Pedestrians shop in Covent Garden in London, Britain, on Friday. The British government has warned the public that the country is facing a "tidal wave" of Omicron infections. Officials hope not to implement restrictions before Christmas on Saturday. Photro by Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE
Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Coronavirus is delivering nations a one-two punch of highly contagious variants, Delta and Omicron, which was reported in South Africa less than one month ago, as Britain has been hit especially hard with a 45% weekly increase in all types of cases.
Nearly two years after COIVD-19 was first reported in Mainland China and one year after a vaccine was first distributed to combat the outbreak, world leaders are dealing with the latest crisis, including deciding on lockdowns and travel bans.
Omicron cases are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in the countries where transmissions are documented, the World Health Organization said Saturday.
"It is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant in countries with documented community transmission, with a doubling time between 1.5-3 days," according to the document.
"Omicron is spreading rapidly in countries with high levels of population immunity and it remains uncertain to what extent the observed rapid growth rate can be attributed to immune evasion, intrinsic increased transmissibility or a combination of both."
Preliminary data have shown symptoms from the variants are generally less severe than Delta, but vaccines' effectiveness may be limited.
Data from England revealed "a significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease for Omicron compared to Delta after two vaccine doses of either Pfizer BioNTech-Comirnaty or AstraZeneca-Vaxzevria vaccines," the World Health Organization reported.
Overall the world's situation hasn't changed too much in one week with cases rising 3% to 275,002,659 and deaths declining 7% to 5,370,320, according to tracking by Worldometers.info.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain is facing a "tidal wave" of the variant
An additional 509,416 cases were added in the past week, just second behind the much larger population of the United States with deaths down 6% to 786. Fatalities' data didn't rise for a few weeks after a cases spike.
Britain has the fourth-most cases at 11,361,387 behind the United States at 51,727,526, India at 34,740,275 and Brazil 22,213,762. Britain's deaths are 147,218 in seventh with the U.S. the world leader at 827,323 followed by Brazil at 617,838 and India at 477,422.
The kingdom set a record of 93,045 cases Friday, then added another 90,418 Saturday. Until this past week, the record was 67,794 on Jan, 8.
On Friday, the number haf Omicron variant cases had climbed to 24,968, according to the United Kingdom Health Security Agency. The death toll from the strain was seven, including the first one in the world Monday.
London reported 65,525 newly confirmed cases Saturday in the past seven days, including 26,418 reported in the last 24-hour period alone -- the highest number since the start of the pandemic, according to the statement. Hospitalizations in London have gone up 29%, according to the London Assembly.
"I think if we don't bring in new restrictions sooner rather than later, you're going to see even more positive cases and potentially public services like the NHS [National Health Service] on the verge of collapse, if not collapsing," London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC.
"I think we should be able to celebrate Christmas safely. But I think sooner rather than later we're going to look at social distancing, we're going to have to look at household mixing.
"If we don't, the number of cases is only going one way."
Britain's Health Secretary Sajid Javid added that restrictions can't be ruled out and there are "no guarantees in this pandemic," including before Christmas on Saturday,
Javid said Parliament could be recalled if new measures were needed immediately. On Tuesday, around 100 Conservative lawmakers opposed the introduction of a vaccination pass to enter some large events.
Current Plan B rules for England include vaccination passes for certain events, face masks in more places and people urged to work from home if possible.
In Europe, cases only rose 1% for a total of a world-leading 80,704,450 but many nations on the continent are experiencing spikes. Deaths decreased 6% to 1,486,815, second behind Asia.
Experiencing big weekly jumps in cases were Spain 60%, Denmark 43% and Italy 41%.
In Denmark, new restrictions include capacity restrictions for stores and restaurants.
Although cases dropped 24% in Netherlands, the nation went into a hard lockdown on Sunday through at least Jan. 14 with schools and colleges, all non-essential shops and cultural institutions will be shuttered. The aim is to prevent the healthcare system from becoming overburdened in January, officials said.
Before the onset of Omicron, COVID-19 had already been at high levels in Russia, Germany, Ukraine and Poland.
On Sunday, Russia reported 1,023 deaths, with the record 1,254 on Nov. 19, for a total of 297,835 in fifth place. And the nation added 27,967 cases for 10,214,790, also in fifth place, including a record 41,335 on Nov. 6. Russia's deaths are down by 5% for a total of 7,829, which is second in the world behind the U.S., and an 8% drop in cases to 199,856, 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.
Russia is lagging the world in vaccination with 48.4% of its population with at least one dose of a domestic-produced vaccine, including Sputnik 5, according to tracking by Bloomberg.
Two other Eastern European nations have low vaccination rates: Ukraine at 34.4% and Romania at 40.7%. Poland's rate is 56.2%, Czech Republic's is 63.5% and Austria 79.6%.
