Covid news live: Omicron likely to become dominant variant, Harvard researcher says; France to close nightclubs

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Covid news live: Omicron likely to become dominant variant, Harvard researcher says; France to close nightclubs” was written by Samantha Lock, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 7th December 2021 04.39 UTC

Los Angeles county is reporting a third case of the Omicron variant.

The individual is believed to have recently travelled from West Africa and is fully vaccinated, according to a statement from Los Angeles County Health.

The individual had mild symptoms and is self-isolating. Known close contacts are fully vaccinated and have tested negative.

“This latest case of the Omicron variant in Los Angeles County underscores how critical safety measures are while traveling,” said Dr Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health. “These requirements include a negative test before boarding your flight, wearing a mask, and not traveling while you are sick. Residents should also consider delaying travel until their and all of their traveling companions are fully vaccinated.”

A man walks past a drive-through Covid-19 testing centre on 6 December in Los Angeles, California.
A man walks past a drive-through Covid-19 testing centre on 6 December in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Updated

India has just released a Covid update with the latest numbers from the past 24 hours.

Another 6,822 new coronavirus cases have been recorded, the lowest figures in 558 days.

India’s active caseload currently stands at 95,014 and is the lowest in 554 days, according to a statement from the ministry of health.

Thailand hopes for sustainable post-Covid comeback

Thailand is hoping to make its idyllic Phi Phi islands a more sustainable model of tourism as the country reopens to visitors, Agence France-Presse reports.

Before the pandemic, Phi Phi National Marine Park attracted more than two million visitors a year and Maya Bay drew up to 6,000 people a day.

Tourists and noisy, polluting motorboats have had a huge impact on the area’s delicate ecology.

“The coral cover has decreased by more than 60% in just over 10 years,” says Thon Thamrongnawasawat of Kasetsart University in Bangkok.

Since the pandemic hit and visitor numbers dwindled to virtually nil, the entire archipelago was forced into convalescence and dozens of blacktip sharks, green turtles and hawksbill turtles have returned.

The government now says it wants to move on from Thailand’s history of hedonistic mass tourism, with Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn saying the focus would be on “high-end travellers, rather than a large number of visitors”.

Phi Phi national park chief Pramote Kaewnam says boats will no longer be allowed to moor near the beach and will instead drop tourists off at a jetty away from the cove. Tours will be limited to one hour, with a maximum of 300 people per tour.

“Maya Bay used to bring in up to $60,000 a day, but this huge income cannot be compared to the natural resources we have lost,” Pramote said.

Longtail boats wait at the pier on East Railay Beach in Krabi as the country prepares to welcome back visitors.
Longtail boats wait at the pier on East Railay Beach in Krabi as the country prepares to welcome back visitors. Photograph: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

New York City mandates Covid vaccine for children

New York City has expanded its array of Covid-19 mandates on Monday, setting vaccine requirements for children as young as 5 years old. This is on top of the mandates required for all private employees we previously reported.

The most-populous US city set a 27 December as the deadline for all 184,000 businesses within its limits to make their employees show proof they have been vaccinated, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

In addition, children 5 to 11 years old must get at least one dose by 14 December and those 12 and older need to be fully vaccinated by 27 December to enter restaurants and participate in extracurricular school activities, such as sports, band and dances, Reuters reports.

“Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and these are bold, first-in-the-nation measures to encourage New Yorkers to keep themselves and their communities safe,” de Blasio, who leaves office next month, said in a statement.

New York City has expanded its array of Covid-19 mandates on Monday, setting vaccine requirements for children as young as 5 years old.
New York City has expanded its array of Covid-19 mandates on Monday, setting vaccine requirements for children as young as 5 years old. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

China has reported 94 new confirmed coronavirus cases for 6 December, up from 61 a day earlier, its health authority confirmed on Tuesday.

Of the new infections, 60 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission as seen by Reuters, compared with 38 a day earlier.

The new local cases were reported by local authorities in Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Yunnan and Zhejiang.

China reported 14 new asymptomatic cases, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, compared with 44 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. Mainland China has had 99,297 confirmed cases.

We have some more information on the new Covid restrictions taking effect in France.

A combination of vaccination booster shots and more rigorous social distancing is hoped to avoid renewed lockdowns or curfews, prime minister Jean Castex said on Monday.

From Friday, nightclubs will be shut for four weeks and citizens will be asked to voluntarily limit private and professional gatherings.

Requirements for mask-wearing in schools will also be tightened.

From 15 December, children aged five to 11 who are overweight or who have a serious health condition will be offered access to vaccination. Children over the age of 12 can already be inoculated.

