On Sunday, people with coronavirus lie on beds inside the Chennai Trade Center, which was converted into a makeshift 900-bed COVID-19 care facility after a sharp surge in cases in Chennai, India. Photo by Idrees Mohammed/EPA-EFE
Jan. 16 (UPI) -- COVID-19 cases rose 14% worldwide in one week as India and Brazil, two nations with the most infection behind the United States, are each up around 2.5 times in one week after comparatively low numbers.
The Omicron 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 19,461,854 for a total of 328,677,616, according to tracking by Worldometers.info. On Thursday, cases hit a daily record of 3,333,946 and it subsided Saturday to 2,427,109. On Dec. 13, it was down to 480,954. During the height of the Dela variant spike, cases reached 904,084 on April 29.
Deaths went up 9% or 48,724 for a toll of 5,557,596. The previous seven days the rise was 1%.
India's cases rose 113%, climbing 271,202 Sunday for a total of 37,122,164, second in the world behind the United States' 66,995,533, which dropped 7%. The United States, with a population of 334 million, also has the most deaths at 873,564, rising 7%.
India's increase was the most in eight months and below the record 401,078, which was the highest in the world until the omicron spike with the U.S. holding the mark with 897,314 on Jan. 7.
India, which has the second-largest population in the world at 1.4 billion, reported 7,081 cases 21 days ago, 27,553 14 days ago and 159,632 seven days ago.
The cases rise is as pronounced in Brazil, which grew 109% in a week to 483,045 for a total of 23,006,952, including 111,376 Friday, the most since a record 115,041 on June 23, 2021.
One week ago, the rise was 24,382, after 1,721 two weeks ago and 4,810 three weeks ago. Brazil has 214.9 million people.
And Japan, with a population of 125.9 million, on Sunday reported a record 25,658 cases. The previous record was 25,492 on Aug. 21 after the Summer Olympics ended on Aug. 8. Last Sunday the rise was 8,249 with 554 two weeks ago. On Nov. 22 there were only 50 cases.
Most other big nations experienced surges earlier.
Nations with cases records include France at 368,149 (population 65.5 million), Britain at 218,724 (population 68.4 million), Italy at 220,532 (60.3 million), Spain at 161,688 (46.8 million), Australia at 153,968 (58.8 million), Argentina at 134,439 (45.8 million), Germany 93,154 (84.2 million), Canada at 55,350 (38.2 million), Turkey at 77,722 (85.7 million), Israel 59,333 (9.3 millin), Greece 50,126 (10.3 million).
Britain's situation has peaked with cases dropping 33%.
South Africa, the original epicenter of the variant, dropped 34% with 4,482 new infections Saturday.
On Friday, Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced that Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, had "officially exited the fourth wave." The rest of the country will likely exit around the end of next week, Adrian Puren, the acting director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said on Tuesday.
But scientists aren't ready to breathe easier yet.
"It's not like you get to the top of Everest, have a small party and then start your ascent down and take off your oxygen mask," Dr. Craig Spencer, director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told The Guardian. "There is still risk when you start your descent, and I think it's important for all of us to continue to be wary and aware of that."
In addition, studies have shown the outbreak is not as deadly.
"I think it's pretty clear Omicron causes less severe disease than the Delta variant, but that's not saying much," University of Western Australia epidemiologist and biostatistician Zoe Hyde wrote in an email to The Scientist. "We know that Delta was more than twice as severe as the original strain, and if Imperial College is right to say that Omicron is about 40-45% less likely to put people in hospital [than Delta was], we're back to 2020 but with a more contagious strain."
And as World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus posted on Twitter on Jan. 6: "Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people and it is killing people."
He prefers to call the strain "less severe" than symptoms being "mild."
And helping reduce the numbers are the vaccines, especially boosters.
In all, more than 9.69 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, an increase of 270 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 76% of the population, followed by Latin America at 72%, Asia-Pacific 72%, 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 89.5% of the population for one shot, and ahead of India at 1.6 billion with 65.6% rate. The United States is third at 526.9 million and 74.2%.
