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COVID-19

U.S. reports 1.35 million COVID-19 cases in a day, shattering global record

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(Last Updated On: January 11, 2022)

The United States reported 1.35 million new coronavirus infections on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, the highest daily total for any country in the world as the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant showed no signs of slowing.

The previous record was 1.03 million cases on Jan. 3. A large number of cases are reported each Monday due to many states not reporting over the weekend. The seven-day average for new cases has tripled in two weeks to over 700,000 new infections a day.

The record in new cases came the same day as the nation saw the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients also hit an all-time high, having doubled in three weeks, according to a Reuters tally.

There were more than 136,604 people hospitalized with COVID-19, surpassing the record of 132,051 set in January last year.

While the Omicron variant is potentially less severe, health officials have warned that the sheer number of infections could strain hospital systems, some of which have already suspended elective procedures as they struggle to handle the increase in patients and staff shortages.

The surge in cases has disrupted schools, which are struggling with absences of staff, teachers and bus drivers.

Chicago canceled classes for a fourth day as the district and teachers failed to agree on how to deal with increased infections.

New York City suspended service on three subway lines as a large number of workers were out sick, according to its Twitter account. Companies’ plans for workers to return to office have also been derailed.

Deaths are averaging 1,700 per day, up from about 1,400 in recent days but within levels seen earlier this winter.

A redesigned COVID-19 vaccine that specifically targets the Omicron variant is likely needed, Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) CEO said on Monday, adding his company could have one ready to launch by March.

COVID-19

North Korea declares victory over COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2022)

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un declared victory in the battle against COVID-19 on Thursday, with the leader’s sister revealing he had suffered from fever and vowing “deadly retaliation” against South Korea which it blames for causing the outbreak, Reuters reported.

Kim ordered a lifting of maximum anti-epidemic measures imposed in May, adding that North Korea must maintain a “steel-strong anti-epidemic barrier and intensifying the anti-epidemic work until the end of the global health crisis,” according to a report by state news agency KCNA.

North Korea has never confirmed how many people caught COVID-19, apparently lacking testing supplies. It had instead reported daily numbers of fever patients, which totalled some 4.77 million, but has registered no new such cases since July 29.

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, said the young leader himself had suffered from fever symptoms, according to KCNA, indicating for the first time that he might have been infected with the virus.

“Even though he was seriously ill with a high fever, he could not lie down for a moment thinking about the people he had to take care of until the end in the face of the anti-epidemic war,” she said in remarks at a meeting on Wednesday to review the country’s anti-epidemic responses.

She did not elaborate on Kim’s health, but blamed leaflets from South Korea found near the border for causing the outbreak, Reuters reported.

The World Health Organization has cast doubts on North Korea’s claims, saying in June the situation could be getting worse. 

Pyongyang’s declaration of victory over COVID comes despite no known vaccine programme. Instead, the country says it relied on lockdowns, homegrown medicine treatments, and what Kim called the “advantageous Korean-style socialist system.”

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COVID-19

China closes Potala Palace after COVID-19 reported in Tibet

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2022)

Chinese authorities have closed Tibet’s famed Potala Palace after a minor outbreak of COVID-19 was reported in the Himalayan region.

The action underscores China’s continued adherence to its “zero-COVID” policy, mandating lockdowns, routine testing, quarantines and travel restrictions, even while most other countries have reopened, AP reported.

A notice on the palace’s Weixin social media site said the palace that was the traditional home of Tibet’s Buddhist leaders would be closed from Tuesday, with a reopening date to be announced later.

Tibet’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and the Potala is a key draw.

China announced 828 new cases of domestic transmission on Tuesday, 22 of them in Tibet. The majority of those cases showed no symptoms.

Meanwhile, more than 80,000 travelers remain stranded on the southern resort island of Hainan under requirements that they consistently test negative for the virus in coming days before being allowed to leave, AP reported.

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China’s COVID-19 lockdown strands 25,000 tourists in Sanya resort town

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2022)

China’s popular tourist island of Hainan locked down more areas on Monday as it battles its worst COVID-19 outbreak after recording very few cases over the past two years, compared with many other regions in the country.

About 25,000 tourists were stranded in Sanya, the hardest-hit city in Hainan’s outbreak and the island’s key tourist center, as of Sunday, The National reported.

The island in the South China Sea, which recorded just two local symptomatic COVID cases last year, has reported more than 1,400 infections this month. 

Although that is small by global standards, it is the province’s biggest outbreak since the virus was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, The National reported.

The provincial capital city of Haikou, with about 2.9 million residents, and two smaller towns, Ledong and Chengmai, locked down its residents on Monday, according to state media reports.

The lockdowns in several cities on the tropical island dashed hopes for a quick rebound of the country’s ailing aviation sector, which had counted on a summer travel boom to help to trim record losses.

As of Sunday, mainland China had confirmed 231,266 cases with symptoms, including both local patients and symptomatic international travelers.

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