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Covid news summary on 9 January 2022

Update:
A doctor prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine during the night of January 8, 2022 in the recently opened 24 hours Covid-19 vaccination centre in Sarrola-Carcopino on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. (Photo by Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA /

Omicron covid-19 variant: 9 January 2022

Australia Covid-19 infections hit 1 million

Australia surpassed 1 million Covid-19 cases on Monday, with more than half of them recorded in the past week.

Having successfully kept a lid on its virus caseload through aggressive lockdowns and tough border controls earlier in the pandemic, Australia is now suffering record infections as the country begins to live with the virus after higher vaccinations. Australia's strict border rules are again in focus after authorities cancelled tennis star Novak Djokovic's visa over questions about his vaccine exemption. His battle to remain in Australia goes before the courts on Monday. Djokovic, the world's number one player, argues that a recent Covid-19 infection qualified him for the medical exemption from the country's requirement for all visitors to be double vaccinated.

With New South Wales and Victoria on Monday reporting about 55,000 new cases between them, total Covid-19 infections in Australia touched 1.03 million since the first case was recorded nearly two years ago. Other states and territories will report their numbers later in the day. A total of 2,387 deaths have been registered so far, though the death rate during the Omicron wave has been lower than during previous virus outbreaks, with 92% of people over 16 double dosed and the booster programme picking pace.

From Monday, Pfizer's Covid vaccines will be offered to 2.3 million children aged five to 11 years old, amid reports of stock shortage of shots, which authorities ruled out. "There is enough vaccine and there are enough points of distribution, it is just about a little bit of patience," Lieutenant General John Frewen, head of the vaccination taskforce, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Monday.

BRAZIL

Brazil REPORTS 24,382 cases of coronavirus in 24 hours

Brazil has had 24,382 new cases of coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 44 deaths from Covid-19, the health ministry said on Sunday. The South American country has now registered 22,523,907 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 619,981, according to ministry data.

Brazil’s Covid-19 death toll trails only the United States and Russia, according to Reuters calculations. Since a hacker attack on 10 December, some ministry databases have been offline, affecting monitoring of the pandemic.

covid

Italy reports 157 coronavirus deaths on Sunday, down from 184 on Saturday

Italy reported 157 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday down from 184 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 155,659 from 197,552. Italy has registered 139,038 deaths linked to covid-19 since the outbreak in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth-highest in the world. The country has reported 7.436 million cases to date.

France

France reports 296,097 new coronavirus cases

France on Sunday registered 296,097 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, around 7.500 less than on the previous day, official data showed

pcr

UK records 141,472 new covid-19 cases

Britain reported 141,472 new cases of covid on Sunday, down from 146,390 cases on Saturday, while the number of new deaths reported fell to 97 from 313, official figures showed.

Britain has seen a surge of cases linked to the Omicron variant of covid-19 in recent weeks, though death rates have been lower than during previous waves of the disease.

Some 1.217 million people tested positive for covid-19 during the past week, 6.6% more than the week before, while the number of deaths was up 30.9% on a week before at 1,295.

antigen

Germany assessing reliability of antibody tests for Omicron - minister

Germany will study how reliable rapid antigen tests are in detecting the fast-spreading Omicron variant of covid-19, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Sunday.

"We do not know exactly how well these tests work for Omicron," Lauterbach said on public broadcasting channel ARD, adding the results of the assessment would become available within the next few weeks.

It was clear, however, that "the alternative not to test at all ... would be far too dangerous," said Lauterbach, a scientist and physician.

Earlier, he had told a Sunday newspaper that Germany must revamp its covid-19 vaccination strategy to tackle the Omicron variant and to ensure it can develop a new vaccine rapidly if it faces a more deadly coronavirus variant in the future. New measures for dining out and bar visits were brought in only last Friday.

Omicron now accounts for 44% of coronavirus infections in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious disease said.

Strategy towards the "new normal"

UK records 141,472 new Covid-19 cases, 97 deaths

Britain reported 141,472 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, down from 146,390 cases on Saturday, while the number of new deaths reported fell to 97 from 313, official figures showed. Britain has seen a surge of cases linked to the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in recent weeks, though death rates have been lower than during previous waves of the disease.

Some 1.217 million people tested positive for Covid-19 during the past week, 6.6% more than the week before, while the number of deaths was up 30.9% on a week before at 1,295.

Italy to receive 40,000 Merck antiviral drug doses next week

Italy will receive around 40,000 doses of Merck & Co's Covid-19 antiviral drug next week, which will add to nearly 12,000 already distributed to hospitals, the special Covid-19 commissioner said on Sunday.

"They are intended for clinical cases that risk a serious outcome of the disease," Commissioner Francesco Figliuolo told a television program on Italy's RAI 3 channel. Italy will also get 200,000 courses of Pfizer's Covid-19 drug in February, Figliuolo said, adding that Rome had an option to buy additional 400,000 doses of Pfizer's Paxlovid.

