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World's COVID-19 cases rise 48%; Australia surges past 100,000 daily

By Allen Cone
World's COVID-19 cases rise 48%; Australia surges past 100,000 daily
Health workers work at a COVID-19 testing site in Brisbane, Australia, on Friday. The nation has surpassed 100,000 cases in a day, far more than when the Omicron variant emrgened a few weeks ago. Photo by Jono Searle/EPA-EFE

Jan. 9 (UPI) -- COVID-19 cases rose 48% worldwide in just one week as several nations have shattered daily records, including Australia with more than 100,000 cases daily after being largely contained the outbreak until the arrival of the Omicron variant.

Numbers are spiking despite ramped-up vaccine efforts and mandates, including inoculations and mask wearing.

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The strain, which was first detected by scientists in South Africa on Nov. 24, has surpassed the Delta variant throughout the world.

In one week, infections rose 15,867,230 for a total of 307,794,647, according to tracking by Worldometers.info. On Friday, cases hit a daily record of 2,740,389 and it subsided Saturday to 2,239,740 with 1,856,698 on Sunday. On Dec. 13, it was down to 480,954. During the height of the Dela variant spike, cases reached 904,084 on April 29.

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One week earlier the rise was 59% and two weeks earlier 13%.

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Deaths only went up 1% or 42,899 for a toll of 5,505,897.

Australia had largely avoided mass infections, with only 2,688 as of Oct. 14. However, cases have climbed 220% in one week, including 115,507 Saturday and then 100,571 Sunday. Overall, the nation has climbed to 46th with 978,004. Deaths are 2,367, including 23 more Sunday in a nation of 25.9 million.

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Japan also has experienced a huge surge in cases with 8,249 reported Sunday, the highest since 8,480 Sept. 12, and one week after 554.

Several nations set daily cases records during the surge, led by the United States with 870,702 (population 334.0 million) on Friday and a world-leading 61, 263,030 after reporting 308,616 infections on Sunday. The nation also has the most deaths at 859,356.

Nations with cases records include France at 332,252 (population 65.5 million), Britain at 218,724 (population 68.4 million), Italy at 219,441 (population 603 million), Spain at 161,688 (population 46.8 million), Argentina at 110,533 (45.8 population), Canada at 49,829 (38.2 million population), Turkey at 68,413 (85.7 million), Greece 50,126 (10.3 million population).

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India has been a see-saw sitiation. The nation, where the Delta variant was first discovered, set a world record for cases at the time in May 8 but it had dropped to under 20,000 since the beginning of October including 6,987 14 days ago. It has risen 506% in one week with 785,560 during that timeframe.

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On Sunday, India reported 159,632 cases, the most in 224 days. Overall, India has 35,528,004 in third place behind Brazil.

Some countries have been immune to the new strain despite record surges earlier in the year. Indonesia was up 115% but only 3,027 in the past week and 529 reported Sunday after a record 54,000 in July. South Africa, the original epicenter of the variant, dropped 9% with 4,482 new infections Sunday. Russia dropped 23%, Iran 22% and South Korea 20%.

Travel restrictions, especially from African nations, have been in place. One week ago, the United States dropped the ban from South Africa and seven other nations.

"It's one of the most infectious viruses we've had to deal with," Dr. Mark Sannes, a HealthPartners infectious disease doctor, told KARE-TV in Minneapolis. "Your risk of getting COVID is 10- to 20-fold higher if you're unvaccinated."

Studies have shown the outbrek is not as deadly.

"While Omicron does appear to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean it should be categorized as 'mild,'" the World Health Organization's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, posted Thursday on Twitter. "Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people and it is killing people."

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Also, those with three vaccination doses had hospitalizations reduced 88%, compared with unvaccinated people with that variant, according to a report issued by Britain's Health Security Agency. But the report covered mainly younger patients.

In all, more than 9.42 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, an increase of 230 million in one week with the world's population of 7.9 billion, according to Bloomberg tracking.

Broken down by world regions, the United States and Canada have administered at least one dose to 75% of the population, followed by Latin America at 72%, Asia-Pacific 71%, Europe at 66%, Middle East 51% and Africa at 14%, according to The New York Times tracking.

