Austria’s general lockdown will end on 11 December for those who have been vaccinated, health minister Wolfgang Mückstein said on Monday evening, but will continue for those who have not been inoculated against Covid-19.
The president of intensive care physicians, Walter Hasibeder, expects that it will take another week until the number of Covid patients in intensive care units begins to drop.
But the situation would remain critical until only 10% of the intensive care places are occupied by Covid patients, Hasibeder said. Currently, that figure stands at 30%.
On Monday, Austria recorded 4,625 new infections and 48 deaths from the virus. A further 15 suspected cases of Omicron were also reported in Vienna on Monday, Der Standard newspaper reported.
Brazil has recorded 4,385 new Covid-19 infections in the past 24 hours, as well as 108 further virus-related deaths, the health ministry said on Monday.
The South American country has now registered 22,147,476 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 615,744, according to ministry data, in the world’s third worst outbreak outside the US and India and its second deadliest.
With 65% of the population fully vaccinated, the rolling 14-day average of Covid deaths has fallen to 211 per day, compared with a toll of almost 3,000 a day at the peak of the pandemic in April, Reuters reports.
Healthcare disruptions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic led to malaria killing 69,000 more people in 2020 than in the previous year, but a worst-case scenario was averted, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
In total, over 627,000 people globally – most of them babies in the poorest parts of Africa – were killed by malaria last year, compared with 558,000 in 2019, the WHO said in its annual malaria report. The number is far higher than the 224,000 people reported to have died from Covid in Africa since the start of the pandemic.
About two-thirds of the additional malaria deaths in 2020 were due to coronavirus restrictions disrupting prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria, the WHO said.
But efforts to maintain health services in the face of the challenges meant Sub-Saharan Africa did not see the doubling of malaria deaths in 2020 that the WHO had warned was a possibility, Reuters reports.
Instead, the number of deaths in the region rose 12% compared with 2019, according to WHO data.
Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s global malaria programme, said:
Thanks to urgent and strenuous efforts, we can claim that the world has succeeded in averting the worst-case scenario of malaria deaths.
Experts hope the fight against malaria might gain considerable ground following the WHO’s recommendation in October that RTS,S, or Mosquirix – a vaccine developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline – should be widely given to children in Africa.
The US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has urged Americans to avoid travel to France, Portugal, Tanzania and Jordan after their Covid-19 risk level was elevated to “very high”.
The four countries have been added to a list now comprising 83 countries around the globe that Americans are advised to avoid travelling to.
Since today, all air travellers, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, have to show a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test taken the day before they board their flight to the US, after the CDC shortened the timeline for required testing for all international air travellers last week.
Former UK prime minister Theresa May has urged the government to find ways for the population to learn to “live with Covid” rather than respond to new variants by “stopping and starting sectors of our economy”.
May and other senior Conservative MPs on the backbenches questioned the government’s response to the Omicron variant in the House of Commons on Monday.
The early indications of Omicron are that it is more transmissible but potentially leads to less serious illness than other variants.
I understand that would be the normal progress of a virus. Variants will continue to appear year after year.
When is the government going to accept that learning to live with Covid, which we will all have to do, means we will almost certainly have an annual vaccine and that we cannot respond to new variants by stopping and starting sectors of our economy which leads to businesses going under and jobs being lost?
Conservative former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers criticised the government’s decision to impose “new expensive requirements” for international travel, while former transport secretary Chris Grayling urged health secretary Sajid Javid to “face down the more conservative elements of the scientific community, do the right thing and keep the restrictions as minimal as possible”.
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The Omicron variant of coronavirus is now circulating within the community in the UK, according to the health secretary, Sajid Javid. He told MPs “multiple regions of England” were seeing cases not linked to international travel. But he added that none of the 336 people with a confirmed case of Omicron had been admitted to hospital.
New Covid restrictions are to be introduced in Norway after a recent increase in infections, the country’s health minister has said. “These measures will be felt in our daily lives,” Ingvild Kjerkol said, adding that the new measures had become necessary because of a rise in infections and the uncertainty of the potential impact of Omicron.
All private employers in New York City will have to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations for their workers, the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, has announced. The vaccine mandate for private businesses will take effect on 27 December. De Blasio also announced an extension to the city’s Covid passports to all people aged over five years old.
A sweeping vaccine mandate is to be imposed in the Czech Republic, with care workers, nurses, doctors, police and soldiers, and anyone else aged over 60, to be ordered to take a coronavirus vaccine. “Other countries are taking this path,” The health minister, Adam Vojtech, said. “It is a trend that will prevail across Europe.”
A vaccine mandate for public sector workers in Slovenia was struck down as unconstitutional by the country’s highest court. “Such a condition is comparable with obligatory vaccination, which is something that first requires a change in the law on infectious diseases,” the constitutional court said of the mandate, which the government had aimed to impose on 1 October.
A new package of pandemic restrictions will be imposed in Poland this week, the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has said. “Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow at the latest, we will present a second (package) related to the Christmas situation, and as reaction to the virus’ Omicron mutation,” Morawiecki said. Vaccine mandates would be included, he said.
An epidemiologist who has been a prominent voice of caution in handling the Covid pandemic has been appointed minister for health in Germany. Olaf Scholz, who is to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, picked Karl Lauterbach for the closely watched appointment, according to the US-based news agency the Associated Press.
Croatia, Nepal, Russia and Argentina were among the countries reporting their first cases of Omicron. In Thailand a health official said on Monday that the country’s first suspected case of the new variant had been detected but authorities would withhold confirmation ahead of further test results. The variant has also been found in at least 16 US states.
Nigerian high commissioner to the UK, Sarafa Tunji Isola, described a ban on travel between the two countries as “travel apartheid”. “We’re not dealing with an endemic situation, we are dealing with a pandemic situation, and what is expected is a global approach, not selective,” Isola said. “Omicron is classified as a mild variant – no hospitalisation, no death.”
South Africa is preparing its hospitals for further admissions, as the Omicron variant pushes the country into a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, the president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said in a statement on Monday. Ramaphosa said Omicron appeared to be dominating new infections in most provinces and urged more people to get vaccinated against Covid-19.