Covid news live: South Africa says fourth wave has peaked; US will see ‘viral blizzard’ soon, expert warns
1.32 hours GMT01:32
South Africa says Omicron-fueled fourth Covid wave is over
South Africa has lifted a curfew on the movement of people with immediate effect, on the assumption that the country has passed the peak of its fourth coronavirus wave powered by the Omicron variant.
The government has lifted 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 point to the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at the national level.
Although the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, the number of hospital admissions is lower than in previous waves.”
Data from the Ministry of Health showed a weekly decline of 29.7% in new cases discovered in the week ending Dec. 25, the government said. Hospital admissions have fallen in eight of South Africa’s nine provinces.
South Africa, with nearly 3.5 million infections and 91,000 deaths, was the worst affected country in Africa in both respects during the pandemic, and was where the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was first discovered last month.
The country is at the lowest of its five-stage Covid-19 warning levels.
1.14 am GMT01:14
Israel approves fourth Covid jab
Israel has approved fourth vaccination injection for vulnerable and immunocompromised people, becoming one of the first countries to do so, amid a wave of Covid in cases caused 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 agreed to give the fourth vaccine to immunocompromised people.
I did this in light of studies demonstrating the benefit of the vaccine, including the fourth vaccine, for this population, and in light of fears that they may be more vulnerable to this Omicron outbreak.”
Health authorities reported more than 4,000 new cases on Thursday, a record not seen since September.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Israel is in “a fifth wave”, with most cases likely related to the Omicron variant.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel, which was one of the first countries in the world to offer a third shot to the general public, would lead the way for the fourth shot.
“Israel will lead the way in delivering a fourth vaccine to the Israeli people,” he said.
12.55 pm GMT00:55
Hi, it’s Samantha Lock back with you on the blog as we count down the final hours to 2022.
Regions around the world are battling a wave of Covid infections largely caused 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 over the past week suggests the peak of the current wave is over.
“All indicators point to the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at the national level,” said a statement from the special cabinet meeting held earlier on Thursday.
The number of new cases discovered in the week ending December 25 decreased by 29.7% compared to the week before, government data shows.
Meanwhile in the United States, health experts are urging Americans to prepare for serious disruptions in the coming weeks due to the rising wave of Covid cases led by the Omicron variant.
“We will see the number of cases rise so dramatically in this country that we will have a hard time keeping daily life going,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, told MSNBC.
“Next month is going to be a viral blizzard,” he added. “The whole of society will be put under pressure as a result.”
dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease official, also warned that the number of cases is likely to rise in January.
Here is a brief summary of the latest Covid developments:
- The number of people dying from Covid in Eastern Europe has reached 1 million, if Russia climbed up Brazil to become the country with the second highest deaths behind the U.S.
- South Africa said the country had passed its Omicron peak without a major increase in deaths, offering hope to countries hit hard by the mutated variant.
- France reported 206,243 new confirmed Covid cases, a total of more than 200,000 for the second day in a row.
- The UK reported 189,213 new Covid cases, breaking Wednesday’s record 183,037 positive tests.
- The UK is haunted by a shortage of tests, such as Wales assists England with tests of 4 million amid fears that New Year’s Eve celebrations are turning into breeding grounds for the virus.
- ScotlandThe prime 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 the number of cases rises, while confirmed Omicron cases are also rising.
- Portugal reduces Covid isolation from ten days to seven, after the World Health Organisation said Wednesday that breaking insulation was a trade-off between transmission and economic concerns.
- Germany will the quarantine requirements for UK travelers as of Jan. 4 after seeing his own Omicron cases rise above 3,000 recently.
- Malaysia discovered 3,997 positive Covid cases, with the number of survivors of the recently deadly floods rising to a total of 442.
- Japan registered more than 500 new infections for the first time in two months.
- Five bulgarian regions moved from yellow to red zones as the country registered 3,449 new infections, up 139% from two weeks ago.
- The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said all people should avoid cruises, following an increase in Covid cases on board, which is a major blow to the industry.