“Vaccination will be open to 5-11 year olds overweight or suffering from a risk pathology from December 15,” a statement from the ministry of health reads.

Health minister Olivier Veran reiterated vaccination for “the most fragile children” will begin next week and vaccination to all children on 20 December 20.

Dutch hospitals welcome military support

The Netherlands is drafting in soldiers to support hospitals as Covid cases surge, Agence France-Presse reports.

The UMC Utrecht hospital has opened a second care unit which can take patients with Covid-19 from across the region and is being helped by 50 members of the military with medical backgrounds.

“What we are try to do here is to increase the amount of nursing beds that we have for Covid patients,” Martin van Dijk, a Dutch military aid coordinator, told AFP.

“By that, the military tries to support the Dutch hospitals to make sure that no hospital has to say no to a patient, basically.”

This is the second time that the military has been sent in to help at the hospital in the city in the central Netherlands, with the first time being from October 2020 to June this year.

Covid cases in the nation have soared to record levels of more than 20,000 a day in the country of 17 million people.

The Dutch government has warned that hospitals are overstretched, with 2,143 Covid patients in hospital, including 611 in intensive care, accounting for 59% of all ICU beds, according to the latest figures.

Nurses treat a Covid patient at the Van Weel-Bethesda Hospital in the Netherlands as the country welcomes soldiers from the Dutch military.
Nurses treat a Covid patient at the Van Weel-Bethesda Hospital in the Netherlands as the country welcomes soldiers from the Dutch military. Photograph: Robin Utrecht/REX/Shutterstock

Updated

France to shut nightclubs over Covid surge

Nightclubs in France will be ordered to close for four weeks from Friday to counter a Covid surge that has put hospitals under strain, the prime minister said on Monday.

“We will close the nightclubs for the next four weeks. This measure will apply from next Friday until the beginning of January,” Jean Castex, who emerged from quarantine last week after contracting the virus, said.

“We have all had a tendency to lower our guard” in recent weeks, he added.

“The situation demands an individual as well as a collective effort,” Castex said in a televised address.

A raft of new measures will be coming into force according to a statement from the ministry of health.

France has confirmed only 25 cases of the new Omicron variant but officials say the number could jump significantly in the coming weeks.

On Sunday, the health ministry reported more than 42,000 cases in the previous 24 hours, and more than 11,000 patients in hospital – the highest number since August – with 2,000 in intensive care.

Nightclubs in France will be ordered to close for four weeks from Friday to counter a Covid surge.
Nightclubs in France will be ordered to close for four weeks from Friday to counter a Covid surge. Photograph: Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

Hello and welcome back to our coronavirus live blog.

I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be taking you through all the latest Covid developments as they happen.

A leading infectious diseases specialist who monitors variants for a research collaboration led by Harvard Medical School believes the world is seeing “what appears to be a signal of exponential increase of Omicron over Delta.”

“It’s still early days, but increasingly, data is starting to trickle in, suggesting that Omicron is likely to outcompete Delta in many, if not all, places,” Dr Jacob Lemieux said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Others say it’s too soon to know how likely it is that Omicron will spread more efficiently than Delta, or, if it does, how fast it might take over.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty … but when you put the early data together, you start to see a consistent picture emerge: that Omicron is already here, and based on what we’ve observed in South Africa, it’s likely to become the dominant strain in the coming weeks and months and will likely cause a surge in case numbers,” Lemieux added.

Meanwhile, nightclubs in France will be ordered to close for four weeks from Friday to counter a Covid surge that has put hospitals under strain.

Here’s everything you might have missed over the past few hours:

  • New Covid restrictions are to be introduced in Norway after a recent increase in infections.
  • Britain’s health minister said there is now community transmission of the Omicron variant across regions of England.
  • The Czech government will order Covid-19 vaccinations for people working in hospitals and nursing homes as well as police officers, soldiers and some other professions and all citizens aged 60 and older.
  • A new range of pandemic restrictions will be imposed in Poland this week.
  • Italy tightened restrictions on people still not vaccinated, limiting their access to an array of places and services.
  • Children in the Philippines’ capital Manila returned to school after a near two-year suspension.
  • India’s cases of the Omicron variant rose to 21 over the weekend, officials said, while Nepal and Thailand detected their first cases.
  • South Africa is preparing hospitals for more admissions, as the Omicron variant pushes the country into a fourth wave of infections.
  • Austria’s general lockdown will end on 11 December for those who have been vaccinated.
  • All private employers in New York City will have to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations for their workers.

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