Covid-19 cases break records as Omicron spreads across the world
Countries across the world are seeing a fresh surge in the cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) fulled by the highly mutated Omicron variant, which was detected in South Africa last month, prompting governments to reimpose stricter curbs and scrambling to boost testing and vaccinations.
Omicron, which has been marked as the 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organization (WHO), has triggered a new wave of Covid-19 in South Africa, the UK, France, Italy and several other regions.
Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies director, told AFP there currently is no indication to suggest that Omicron, although highly infectious, causes a more severe disease than previous Covid-19 variants such as Delta.
The existing vaccines should protect people who contract Omicron against the worst outcomes of the disease, Ryan said in an interview.
Here are is what the situation is like in the world's worst-hit countries:
The European nation on Sunday recorded more than 100,000 virus infections in a single day for the first time in the pandemic, news agency AP reported citing health officials.
More than 1,000 people in France with the virus died over the past week, bringing the country's overall death toll to more than 122,000.
More than 1 in 100 people in the Paris region have tested positive in the past week, according to the regional health service. Covid-19 hospitalisations have also doubled over the past month.
As Omicron sweeps the country, Britain has been recording more than 100,000 cases in a single day. The UK Covid-19 cases hit a record for a third day on Friday, at 122,186, up from 119,789. Another 137 deaths were confirmed.
The Omicron threat was underlined by data released by the Office for National Statistics, which estimated that 1.7 million people in the UK had Covid-19 in the week ending December 19, the highest number since comparable figures were first recorded in autumn 2020.
The number of Covid-19 cases in the United States is on the rise, with an average of nearly 190,000 new infections daily over the past seven days, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
According to the CDC, more than 76 per cent of the total corona cases in the US are of Omicron variants.
In New York, the health officials on Sunday "identified four-fold increases in Covid-19 hospital admissions for children 18 and under beginning the week of December 5 through the current week."
Following three successive days of record numbers of cases, Italy logged just 24,883 new infections on Sunday in a span of 24 hours. The number came down from a previous 54,762.
Italy's health ministry said 54,762 new cases were reported on Saturday. Whereas 50,599 cases had come a day earlier. The ministry has blamed Omicron for about a third (28%) of the total corona cases.
The number of people hospitalised for Covid in South Africa rose to 9,114 on Sunday, according to data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. The daily positive rate also increased to 27.2% from 25.7% a day earlier.
The biggest share of new cases was recorded in coastal Western Cape province, at 28%, followed by KwaZulu Natal at 26%, both popular destinations for domestic tourists during the current summer holiday period.
As of Monday morning, the national tally of Omicron cases stood at 508 with Maharashtra reporting 141 cases—the most in the country.
The state is followed by Delhi with 79 cases, Kerala has seen 57 infections, Gujarat has 49, Telangana 44, Tamil Nadu 34, Karnataka 31, Rajasthan 23, Haryana 10, Madhya Pradesh nine, Odisha eight, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have reported six each, while Chandigarh and J&K have three each, followed by UP at two, and one each in Ladakh, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh.
In view of the rise in Omicron cases, state governments are imposing various restrictions such as night curfews, and a cap on the number of people allowed to attend social gatherings.