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China hasn't reported COVID-19 death in year with 'zero tolerance'

By Allen Cone
Beijing Olympics: Freestyle skiing
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Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Mainland China, where COVID-19 originated more than two years ago, has not reported a fatality in one year with the nation striving to become the exception to worldwide surges, including during the Winter Olympics.

Many of the 2,900 athletes from 84 countries have had to contend with the Delta variant and then Omicron.

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In the past week, global cases declined 15%, or 19,396,095, for a total of 5,758,393, according to tracking by Worldometers.info. But deaths, which lag a few weeks behind infections, increased 10%, or 71,362, for a total of 395,805,934. One week ago, the cases declined 3% and deaths went up 14%.

The bulk of China's deaths were reported only a few months after the first confirmed one on Jan. 9, 2020. The last reported fatality was Jan. 28, 2021, and the figure now is 4,636 in 86th behind Palestine with 4,883.

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Since Omicron was first detected in South Africa on Nov. 24, most nations have set daily cases records. But only a few big nations broke marks last week and they were spread around the world: Brazil (286,050 Thursday), Germany (240,218 Thursday), Russia (180,071 Sunday), Argentina (134,439 Tuesday), Turkey (111,157 Friday), Japan (100,949 Sunday).

Cases hit a daily record of 3,792,693 Jan. 20, and it dropped Saturday to 2,231,912 then 1,860,307 Sunday. On Dec. 13, it was down to 480,954. During the height of the Delta variant spike, cases reached 904,084 on April 29.

Deaths rose 6,352 Sunday after 8,362 Saturday and 12,450 Wednesday, the highest since late May last year, and a record 17,541 on Jan. 27 a year ago.

Other nations with recent daily cases records include United States 904,168, France 501,635, Italy 228,1279, Britain 218,724, Spain at 161,688, Australia 153,968, Israel 83,739, Mexico 60,552, Canada 55,350, Greece 50,126.

Countries with weekly surges in cases include Indonesia 216%, Iran 188% and South Korea 88%.

But Indonesia, with 278 million people, has been relatively immune from the spike, rising only 149,660 cases in one week for a total of 4,526,480 in 17th, including 36,057 with the record 56,715 in mid-July last year during the Delta surge. And Iran, which also avoided the surge previously, added 221,654 for a total of 6,579,266 in 12th, including 35,429. South Korea reported 159,896 in the week, including a record 38,670 Sunday and is in 51st with 1,009,688 with cases under 4,000 daily before the Omicron detection.

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On Sunday, China reported only 43 cases. Since the onset of the pandemic, the most was 223 on Jan. 17.

China has adopted a zero-tolerance stance on coronavirus, locking down cities of several million people and massive testing.

And this has been applied to the Olympics in a "closed loop" with 60,000 competitors, journalists and other officials cut off from others and being tested for COVID-19 every day. Competition takes place in thee locations in Bejing where the indoor events, including figure skating, are held.

Unlike in other nations where events are being played in packed stadiums, including more than 100,000 in the United States, attendance is sparce with no foreigners allowed and only invited guests allowed in venues. The attendance at the opening ceremonies Friday in the "bird cage" was restricted to 40% of the 80,000 capacity at the 2008 Summer Games.

On Sunday, China reported 10 new COVID-19 cases within the Winter Olympics bubble, including six athletes, compared with 45 the day before. In all, 72,000 tests were conducted within the bubble. Once someone tests positive, including athletes, they are isolated, with complaints about living conditions and food.

"This year, it's been an absolute nightmare," U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson told a news conference Wednesday. "It's definitely a more complicated Olympics - and already going to the Olympics is very stressful and you have so much on your plate."

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Anderson, 31, won gold in the slopestyle event at the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia and again four years later at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea. She finished ninth in the event Sunday.

Since Jan. 23, a total of 363 infections have been found.

"The pandemic has brought big challenges in terms of organizing the Games. Safety is the foundation of everything," said Han Zirong, vice president and secretary general of the Games committee. "We take problems reported by athletes seriously and will solve issues that bring dissatisfaction as soon as possible."

All participants must be vaccinated. Doses have been shown to be highly effective against the Omicron strain, especially among people who have had boosters.

China, which has the world's largest population at 1.5 billion, had administered 3 billion doses, or 90.2% of the population for one shot, and ahead of India at 1.7 billion with 68.8% rate, according to Bloomberg tracking. The United States is third at 542.0 million and 74.8%.

In all, more than 10.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, an increase of 100 million in one week with the world's population of 7.9 billion.

Broken down by world regions, the United States and Canada have administered at least one dose to 77% of the population, followed by Latin America at 74%, Asia-Pacific 74%, Europe at 67%, Middle East 52% and Africa at 15%, according to The New York Times tracking.