Most nations in Europe are heavily vaccinated. In the European Union, 74.3%, including 92.1% in Denmark, 85.6% in Spain, 81.9% in France, 82.6% in Italy, 76.6% in Netherlands, 75.1% in Austria, 75.0% in Germany. Britain, which has left the EU, has a 77.6% rate.
Russia is lagging the world in vaccination with 51.1% 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 36.1% and Romania at 41.5%. Poland's rate is 58% and Czech Republic's is 64.4%.
In Europe, cases rose 2%, one week after 33%, with a world-high 7,592,378 for 104,231,015 in first place among continents. Deaths increased 4%, one week after a 10% decrease, to a total of 1,572,606, also in first place.
France's infections rose 11% with the second-most in the world in the past week, 2,061,166, behind the United States with 4,775,089.
Britain declined one-third to 745,89 for a total of 15,217,280 in fourth place. Italy had 1,219,254, a rise of 10%, in eighth at 8,698,962. Spain had 733,200, dropping 7%, at 8,093,036 in ninth. Germany is in 10th overall with 7,977,550 and 459,802 in a week with 42% climb.
Britain, which reported 70,924 cases Sunday, first surpassed 100,000 24 days ago with 119,557. Until the recent surge, the record was 67,794 in early January last year.
The kingdom has the worst infection rate among large nations; 222,363 per million with the world at 242,013, France at 212,140, the United States at 199,601. Israel is at 191,459.
Britain's deaths are 151,987 in seventh, including 88 Sunday. The kingdom added 398 deaths Wednesday. The record is 1,824 in January one year ago.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to end Plan B restrictions on Jan. 26. The Telegraph reported these rules will be scrapped: home guidance, face masks in crowded indoor settings and mandatory vaccine passports for large venues.
With the rise in cases subsiding, Conservative Party Chairman Oliver Dowden told Sky News on Sunday: "That gives us pause for hope and optimism that we may be emerging from the worst of Omicron."
Before the onset of Omicron, COVID-19 had already been at high levels in Russia, Germany, Ukraine and Poland.
On Sunday, Russia reported 686 deaths, with the record 1,254 on Nov. 19, for a total of 321,320 in fourth place. And the nation added 29,230 cases for 10,803,534, in sixth place, including a record 41,335 on Nov. 6. Russia's deaths are down by 9% for a total of 5,645, which is second in the world behind the United States with 12,620, and a 35% drop in cases to 152,685.
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 and it was broken last week. Until Nov. 4, the record was 32,546 on April 14. On Sunday, Germany reported 45,287 for a total of 7,991,432, which is eighth in the world.
Cases rose 42% in one week and deaths dropped 15% in Germany.
On Dec. 24, Germany reported 575 deaths, the most since 589 on Feb. 16. Sunday's gain was 26 for 116,268 in 14th. Deaths are nowhere near the record of 1,249 on Dec. 29.
Germany remains under a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated, including nonessential services.
In deaths elsewhere, Italy is ninth with 141,104, including 248 Sunday. In the top 20: France is 12th with 126,967, an increase of 98; Poland 15th with 102,305, rising 35 Sunday; Ukraine 16th with 98,283, including 88 more Sunday; and Spain 18th with 90,759 and no data on weekends.
France's record cases of 369,149 were set Tuesday and Sunday's total was 278,129.
On Thursday, French teachers staged a walkout over inadequate COVID-19 rules. And vaccinated travelers from Britain no longer will need a compelling reason to enter France, and won't have to self-isolate upon arrival.
Italy reported 149,512 infections Sunday. Until the spike, the record was 41,198 in November 2020.
Italy has a "super green pass" requirement for anyone over the age of 12, including on the ski slopes. Required is a certified vaccination or proof of recovery, and not merely a negative test.
Spain, which doesn't report data on weekends, plans to institute a pilot progam to monitor the illness as has been done for years with the flu.
Netherlands, with a 27% weekly rise in cases and 36,231 Sunday, eased a lockdown Friday in schools and colleges, all non-essential shops and cultural institutions shuttered. Bars, restaurants, museums and theaters will remain closed until at least Jan. 25.
And Denmark has reopened cinemas, zoos, museums, theaters and other venues since the Dec. 19 lockdown despite a 18% rise in cases.
