The cumulative total of global COVID-19 cases surpassed 298 million, with the death toll exceeding 5.4 million as of Friday, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Specifically, there had been 298,915,721 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 5,469,303 deaths as of 17:08 Central European Time (CET) on Friday, the WHO’s COVID-19 dashboard showed.
A total of 9,118,223,397 vaccine doses had been administered across the world as of Tuesday, according to the dashboard.
The United States on Friday reported a cumulative total of 57,535,858 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 826,022 deaths, both the highest in the world, the WHO dashboard showed.
WHO data also showed that India is the second worst-affected country, with 35,226,386 confirmed cases. It is followed by Brazil with 22,351,104 cases and the world’s second highest death toll of 619,513.
Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, on Friday said that the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly and has been detected in any region where there is complete viral gene sequencing capability. In some countries and regions, Omicron is replacing Delta as the dominant variant of infection.
Britain reported another 178,250 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 14,193,228, according to official figures released on Friday.
The country also reported a further 229 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 149,744, with 18,454 COVID-19 patients still hospitalized.
Some 200 Armed Forces personnel are being deployed to support the National Health Service (NHS) in London as hospitals are grappling with staff shortages, according to Sky News.
More than 90 percent of people aged 12 and above in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 82 percent have received two doses, according to the latest figures. More than 61 percent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
France reported more than 328,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the latest 24-hour period, marking the second time that the country registered more than 300,000 new cases in a single day since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to statistics released on Friday by the French Public Health Agency.
Another 193 coronavirus-related deaths were also reported during the same period. As of Friday, France registered a total of 11.51 million confirmed cases and more than 125,000 deaths.
According to a Reuters report on Friday, Alain Fischer, who orchestrated France’s vaccination strategy, said that France is approaching the peak of the current round of pandemic, which could “appear in the beginning of the third week of January”.
Italy reported more than 108,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 24-hour period, bringing the total caseload to over 7.08 million, said the Italian Ministry of Health on Friday.
The country reported a further 223 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the death toll to more than 138,000.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, the Federal Chancellery said, adding that he was infected by a member of his security team.
Nehammer shows no symptoms and carries out his official duties from home via video and telephone meetings. He will not attend in-person meetings in the next few days, the Chancellery said, adding that Nehammer has received three COVID-19 vaccine doses.
The country has seen a surge in new COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the new year. According to statistics from the Austrian Ministry of Health, the country reported more than 8,700 new cases on Friday, with a total caseload of more than 1.25 million and 13,830 deaths.
Austria has been enforcing a lockdown for the unvaccinated in an attempt to stem the surge of coronavirus.
The pandemic situation in Japan has deteriorated rapidly since the beginning of the new year. According to NHK statistics, the country reported 6,214 new confirmed cases on Friday, which is the first time that the country registers more than 6,000 new cases in a single day since Sept 15 last year.
Japan registered nearly 1.75 million confirmed cases and 18,399 deaths with one more death being reported on Friday.
On Friday, Tokyo reported 922 new cases, while Osaka Prefecture reported 676 new cases, both the highest in the last more than three months.
Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, on Friday announced that it would expand requirements for the application of the “vaccination passport” in response to the surge in confirmed case caused by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
The municipal government of Sao Paulo started to enforce a “vaccination passport” policy on Sept 1, 2020, requiring local residents to present proof of receiving at least one dose of COIVD-19 vaccine when attending a public event involving more than 500 people.
The new regulations require that residents have to get vaccinated with at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccines to enter certain public places, and that they must show vaccination proof before attending parties or entering places such as dance halls and clubs, regardless of how many people attend the events.
The city on Thursday canceled Carnival street parades following an increase in infections and hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant.
Argentina reported 110,533 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 24-hour period, the highest number ever recorded in the country in a single day, according to data released on Friday by the Ministry of Health. The country has recorded more than 100,000 new cases in a single day for two consecutive days.
As of Friday, Argentina registered a total of 6.13 million confirmed cases and over 117,000 deaths with 42 new deaths being reported during the past 24-hour period.