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Most nations in Europe are heavily vaccinated. In the European Union, its 75.2%, including 86.9% in Spain, 83.2% in Denmark, 82.7% in France, 84.6% in Italy.1, 77.1% in Netherlands, 75.9% in Austria, 75.9% in Germany. Britain, which has left the EU, has a 78% rate.

Russia is lagging the world in vaccination with 52.6% 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 37.2% and Romania at 42%. Poland's rate is 59% and Czech Republic's is 64.8%.

In Europe, cases declined 7%, one week after increasing 11% with a world-high 9,941,856 for 135,493,741 in first place among continents. Deaths rose 5%, after a 0.5% decrease to a total of 1,637,349, also in first place.

France reported the second-most cases in the world in the past week, 1,794,307, behind the United States with 1,926,141 but decreased 26%. France's 20,602,932 total cases are fourth in the world.

France has the worst infection rate among large nations: 314,530 per million with the world at 50,732. Britain is at 260,074 and United States at 225,915. Israel's rate is 336,995.

France's daily record until the spike was 83,324 in early November 2020. Sunday's increase was 155,439.

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France is 12th in deaths at 132,506, including 129 Sunday.

Vaccinations are necessary to attend events or travel on trains in France, as negative tests will no longer be accepted.

Last week, most of the restrictions ended, including allowing full capacity at large events. Working from home requirements will end and masks won't be required outdoors.

And in England, Plan B restrictions ended. That includes working from home if possible, no mandatory masks in public or a vaccine pass to enter venues.

That change is coming amid modeling of future surges.

"The next few years will be highly uncertain, and future outbreaks and waves will likely be noisy as things settle down," Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group said in a consensus statement published Friday. "A steady, predictable pattern... may be many years away."

Britain's deaths are 158,318 in seventh, including 75 Sunday with a 5% weekly drop. The kingdom added 439534 deaths Wednesday, the most since last late February with the record 1,824 in January one year ago.

Britain's cases decreased 6% with 54,057 Sunday for a total of 17,803,325 in fifth.

In Germany, cases surged early during the Omicron variant and they reached record levels last week. They rose 25% last week after 47%. On Sunday, 113,424 infections were reported.

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Until Nov. 4, the record was 32,546 on April 14.

Deaths dropped 1% in Germany. On Dec. 24, Germany reported 575 deaths, the most since 589 on Feb. 16. Sunday's gain was 34 for 119,366 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.

On Sunday, Russia reported 661 deaths, with the record 1,254 on Nov. 19, for a total of 335,414 in fourth place. Russia's deaths are down 1% but cases are up 78%.

Russia three weeks ago went below 700 daily deaths for the first time since July.

In deaths elsewhere, Italy is ninth with 148,771, including 229 Sunday. In the top 20: Poland 15th with 106,597, rising by 19; Ukraine 16th with 101,277, including 109 more; and Spain 18th with 94,817 and no data on weekends.

Italy reported 77,029 infections Sunday. Until the recent spike, the record was 41,198 in November 2020.

Last week, Italy eased COVID-19 restrictions for all visitors from European Union countries. They only will need to display a "green pass" proving they have been vaccinated, recovered or tested negative recently.

In Spain, foreign travelers are required to present a vaccine certificate.

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On Friday, Austria became the first country in Europe to introduce a national COVID-19 vaccine mandate for adults that runs through Jan. 31, 2024. Those without a vaccine certificate or an exemption, including those who recently contracted coronavirus, face initial $680 fines.

Austria's lockdown for unvaccinated residents ended after it went into force in November.

Four Nordic nations, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, announced the lifting of restrictions.

In Asia over the past week, cases were down 4% with the total 104,233,460 and deaths increased 45% to 1,304,838.

India holds the world daily record for deaths, not including major reconciliations: 6,148 last June. The Delta variant emerged in India.

India's cases declined 41% with 107,474 Sunday to 42,188,136 in second place behind the United States. Since the Omicron strain, the most cases have been 347,254 in January.

Fatalities rose 68%, including 865 Sunday and 1,773 Wednesday, the most since mid-June 2021. The total is 501,979 in third behind the United States and Brazil.

On Monday, full attendance in office for all government employees will begin.

In New Delhi, the nation's capital, most gyms and spas will reopen Monday with protocols in place, including sanitation.

India, which is the prime manufacturer of vaccines for the world, has a one-shot rate for the entire population of 68.8%.

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Japan, which hosted the Summer Olympics during the Delta surge, reported 89,145 cases, one day after passing 100,000 for the first time. The total is 3,316,122.

Japan also added 68 deaths Sunday for a total of 19,357, rising 445 in a week for a 114% gain. The record is 227 in mid-May.

Japan has a relatively low 25,487 infections per million and its vacciantion rate is 80.6%.

U.S. Forces Japan last week lifted restrictions on its personnel's activities outside bases in Japan.

