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Global Covid-19 Omicron updates: South Africa says fourth wave peaked; US breaks single-day case record

With numerous countries registering all-time highs, authorities in many places have called off celebrations to welcome in 2022.

By: Express Web Desk |
December 31, 2021 1:17:33 pm
Covid-19 tests are out of stock as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread through the US in Houston, Texas. (Reuters)

New Year celebrations around the world have been called off as the coronavirus casts gloom over festivities for a second year but Australia was determined to enjoy the night and there were even signs North Korea was preparing fireworks.

Global coronavirus infections hit a record high over the past seven-day period. With numerous countries registering all-time highs, authorities in many places have called off celebrations to welcome in 2022, fearful that the all-conquering Omicron variant will take advantage of gatherings to spread even faster.

Here are some of the top updates from the day:

1. Omicron wave may have peaked in South Africa, overnight curfew lifted

South Africa has lifted overnight curfew rules that were first imposed nearly two years ago, with officials saying the country may have passed the peak of its fourth wave of Covid-19 infections.

The decision announced by the Presidency on Thursday followed meetings of the National Coronavirus Command Council and the President’s Coordinating Council, which received updates on the management of the current fourth wave of Covid-19 in South Africa. The wave is currently being driven by the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa last month.

2. Israel approves fourth Covid-19 vaccine shot for most vulnerable

Israel is to go ahead with second Covid-19 vaccine booster shots for people with weakened immune systems, the top government health official said on Thursday, but a final decision on wider usage is still pending.

An Israeli hospital administered fourth shots to a test group of health workers on Monday, in what it called the first major study into whether a second round of boosters will help contend with the Omicron coronavirus variant. Results are expected within two weeks.

3. US breaks single-day virus case record for second day in a row

With more than 580,000 cases, the United States shattered its own record for new daily coronavirus cases — beating a milestone it already broke just the day before.

Thursday’s count, according to The New York Times’ database, toppled the 488,000 new cases on Wednesday, which was nearly double the highest numbers from last winter. The back-to-back record-breaking days are a growing sign of the virus’s fast spread and come as the world enters its third year of the pandemic.

4. Quebec announces curfew, Ontario cuts isolation period

Canada’s Ontario and Quebec announced fresh measures to combat Covid-19 on Thursday as the country faces a rise in cases that has forced tens of thousands into isolation, made tests difficult to access and burdened its healthcare sector.

Quebec, Canada’s second-most populous province, will ban private gatherings and dining out, as well as impose a night curfew from New Year’s Eve in an escalation of curbs to rein in rapidly rising coronavirus cases due to the Omicron variant.

5. Pfizer’s Covid-19 shot causes mostly mild side effects in young kids: CDC

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine caused mostly mild side effects in children aged 5 to 11 years, according to data published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. The data showed that after the second dose of the vaccine some children reported injection-site pain and other systemic reactions such as fatigue and headache.

The CDC said it also received reports of 11 cases of myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation, in children aged 5-11 years who had received the vaccine. Of them, seven had recovered, and four were recovering at the time of the report. Myocarditis is a rare side effect after mRNA vaccines.

(Inputs from Reuters and AP)

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