China, which has the world's largest population at 1.5 billion, had administered 2.9 billion doses, or 90.4% of the population for one shot, and ahead of India at 1.5 billion with 64.3% rate and the second-biggest population at 1.4 billion. The United States is third at 516.6 million and 74.1%.

Australia has vaccinated 80.4% of it population with at least one dose and 80.4% are fully vaccinated despite getting a late start.

Australia earlier had continued the outbreak lockdowns. But New South Wales and Victoria are no longer in lockdowns after monthslong ones and schools are rescheduled to reopen after the summer break.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said NSW and Victoria already are "well advanced in their plans" with vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 to start next week.

Victoria, however, has brought back density limits though they don't apply to indoor cinemas and theatres, because they'll be seated and masked.

"We think this is a sensible change," Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said.

In Oceania, with only 42.3 million people, cases rose in one week 217% for a total of 1,146,387 and deaths were up 57% for a total 4,643.

Australia's toll increased to 2,367 with 91 in a week.

New Zealand's deaths remain at 51 for the week and the nation added 60 cases Sunday with its record of 222 on Nov. 16.

New Zealand, which has an 80.8% vaccination rate, is on a traffic light system based on vaccinations with only a portion in the north in Red. Auckland earlier ended its 107-day lockdown for vaccinated people.

Most nations in Europe are heavily vaccinated. In the European Union, 73.7%, including 91.8% in Denmark, 86.0% in Spain, 81.9% in France 80.1% in Italy, 77.3% in Netherlands, 74.9% in Austria, 74.5% in Germany. Britain, which has left the EU, has a 77.7% rate.

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Russia is lagging the world in vaccination with 50.5% 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 35.5% and Romania at 41.1%. Poland's rate is 57.4% and Czech Republic's is 64.3%.

Cases have been surging in Europe. They rose 33% with a world-high 7,078,907 for 96,251,423 in first place among continents. Deaths decreased 10% to a total of 1,551,356, also in first place.

Excluding the United States, four European nations had the most cases in the world in the past week.

France reported the most in the past week at 1,860,860, a 64% rise, for 12,11,218 total in sixth. Britain was second at 1,210,458 with a 5% gain for a total of 14,475,192 in fourth place. Italy had 1,108,881 in ninth at 7,436,936. Spain had 590,585 at 7,164,906 in 10th.

Britain, which reported 141,472 cases Sunday, first surpassed 100,000 17 days ago with 119,557. Until the recent surge, the record was 67,794 in early January.

Britain's deaths are 150,154 in seventh, including 97 Sunday. The kingdom added 343 deaths Wednesday. The record is 1,824 in January one year ago.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there will be no lockdowns despite the surge.

"Our position today differs from previous waves in two crucial respects," he said Tuesday. "First, we now know that Omicron is milder than previous variants, so while hospital admissions are rising quickly ... this is not yet, thankfully, translating into the same numbers needing intensive care that we saw in previous waves.

"Second, thanks to the fantastic national effort to get Britain boosted, we now have a substantial level of protection, higher than any of our European neighbors, with over 34 million boosters administered, including in England reaching more than 90% of the over-70s and 86% of the over-50s."

"And so, together with the Plan B measures that we introduced before Christmas, we have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again."

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.

Before the onset of Omicron, COVID-19 had already been at high levels in Russia, Germany, Ukraine and Poland.

On Sunday, Russia reported 763 deaths, with the record 1,254 on Nov. 19, for a total of 316,163 in fourth place. And the nation added 16,246 cases for 10,650,849, in fifth place, including a record 41,335 on Nov. 6. Russia's deaths are down by 10% for a total of 5,645, which is second in the world behind the United States with 10,340, and a 23% drop in cases to 112,883.

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Russia hasn't been below 700 since July. In 2020, deaths reached 635 on Dec. 24.

Germany also experienced an earlier surge. 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 30,812 for a total of 7,5531,630, which is eighth in the world.

Cases rose 62% in one week and deaths increased 2% in Germany.

On Dec. 24, Germany reported 575 deaths, the most since 589 on Feb. 16. Sunday's gain was 60 for 114,712 in 14th. Deaths are nowhere near the record of 1,249 on Dec. 29.

Germany is under a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated, including nonessential services. Last week, access was further limited to restaurants and bars visits but shortened COVID-19 quarantine to seven days.

Large events are all banned.

