WHO: global COVID cases up 11% last week, omicron risk high

Publish Date : 2021-12-29 00:00:00


WHO: global COVID cases up 11% last week, omicron risk high

The World Health Organization says the number of COVID-19 cases recorded worldwide increased by 11% last week compared with the previous week, with the biggest increase in the Americas. The gain followed a gradual increase since October.

The U.N. health agency said in its weekly epidemiological report released late Tuesday that there were nearly 4.99 million newly reported cases around the world from Dec. 20-26.

He said that “we are also seeing a significant increase in omicron cases that causes us concern.”

Lauterbach advised Germans to spend the New Year period “very cautiously” and celebrate only in very small groups. Restrictions that took effect over recent days included limiting private gatherings to 10 people. Large-scale New Year’s celebrations have been canceled.

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WARSAW, Poland — Poland reported a new daily toll of 794 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, a record high in the latest wave of infection — though a number that also reflects some delayed reporting due to Christmas.

The deputy health minister, Waldemar Kraska, said that the number of new infections had declined by about 13% over the last week but that another wave fuelled by the omicron variant is still expected to hit the country next month.

The previous record for deaths during what is widely referred to as the fourth wave was 775 on Dec. 22, while the highest daily rate came in at 954 deaths on April 8, when central Europe was a global hot spot of infection.

Europe accounted for more than half the total, with 2.84 million, though that amounted to only a 3% increase over the previous week. It also had the highest infection rate of any region, with 304.6 new cases per 100,000 residents.

WHO said that new cases in the Americas were up 39% to nearly 1.48 million, and the region had the second-highest infection rate with 144.4 new cases per 100,000 residents. The U.S. alone saw more than 1.18 million cases, a 34% increase.

Reported new cases in Africa were up 7% to nearly 275,000.

The agency said that “the overall risk related to the new variant … omicron remains very high.” It cited “consistent evidence” that it has a growth advantage over the delta variant, which remains dominant in parts of the world.

It noted that a decline in case incidence has been seen in South Africa, and that early data from that country, the U.K. and Denmark suggest a reduced risk of hospitalization with omicron. But it said that more data is needed “to understand the clinical markers of severity including the use of oxygen, mechanical ventilation and death, and how severity may be impacted by vaccination and/or prior … infection.”

WHO said that the number of newly reported deaths worldwide last week was down 4% to 44,680.

Greece’s health minister said Wednesday that music will be banned at all commercial venues for New Year’s celebrations as part of new restrictions announced in response to a surge in COVID-19 infections fueled by the omicron variant.

The restrictions, originally planned to take effect on Jan. 3, will start early Thursday after the daily number of infections rocketed to nearly 22,000 Tuesday, more than double the record number reported the previous day.

“Omicron is now the dominant variant in terms of new infections,” Health Minister Thanos Plevris said during a livestreamed briefing.

Much about omicron remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness.

Included in Greece’s measures are the mandatory use of high-protection masks at supermarkets and on public transport, schedule changes and additional work-from-home orders for government employees, and strict capacity limits at sporting venues.

Entertainment venues will close at midnight starting Thursday, but they will be allowed to stay open until 2 a.m. for New Year’s Eve.

Greece’s health minister says music will be banned at all commercial venues for New Year’s celebrations as part of new restrictions announced in response to a surge in COVID-19 infections fueled by the omicron variant.

The restrictions, originally planned to take effect on Jan. 3, will start early Thursday after the daily number of infections rocketed to nearly 22,000 on Tuesday, more than double the record number reported the previous day.

“Omicron is now the dominant variant in terms of new infections,” Health Minister Thanos Plevris said during a livestreamed briefing.

Included in the measures are the mandatory use of high-protection masks at supermarkets and on public transport, schedule changes and additional work-from-home orders for government employees, and strict capacity limits at sporting venues.

Entertainment venues will close at midnight starting Thursday, but they will be allowed to stay open until 2 a.m. for New Year’s Eve.

Germany’s health minister is urging his compatriots to be cautious during New Year’s celebrations, warning that the coronavirus infection rate is likely two to three times higher than current statistics show.

Germany’s statistics have continued to show the infection rate drifting downward from a spike caused by the delta variant. But officials have cautioned repeatedly that the numbers are incomplete during the holiday period because fewer tests are being performed and there are delays in reporting tests that are carried out.

On Wednesday, official data showed 40,043 reported new cases over the past 24 hours and an infection rate, or incidence, of 205.5 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that “the underreporting is probably of the order that the actual incidence is currently two or three times as high as the incidence we are measuring.”



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