection against hospitalisation among those aged 65 and over remained at about 90 percent, the UK Health Security Agency said on Friday.

Tokyo's daily cases likely to rise to most since September 11

New daily coronavirus cases in the Japanese capital of Tokyo are likely to rise above 1,200 on Saturday, the highest since September 11, TBS television has said, citing unidentified officials.

Covid-19 is surging in Japan, and the country is stepping up restrictions in three regions that host US military bases, which some officials say have helped fuel the spike.

The measures, which may include shortening the opening hours of restaurants and bars, are due to take effect on Sunday. 

Philippines confirms record daily infections

The Philippine health ministry has reported a record 26,458 confirmed new coronavirus cases.

In a bulletin on Saturday, it confirmed cases have exceeded 2.93 million, while deaths have reached over 52,000 as 265 fatalities were recorded. The previous daily record in Covid-19 cases was 26,303 on September 11, 2021.

Mexico greenlights Molnupiravir for Coronavirus patients

Mexico has approved emergency use of Merck's Molnupiravir antiviral medication to treat Covid-19 patients, the nation's health regulator COFEPRIS said in a statement.

COFEPRIS was expected to soon also approve Pfizer's Paxlovid pill to treat Covid-19, Lopez Obrador added at a regular news conference. Both medications were approved last month in the United States.

Molnupiravir was developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and shown to reduce hospitalisations and deaths by around 30 percent in a clinical trial of high-risk individuals early in the course of the illness.

Rapid Covid tests may not give proper results - study

Swabbing the nose with a rapid antigen test will not reliably detect the Omicron variant in the first few days of an infection, so manufacturers should seek US approval to allow users to safely collect samples from the throat as well, according to an infectious diseases expert.

The US Food and Drug Administration has expressed concerns over the safety of self throat swabbing.

People can already transmit Omicron to others when it has infected their throat and saliva but before the virus reaches their nose, so swabbing the nostrils too early in the course of infection will not pick it up, Dr. Michael Mina, formerly of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and now chief science officer at eMed, said during a news conference.

A study released on medRxiv ahead of peer review looked at 29 Omicron-infected workers in high-risk professions who had PCR and antigen tests done simultaneously on multiple days. The PCR tests of saliva detected the virus on average three days before the rapid nose-swab samples became positive.

Pentagon cuts deal for 13.3M at-home test kits

The US Defense Department said it awarded a contract to Revival Health Inc for 13.3 million Covid-19 at-home test kits as part of President Joe Biden’s plan to make available 500 million test kits.

The Pentagon announcement did not give the cost of the contract.

Previously, it also awarded $51.6 million contract to Goldbelt Security LLC to purchase Covid-19 antigen over-the-counter test kits.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies