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Tuesday, Oct 04, 2022

Australia, Europe and Japan see surge in Covid-19 cases but they are not pressing the panic button yet

In Australia patients admitted to hospitals with Covid-19 hit a record of about 5,450 on Monday, official data showed, as the spread of highly contagious new Omicron sub-variants strains the healthcare system nationwide.

A file photo of health workers collecting swab samples.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently said that coronavirus cases have tripled across Europe in the past six weeks, accounting for nearly half of all infections globally. Hospitalisation rates have also doubled, although intensive care admissions have remained low, according to reports.

A majority of the infections across the continent are being fuelled by the BA.5 omicron sub-variant. Governments, however, are not imposing stringent restrictions, including countries that previously had strict curbs, largely because they are not seeing a significant uptick in severe cases and deaths.

Across Europe, authorities are trying to strike a balance between reassurance and complacency. In Germany, the Robert Koch Institute, the federal organization responsible for tracking the virus, has said “there is no evidence” that the BA.5 iteration of the virus is more lethal, but the country’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach, has shared tweets posted by a hospital doctor in the German city of Darmstadt saying that his clinic’s Covid ward was fully occupied with severely symptomatic patients. Germany’s vaccine board is yet to update its advice on a second booster, which currently is only applicable for those older than 70 and at-risk patients.

In France, where an average of 83,000 cases a day have been reported in the last week, about one-third more than a month ago, Health Minister François Braun has steered away from new restrictions.

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In Spain, where the vaccination rate is above 85 per cent and more than half the eligible population have received a booster, contracting the virus feels like an afterthought as Spaniards go on beach holidays and welcome tourists.

In Italy, the first Western country to face the full force of the virus, reported that new cases have climbed steadily since mid-June, although they fell in the past week. The average daily number of deaths more than doubled over the past month, but hospitals have not been overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the daily Covid-19 cases touched 200,000 for the first time last week, according to South China Morning Post.

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In the United States, Covid-19 cases have been rising again in what experts consider the most transmissible variant of the pandemic. In Chicago, where the county’s Covid warning level was raised to “high” last week, the city’s top doctor said there was no reason for residents to let the virus control their lives.

The state health director in Louisiana likened a new rise in Covid cases there to a downpour — “a surge within a surge” — but characterized the situation as concerning but not alarming.

Meanwhile, in Australia, a record 5,450 patients were admitted to hospitals with Covid-19 on Monday, official data showed, as the spread of highly contagious new Omicron sub-variants strains the healthcare system nationwide.

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The figure has grown since late June, as the BA.4 and BA.5 strains became dominant since they can evade immune protection, whether from vaccination or prior infection, while some experts say the latter can be as infectious as measles.

Many frontline workers in hospitals are also sick or in isolation, worsening the healthcare crisis.

During a harsh winter with both Covid-19 and the flu virus circulating, authorities have recommended the use of masks indoors and urgent booster doses, while telling businesses to allow work from home.

Australia, one of the countries most heavily vaccinated against Covid-19, has given two doses to about 95 per cent of those older than 16, although just about 71 per cent of the overall population have had booster shots.

Still, its tally of about 9.13 million infections and 11,181 deaths was lower than many developed economies.

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Mainland China reported 800 new coronavirus cases for July 24, of which 150 were symptomatic and 650 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Monday.

That compared with 982 new cases a day earlier – 129 symptomatic and 853 asymptomatic infections, which China counts separately.

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There were zero new deaths, keeping the nation’s fatalities at 5,226.

(With inputs from New York Times, Reuters)

First published on: 25-07-2022 at 11:20:13 am
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