The office of the special commissioner for the Covid emergency said in November it had received a mandate from the health ministry to buy 50,000 courses of Merck's pill and another 50,000 of Pfizer's one. While vaccines are the main weapons against Covid-19 for governments, there are hopes Merck and Pfizer's experimental pills could be a game-changer in reducing the chances of dying or hospitalisation for those most at risk of severe illness.

Canada vaccine mandate for US truckers

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing ahead with a vaccine mandate for international truckers despite increasing pressure from critics who say it will exacerbate driver shortages and drive up the price of goods imported from the United States.

Canada will require all truckers entering from the United States to show proof of vaccination starting on Saturday as part of its fight against covid-19.

That could force some 16,000, or 10%, of cross-border drivers off the roads, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates. The government estimates 5% of drivers will be impacted, according to a government source.

The mandate is the first policy measure taken since the pandemic began that could limit cross-border trucking traffic.

Trucks crossed the border freely when the border was closed for 20 months because they were considered essential to keep supply chains flowing.

"We don't anticipate significant disruptions or shortages for Canadians," the source said.

France

French minister advises against mandatory jab mandate

A mandatory order would not be the most efficient way to encourage those not vaccinated against covid-19 to get the shot and that plans to toughen health pass conditions were already yielding results, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

People in France already have to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants and bars and use inter-regional trains. But with Omicron infections surging, parliament is debating legislation that will drop the test option.

President Emmanuel Macron this week said he wanted to irritate the unvaccinated by making their lives so difficult they would get the covid-19 shot.

Photo by: REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

US bases in Japan tighten covid-19 controls

The United States has agreed to impose stricter covid-19 measures at US military bases in Japan, a US-Japan joint statement said on Sunday, amid concerns that outbreaks at bases have fuelled infection in local communities.

For two weeks starting Monday, the movement of US forces personnel outside base facilities will be restricted to essential activities, said the joint statement by the Japanese government and US forces in Japan.

Denny Tamaki, governor of Japan's southern island of Okinawa, host to a bulk of US bases in Japan, said this month he was "furious" about what he called inadequate infection controls at US bases that allowed the Omicron variant to spread to the public.

"The United States and Japan are committed to working together to protect the health of the Japanese people and US service members," the joint statement said.

US forces in Japan have already implemented a mandatory masking policy for all personnel, the statement also said.

The agreement comes after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during his TV appearance earlier that the United States had agreed to impose tougher covid-19 measures and details were being worked out.

Covid-19 among children, diabetes risk

Why might covid-19 increase children's risk of diabetes?

The new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday, which finds an increased risk of diabetes among children who have had covid-19, says this “might be attributed to the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on organ systems involved in diabetes risk”.

According to the CDC, it might be the case that covid-19 attacks the pancreas, undermining its ability to produce insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood.

Read the summary of the CDC report

Take a look at AS USA’s news report on the finding

(Photo: REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan)

UK minister backs shortened covid-19 isolation period

Reducing the self-isolation period for people who test positive for covid-19 from seven days to five would help British workforces that have been hard hit by absences, UK education minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday.

Many UK businesses, schools and hospitals are struggling with staff shortages amid the spread of the Omicron variant, fuelling calls for the rules on isolation after a positive test to be reduced further.

Last month, health authorities in the US shortened the recommended isolation time with asymptomatic cases of covid-19 to five days from the previous guidance of 10 days.

"I would obviously always defer to the scientific advice on this. It would certainly help mitigate some of the pressures on schools, on critical workforce and others," Zahawi told Sky News after being asked whether he backed a move to five days.

He said the UK Health Security Agency was reviewing the length of the isolation period and that the government was doing all it could to make sure the stretched health service could operate during what he called "a rocky few weeks".

(Reuters)

Testing Houston

People arrive at a testing station in Houston, Texas, to receive a covid-19 test. With pharmacies running out of self-tests and long lines at testing centers, Texans are rushing to get tested as the state experiences an unprecedented spike in infections from the Omicron variant.

"We sold out this morning," a salesman at the Walgreen's drugstore chain near Houston, Texas' most populous city, said on Friday when asked for covid-19 self-tests. "You can come back in six days," he says.

(Photo by Francois PICARD / AFP)

Coronavirus

Is armpit pain after the covid vaccine or booster shot a normal symptom?

Swollen lymph nodes causing a sore armpit after an mRNA covid-19 vaccine is a normal reaction and a sign the body’s immune system is working correctly.

AS USA's David Nelson has the full lowdown

Just over 1,000 US flights delayed so far on Sunday

According to a tally compiled by flight-tracking website Flight Aware, 1,045 flights to, from or within the US had been cancelled as of 8am ET on Sunday.

Southwest is the worst-affected US airline, having suffered 233 cancellations.

Globally, the tally of flights cancelled on Sunday stood at 2,863.

