A man receives his second vaccination against COVID-19 at a government-run clinic in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, South Africa, On Dec. 3. Photo by Kim Ludbrook/EPA-EFE
Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Nineteen days after the COVID-19 Omicron variant was first reported in South Africa, cases are surging to a daily-record 37,875 cases in the nation with the new strain the most dominant as Britain also is experiencing a surge in the type.
Counting all variants, there was an overall 2% weekly decline each in cases and fatalities as the world continues to deal with another highly contagious variant: Delta, which was first detected in India late last year.
In South Africa, Omicron has become the most common cause of new COVID-19 cases, doubling every 2.2 days, Trevor Bedford, associate professor in biostatistics, bioinformatics, and epidemiology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, posted on Twitter on Wednesday.
In Europe, where there had been a surge in cases and deaths from Delta, Britain on Sunday has reported 3,137 cases of the variant with a third of them in London linked to the strain. And the first people have been hospitalized in Britain with the variant.
In the United States, around half of the states have confirmed Omicron cases. "The Delta variant accounts for more than 99.9% of variants circulating in the U.S., but mask up and get vaccinated to help protect against all variants," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted on Twitter.
The United States is the world leader in deaths at 817,056 and cases at 50,801,455 Sunday, according to tracking by Worldometers.info. World totals are 5,321,936 fatalities and 270,417,317 infections.
Initial research has shown most Omicron cases are mild since the first case was reported Nov. 24 in South Africa.
"Having personally seen many of our patients across our Gauteng hospitals, their symptoms are far milder than anything we experienced during the first three waves," Netcare's Richard Friedland told the Daily Maverick on Wednesday.
"Approximately 90% of COVID-19 patients currently in our hospitals require no form of oxygen therapy and are considered incidental cases. If this trend continues, it would appear that, with a few exceptions of those requiring tertiary care, the fourth wave can be adequately treated at a primary care level."
In the past week, South Africa's cases increased 76% to 109,053, which is the 10th most in the world, though deaths dropped 7% to 976.
South Africa's cases total 3,167,497 in 18th. On Thursday, 22,388 cases were reported, the most since a record 26,645 on June 3.
And there were 21 more deaths for a cumulative 90,137 in 16th. The deaths record is 819 on Jan. 19.
On the continent, cases rose 88% to 9,026,624 overall but deaths were down 7% to 225,426.
Tunisia has the second-most deaths with 25,432 ahead of Egypt with 21,060.
The World Health Organization reported on Thursday that Africa currently accounts for 46% of the nearly 1,000 omicron cases reported by 57 countries worldwide.
The Omicron variant has led to travel bans from African nations.
"With Omicron now present in nearly 60 countries globally, travel bans that mainly target African countries are hard to justify," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said. "Through the diligent surveillance efforts of African scientists, the new variant of concern was first detected on this continent, but it's unclear if transmission was taking place silently in other regions. We call for science-based public health measures to counter the spread of COVID-19.
"The travel restrictions come at the height of the end-of-year tourist season, ravaging Africa's economies, with a knock-on impact that is potentially devastating to the health of Africans."
Africa significantly lags behind other parts of the world in vaccinations, which initially have shown to be effective in controlling Omicron, especially with boosters.
Africa has 16.72% of the world's population but its share of vaccinations is 3% at 263.89 million doses, according to Our World in Data.
Africa is at 12% with at least one shot, according to The New York Times tracking. Latin America is at 70%, with the United States and Canada at 73% with Asia-Pacific 67%, Europe at 64%, Middle East 48%.
Africa's first-time vaccination rate is 31.2% and fully is 26.1%, according to tracking by Bloomberg.
China, which has the world's largest population at 1.5 billion, has administered the most doses at 2.6 billion, ahead of India at 1.3 billion and the United States at 483 million. About 88.6% of Mainland China's population has received at least one vaccine dose.
The European Union is at 72%.
Though European nations have been heavily vaccinated, the continent had been experiencing another wave but is stabilizing in many parts.
In one week, Europe's cases dropped 4% to 78,088,031, second behind Asia, and deaths were down 1% to a continent-high 1,461,048.
Coronavirus had been spiking Germany. Deaths rose 22% in one week to 2,678, which is fourth behind Russia, Ukraine and Poland. Though cases declined 10%, the 357,423 amount was the most in Europe, slightly ahead of Britain's 351,649, which was a 13% gain.
On Wednesday, Germany reported 571 deaths, the most since 573 on Feb. 19. Sunday's gain was 122 for 106,330 in 14th. Deaths are nowhere near the record of 1,249 on Dec. 29.
Cases hit a record 76,132 on Nov. 25 in Germany. Until Nov. 4, the record was 32,546 on April 14. On Sunday, Germany reported 29,425 for a total of 6,530,704, which is eighth in the world.
Germany is under a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated, including nonessential services. Large events are all banned.
Also, employees may enter their workplaces only if they show if they're vaccinated, have tested negative or have recovered from coronavirus.
And employers must offer a work-from-home option if the nature of the job allows.
Germany is encountering vaccine hesitancy but its 71.6% percent of the population with at least one dose is more than the United States at 70.4%.
Germany's rate is lower than other European cities. Britain has vaccinated 72.6% of its population with at least one dose.
In the European Union, the one-shot vaccination rate is 72%, including 82.8% in Spain, 80.6% in France, 78.8% in Italy.
Russia is lagging the world in vaccination with 47.1% of its population with at least one dose of a domestic-produced vaccine, including Sputnik 5.
Two other Eastern European nations have low vaccination rates: Ukraine at 33.8% and Romania at 40.4%. Poland's rate is 55.7%, Czech Republic's is 63.2% and Austria 72.9%.
On Sunday, Russia reported 1,132 deaths, with the record 1,254 on Nov. 19, for a total of 289,483 in fifth place. And the nation added 29,929 cases for 10,016,896, also in fifth place, including a record 41,335 on Nov. 6. Russia's deaths are only down by 3% for a total of 8,379, which is the most in the world, and a 6% drop in cases to 217,956, which is fifth.
Russia has exceeded 1,000 deaths every day since Oct. 16. Also, Russia hasn't been below 700 since July. Last year, deaths reached 635 on Dec. 24.
Austria ended its lockdown Sunday but restrictions remain for unvaccinated and mandatory shots by February. Cases were down 47% with the total overall 1,225,555 and deaths dropped 3% for a cumulative 13,143. On Saturday, Austria reported 67 deaths and 4,460 cases.
In Britain, deaths increased 1% at 836, with cases up 13% to 350,866 in second place on the continent.
Overall, Britain is seventh in the world with 146,439, including 52 on Sunday. Cases are fourth at 10,819,515 with 48,854 most recently. The record is 67,794 in January in the United Kingdom.
Dr. John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, estimated Britain's Omicron cases would hit 64,000 a day in two if the virus spread at the current rate. The projected total does not include cases caused by the Delta variant.
And Edmunds said it was "extremely likely" cases are "much more" in the community than reported.
The British government has announced new COVID-19 rules, including working from home if possible. And starting Friday face masks are mandatory for most indoor public venues as well as on public transport.
In deaths elsewhere, Italy is ninth with 134,831, including 66 Sunday. In the top 20: France is 12th with 120,431, an increase of 48; Ukraine 15th with 91,027, including 238 Sunday, Poland 17th with 88,479, adding 65, Spain 18th with 88,381 and no data on weekends. South Africa and Poland passed Spain last week.
France's cases increased 19% at 339,866, including 61,340 Wednesday, the most since a record 83,324 in November 2020. And deaths rose 38% at 877.
On Wednesday, all hospitals in Ile-de-France, the north-central region of the nation, initiated a temporary mobilization of additional personnel with plans to roll it out across the entire country. That includes postponing non-essential surgeries and calling in staff on holiday.
In Asia over the past week, deaths decreased 10% with a current 1,232,400 and cases were down 4% with 83,105,789, the most of the continents.
India's deaths declined 11% to 2,108 six weeks after a surge of 83%. Cases were down 6%.
On Sunday, India reported 306 fatalities for a total of 475,434.
Cases were 7,774, among the least since Feb. 3 when it was 2,992 for a total of 34,690,510, in second worldwide.
India holds world daily records, not including major reconciliations: 6,148 deaths in June and 414,188 cases in May.
The nation's cases have been under 20,000 for 65 days in a row and below 50,000 for 168 consecutive days.
India, which is the prime manufacturer of vaccines for the world, has a one-shot rate for the entire population of 59.3% in a ramped-up effort.
India, with the second-largest population in the world at 1.4 billion, is lagging behind other big nations.
Thirty-eight Omicron cases have been reported, including the first one Sunday in Kerala state, which has a population of 35 million on the tropical Malabar Coast.
Indonesia ranks eighth in the world at 143,936 with an increase of seven deaths Sunday, way down from a record 2,069 on July 27. The Asian nation's cases are 14th at 4,259,143, including 163 Sunday, also a fraction of the record 54,000 in July. Indonesia has vaccinated 54.4% of its population with at least one dose.
Iran is 10th at 130,722 deaths, including 61 Sunday. Iran's one-shot vaccination rate is 69.8%, up from 43.6% nine weeks ago.
Turkey is sixth in the world for cases at 9,040,179, including 17,956 reported Sunday and 19th in deaths at 79,151, including 182 most recently. Turkey has a 67.9% vaccination rate.
Japan reported no deaths again Sunday and nine total in the past week with a total of 18,385.
And there were 120 cases Sunday compared with the record of 25,492 on Aug. 21 after the Summer Olympics ended on Aug. 8. On Nov. 22 there were only 50 cases.
Japan has a relatively low 13,728 infections per million and 146 deaths per million. Worldwide, it's 34,636 cases per million and 682.2per million deaths. The United States' figures are 2,450 fatalities per million and 152,074 infections per million.
Japan, which didn't administer its first vaccine doses until February, has vaccinated 79.3% of the 129.4 million population.
The pandemic began in late 2019 in Mainland China, but the nation's death toll has stood at 4,636 for several months and 81st behind Zimbabwe at 4,735. China added 87 cases Sunday.
Last week, China tightened its border with Vietnam to prevent a surge in illegal entries.
On Sunday, Vietnam reported 16,141 cases, slightly less than the record 16,502 in August and 209 deaths. The deaths mark is 803 on Sept. 1.
South Korea's cases rose 6,688 Sunday three days after a record 7,100 with 2020's highest 1,237 on Dec. 25. The nation has 4,253 deaths, including 43 on Sunday.
Last week, the Seoul capital area banned private gatherings of more than seven people and nine in other regions. The cap was 10 people in the capital area and 12 in other regions.
And public facilities, including restaurants and cafes, were added to businesses requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for entry.
"If it is deemed difficult to reverse the crisis situation our community is facing, the government will have no choice but to decide on extraordinary public health measures, including intensive distancing rules," Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Friday.
South Korea's vaccination rate is 82.9%, after getting off to a late start like Japan.
Israel's one-shot vaccination rate is 70.7%.
Israel has a death toll of 8,210 with none reported Sunday and six in the past week and 46 cases most recently with the record 20,523 on Sept. 1. Israel has among the world's worst infection rates: 144,737 per million.
The nation has 55 Omicron cases with 51 strongly suspected through Saturday.
After Omicron emerged in the nation, all foreign nationals were banned from coming into Israel. They were due to expire Sunday night but have been extended 10 days.
All travel from Africa is banned with limited exceptions, with Britain, Denmark and Belgium added to the "red" list Sunday.
Before Israel's travel ban, the nation and Turkey were among 28 non-European Union nations that participate in the 27-nation EU vaccine certificate program, meaning people who have been fully vaccinated can visit other member countries, including England, without needing to quarantine. Each nation can implement restrictions.
