Covid tsunami will lead to collapse of health systems: WHO
A “tsunami” caused by a variant of Covid threatens to overwhelm health systems, WHO said on Wednesday as AFP data showed cases had increased across the world over the past week to levels never seen before.
The highly transmissible Omicron on Wednesday propelled the United States, France and Denmark to new records, with AFP counting 6.55 million infections reported globally for seven days through Tuesday , demonstrating an unprecedented spread.
The numbers were the highest since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020, underscoring the breakneck pace of Omicron transmission, with tens of millions facing a second consecutive year of curbing restrictions New Year’s celebrations.
“I am very concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“This is and will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers and health systems on the brink of collapse,” he added.
The wave, currently the worst in Europe, is forcing governments to walk a tightrope between imposing restrictions designed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed and the need to keep economies and societies open two years after onset virus at the end of 2019.
The United States, where Omicron is already overwhelming hospitals, recorded its highest ever average of new cases, at 265,427, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Harvard epidemiologist and immunologist Michael Mina tweeted that the tally was probably just the “tip of the iceberg” with the actual number of cases likely much higher, due to a shortage of tests.
But the country also appears to be experiencing a decoupling of infections and severe outcomes from previous waves, officials noted, as evidence accumulates of milder cases under the new variant.
France recorded a new daily record of more than 200,000 cases – more than double the number recorded on Christmas Day – and extended the closure of nightclubs until January.
French police said wearing face masks outdoors would become mandatory again in Paris from Friday for all people over 11, except people inside vehicles, cyclists , users of two-wheeled transport such as scooters and those who practice sport.
Denmark, which currently has the highest rate of infection per person in the world, recorded a new high of 23,228 new infections, which authorities attributed in part to the large number of tests carried out after the Christmas celebrations.
Portugal also recorded a record with almost 27,000 cases reported in 24 hours, while Lebanon recorded 3,150 new infections – its highest daily tally since the vaccine rollout earlier this year.
The number of people hospitalized with Covid in England topped 10,000, the highest total since March, as Britain hit a new record of 183,037 daily cases in the past 24 hours.
No music in Greek bars
Studies suggest that Omicron, now the dominant strain in some countries, carries a reduced risk of sending infected people to hospital, but the WHO has always urged caution.
More than 5.4 million people worldwide have died from Covid-19, but over the past week the death toll has averaged 6,450 per day, according to AFP tally, the most low since October 2020.
In Europe, where more than 3.5 million cases have been recorded in the past seven days, Greece has banned music in bars and restaurants until January 16, including on New Year’s Eve, while Cyprus banned dancing in public places.
Germany has imposed restrictions on sports competitions and closed nightclubs, limiting private gatherings to 10 people vaccinated.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said about 90 percent of coronavirus patients in intensive care units had not had a booster injection, defending his decision not to suppress the festivities.
The heavy use of boosters in England “allows us to move forward with the New Year with the caution that we are,” he said despite further closures in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Canceled New Years Eve
Armed police in Jingxi in southern China, near the border with Vietnam, marched four suspected Covid rule violators through the streets, state media reported, a practice that has been banned but which has resurfaced in the fight to impose a zero Covid policy.
The mayor of Mexico City has canceled the capital’s massive New Year’s celebrations after an increase in cases.
In Ukraine, three people have died after a candle lit by a hospital worker in memory of a patient who died from the virus sparked a fire in an intensive care unit in the western town of Kosiv.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)