Covid Omicron news latest updates
The UK has seen another record rise in its number of daily Covid cases, with 183,037 reported on Wednesday – up from 129,471 on Tuesday.
According to data released by the Scottish government, 15,849 people tested positive for Covid in the last 24 hours, the country’s highest daily total since the start of the pandemic. The daily figure for England also broke records, with 138,287 cases reported today compared with 117,093 yesterday.
Experts have, however, noted it could be several days before the impact of infections caught over Christmas becomes apparent in the data.
The news comes as Boris Johnson advised Britons to “test regularly” before enjoying their new year celebrations, despite there being a lack of PCR and lateral flow tests available across the UK. The NHS also announced today that the number of people currently in hospital with Covid in England – 10,462 – is up 48 per cent from this time last week and at its highest since 1 March.
WHO says Global Covid cases increased by 11% last week
Covid-19 cases across the globe increased by 11 per cent in the week of 20 December to 26 December in comparison to the previous week, according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) weekly update.
The WHO data said that death numbers however remained similar during this period.
WHO said that as of 26 December 278 million cases have been reported.
The largest new cases have been reported in the Americas region with an increase of 39 per cent, followed by the African region (7 per cent).
European, Eastern Mediterranean, and Western Pacific regions all reported similar case numbers to the week before.
On the other the South-East Asia Region reported a decrease of 12 per cent compared to the previous week.
In terms of individual countries, the US reported the highest number of new cases, followed by the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany.
As Covid cases surge in the US, The Independent’s John Bowden reports on data that shows that the Delta variant is still more prevalent in the country
Data shows Delta variant still prevalent as Omicron hits US shores
CDC explains why it does not recommend rapid tests for ending Covid-19 isolation
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has explained why it does not recommend rapid tests for ending Covid-19 isolation.
Speaking to CNN, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said: “We do, just to be clear, recommend having a rapid test during your period of quarantine after you’ve been exposed.”
“We opted not to have the rapid test for isolation because we actually don’t know how our rapid tests perform and how well they predict whether you’re transmissible during the end of disease.”
Last week the CDC shortened the period of isolation for healthcare workers who contract Covid-19 citing an anticipated surge in hospitalisations in the wake of the surge of cases due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
The rule however, does not apply to the general public.
The CDC defended its decision to reduce the isolation period after testing positive for Covid-19 in a White House briefing on Wednesday. The Independent’s Andrew Feinberg reports
Some public health experts are accusing the CDC of changing guidance based on political or economic expediency rather than science
Antibodies that block Omicron identified
A new study has identified antibodies that neutralise Omicron and other variants of coronavirus disease by targeting areas that remain essentially unchanged as the virus mutates.
The study was published in the Nature journal on 23 December and may help build vaccines against Omicron as well as newer variants that may emerge later.
“This finding tells us that by focusing on antibodies that target these highly conserved sites on the spike protein, there is a way to overcome the virus’ continual evolution,” said David Veesler, an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine in the US.
The study also found that antibodies from people who had been infected by earlier strains and from those who had received one of the six most-used vaccines currently available all had reduced ability to block infection.
“This shows that a third dose is really, really helpful against Omicron,” Mr Veesler said.
My colleagues Alisha Rahaman Sarkar ,Celine Wadhera and Joe Sommerlad explain how the Omicron strain manifests itself in slightly different ways than the original coronavirus here:
Omicron symptoms list: What to look out for from Covid variant including headache, runny nose. sneezing, sore throat, loss of smell and persistant cough
WHO chief warns of ‘tsunami’ of Covid-19 cases
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned of a “tsunami” of Covid-19 cases due to the combination of Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus disease.
Speaking at an online news conference on Wednesday Dr Tedros said, “I’m highly concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible [and] circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases.”
With record surges in cases across Europe and US over the past week, the WHO’s director-general added that, “This is and will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers, and health systems on the brink of collapse.”
Reuters news agency reported that around 900,000 cases are being reported everyday from across the world.
Dr Tedros also urged “everyone to make a New Year’s resolution to get behind the campaign to vaccinate 70%” of the world by mid-2022.
The Independent’s Renju Jose and Crispian Balmer explain what is driving high infection rates around the world here:
‘We have never experienced such a situation,’ says French health minister Olivier Veran
Watch: Anti-vaxxers storm vaccine centre and shout at staff
PM accused of failing to deal with Covid misinformation online
The government has been accused of complacency after Labour analysis found that dedicated anti-vaccination groups on social media were continuing to pump out disinformation about Covid.
Labour said the closure of the Counter Disinformation Forum, after a six-month trial, meant more lives were being lost and pressure put on the NHS.
Sir Keir Starmer’s party has called for emergency legislation to criminalise companies that do not act to stamp out anti-vaccination content, and is also accusing ministers of failing to act strongly enough on the issue.
It comes as Thames Valley Police appealed for information over an anti-vaccination protest at a vaccine centre in Milton Keynes on Wednesday. Tory MP for Milton Keynes North Ben Everitt said of the protest on Twitter: “What a bunch of dickheads. The staff and volunteers at our vax centres do an amazing job. Nobody deserves this at work.”
Boris Johnson also visited a site delivering jabs in the town on Wednesday, where he announced up to 90 per cent of people being admitted to England’s ICUs were “not boosted”.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary, Lucy Powell, said the government needed to “stand up to big tech companies, ignore their excuses, and introduce financial and criminal penalties for failures that lead to serious harm”.
The party said new analysis showed Facebook was still hosting accounts belonging to the Disinformation Dozen, the 12 anti-vaxxers responsible for up to 65 per cent of anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Twitter.
A government spokesperson told the PA news agency that incoming “tough new online safety laws” would force companies doing the above to take action.
More than £100 million in aid to tackle Covid worldwide
Widening access to coronavirus testing and increasing oxygen supplies for countries in need will be backed by £10m of emergency aid, the foreign secretary has announced.
Liz Truss said there will be a particular focus on Africa, with funding to help tackle the spread of new variants, reports Geraldine Scott.
It was also revealed some 30 million doses of Covid jabs had been donated by the UK internationally, as the one-year anniversary of the approval of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was marked.
It comes a year after the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use in the UK.
Watch: Boris Johnson stands over people getting vaccinated
CDC slashes estimate on spread of Omicron – but warning remains
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has moved to revise its model estimating the spread of different variants of Covid-19 in the US to significantly reduce the share of infections caused by the Omicron variant.
Previous charts on the CDC’s website showed over the weekend that Omicron was estimated to be responsible for roughly 73 per cent of cases across the US in the data from 18 December. Those estimates changed on Tuesday, when CDC officials updated the graph and cut that number significantly to just 22.5 per cent.
The preceding Delta variant was credited with causing roughly 77 per cent of US infections, reports John Bowden.
Data shows Delta variant still prevalent as Omicron hits US shores
‘Big number’ expected for Covid deaths after Christmas backlog
An epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency has warned people to expect a “big number” on Thursday’s daily Covid death statistics, due to the backlog caused by Christmas.
Meaghan Kall tweeted: