Covid news live: South Africa says fourth wave has peaked; US will soon see ‘viral blizzard’, expert warns

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Covid news live: South Africa says fourth wave has peaked; US will soon see ‘viral blizzard’, expert warns” was written by Samantha Lock, for theguardian.com on Friday 31st December 2021 03.09 UTC

New York City will go ahead with New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square as planned despite record numbers of Covid-19 infections.

Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed the news on Thursday, saying the city’s high Covid-19 vaccination rate makes it feasible to welcome masked, socially distanced crowds to watch the ball drop in Times Square.

We want to show that we’re moving forward, and we want to show the world that New York City is fighting our way through this.

We’ve got to send a message to the world. New York City is open.”

The 2022 sign that will be lit for New Year’s Eve is displayed in Times Square, New York, as officials say the event will go ahead.
The 2022 sign that will be lit for New Year’s Eve is displayed in Times Square, New York, as officials say the event will go ahead. Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP

City officials previously announced plans for a scaled-back New Year’s bash with smaller crowds and vaccinations required.

Other US cities such as Atlanta have cancelled New Year’s Eve celebrations,

New York City reported a record number of new, confirmed coronavirus cases — almost 44,000 — on Wednesday, according to New York state figures.

Foreign revellers on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali have been warned they could be deported if they are caught violating Covid-19 health rules during New Year celebrations, authorities warned on Thursday.

Bali immigration office head Jamaruli Manihuruk warned that health rules must be observed in an interview with AFP.

Get ready to be kicked out.”

Bali’s governor has barred carnivals, fireworks and gatherings of more than 50 people over the Christmas and New Year period.

Malls, restaurants and cafes must shut by 10pm, and only operate at 75% capacity.

Tourists wear face mask as they walk at a shopping area in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia, on 29 December.
Tourists wear face mask as they walk at a shopping area in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia, on 29 December. Photograph: Made Nagi/EPA

Bali has taken a tough stance on tourists who violate Covid-19 protocols.

Almost 200 tourists were deported from Bali in 2021, Manihuruk said, with seven booted out for violating health protocols.

Indonesia has been seriously hit by the coronavirus pandemic. As of Wednesday, it had reported more than 4.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases, and more than 144,000 deaths. Bali alone reported more than 110,000 confirmed cases with over 4,000 deaths.

Vaccination rates remain relatively low and country is vulnerable to new outbreaks.

Experts warn of US Omicron ‘blizzard’ in weeks ahead

US health experts are urging Americans to prepare for severe disruptions in coming weeks due to the rising wave of Covid cases led by the Omicron variant.

Dr Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, told MSNBC:

We are going to see the number of cases in this country rise so dramatically, we are going to have a hard time keeping everyday life operating.

The next month is going to be a viral blizzard,” he added. “All of society is going to be pressured by this.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, also warned cases will likely rise throughout January.

The governor of Louisiana, where hospitalisations have more than tripled in the past two weeks, said January would be “very challenging”.

“We are still at the very beginning of this current surge,” John Bel Edwards told a news conference on Thursday. “January is going to be very, very challenging.”

The warning comes as the United States reached a record high in Covid-19 cases for the second day in a row.

South Africa says Omicron-fuelled fourth Covid wave has passed

South Africa has lifted a nighttime curfew on people’s movement with immediate effect, believing the country has passed the peak of its fourth coronavirus wave driven by the Omicron variant.

The government removed the midnight-to-4am curfew based on the trajectory of the pandemic, vaccination levels and available capacity in the health sector, the government said on Thursday.

A statement from a special cabinet meeting held earlier on Thursday said:

All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at a national level.

While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, there has been lower rates of hospitalisation than in previous waves.”

Swimmers enjoy a sweltering day at Strand Beach near Cape Town, South Africa, as new Covid-19 cases dropped in recent days.
Swimmers enjoy a sweltering day at Strand Beach near Cape Town, South Africa, as new Covid-19 cases dropped in recent days. Photograph: Nardus Engelbrecht/AP

Data from the Department of Health showed a 29.7% weekly decrease in new cases detected in the week ending 25 December, the government said. Hospital admissions have declined in eight of South Africa’s nine provinces.