Flight Aware’s real-time flight-cancellation tracker

Vaccine photo

74.6m people in US have received booster dose - CDC figures

Just over 74.6 million people in the US have now received a booster dose of a covid-19 vaccine, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures.

The CDC says that as of 8 January at 6am ET, 74,617,848 people had been fully vaccinated and subsequently boosted.

That figure represents 36% of the 207,454,448 people who have been fully vaccinated in the US.

In total, 518,021,043 vaccine doses have been administered in the US during the pandemic, the CDC says.

(Photo by Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)

COVID-19

Should I swab my nose and throat for at-home covid-19 tests or rapid tests?

Many videos of people taking a nose swab and testing negative and then a throat swab and testing positive for covid-19 are circulating on social media. So should you swab your throat? The experts are split, but some worry that it could taint your result if the test you swab your throat with is not made with that use in mind. However, some covid-19 tests do instruct users to take a throat swab, meaning it is important to read the instructions of your test before beginning.

Read more

‘Incidental covid’ on the rise

Amid increased covid-19 case numbers in the US, a rising number of patients are testing positive after being admitted to hospital for another reason, NBC reports. For example, the media outlet cites New York State figures that put the number of ‘incidental covid’ cases at 43 percent of all coronavirus-related hospital admissions.

I’ve admitted patients with abdominal pain, I’ve admitted patients with chest pain who had no symptoms of respiratory illness, cough or covid, and they just ended up being covid positive,”  Dr. Rahul Sharma, the emergency physician-in-chief for the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, told NBC.

Nursing homes asked to accept covid-19 patients in Connecticut

Nursing homes in Connecticut are being asked to accept patients diagnosed with covid-19, it has been reported, as the state's overburdened hospitals struggle with surging case numbers.

Per figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, 82 percent of hospital beds and 81 percent of ICU beds in Connecticut are currently occupied.

Hospitals across the US are also being hit by staffing shortages, as medical workers are forced to isolate after contracting covid-19 or being exposed to a positive case.

Djokovic hearing

Australia gov fails to have Djokovic hearing delayed

Lawyers for the Australian Department of Home Affairs have failed in a bid to delay tennis star Novak Djokovic's hearing over his legal battle to remain in the country for the upcoming Australian Open.

Djokovic's legal team is due to present its case in court on Monday, having lodged an appeal against the Australian border authorities' decision to revoke the 34-year-old's visa after deeming he had shown insufficient evidence that he qualified for an exemption to a rule requiring all players and staff at the tournament to be vaccinated against covid-19.

Djokovic's lawyers argue the player qualifies for the exemption as he had covid-19 in December.

Had Monday's hearing been delayed, it would have caused Djokovic to miss the deadline for inclusion in the Australian Open.

Read more

(Photo: AFP)

US NEWS

What are the symptoms of Flurona? What is Flurona?

Although not novel, new cases of individuals coming down with both covid-19 and influenza, given the moniker “Flurona,” are being reported. The co-infection is not a new strain or combination of the two viruses just an unfortunate happenstance.

Flu season is just getting started in parts of the Northern Hemisphere and case numbers look set to rise above last year’s levels when strict safety measures to limit the spread of covid-19 most likely helped keep other bugs at bay. With case numbers of covid-19 hitting record levels “co-infections are pretty likely.”

AS USA's Greg Heilman has the full lowdown

COVID-19

Is the Pfizer booster shot for covid-19 a full dose and Moderna a half dose?

For those looking to get their third dose of the vaccine, there are slight differences between those made available by Pfizer and Moderna.

Full details

WORLD NEWS

What is the Deltacron covid variant and where was it found?

A new covid-19 variant - a combination of the fast-spreading Omicron and Delta dubbed Deltacron - has been detected in Cyprus, with 25 cases reported.

According to Leondios Kostrikis, a biology professor at the University of Cyprus, the variant displays “the genetic signature of Omicron and the genomes of Delta.”

Full story

Children with covid likelier to be diagnosed with diabetes - study

A new study published by the US' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that children who contract covid-19 are likelier to go on to be diagnosed with diabetes.

"The increased diabetes risk among persons aged <18 years following COVID-19 highlights the importance of COVID-19 prevention strategies in this age group, including vaccination for all eligible persons and chronic disease prevention and treatment," the CDC said.

Read AS USA journalist Maite Knorr-Evans' full report on the CDC study

Omicron covid-19 variant, live updates: welcome

Good morning and welcome to our latest daily live blog on the spread of the Omicron variant of covid-19, with a particular focus on the situation in the United States. As has been the case across the globe, new infections in the US have surged since the emergence of the highly contagious strain, so much so that the country reported over 1m daily cases earlier in the week.

The most recent figures provided by the US' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released on Friday, placed the nation's latest daily case count at just over 831,000 new infections, while a Johns Hopkins University tally said 378,000 cases were registered in the US on Saturday. However, this lower figure comes with the caveat that many infections registered over the weekend are not officially reported until Monday.

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