Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.
Covid-19 kills at least 5 625 889 people worldwide
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 5 625 889 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources on Thursday.
The US has recorded the most Covid deaths with 876 066, followed by Brazil with 624 413, India on 491 700 and Russia 328 770.
Taking into account excess mortality linked to Covid-19, the WHO estimates the overall death toll could be two to three times higher.
German daily Covid-19 cases rise above 200 000, causing staff shortages
BERLIN – The number of new Covid-19 infections in Germany exceeded 200 000 in a day for the first time on Thursday, hitting staffing at companies including Lufthansa Cargo.
The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported 203 136 positive tests in the last 24 hours, 69 600 cases more than the same day a week ago.
The seven-day incidence per 100 000 people rose to 1 017 from 941 the previous day, while another 188 people died, bringing the death toll since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 to 117 314.
The rising number of infections has led to staffing shortages in sectors including logistics, healthcare and child care.
Airline group Lufthansa's cargo arm said a staffing crunch at its hub in Frankfurt meant it was currently unable to handle sorting of loose freight from the United States, Canada and Europe.
"Despite comprehensive preventative measures, we are now clearly feeling the rising infection numbers," Lufthansa Cargo told Reuters on Thursday, adding that up to 15% of cargo at Frankfurt was affected by delays.
Israel rolls out fourth vaccine dose to vulnerable over-18s
Jerusalem – Israel announced on Wednesday that it would start making fourth Covid-19 vaccine shots available to all vulnerable people aged over 18, continuing its drive to beat successive virus waves with top-up jabs.
Israel was among the first countries to launch mass Covid immunisation campaigns for its population.
It then began offering booster shots last summer, and has since approved fourth shots for elderly and vulnerable populations.
On Wednesday, health ministry director Nachman Ash announced a new stage in the campaign, saying that all immunocompromised people and frontline workers over 18 would be eligible for a fourth shot.
He cited a study showing that a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine causes a three to fivefold increase in the number of antibodies in a vaccinated person, compared to someone who has received three doses.
Poland's defence minister infected with Covid-19
WARSAW – Poland's Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak tweeted on Thursday he has tested positive for coronavirus, as the Omicron variant takes hold across the country.
"I feel well, I will carry out my duties under isolation," Blaszczak he said. Poland reported a record 53 420 new daily Covid-19 infections on Wednesday.
US ships nearly 1.7 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Uganda
Washington – The United States is shipping nearly 1.7 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Uganda, a White House official said on Thursday, in the latest wave of jabs donated to stem the global pandemic.
"Thanks to the US commitment to playing a leading role in ending the pandemic everywhere, the United States is shipping 1 684 800 doses of Pfizer vaccine to Uganda," a senior US official said, asking not to be named.
The vaccines are being shipped, starting Thursday, through Covax, the global distribution initiative co-led by public-private partnership Gavi.
On Wednesday, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced that the United States had reached the milestone of 400 million vaccine doses delivered to 112 countries.
"Four hundred million doses shipped for free with no strings attached," Zients said.
Washington has pledged 1.1 billion shots to the rest of the world – more than any other country – and has already sent vaccines to countries ranging from Guatemala to Papua New Guinea.
Australia reports fewer Covid-19 deaths, hospitalisations steady
SYDNEY – Australia reported fewer Covid-19 deaths on Thursday, a day after recording a pandemic high, while hospital cases remained steady, raising hopes the country's worst outbreak may have peaked.
Officials reported a total of 59 deaths, down from a pandemic peak of 87 on Wednesday, with just two states still to report figures.
Hospitalisations have remained steady at around 5 000 for the last few days, peaking at just under 5 400 on Tuesday, with admissions falling for the second straight day in New South Wales, the worst-affected state.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said the state's health system was "currently operating within capacity" against the Omicron-fuelled outbreak.
"Hospitalisations and (intensive care units) remain stable and that is incredibly pleasing and reassuring," Perrottet said during a media briefing in Sydney, the state capital.
While the Omicron variant is considered a milder strain, the sheer number of cases has put enormous pressure on hospitals, leading to staff shortages.
Poland reports new daily record of 57 659 Covid-19 cases
WARSAW – Poland reported a record 57 659 new daily Covid-19 infections on Thursday, the health ministry said, as the Omicron variant takes hold.
Authorities have said the latest wave will drive case numbers to levels not yet seen in Poland, with estimates of the peak ranging from 60 000 to as many as 140 000 daily infections.
Older primary school students and high school students were due to move to remote learning on Thursday, the education ministry said earlier in the week.
The government has other limited restrictions in place, including wearing masks in enclosed public spaces, but they are not strictly enforced.
Poland's health ministry also announced on Thursday that children aged 12 through 15 will be allowed to receive booster shots from Friday.
Poland, a country of around 38 million people, has reported 4 695 435 Covid-19 cases and 104 636 deaths. Over 1 million people are quarantined, the health ministry said on Thursday.
Russia reports record Covid-19 cases for seventh day in a row
MOSCOW – Russia's daily Covid-19 cases surged to 88 816 on Thursday, a new record high for the seventh consecutive day as the Omicron variant was identified in new regions, officials said.
The number of new infections was a significant jump from the 74 692 reported on Wednesday. Officials also said that 665 people had died in the last 24 hours.
Ukraine reports new daily high of Covid-19 infections
KYIV – Ukraine registered a record 32 393 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Thursday.
The previous high of 27 377 cases was on 4 November.
Ukraine has reported a total of 3.95 million coronavirus cases and 99 738 deaths.
Czech Republic reports record daily tally of Covid-19 cases for third day
PRAGUE – The Czech Republic reported a record daily tally of Covid-19 infections for a third day in a row, with cases surpassing 50 000 for the first time as the Omicron variant of coronavirus spreads.
The Health Ministry said on Thursday it recorded 54 685 new coronavirus cases, nearly double the previous record tally seen before this week in the country of 10.7 million.
Mexico reports 532 more Covid-19 deaths, highest number since October
MEXICO CITY – Mexico's health ministry on Wednesday reported 532 more fatalities from Covid-19, the highest daily total since mid-October, bringing the overall official toll in the country since the pandemic began to 304 308.
Health ministry data also showed 48 627 new infections, bringing the overall number to 4 779 296.
South Korea reports record daily 14 518 new Covid-19 cases - KDCA
SEOUL – South Korea reported a record high 14 518 new daily Covid-19 cases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Thursday, driven by the spread of the Omicron variant.
Beijing 2022 says 23 new Covid-19 cases found among Games-related personnel on 26 January
BEIJING – Twenty-three new cases of Covid-19 were detected among Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Games-related personnel on 26 January, organisers said on Thursday.
Of the 23 cases, 15 were detected amongst new arrivals at the airport. The other eight were found amongst those already in the organisers' closed loop Covid-19 management bubble.
The Beijing Winter Olympics begin on Friday 4 February.
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