Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Coronavirus: Latest global developments

A third dose of the BioNtech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine may be necessary to stay protected against the Omicron variant. AFP
A third dose of the BioNtech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine may be necessary to stay protected against the Omicron variant. AFP 

PARIS: Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

- Omicron spreading at 'unprecedented rate' -

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the new coronavirus variant Omicron is spreading "at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant" and is likely already present in most countries.

- Covid pill results 'positive' -

Pfizer says that clinical trials have confirmed that its Covid pill, a new type of antiviral treatment that should withstand the mutations seen with Omicron, cut hospitalisations and deaths among at-risk people by almost 90 percent.

- Dutch tighten Covid measures -

The Netherlands will close primary schools next week and extend a night-time lockdown until January 14 as fears grow over the Omicron coronavirus variant, says Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

- Surge in Africa cases, but fewer deaths -

Africa has recorded a massive rise in Covid cases over the past week, but the number of deaths is lower than with previous waves, says the World Health Organization.

- UK Africa travel ban lifted -

The UK is to drop 11 African countries, including South Africa, from its "red list" barring incoming travel, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says.

- More than 1,000 daily cases in Denmark -

Denmark records for the first time more than 1,000 daily cases of the new Omicron variant, which the health authorities expect to become the dominant strain in Copenhagen this week.

- Pandemic impacts hunger -

Economic downturns caused by the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the chief causes of hunger, which has worsened significantly in Africa, affecting 282 million in 2020, according to a new UN report.

- Johnson fights backlash -

The British government insists the country is in a race to prevent the Omicron variant spiralling out of control, as it urges its own MPs not to rebel against new coronavirus restrictions at votes on Tuesday.

- Premier League increases testing -

Premier League players and staff must take a lateral flow test every time they enter their football club's training ground as part of strict new measures to curb the threat of the coronavirus.

- Pregnancies disrupted -

Covid 19 often disrupts pregnancies, leading in particular to more premature births, according to a study made available by Paris hospitals (APHP).

- Over 5.3 million dead -

The coronavirus has killed at least 5,313,726 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP Tuesday at 1800 GMT.

The countries with the worst per capita death rates over the past week are Hungary with 13.18 per 100,000 people, followed by Trinidad and Tobago (10.58) and Bulgaria (9.84), followed closely by Croatia and Slovakia.

But the biggest jumps in new cases are in southern Africa -- where Omicron was first spotted -- with a 425 percent rise in Lesotho, 346 percent in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), 327 percent in Namibia and a 312 percent increase in Zimbabwe.

Taking into account excess mortality linked to Covid-19, the WHO estimates the overall death toll could be two to three times higher.