In Asia over the past week, cases were up 76% with the total 90,339,812, fueled by the surge in India, and deaths increased 5% to 1,271,313.
India holds the world daily record for deaths, not including major reconciliations: 6,148 deaths in June. The Delta variant emerged in India.
India, which is the prime manufacturer of vaccines for the world, has a one-shot rate for the entire population of 65.6% in a ramped-up effort. Vaccinations began one year ago Jan. 16.
"Exercise in the form of yoga can help in improving immunity while chanting of Gayatri mantra and meditation can help with mental peace but these should never be confused with treatment of COVID-19," Dr. Rajesh Kumar, internal medicines specialist in India, told the Deccan Herald.
Curfews are in place, including in Delhi between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Also, cinema halls, gyms, schools and colleges have been shut and large events canceled.
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 4,730. China added 119 cases Sunday.
The central Chinese city of Xi'an, with a population of 13 million, has been under some form of lockdown since Dec. 22.
The Winter Olympics' scheduled start is Feb. 4 in Beijing, where the first Omicron case was reported Saturday.
Japan, which hosted the Summer Olympics during the Delta surge, reported no deaths Sunday for a total of 18,445, rising 25 in a week.
The Japanese government has approved renewed public health measures for three prefectures -- Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima -- until Jan. 31.
Japan has a relatively low 14,720 infections per million and 146 deaths per million. Worldwide, it's 41,994 cases per million and 712.7 per million deaths. The United States' figures are 2,614 fatalities per million and 199,601 infections per million.
Japan's vaccination rate is 80.4% and South Korea's is 85.8%
South Korea's cases rose 4,190 Sunday after a record 7,843 on Dec. 15 with 2020's highest 1,237 on Dec. 25. South Korea added 29 deaths Sunday after a record 109 on Dec. 23.
On Sunday, Vietnam reported 15,684 cases, with the record 20,254 on Dec.30. Deaths rose by 129 with the mark 803 on Sept. 1. Vietnam's vaccination rate is 80.6%.
Indonesia ranks eighth in the world at 144,170 with an increase of three deaths Sunday, way down from a record 2,069 on July 27. The Asian nation's cases are 16th at 4,271,649 including 855 Sunday with a 80% weekly increase, to 5,45, and also a fraction of the record 54,000 in July. Indonesia has vaccinated 64.5% of its population with at least one dose.
Iran is 10th at 132,075 deaths, including 31 Sunday. Iran's one-shot vaccination rate is 71.6%.
Turkey is seventh in the world for cases at 10,457,164, including 54,100 reported Sunday. Turkey is 19th in deaths at 84,758 including 136 most recently. Turkey has a 68.4% vaccination rate.
Israel has a death toll of 8,318 with 14 reported Sunday and 18,501 cases.
After Omicron emerged in the nation, all foreign nationals were banned from coming into Israel.
But Israel has lifted travel bans to destinations in Israel's list of "red" countries with high infection rates, including the United States, Britain and Canada. Instead protocols are in place.
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 1,275,850 with a 11% weekly increase, and cases are 78,627,071, dropping 4%.
The United States' deaths increased 7% and cases dropped 7%. On Sunday, the United States reported 346 deaths and 287,973 cases though most states don't report data on weekends.
Mexico is fifth in the world in deaths at 301,334 with a weekly increase of 33% and 227 recorded on Sunday. The nation's cases rose 89% with 47,113 most recently for 14th at 43,49,182.
Canada's cases dropped 16% in one week with 19,642 on Sunday for 22nd in cases with 2,759,719.
Until the Omicron variant, the record was 11,383 one year ago Jan. 3.
Canada's deaths went up 78% and the nation ranks 29th worldwide with 31,530 including 67 on Sunday, one day after 146 the most since last February. The record is 257 on Dec. 29, 2020.
Canada has around one-third the rates per million than the United States with deaths 823 and cases 71,634.
Canada has the best one-shot vaccination rate of the three largest countries in North America at 83.8%. The United States is at 74.2% for one shot. Mexico's percentage is 64.3%, though it was the first Latin American nation to begin vaccinating people.