Experts said that the peak of the current round of pandemic in the country could come in mid-to-late January, with a possible maximum of 250,000 new cases being reported in a single day.
Washington state Gov. Inslee tests positive for COVID-19
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time.
Inslee’s office said in a statement Wednesday that he had tested positive and was experiencing very mild symptoms including a cough. He is consulting with his doctor about whether to receive Paxlovid antiviral treatments, according to the statement.
He plans to continue working. Trudi Inslee, the first spouse, has tested negative.
Inslee, who throughout the pandemic pushed for mitigation measures including indoor mask-wearing and restrictions on large public gatherings, is fully vaccinated and had booster shots in October 2021 and March 2022 and September 2022, according to his office.
“Once again I am very appreciative to be vaccinated and boosted,” Inslee said in the statement. “This is a scientific gift that has given us the capacity to prevent hospitalizations or worse. I encourage folks who haven’t received their booster to talk with their doctor and avail themselves of this protective, life-saving measure.”
Only 15% of Americans have received the recommended, updated booster that has been offered since last fall.
The governor also tested positive for COVID last May.
President Joe Biden told Congress this week that he will end the national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11.
Inslee ended the state of emergency in Washington at the end of October.
More than 1.1 million people in the country have died from COVID-19 since 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including about 3,700 last week. More than 15,000 people in Washington have died from the virus.
COVID-19 is a leading cause of death among children, but is still rare
COVID-19 was the eighth leading cause of death among children in recent months, according to a study published Monday.
In a year-long period from August 2021 to July 2022, 821 children ages 0 to 19 died from COVID-19 at a rate of 1 per 100,000. Children’s deaths of any kind are rare, researchers noted.
COVID-19 ranked fifth in non-disease-related deaths and first in infectious or respiratory illness deaths, overtaking the flu and pneumonia, NPR reported.
Before the pandemic, in 2019, the leading causes of death among children were perinatal conditions, unintentional injuries, birth defects, assault, suicide, cancerous tumors, heart disease and influenza and pneumonia.
The time period researchers analyzed coincided with the rise of Delta and Omicron COVID-19 cases. They found that studying other 12-month periods during the pandemic did not change the results.
Researchers noted their results were limited by the underreporting of COVID-19 cases, and the exclusion of deaths where COVID-19 could have been a contributing or amplifying factor in tandem with other conditions, such as influenza, NPR reported.
WHO: COVID still an emergency but nearing ‘inflection’ point
The coronavirus remains a global health emergency, the World Health Organization chief said Monday, after a key advisory panel found the pandemic may be nearing an “inflexion point” where higher levels of immunity can lower virus-related deaths, AP reported.
Speaking at the opening of WHO’s annual executive board meeting, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “there is no doubt that we’re in a far better situation now” than a year ago — when the highly transmissible Omicron variant was at its peak.
But Tedros warned that in the last eight weeks, at least 170,000 people have died around the world in connection with the coronavirus. He called for at-risk groups to be fully vaccinated, an increase in testing and early use of antivirals, an expansion of lab networks, and a fight against “misinformation” about the pandemic.
“We remain hopeful that in the coming year, the world will transition to a new phase in which we reduce hospitalizations and deaths to the lowest possible level,” he said.
Tedros’ comments came moments after WHO released findings of its emergency committee on the pandemic which reported that some 13.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered — with nearly 90% of health workers and more than four in five people over 60 years of age having completed the first series of jabs.
“The committee acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic may be approaching an inflexion point,” WHO said in a statement. Higher levels of immunity worldwide through vaccination or infection “may limit the impact” of the virus that causes COVID-19 on “morbidity and mortality,” the committee said.
“(B)ut there is little doubt that this virus will remain a permanently established pathogen in humans and animals for the foreseeable future,” it said. While Omicron versions are easily spread, “there has been a decoupling between infection and severe disease” compared to that of earlier variants.
Committee members cited “pandemic fatigue” and the increasing public perception that COVID-19 isn’t as much of a risk as it once was, leading to people to increasingly ignore or disregard health measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.
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