China locks down third city, as WHO says Omicron becoming dominant variant
The new Omicron variant of coronavirus is quickly overtaking the Delta variant of Covid-19 and becoming dominant around the world. According to the World Health Organisation as an official also cautioned that “it [Omicron infection] is not a mild disease” because “people are still being hospitalised for Omicron.”
From scientists warning against “alarming Omicron wave” in the UK and the US to China tightening Covid-19 curbs to India reporting over 1.90 lakh daily cases — here’s what the coronavirus situation is like in countries across the world.
Omicron is quickly overtaking the Delta variant of Covid-19 and becoming dominant around the world, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official warned.
The global health agency cautioned that there is “increasing evidence” Omicron is able to evade immunity but has less disease severity as compared to other variants.
“It could take some time for Omicron to overtake Delta in some countries because it depends on the level of circulation of the Delta variant in those countries,” Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and COVID-19 Technical Lead at the WHO Maria Van Kerkhove said on Tuesday.
“Omicron has been detected in all countries where we have good sequencing and it’s likely to be in all countries around the world. It is quickly, in terms of its circulation, overtaking Delta. And so Omicron is becoming the dominant variant that is being detected,” Kerkhove said during a virtual questions and answers session.
The Covid-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update, released by the WHO, said that over 15 million new Covid-19 cases were reported globally in the week of January 3-9, a 55 per cent increase as compared to the previous week when about 9.5 million cases were reported.
As the highly-contagious Omicron variant of Covid-19 continues to spread, India saw a single-day spike of 1,94,720 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday. In its morning update, the Union health ministry said that compared to yesterday (Tuesday), the total number of fresh Covid cases was up by 26,657 (15.8%) on Wednesday.
The top five states which registered the maximum cases were Maharashtra with 34,424 cases, followed by Delhi with 21,259 cases, West Bengal with 21,098 cases, Tamil Nadu with 15,379 cases and Karnataka with 14,473 cases.
India also reported 165 deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the nationwide toll to 4,84,378.
Scientists are seeing signals that Covid-19’s alarming Omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the US, at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically.
The reason: The variant has proved so wildly contagious that it may already be running out of people to infect,just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa.
“It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,” Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, was quoted by news agency Associated Press (AP) as saying.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday that countries need access to reliable and affordable Covid-19 diagnostic tests, personal protective equipment, therapeutics and vaccines now.
The world health body also posted info-graphic on Twitter, informing about different types of Covid-19 tests and telling who should be tested for Covid-19 when the capacity is limited.
It also reiterated that vaccines alone do not prevent the spread of Covid-19. “Please keep: wearing well-fitted masks, safe distancing avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands,” it said.
A third Chinese city has locked down its residents because of a Covid-19 outbreak, raising the number confined to their homes in China to about 20 million people, news agency AP reported.
The lockdown of Anyang, home to 5.5 million people, was announced late Monday after two cases of the omicron variant were reported. Residents are not allowed to go out and stores have been ordered shut except those selling necessities.
Another 13 million people have been locked down in Xi’an for nearly three weeks, and 1.1 million more in Yuzhou for more than a week.
South Korea has authorised the use of Novavax Inc’s Covid-19 vaccine, the food and drug safety ministry said on Wednesday. It joins the ranks of authorised vaccines made by AstraZeneca Inc, Moderna Inc, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Indonesia kicked off its Covid-19 booster programme for the general public on Wednesday, as the world’s fourth-most-populous nation hit an almost three-month high in cases amid the rise of the Omicron variant.
Elderly and immunocompromised residents, who are being prioritised in the programme, queued up at local health centres to boost their defences against a virus that has infected more than 4 million Indonesians.
The booster rollout comes amid concern about the spread of the Omicron variant in Indonesia, a densely populated developing nation that was hit with a crippling Delta wave in July.
The spread of the Omicron variant is pushing Covid towards being an endemic disease that humanity can live with, although it remains a pandemic for now, the EU’s drug watchdog said Tuesday.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also expressed doubts about giving a fourth vaccine shot to the general population, saying repeated boosters were not a “sustainable” strategy.
“With the increase of immunity in population — and with Omicron, there will be a lot of natural immunity taking place on top of vaccination — we will be fast-moving towards a scenario that will be closer to endemicity,” he added.
But he stressed that “we should not forget we are still in a pandemic”, noting the huge burden on healthcare from the surge in Omicron.
Oil prices climbed on Wednesday, extending big gains in the previous session after the US Federal Reserve chief signalled the central bank may raise rates more slowly than expected, which should support oil demand in the near term.
Benchmarks Brent and WTI are trading at their highest levels since the super contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus emerged in late November, as it has not hit fuel demand the way previous variants did.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 38 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to $81.60 a barrel at 0224 GMT, adding to a 3.8 per cent jump in the previous session.
Brent crude futures gained 22 cents, or 0.3 per cent, to $83.94 a barrel, after jumping 3.5 per cent in the previous session.
(With inputs from AP, Reuters)