The head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday that 90 million cases of coronavirus have been reported since the omicron variant was first identified 10 weeks ago, which equates to more than in the whole of 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With many countries easing their restrictive measures due to public fatigue over them, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyeus warned that omicron should not be underestimated, even though it has been shown to cause less serious illness than previous variants, citing “a very worrying increase in deaths in most regions of the world.
We are concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries which, due to vaccines and the high transmission capacity and lower severity of omicrons, is no longer possible and no longer necessary, he told a regular WHO briefing on the pandemic.
The WHO said four of its six regions worldwide are experiencing rising death rates. Many European countries have begun to ease lockdown measures, including the United Kingdom, France, Ireland and the Netherlands. Finland will end its COVID-19 restrictions this month.
On Tuesday, the Danish government scrapped most of the restrictions in order to combat the pandemic and said that it no longer considers COVID-19 a socially critical disease. The nation of 5.8 million has seen more than 50,000 new cases a day in recent weeks, but the number of patients in intensive care units has fallen.
A look at what is happening around the world
The U.S. military said Wednesday it will begin printing soldiers who refuse to comply with a mandatory covid-19 vaccination rule.
“Unvaccinated soldiers pose a risk to the force and jeopardize preparedness,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a statement.
“We will initiate an involuntary separation procedure for soldiers who reject the vaccine order and do not await a final decision on an exemption.”
More than 3,000 soldiers could be discharged, according to the statement. The Army had 482,000 active servicemen at the end of 2021.
As of January 26, six senior officers – including two battalion commanders – had been removed from their posts for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The Army has issued written “reprimands” to 3,073 soldiers who have also refused to be vaccinated.
The United Kingdom
The UK reported 534 deaths within 28 days on Wednesday after a positive COVID-19 test, the highest daily figure since the end of February 2021.
Government data also showed 88,085 new cases of COVID-19, in line with the latest figures.
While Wednesday’s death toll was the highest in nearly a year, the total number for the last seven days fell slightly compared to the previous seven-day period.
France says it will begin administering Pfizer’s coronavirus antiviral drug this week, the first pill to treat COVID-19 approved in the EU by 27 countries.
The country still reports among the world’s highest daily infections per capita. per capita, but virus-related hospitalizations in critical care are declining, and the French government on Wednesday began lifting restrictions related to the increase in omicron cases.
Masks are now no longer required outdoors in France, large crowds are again allowed in concerts and sports venues, and a government order to work from home part-time has been lifted.
Meanwhile, France has received its first 10,000 doses of the Pfizer drug Paxlovid and they will be available at pharmacies from Friday, the health ministry said on Wednesday. It says it is the first EU country to start providing the treatment since it won regulatory approval last week.
Germany reported 208,498 new coronavirus infections within 24 hours on Wednesday, a record high since the COVID pandemic began about two years ago.
Experts say the actual number of infections could be significantly higher, with many cases not being reported, in part due to a lack of test capacity in many places, Deutsche Welle reported. A number of cities and districts have also reported difficulties in passing statistics to the public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), in the last few days.
In a scene contrary to Canadians’ reputation for neatness and compliance, thousands of protesters raging against vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions came down to the capital over the weekend, deliberately blocking traffic around Parliament Hill.
Some urinated and parked at the National War Memorial. They danced on the grave of the unknown soldier. A series of bar signs and flags with swastikas.
In the wake of Canada’s largest pandemic protest to date, protesters have found little sympathy in a country where more than 80% are vaccinated. Many people were outraged at some of the rude behavior.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the Ottawa protesters a fringe minority “and said they reflected the prevalence of” disinformation and misinformation online, conspiracy theorists, about microchips, about God knows what else comes with the tinfoil hats.
After almost two years since the start of the pandemic, New Zealand will reopen its border to visitors in phases. First it will open to vaccinated New Zealand citizens and visa holders coming from Australia, then from the rest of the world and finally to all other vaccinated visitors.
The Pacific island nation of Tonga has come under fire after reporting its first cases of Covid-19 in the community, weeks after a massive volcanic eruption and tsunami-destroyed parts of the archipelago.
Two positive cases were discovered among frontline workers in a port in the capital Nuku’alofa, where aid continues to flow in to help with recovery efforts, Tonga’s Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni announced at a news conference, according to local media Matangi Tonga.
Tonga was one of only a small number of countries that did not report a single Covid infection after closing its borders in March 2020. In November 2021, a traveler flying from New Zealand tested positive but was picked up in the country’s quarantine hotel system. Still, Tonga went into lockdown after that case.
Tonga’s health minister Saia Piukala said on Tuesday that the two men showed no Covid symptoms and were found after increasing tests by frontline workers at the port, Matangi Tonga reported.
(With input from agencies)