In the European Union, the one-shot vaccination rate is 72.4%, including 85.0% in Denmark, 82.8% in Spain, 80.6% in France, 78.8% in Italy, 77.1% in Netherlands, 73.3% in Germany.
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.
On Saturday, opponents of vaccinations and ther policies demonstrated in several German cities.
In Hamburg, "No to compulsory vaccination!" was written on self-made placards, as well as "Hands off our children."
Coronavirus had been spiking Germany but deaths declined 2% in one week to 2,628, which is third behind Russia and Poland. Though cases declined 20%, the 287,267 amount was third most in Europe.
On Tuesday, Germany reported 575 deaths, the most since 589 on Feb. 16. Sunday's gain was 127 for 108,963 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 23,982 for a total of 6,812,528, which is eighth in the world.
In deaths elsewhere, Italy is ninth with 135,641, including 97 Sunday. In the top 20: France is 12th with 121,493, an increase of 75; Ukraine 15th with 91,105, including 176 more; Poland 17th with 91,485, adding 70, Spain 18th with 88,381 and no data on weekends.
France's cases increased 65,713 Wednesday, the most since a record 83,324 in November 2020. Sunday's rise es 48,473.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Friday it will require people to show proof of vaccination to enter some venues rather than also allowing negative tests.
He also wants "wild gatherings", fireworks and concerts on New Year's Eve banned.
In Asia over the past week, deaths decreased 7% with a current 1,240,598 and cases also were down 7% with 83,648,230, the most of the continents.
India's deaths declined 6% to 1,988 seven weeks after a surge of 83%. Cases were down 13%.
On Sunday, India reported 264 fatalities for a total of 477,422.
Cases were 7,081 Sunday with 5,784 Tuesday, the least since Feb. 3 when it was 2,992 for a total of 34,740,275, 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 72 days in a row and below 50,000 for 175 consecutive days.
India, where the Delta variant emerged, has reported 143 Omicron cases.
India, which is the prime manufacturer of vaccines for the world, has a one-shot rate for the entire population of 60.4% in a ramped-up effort.
India, with the second-largest population in the world at 1.4 billion, has administered the second-most doses in the world behind China with 2.6 billion and ahead of the United States at 493.6 million. In all, more than 8.71 billlion doses have been administered, an increase of 620 million in two weeks with the world's population of 7.9 billion,, according to Bloomberg.
About 88.6% of Mainland China's population, which is the largest in the world at 1.5 billion, has received at least one vaccine dose.
The pandemic began in late 2019 in Mainland China, but the nation's death toll has stood at 4,636 for several months and 82nd behind South Korea at 4,722. China added 83 cases Sunday with the first Omicron infection reported Monday.
South Korea's cases rose 6,234 Sunday, four days after a record 7,843 with 2020's highest 1,237 on Dec. 25. South Korea added 78 deaths Sunday after a recird 94 Tuesday.
The nation is restricting private gatherings and a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants and cafes. Two weeks ago, the Seoul capital area banned private gatherings of more than seven people and nine in other regions.
And public facilities, including restaurants and cafes, were added to businesses requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for entry.
South Korea's vaccination rate is 83.7%, after getting off to a late start.
Japan reported no deaths again Sunday and six total in the past week with a total of 18,391.
And there were 177 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 13,738 infections per million and 146 deaths per million. Worldwide, it's 35,255 cases per million and 688.8 per million deaths. The United States' figures are 2,478 fatalities per million and 154,853 infections per million.
Japan, which didn't administer its first vaccine doses until February, has vaccinated 79.3% of the 129.4 million population.
On Sunday, Vietnam reported 16,110 cases, slightly less than the record 16,715 in August and 215 deaths. The deaths mark is 803 on Sept. 1.
Indonesia ranks eighth in the world at 144,002 with an increase of four deaths Sunday, way down from a record 2,069 on July 27. The Asian nation's cases are 14th at 4,260,544 including 164 Sunday, also a fraction of the record 54,000 in July. Indonesia has vaccinated 56.7% of its population with at least one dose.
Iran is 10th at 131,081 deaths, including 50 Sunday. Iran's one-shot vaccination rate is 70.3%, up from 43.6% 10 weeks ago.
Turkey is sixth in the world for cases at 9,171,119, including 16910 reported Sunday and 19th in deaths at 80,m415, including 171 most recently. Turkey has a 68.1% vaccination rate.
Israel's one-shot vaccination rate is 71.5%.
Israel has a death toll of 8,222 with two reported Sunday and 22 in the past week and 785 cases most recently with the record 20,523 on Sept. 1. Israel has among the world's worst infection rates: 145,270 per million.
After Omicron emerged in the nation, all foreign nationals were banned from coming into Israel.
Israel's health ministry Sunday recommended banning Israelis from travelling to the United States and Canada. Already on the banned "red list" are those coming from several European nations: Britain, Denmark, France, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Finland, Sweden plus United Arab Emirates and most of Africa.
The United States and Canada also are banning travel from South Africa other nations on the continent.
The United States was 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 1,223,301 with a 7% weekly decrease, and cases are 61,647,094, increasing 5%.
The United States' deaths decreased 5% and cases rose 3%. On Sunday, the United States reported 109 deaths and 66,751 cases though most states don't report data on weekends.
Mexico is fourth in the world in deaths at 297,858 with a 20% weekly decrease and 23 recorded Sinday. The nation's cases dropped 11% with 841 most recently for 16th at 3,933,386.
Canada's cases rose 62% in one week, including 8,908 Saturday, the highest since 9,076 May 3 with the record 11,383 on Jan. 3. The nation is 27th in cases with 1,883,217, including 8,744 Sunday.
Ontario reported 4,177 cases Sunday.
New restrictions are in place in Ontario.
Restaurants, gyms and many other indoor settings are capped at 50% capacity.
No more than 10 people can attend indoor social gatherings, which down from 25.
Canada's deaths went down 14% and is 27th worldwide with 30,045 including 5 Sunday. The record is 257 on Dec. 29 and the cases mark is 11,383 on Jan. 3.
Canada has around one-third the rates per million than the United States with deaths 786 and cases 49,159.
Canada has the best one-shot vaccination rate of the three largest countries in North America at 82.2%. The United States is at 72.7% for one shot. Mexico's percentage is 65.6%, though it was the first Latin American nation to begin vaccinating people.
In South America, cases decreased 10% in one week with a total of 39,315,268 and deaths also were down 10% to 1,188,833..
Brazil's deaths dropped 26% to 617,838, and down 52% in cases to third.
Brazil reported 54 deaths and 1,1419 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 202,225. Colombia is 11th at 129,458, Argentina is 13th with 116,903 and Chile 22nd with 38,864.
On Sunday, Chile reported 24 more deaths while Peru added 71, Colombia 59 and Argentina4. 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 6,009 per million people.
Chile has the best vaccination rate on the continent at 89.6% with Argentina 83.6%, Brazil at 78.7%, Colombia at 79.6% and Peru 71.2%.
With the variant emerging in Africa, the continent reported a 52% increase in cases with the total 9,274,775, as deaths went down 3% to 226,353.
South Africa's infections rose 49% to 162,987, which is sixth in the world, and deaths were up 52%.
Overall, South Africa has reported 3,308,074 cases, in 18th worldwide, with 15,465 Sunday. Seven days ago there was a record 37,875.
The nation is 17th in deaths at 90,348, including 3 most recently.
The situation is actually easing in South Africa and symptoms are generally less severe than other variants.
Only 1.7% of cases were admitted to hospital in the second week of infections in the fourth wave, compared with 19% in the same week of the third wave which was spurred by Delta, South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at a news conference Friday.
About 7,600 people are hospitalized there with COVID-19, about two-fifths of the peak in the second and third waves.
"We are really seeing very small increases in the number of deaths," said Michelle Groome, head of health surveillance for the country's National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
And 90% of the deaths were attributed to those not fully vaccinated.
Africa has 16.72% of the world's population but its share of vaccinations is 3.2% at 279.8 million doses, according to Our World in Data.
Africa is at 12% with at least one shot, according to The New York Times tracking. The United States and Canada are at 74%, Latin America is at 71%, Asia-Pacific 68%, Europe at 64%, Middle East 49%.
South Africa's first-time vaccination rate is 31.7% and fully is 26.5%, according to tracking by Bloomberg.
Tunisia has the second-most deaths with 25,470 head of Egypt with 21,361.
Oceania, with only 42.3 million people, has 4,405 deaths with a decrease of 28% in seven days and cases are 412,121 with a rise of 68%.
New Zealand's deaths rose by three in one week to 49 with none Sunday. Australia's toll increased to 2,146, with 4 reported Sunday and 42 in a week.
New Zealand added 59 cases Sunday after a record 222 Nov. 16. Australia was up 3,819 one day after a record 4,030, with the most in 2020 at 714 in August.
Australia has a vaccination rate of 79.6% with New Zealand at 80.5% among the entire population.
New Zealand is now on a traffic light system based on vaccinations with only a portion in the north in Red. Auckland, which earlier ended its 107-day lockdown though unvaccinated people, will move from red to orange on Dec. 30.
In Australia, Victoria and New South Wales are no longer in lockdowns after months-long ones.
Fiji, with a 73.7% 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 52,623, a weekly rise of 43. Fiji has 903,457 residents.
Guam, a territory of the United States with fewer than 200,000 residents, has 20 deaths, three in a week, and 19,369 cases, including three 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%.