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World braces for virus surge in New Year

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UK meets vaccine booster target
Paediatric hospitalisations in US hit record high
South Africa lifts night-time curfew

SWITZERLAND,UK,US,SOUTH AFRICA: Millions around the world braced Thursday for drastically curtailed New Year celebrations as record coronavirus cases fuelled by the Omicron variant saw the WHO warn a COVID “tsunami” threatens to overwhelm healthcare systems.

The number of daily new COVID cases worldwide crossed one million for the first time with more than 7.3 million in the last seven days, driven mainly by the new Omicron variant.

From Greece to Mexico, from Barcelona to Bali and across swathes of Europe, authorities have cancelled or curtailed public gatherings.

In France, wearing masks outdoors will be compulsory while walking the streets of Paris from Friday for everyone over the age of 11. Nightclubs have been closed until well into January.

Meanwhile, more than 28.1 million, or about seven of 10 eligible adults people in England have now had their top-up doses, the Department of Health said in a statement Friday, or about seven of 10 eligible adults. The UK’s other devolved nations make their own health policy.

The National Health Service is “on a war footing,” Stephen Powis, its national medical director, said in a statement Thursday announcing the construction of temporary structures at eight hospitals to care for more patients.

The move, described as precautionary, is reminiscent of the so-called Nightingale hospitals set up during the first COVID-19 wave in 2020.

Meanwhile, New paediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit a record-high in the United States, as children are increasingly swept up in Omicron’s lightning spread.

While experts are concerned, and stress the need to step up vaccination among kids, early indications suggest that the new variant’s rate of severe disease could in fact be lower, and its extreme contagiousness is behind the rapid rise.

The raw data might also be muddied by coincidental infections that aren’t the main cause of a hospital admission.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, almost 199,000 children were reported infected with COVID-19 in the week ending December 23, the last week for which data is currently available, and a 50 percent rise on figures earlier in the month.

Meanwhile, South Africa has lifted a midnight to 4 a.m. curfew on people’s movement with immediate effect, believing the country has passed the peak of its fourth COVID-19 wave driven by the Omicron variant, a government statement said on Thursday.

The country made the changes based on the trajectory of the pandemic, levels of vaccination in the country and available capacity in the health sector, according to a press release issued by Mondli Gungubele, a minister in the presidency.

South Africa is currently at the lowest of its five-stage COVID-19 alert levels.

Data from the Department of Health showed a 29.7% decrease in the number of new cases detected in the week ending December 25 compared to the number of cases found in the previous week, at 127,753, the Government said. South Africa, with close to 3.5 million infections and 91,000 deaths, has been the worst-hit country in Africa during the pandemic on both counts.

Besides lifting the restrictions on public movement, the Government said gatherings will be restricted to no more than 1,000 people indoors, and no more than 2,000 people outdoors.


Saturday, January 1, 2022 – 01:00

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