US braces as Omicron ‘almost definitely here’
Americans have been advised to prepare to eventually encounter the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, but US health officials on Sunday said the travel ban starting Monday on most travelers from southern Africa should help buy time to assess any new risk.
“Well, it’s almost definitely here already, just looking at the number of cases coming off planes this weekend. It’s almost a certainty that there have been cases that have gotten into the United States.”
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face The Nation” on Sunday that while much is not known about the variant, vaccination remains key, Reuters reported.
“If you talk to people in vaccine circles, people who are working on a vaccine, they have a pretty good degree of confidence that a booster vaccine, so three full doses of vaccine, is going to be fairly protective against this new variant.”
Thirty percent of the US population remains unvaccinated – possibly undermining the nation’s recovery nearly two years after COVID-19’s emergence.
Rising cases as colder weather forces more people indoors have already overwhelmed some hospital systems and led some US states, including New York, to declare emergencies.
Omicron was first detected in southern Africa, igniting a flurry of travel bans restricting passengers from several southern African countries – something South African President Cyril Ramaphosa strongly pushed back against in a speech on Sunday.
“These restrictions are completely unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our southern African sister countries.”
The variant has now also been confirmed in Australia, Hong Kong, the U.K., Europe and the middle east.
China says 200 million treated, pandemic ‘decisively’ beaten
China says more than 200 million of its citizens have been diagnosed and treated for COVID-19 since it lifted strict containment measures beginning in November.
With 800,000 of the most critically ill patients having recovered, China has “decisively beaten” the pandemic, according to notes from a meeting of the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee presided over by President and party leader Xi Jinping, AP reported.
China enforced some of the world’s most draconian lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions and still faces questions about the origins of the virus that was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Heavy-handed enforcement prompted rare anti-government protests and took a heavy toll on the world’s second-largest economy.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying that policies to control the outbreak had been “entirely correct.” The abrupt lifting in November and December of the “zero COVID” policy that had sought to eliminate all cases of the virus led to a surge in infections that temporarily overwhelmed hospitals.
Case numbers have since peaked and life has largely returned to normal, although international travel in and out of China has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
China is now transitioning to a post-pandemic stage after a fight against the outbreak that was “extraordinary in the extreme,” Xinhua said.
The government will continue to “optimize and adjust prevention and control policies and measures according to the times and situations with a strong historical responsibility and strong strategic determination,” Xinhua said.
Study suggests people who had COVID-19 risk new-onset diabetes
A new Cedars-Sinai Medical Center suggests that people who have previously been infected with COVID-19 could stand an increased risk for new-onset diabetes.
The study’s results, conducted by researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai “have confirmed that people who have had COVID-19 have an increased risk for new-onset diabetes — the most significant contributor to cardiovascular disease.”
“Our results validate early findings revealing a risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after a COVID-19 infection and indicate that this risk has, unfortunately, persisted through the Omicron era,” said Dr. Alan Kwan, the author of the study and a cardiovascular physician at Cedars-Sinai.
“The research study helps us understand — and better prepare for — the post COVID-19 era of cardiovascular risk,” he said.
The study also suggests that the risk of Type 2 diabetes appears to be lower in those who had already been vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to their infection.
Iran registers over 160 new COVID cases, 2 deaths
The Iranian health ministry announced on Sunday that more than 160 new cases of COVID-19, and two deaths, had been recorded across the country in the past 24 hours.
“A sum of 161 new patients infected with COVID-19 have been identified in the country based on confirmed diagnosis criteria during the past 24 hours,” the Iranian Health Ministry’s Public Relations Center said on Sunday, adding “82 patients have been hospitalized during the same time span.”
“Unfortunately, two patients have lost their lives in the past 24 hours, increasing the number of the dead to 144,781,” the ministry noted.
FARS news agency reported that according to the ministry, 233 people infected with COVID-19 are in critical condition.
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