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, and was where the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was first detected last month.

The country is at the lowest of its five-stage Covid-19 alert levels.

Israel approves fourth Covid jab

Israel has approved a fourth vaccine shot for vulnerable and immunocompromised people, becoming one of the first countries to do so, amid a surge in Covid in cases driven by the Omicron variant.

The country also received its first shipment of Pfizer’s anti-Covid pills.

Health ministry director-general Nachman Ash told reporters:

Today I approved giving the fourth vaccine for immunocompromised people.

I did this in light of studies that show the benefit of the vaccine, including the fourth vaccine, to this population, and in light of the fear they are more vulnerable in this outbreak of Omicron.”

A Jewish boy walks past a coronavirus vaccination centre, in Jerusalem, as Israel becomes the first country to approve a fourth vaccine shot for vulnerable and immunocompromised people.
A Jewish boy walks past a coronavirus vaccination centre, in Jerusalem, as Israel becomes the first country to approve a fourth vaccine shot for vulnerable and immunocompromised people. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP

Health authorities reported on Thursday more than 4,000 new cases, a high not seen since September.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Israel was in “a fifth wave”, with most cases probably related to the Omicron variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel, which was among the first countries in the world to offer a third shot to the general public, would be a trailblazer for the fourth jab.

“Israel will lead the way in administering a fourth vaccine to the Israeli people,” he said.

Hello it’s Samantha Lock back with you on the blog as we count down the final hours until 2022.

Regions across the world are battling to stem a surge in Covid infections driven largely by the Omicron variant.

However South Africa, the first country to report the variant, appears to be bucking the trend.

Health officials say a dip in infections in the past week indicates the peak of the current wave has passed.

“All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at a national level,” a statement from the special cabinet meeting held earlier on Thursday said.

New cases detected in the week ending 25 December fell 29.7% compared to the previous week, government data showed.

Meanwhile in the United States, health experts are urging Americans to prepare for severe disruptions in coming weeks due to the rising wave of Covid cases led by the Omicron variant.

“We are going to see the number of cases in this country rise so dramatically, we are going to have a hard time keeping everyday life operating,” Dr Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, told MSNBC.

“The next month is going to be a viral blizzard,” he added. “All of society is going to be pressured by this.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, also warned cases will likely rise throughout January.

Here’s a quick summary of the latest Covid developments:

  • The number of people to die from Covid in Eastern Europe has reached 1 million, as Russia climbed above Brazil to become the country with the second-highest deaths behind the US.
  • South Africa said the country had passed its Omicron peak without a major death surge, offering hope to countries hit hard by the mutated variant.
  • France reported 206,243 new confirmed Covid cases, a tally above 200,000 for the second day running.
  • The UK reported 189,213 new Covid cases, smashing Wednesday’s record-breaking tally of 183,037 positive tests.
  • The UK is dogged by a shortage of tests, as Wales assists England with 4m tests amid fears of New Year’s Eve celebrations turning into breeding grounds for the virus.
  • Scotland’s first minister urged people to avoid household mixing after a record high of nearly 17,000 cases.
  • India fears it is entering a new wave after cases surge, as confirmed Omicron cases also climb.
  • Portugal cuts Covid isolation from ten days to seven, after the World Health Organization said on Wednesday slashing isolation was a trade-off between transmission and economic concerns.
  • Germany will drop quarantine demands for UK travellers from 4 January after seeing its own Omicron cases jump above 3,000 recently.
  • Malaysia detected 3,997 positive Covid cases, with the number among survivors of its recently deadly floods rising to 442 in total.
  • Japan recorded over 500 new infections for the first time in two months.
  • Five Bulgarian regions moved from yellow to red zones as the country recorded 3,449 new infections, a 139% jump on two weeks ago.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said all people should avoid cruises, following a rise in onboard Covid cases in a major blow to the industry.

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