- This daily news feed provides you with a selection of the latest news and updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and resources to help you stay informed and protected.
- Top Stories: WHO warns of more hospital cases as Omicron confirmed in 57 countries; US sets new record for COVID-19 booster shots; study shows that the Omicron variant can partially bypass the Pfizer vaccine.
1. How COVID-19 Is Affecting the World
According to Johns Hopkins University, the worldwide 267.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.27 million. More than 8.28 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, according to Our World in Data.
Americans are lining up for booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines at record speed, with concerns over the newly discovered Omicron coronavirus variant urging millions to get shots, the US government said Tuesday. Just under a million people a day received booster doses of one of three authorized vaccines last week, the highest rate since U.S. regulators nodded in September to additional injections for some adults, government data shows.
Germany on Wednesday recorded its highest number of deaths from COVID-19 since February as it battles to stop a fourth wave of the pandemic. A total of 69,601 new infections were reported, 2,415 more than the same time a week ago, and another 527 people died — the highest number since Feb. 12 — to bring the total to 104,047, according to the Robert Koch Institute for Disease Control.
South Korea will consider expanding home treatment for COVID-19 patients, a health official said Wednesday, as both new daily infections and severe cases hit record highs, putting pressure on hospital capacity. The number of infections in South Korea has skyrocketed this month after the government began easing restrictions. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 7,175 new coronavirus cases and 63 deaths on Tuesday, the first time the daily number of infections has surpassed 7,000.
The African Union (AU) has called for an urgent end to travel restrictions imposed on some of its member states, saying the measures effectively punish governments for sharing data in a timely manner in line with international health regulations. The measures are “discouraging the sharing of information in the future,” the AU said in a statement. Late last month, several countries imposed travel restrictions on seven South African countries after reporting cases of the Omicron variant.
Britain marks a year since the world’s first person received a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials. On December 8, 2020, Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old grandmother, became the first person to receive the injection after clinical approval. Britain has now given nearly 120 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, either as first doses, second doses or as boosters.
An uptick in market sentiment continued in early European trading on Wednesday, with global stocks heading for their biggest two-day jump since November last year as investors became less concerned about the Omicron variant. Shares recently collapsed as the discovery of the new COVID-19 variant startled investors. But sentiment has rebounded sharply this week in the absence of evidence that Omicron would derail the economic recovery.
2. WHO warns of increased hospitalizations as Omicron variant reported in 57 countries
The Omicron variant has been reported in 57 countries, and the number of patients requiring hospitalization is likely to increase as it spreads, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday.
The WHO said in its weekly epidemiological report that more data was needed to assess the severity of disease caused by the Omicron variant and whether its mutations could reduce protection against vaccine-derived immunity.
“Even if the severity is the same or possibly even lower than for the COVID-19 Delta variant, hospital admissions are expected to increase as more people become infected and there will be a time difference between an increase in the incidence of cases and a increase in the incidence of deaths,” it said.
On November 26, the WHO declared the Omicron variant, which was first discovered in southern Africa, a variant of concern. It is the fifth SARS-CoV-2 strain with such a designation.
The number of reported COVID-19 cases in South Africa doubled in the week to December 5 to more than 62,000 and a “very large” increase in incidence has been observed in Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Lesotho, the report said. .
The spread of Omicron, coupled with improved testing and low vaccination rates, may have played a role, it added.
Referring to the risk of reinfection, the WHO said: “Preliminary analysis suggests that the mutations present in the Omicron variant may reduce the neutralizing activity of antibodies, resulting in reduced protection against natural immunity.”
3. Research Suggests Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine Only Partially Protects Against Omicron
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus may partially evade the protection of two doses of Pfizer and partner BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, the research head of a laboratory at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa said Tuesday.
Still, the study found that blood from people who had received two doses of the vaccine and had a previous infection could usually neutralize the variant, suggesting booster doses of the vaccine may help ward off infection.
Alex Sigal, a professor at the Africa Health Research Institute, said on Twitter that there was “a very large drop” in the neutralization of the Omicron variant over a previous strain of COVID-19.
The lab tested blood from 12 people vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, according to a manuscript posted on its lab’s website. The preliminary data in the manuscript has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Blood from five of the six people who had been vaccinated and previously infected with COVID-19 still neutralized the Omicron variant, the manuscript said.
The preliminary data does not indicate that the vaccine is less able to prevent serious illness or death. While lab testing is underway, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said last week “we think it’s likely that people will have substantial protection against serious diseases caused by Omicron.”
As part of identifying promising technology use cases to combat COVID, The Boston Consulting Group recently used contextual AI to analyze more than 150 million English-language media articles from 30 countries published between December 2019 and May 2020.
The result is a compendium of hundreds of technology use cases. It more than triples the number of solutions and provides a better understanding of the diverse applications of technology for the COVID-19 response.
Follow this link to see a full list of 200+ exciting technology use cases during COVID.