Ontario, which recorded an all-time high 3,630 hospitalizations on Thursday, won't be easing restrictions until the number plateaus, including keeping closed restaurants for indoor dining, gyms, movie theatres.
"We need as a society to continue to protect the healthcare system," Ontario's chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore said Thursday. "A sudden reopening, I'd be worried about another wave of Omicron."
Quebec's 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will be lifted Monday.
Several popular tourist destinations in Mexico, including the state of Jalisco, which is east of Mexico City, have started requiring vaccines for activities.
Mexico's travel advisory rating remains at level 3 or "high" risk, according to the U.S. 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, Spain.
None of the big nations in South America are at the highest level.
In South America, cases increased 59% in one week with a total of 43,098,918 and deaths were up 45% to 1,198,461.
Brazil's deaths rose 24% to 621,099 and cases soared 109% to 23,006,952.
Brazil reported 92 deaths Sunday after 160 deaths. Cases rose 31,229 Sunday and more than 100,000 Friday with 1,721 on Jan. 2.
Also in the top 10 for deaths, Peru is sixth at 203,376. Colombia is 11th at 130,996, Argentina is 13th with 118,040 and Chile 23rd with 39,3394.
On Sunday, Chile reported 18 more deaths. Colombia 136, and Argentina 51 with Peru not having published numbers though it posted 74 deaths on Saturday. 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 6,039 per million people.
Some South American nations have high vaccination rates. Chile has the best vaccination rate on the continent at 89.7% with Argentina 85.8%, Brazil at 78.8%, Colombia at 77.4% and Peru 74%.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health has reduced the recommended isolation for patients with COVID-19 from 10 to seven days. The United States earlier lowered it from 10 days to five.
Like South America, it's summer in Oceania.
Until a few weeks ago, Australia had largely avoided mass infections, with only 2,688 as of Oct. 14.
The nation reported 103,836 cases Saturday and 87,457 on Sunday, about 50,000 from the record last week.
Overall, the nation has climbed to 34th with 1,727, 843. Deaths are 2,668, including 35 more Sunday and 301 in one week for a 179% gain.
In Oceania, cases rose in one week 45% for a total of 1,899,927 and deaths were up 178% for a total 4,971.
New Zealand's deaths rose by one in a week to 52 total and the nation added 68 cases Sunday with its record of 222 on Nov. 16.
New Zealand, which has a 78.4% 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.
Australia has vaccinated 81.2% of its population with at least one dose.
Australia's provinces had been in a months-long lockdown in an effort to keep cases low. But now Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared it was now possible to "live with this virus."
"We should have changed our plan when we saw Omicron arrive," Alexandra Martiniuk, a professor and epidemiologist at the University of Sydney, told NBC News. "We barged straight into a dark room without knowing what was in there."
With hospitals strained and employees missing work, leading to product shortages, mask mandates, and bans on singing and dancing in certain venues have been enacted.
"Omicron is a beast. Every country is dealing with it and it never would have been perfect [in Australia] ... But what we could have done is bend the curve - slow the number of people who got it," Martiniuk said.
In Guam, 516 cases were reported on Tuesday, just 12 from the record on Nov. 20, 2020, according to the CDC. The territory has fewer than 200,000 residents.
Though the variant emerged in Africa, the continent's situation has stabilized with a 17% weekly cases drop after 52% four weeks ago with a total of 10,480,152. Deaths went up 9% for a total toll of 234,380.
"Early indications suggest that Africa's fourth wave has been steep and brief but no less destabilizing," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization regional director for Africa said in a news release Thursday. "The crucial pandemic countermeasure badly needed in Africa still stands, and that is rapidly and significantly increasing COVID-19 vaccinations. The next wave might not be so forgiving,"
South Africa's vaccination rate is only 32.4%.
Its infections decreased by about one-third four weeks after a 49% gain and deaths are up 26%.
Overall, South Africa has reported 3,559,230 cases, in 19th worldwide, with 2,597 on Sunday. Five weeks ago there was a record 37,875
The nation is 17th in deaths at 93,364, including 13 on Sunday.
Tunisia has the second-most deaths with 25,777 head of Egypt with 22,148.