The United States is now allowing entry to fully vaccinated foreign travelers from 33 nations, including by air and land. Travel for U.S. residents was allowed earlier.
Canada earlier ended its advisory against non-essential travel for vaccinated citizens. Canada reopened its border to vaccinated Americans in August.
In North America, the deaths are 1,212,255 with a 0.8% weekly decrease, and cases are 60,603,972, decreasing 4%.
The United States' deaths decreased 3% and cases dropped 5%. On Sunday, the United States reported 167 deaths and 38,784cases though most states don't report data on weekends.
Mexico is fourth in the world in deaths at 296,672 with a 15% weekly increase and 52 recorded Sunday. The nation's cases dropped 2% with 855 most recently for 15th at 3,918,216.
Canada ranks 27th worldwide in deaths with 29,919 including 9 Sunday and also 27th in cases with 1,835,229, including 3,496 most recently. Canada's deaths record is 257 on Dec. 29 and the cases mark is 11,383 on Jan. 3.
Canada's cases rose 6% and deaths went up 24%.
Canada has around one-third the rates per million than the United States with deaths 783 and cases 48,017.
Canada has the best one-shot vaccination rate of the three largest countries in North America at 781.3%. The United States is at 71.9% for one shot. Mexico's percentage is 62.1%, though it was the first Latin American nation to begin vaccinating people.
In South America, cases decreased 11% in one week with a total of 39,202,652 and deaths were down 14% to 1,186,435.
Brazil's deaths dropped 9% to 616,941, and down 19% in cases to 22,189,867, which ranks third. Brazil reported 82 deaths and 1,688 cases Sunday, the fewest since April 15 one year ago when it was 1,261
Also in the top 10 for deaths, Peru is sixth at 201,650. Colombia is 11th at 129,107, Argentina is 13th with 116,771 and Chile 22nd with 38,686.
On Sunday, Chile reported 40 more deaths while Peru added 123 Friday, Colombia had 51 Sunday and Argentina counted 11 Sunday. These numbers are way down from records: Peru with 1,154, Colombia with 754, Argentina with 791, Chile with 316.
Peru has the world's highest death rate at 5,995 per million people.
Chile has the highest vaccination rate on the continent at 88.5% with Brazil at 78.5%, Argentina 82.9%, Colombia at 77.4% and Peru 69.2%.
On Saturday, a Brazilian Supreme Court judge ruled that foreign visitors will be required to provide a vaccination certificate instead of just a negative test as sought by health agency Anvisa. President Jair Bolsonaro has opposed efforts to control the spread of the virus and hasn't been vaccinated.
Oceania, with only 42.3 million people, has 4,357 deaths with an increase of 31% in seven days and cases are 389,528 with a drop of 0.1%.
New Zealand's deaths rose by two in one week to 46 with both Sunday. Australia's toll increased to 2,100, with 16 reported Sunday and 58 in a week.
New Zealand added 66 cases Sunday after a record 222 No. 16. Australia was up 1,748 with a record 2,688 reached Oct. 14.
Australia has a vaccination rate of 79.1% with New Zealand at 80.1% among the entire population.
On Friday, New Zealand's capital, Auckland, ended its 107-day lockdown though unvaccinated people are mostly shut out of public places. Also, Auckland will remain largely cut off from elsewhere in the nation until Dec. 15.
New Zealand has been in a nationwide lockdown since August after a single case, the country's first in six months. The nation is now on a traffic light system based on vaccinations with a review set for Monday and most areas orange.
In Australia, Victoria and New South Wales are no longer in lockdowns after months-long ones.
Fiji, with a 73.3% vaccinated rate, has 697 deaths with none in a week. On May 3, there were four fatalities. Cases have climbed from 121 on May 3 to 52,577. Fiji has 903,457 residents.
Guam, a territory of the United States with fewer than 200,000 residents, has 267 deaths, one in a week, and 19,307 cases, including four daily most recently. Its vaccination rate is 82.2% for the entire population, including 95% of those eligible, which is 12 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency is now capping all percentages at 95%.