The new omicron variant of COVID-19 is sweeping the country, surpassing the delta variant with 59% of new cases now. Fortunately, studies have proven that it is milder than delta. The Associated Press has the story:
Spain reports highest number of COVID-19 cases ever
NEW YORK – U.S. government figures show that the omicron variant continues to account for a growing proportion of new coronavirus infections in the country.
Omicron accounted for 59% of new cases in the U.S. for the week ending Dec. 25, according to updated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 23% the previous week.
The CDC had said last week that omicron already accounted for a majority of new cases in the country. But the agency said Tuesday it significantly lowered that previous estimate based on additional data it collected.
Still, it noted that omicron is accounting for a growing proportion of cases.
The rapid spread comes after the first confirmed case of omicron in the U.S. was identified earlier this month. Studies have provided early hints that it is milder than the delta variant.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
— Undertakers, rabbis join global fight promoting COVID shot
— US officials recommend shorter COVID isolation, quarantine
— Fauci: US should consider vaccine mandate for US air travel
— In eastern Germany, pastors push for shots despite protests
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
CHICAGO — U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois has tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19.
The Chicago Democrat said in a statement late Monday that he’s “feeling fine,” currently has no symptoms and is quarantining.
The 75-year-old cancer survivor says he’s fully vaccinated and recently received a booster shot. The 15-term congressman underwent surgery in 2008 for a cancerous tumor in his salivary gland followed by months of chemotherapy treatment.
His district includes several South Side Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs.
VALLETTA, Malta — Malta has set a record 1,298 new COVID-19 cases.
Tuesday’s figure tops the previous high of 955 recorded last Friday.
The number of hospitalizations remained relatively low at 82, with just five people being treated in intensive care.
The omicron variant was first detected in the Mediterranean island nation just days before Christmas, prompting officials to impose new restrictions, including permitting only seated events, banning spectators from sports events and closing bars and restaurants at 1 a.m.
From Jan. 17, health passes certifying two doses will be required to access public spaces like restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and gyms. Health passes from that date will be limited to three months with two doses, and extended to nine months with the booster.
ISLAMABAD – Pakistani authorities have registered a total of 75 cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in various parts of the country.
The announcement by the National Institute of Health on Tuesday comes two weeks after Pakistan confirmed the detection of the first omicron case in the port city of Karachi.
It said those people who tested positive for the new variant were in isolation and efforts were underway to trace their contacts to contain the spread of the new variant.
It said out of 75 total omicron cases, most were detected in the cities of Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore.
BRUSSELS — Representatives of Belgian actors, performers and cinema operators have launched an appeal against the government’s decision to close movie theaters and other cultural centers over concerns about the coronavirus.
Under a new set of restrictions imposed over the weekend, movie houses, concert halls and art centers were ordered to shut their doors. Some stayed open in protest.
The order came despite the assessment of the scientific committee advising the government that such places pose no extra risk to public health. Events like Christmas markets are allowed to continue, despite their boisterous, and sometimes chaotic, mulled wine parties, while restaurants and bars are allowed to stay open with some new restrictions.
Events like Christmas markets are allowed to continue, despite their boisterous, and sometimes chaotic, mulled wine parties, while restaurants and bars are allowed to stay open with some new restrictions.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says his government is buying a million packets of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill for newly infected COVID-19 patients.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told German news agency dpa in comments published Tuesday that the first deliveries are expected in January.
Lauterbach said the treatment is “extremely promising” because it can head off serious illness with the coronavirus if started early. He said he has initiated the procedure for an emergency authorization of Paxlovid in Germany together with the country’s medical regulator so that it can be used as soon as it is delivered.
The pills have to be started as soon as possible, within five days of the start of symptoms.
U.S. regulators authorized Paxlovid and competitor Merck’s molnupiravir earlier this month.
MADRID — Spain is dealing with the highest-ever number of coronavirus infections, with some regions considering further curbs on social life ahead of the end of the year.
Updating pandemic figures for the first time in four days, health authorities reported 214,619 new cases late on Monday, bringing the 14-day national caseload to a pandemic record level of 1,206 new infections per 100,000 residents. At the height of the January surge, which until now was the one that infected most people in Spain, the rate had surged to 900.
The explosive spike is largely blamed on the omicron variant, which scientists say spreads faster than previous strains although the number of infected patients who need hospital care is proportionally less than in previous surges. Official data shows that 7.5% of Spanish hospital beds and 18% of intensive care units are treating COVID-19 patients.
Authorities reported 120 new deaths since Dec. 23.
In response to the soaring caseload, some Spanish regions are now considering restrictions they resisted only a week ago, when authorities only imposed mandatory mask wearing outdoors.
The northern regions of Navarra, Aragón and Cantabria, among others, are now limiting nightlife, imposing curfews or considering caps on members of different households allowed to gather together.
NEW DELHI — India has granted emergency use authorization for two vaccines and one COVID-19 pill, the health minister tweeted on Tuesday, as authorities warn about the spread of the omicron variant across the country.
The first is Covovax, the Serum Institute of India’s version of the Novavax vaccine, a two-dose shot made with lab-grown copies of the spike protein that coats the coronavirus. The second is Corbevax, made by Indian firm Biological-E, which the health minister said is the country’s first indigenously developed protein-based vaccine against COVID-19.
It also granted emergency use approval for Molnupiravir, an antiviral drug, that will be manufactured by 13 companies in India and will be used in emergency situations to treat COVID-19 patients at high risk.
Even though daily cases in India have remained low for months after the country saw a devastating surge earlier this year, concern over omicron has grown in recent weeks, sparking various states to enforce new restrictions. In the capital, New Delhi, a slew of new restrictions were announced Tuesday, including a night curfew, shutting down cinemas and gyms, and a ban on large public gatherings or events. India has so far confirmed over 650 omicron cases.
BEIJING — The Chinese city of Xi’an recorded 175 local coronavirus infections on Monday, as it grapples with a coronavirus outbreak that has pushed China’s daily cases to record highs since early last year.
The 175 infections reported in Xi’a, in the northwestern Shaanxi province, were up from 162 on Sunday, and 158 the day before, according to a government notice issued Tuesday. Authorities blame the outbreak on the Delta variant.
Authorities have locked down 13 million residents in Xi’an amid the rise in infections as they attempt to curb the spread. China is one of the few remaining countries with a “zero Covid” policy, with authorities implementing mass-testing when infections are found in the community.
Xi’an has so far conducted four mandatory rounds of testing as authorities sought to detect new infections. The city has also launched a disinfection campaign, spraying down roads and buildings.