In deaths elsewhere, Italy is ninth with 139,038, including 157 Sunday. In the top 20: France is 12th with 125,438, an increase of 90 Sunday; Poland 15th with 99,7432, rising 22; Ukraine 16th with 97,239, including 75 more Sunday; and Spain 18th with 89,934 and no data on weekends.

Twenty-five days ago France's cases increased 65,713, the most since a record 83,324 in November 2020.

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France posted 303,669 cases Saturday and 296,097 Sunday.

On Saturday, more than 105,000 people participated in protests across the country, including Paris, against a new coronavirus pass that would ban unvaccinated people from public life. The negative test option would be eliminated.

Italy reported 155,659 infections Sunday. Until the spike, the record was 41,198 in November 2020.

Italy's government has stricter rules on health passes and masks. Outdoor public events and parties are banned during the festive season.

In Netherlands, with a 76% weekly rise in cases and 32,484 Sunday, the nation is on a lockdown through at least Jan. 14 with schools and colleges, all non-essential shops and cultural institutions shuttered.

Spain, which doesn't report data on weekends, has been dealing with overloaded hospitals and other industries reporting staff absences.

"There's a huge amount of infected people and we figure there's 7,000 nurses who are positive right now, so around 30% of the 20,000 on contracts," Jose Sanchez, the secretary-general for the nursing union Satse, told El Pais.

In Asia over the past week, deaths decreased by 2% with a current 1,263,771 but cases were up 152% with 86,861,024, fueled by a surge in India.

India's deaths dropped to 2,020 10 weeks after a surge of 83%.

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On Sunday, India reported 327 fatalities for a total of 483,790 in third place.

India holds the world daily record for deaths, not including major reconciliations: 6,148 deaths in June.

India, which is the prime manufacturer of vaccines for the world, has a one-shot rate for the entire population of 64.3% in a ramped-up effort.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conductd a high-level meeting of officials to review the pandemic situation with the last meeting Dec. 24 before the surge.

He mentioned the need for surveillance in clusters reporting higher number of cases and the necessity of using masks and getting vaccinated.

All universities and colleges are closed until Wednesdsay for students. Since Dec. 15, all social, political, sports, entertainment, cultural and religious events are prohibited.

The pandemic began in late 2019 in Mainland China, but the nation's death toll has stood at 4,636 for several months and 84th behind Latvia at 4,658. China added 165 cases Sunday.

North China's Tianjin, which has 14 million residents, reported 20 cases from 6 p.m. Friday to 9 p.m. Saturday. A total of 75,680 people had been put under quarantine and residents are asked not to leave the city unless necessary. Also, citywide testing will begin.

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The U.S. Defense Department has agreed to keep its troops on bases in Japan and Korea.

South Korea's cases rose 3,376 Sunday after a record 7,843 on Dec. 15 with 2020's highest 1,237 on Dec. 25. South Korea added 51 deaths Sunday after a record 109 on Dec. 23.

South Korea's vaccination rate is 85.7%.

Japan, which like South Korea got a late start in vaccinations, has an 80.2% rate.

The nation set a record of 25,492 cases on Aug. 21 after the Summer Olympics ended on Aug. 8. On Nov. 22 there were only 50 cases.

Japan reported one death Sunday and seven total in the past week with a total of 18,415.

On Friday, the Japanese government approved renewed public health measures for three prefectures -- Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima -- until Jan. 31.

Japan has a relatively low 13,960 infections per million and 146 deaths per million. Worldwide, it's 39,303 cases per million and 706.1 per million deaths. The United States' figures are 2,572 fatalities per million and 182,524 infections per million.

On Sunday, Vietnam reported 16,618 cases, with the record 20,048 one week ago. Deaths rose by 240 with the mark 803 on Sept. 1. Vietnam's vaccination rate is 81%.

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Indonesia ranks eighth in the world at 144,129 with an increase of tw0 deaths Sunday, way down from a record 2,069 on July 27. The Asian nation's cases are 14th at 4,266,195 including 529 Sunday, also a fraction of the record 54,000 in July. Indonesia has vaccinated 63.2% of its population with at least one dose.

Iran is 10th at 131,878 deaths, including 31 Sunday. Iran's one-shot vaccination rate is 71.8%.

Turkey is seventh in the world for cases at 9,978,452, including 61,727 reported Sunday and rising 73% in a week. Turkey is 19th in deaths at 83,702 including 173 most recently. Turkey has a 68.6% vaccination rate.

Israel's one-shot vaccination rate is 73.3%.

Israel has a death toll of 8,269 with 10 reported Sunday and 12,395 cases one day after a record 27,494. Israel has among the world's worst infection rates: 160,226 per million.

After Omicron emerged in the nation, all foreign nationals were banned from coming into Israel.

But on Thursday, Israel lifted travel bans to destinations in Israel's list of "red" countries with high infection rates, including the United States, Britain and Canada.

Vaccinated or recovered people arriving from abroad are asked to quarantine until they receive a negative test result or 24 hours after entering the country, whichever comes first. Those not vaccinated or recovered will only be able to come out of quarantine after receiving two negative results.

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In November, the United States began allowing entry to fully vaccinated foreign travelers from 33 nations, including by air and land. Travel for U.S. residents was allowed earlier.

In North America, the deaths are 1,259,467 with an 18% weekly increase, and cases are 72,207,055, increasing 28%.

The United States' deaths increased 18% and cases rose 27%. On Saturday, the United States reported 669 deaths and 468,081 cases though most states don't report data on weekends. Sunday increases were 308 deaths and 308,616 cases.

Mexico is fifth in the world in deaths at 300,101 with an 11% weekly decrease and 168 recorded on Saturday. The nation's cases rose 219% with 28,023 most recently for 16th at 4,083,118.

Canada's cases dropped 9% in one week with 25,466 Sunday for 23rd in cases with 2,539,930.

With Canada passing 40,000 cases two weeks ago, the record until the spike was 11,383 one year ago Jan. 3.

In Ontario, there were 18,445 new cases Saturday,

Canada's deaths went up 94% and the nation ranks 29th worldwide with 30,787 including 44 Sunday. The record is 257 on Dec. 29.

Canada has around one-third the rates per million than the United States with deaths 804 and cases 65,747.

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Canada has the best one-shot vaccination rate of the three largest countries in North America at 83.4%. The United States is at 74.1% for one shot. Mexico's percentage is 64.2%, though it was the first Latin American nation to begin vaccinating people.

Quebec is the only province in Canada with a curfew of 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations rose to 2,296 on Saturday with Ontario at 2,594 -- both records.

Mexico's travel advisory rating remains at level 3 or "high" risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Level 4 is "very high" risk, including several nations in the Caribbean as well as Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Africa.

None of big nations in South America are at the highest level.

In South America, cases increased 175% in one week with a total of 41,121,513 and deaths were up 26% to 1,194,646.

Brazil's deaths rose 25% to 620,031 and cases soared 329% to 22,523,907.

Brazil reported 50 deaths Sunday. Cases were 24,382 one week after 1,721, among the lowest since the start of the pandemic. The record was 115,0412 on June 20.

Also in the top 10 for deaths, Peru is sixth at 203,019, Colombia is 11th at 130,338, Argentina is 13th with 117,492 and Chile 23rd with 39,272.

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On Sunday, Chile reported 21 more deaths, Peru reported none, Colombia 50 and Argentina 27. 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 6,030 per million people.

Some South American nations have high vaccinations rates. Chile has the best vaccination rate on the continent at 90.8% with Argentina 85.7%, Brazil at 79.2%, Colombia at 76.6% and Peru 73.9%.

In Brazil, 18 of 27 capitals have decided not to have Carnival festivals in late February.

Though the variant emerged in Africa, the continent's situation has stabilized with a 6% weekly cases rate after 52% three weeks ago with a total of 10,206,524. Deaths went up 48% for a total toll of 231,999.

South Africa's infections decreased 9% three weeks after a 49% gain and deaths are up 74% one week after being down 11%.

Overall, South Africa has reported 3,526,054 cases, in 18th worldwide, with 4,482 Sunday. Four weeks ago there was a record 37,875

The nation is 17th in deaths at 92,4534, including 82 most recently.

"I do think in places that we are seeing this really steep incline, that we may well see also a precipitous decline, but we're also a much bigger country than South Africa," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday in a briefing with reporters. "And so it may very well be that we see this ice-pick shape, but that is it travels across the country."

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Tunisia has the second-most deaths with 25,655 head of Egypt with 21,938.

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