With Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant surges fueling record pandemic activity across many continents, the global total today topped 300 million cases, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.
Health officials are still getting a clearer picture of severity, which appears to be less than earlier variants, at least for vaccinated people. However, the gush in cases is still putting pressure on health systems due to the massive number of infections and impacts on staffing and those with underlying health conditions.
Countries tighten restrictions
As a result, countries are considering new restrictions to cope with the health and economic impacts, such as Germany, where lawmakers today limited entry to bars and restaurants to people who are vaccinated or recovered from earlier COVID-19 infections. They also shortened quarantine and isolation periods, according to the Associated Press.
In Thailand, where cases have doubled since Jan 1, officials announced a curfew for serving alcohol in restaurants as a way to curb social drinking and has paused quarantine waivers for international travelers, according to Reuters.
More global headlines
- The United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency (HSA) today in updated vaccine effectiveness data said there isn’t an immediate need for a second booster dose to vulnerable groups, though it will continue to monitor new findings. The HSA added that booster doses continue to provide high levels of protection against severe disease from Omicron, with protection against hospitalization at 90% in people aged 65 and over 3 months after their third dose.
- Experts in Brazil say a lack of national testing strategy and hacker attacks on health department databases have hampered the country’s ability to track and fight Omicron, according to Reuters.
- Chile’s health ministry yesterday announced the launch of fourth doses, the first Latin American country to do so. Starting on Jan 10, fourth doses will be offered to immune- compromised people ages 12 and older who received their third dose 4 months ago. On Feb 7, the doses will be rolled out to people over age 55.
- South Korea’s president today called for stronger measures to curb the spike in COVID-19 cases at US military bases, which are reporting record cases, according to the Washington Post. Japanese officials recently raised similar concerns about COVID-19 activity linked to US bases in Okinawa.
- The global today climbed to 301,740,457 cases, and 5,476,713 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.