In South Korea, U.S. military restrictions remain in place. That includes a ban on dining in at restaurants and visits to shopping malls with visits to Seoul limited to official duties and those who live in the capital city.

U.S. Forces Korea reported 196 new cases in a week, its third consecutive week of declining numbers.

"We are very proud of the USFK-affiliated community ... for their continued efforts in adhering to our [health protection condition] mitigation measures and USFK core tenets," command spokesman Army Col. Lee Peters said in a statement to Stars and Stripes on Wednesday. "Their actions are reflected in our numbers and they speak for themselves: we've seen a continued downward trend over the last three weeks and expect to continue this trend."

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South Korea added 15 deaths Sunday after a record 109 on Dec. 23.

South Korea's vaccination rate is 86.2%.

Indonesia ranks eighth in the world at 144,554 with an increase of 57 deaths Sunday, and 212 in a week, a gain of 168% in a week, but way down from a record 2,069 on July 27. Indonesia has vaccinated 68.5% of its population with at least one dose.

Iran is 11th in deaths at 132,830 deaths, including 85 Sunday. Iran's one-shot vaccination rate is 72.5%.

Turkey is 19th in deaths at 88,734 including 201 Sunday with 87,934 new cases. Turkey has a 68.7% vaccination rate.

Israel has a death toll of 9,138 with 27 reported Sunday and 31,511 cases for a total of 3,142,818.

Israel's serious cases are at an all-time amid a steady decline in infections, including 16% in one week, Health Ministry data show on Saturday.

Currently, there are 1,229 serious cases across Israel, up from 1,000 a week ago, with 375 patients defined in critical condition.

Israel's one-shot vaccination rate is 73.1%.

On Friday, the coronavirus cabinet dropped the requirement to present proof of vaccination for most venues.

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.

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The CDC is advising against travel to Israel, raising it to "level four: very high." Most other countries are that designation. Level 1 only includes China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Pakistan. New Zealand heads "level three" with India, Iran, South Korea, Japan among those on the second-highest level.

In North America, the deaths are 1,341,610 with a 4% weekly decrease, and cases are 91,439,863, declining 43%.

The United States' deaths declined 10% and cases dropped 47%. On Sunday, the United States reported 374 deaths and 50,711 cases though more than three-fourths of states didn't report data.

Mexico is fifth in the world in deaths at 309,546 with a weekly increase of 42% and 129 recorded on Sunday and 829 Tuesday, the least since early September 2021 with the record 1,4127 in late January a year ago. The nation's cases decreased 16% with 35,243 most recently for 15th at 10,234.

Canada's cases dropped 24% in one week with 6,845 Sunday for 25th in cases with 3,125,330

Until the Omicron variant, the record was 11,383 one year ago Jan. 3.

Canada's deaths went up 10% and the nation ranks 26th worldwide with 34,722 including 85 on Sunday after 195 Wednesday, among the most since a record 257 on Dec. 29, 2020.

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Canada has around one-third the rates per million than the United States with deaths 746 and cases 81,487.

Canada has the best one-shot vaccination rate of the three largest countries in North America at 84.71%. The United States is at 74.8% for one shot. Mexico's percentage is 65.5%, though it was the first Latin American nation to begin vaccinating people.

Last week, Ontario began allowing restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theatres to reopen with 50% capacity. Larger venues will also be allowed to operate at half capacity or 500 people, whichever is less. Cinemas, sports facilities and other similar places still won't be allowed to serve food or drinks.

"What we need to do going forward, as we emerge out of this Omicron wave, is recognize this virus is not going to disappear," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said last week. "We need to be able to address the ongoing presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a more sustainable way.

"Further waves will occur. Some will be quite severe and disruptive and we need to be ready for them. But we do need to have longer-term, sustained approaches and capacity-building so we're not in a crisis mode all the time as we fight this virus."

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Canadian truckers have descended on Ottawa and other cities for the second weekend of protests against the country's COVID-19 restrictions and mandates.

In Mexico on Sunday, Cancun, a popular tourist designation, dropped to "yellow" on the traffic light risk system from "orange."

In "yellow," hotels can book rooms at an 85% capacity. Restaurants, clubs and bars can have outdoor or patio space also are at 85%, with indoor seating 70%.

Gov. Carlos Joaquin said Saturday he wants a trial run for at least a week, according to the Cancun Sun.

In South America, cases decreased 19% in one week with a total of 50,510,523 and deaths were up 19% to 1,226,132.

Brazil reported 420 deaths Sunday with 1,068 Friday, the most since mid August and the record 4,211 in early April. Brazil's fatalities rose 45% with cases down 5% despite setting the daily record Thursday at 286,050 with Sunday at 63,324.

Also in the top 10 for deaths, Peru is sixth at 206,984 and Colombia is 10th at 135,757. Argentina is 13th with 122,684 and Chile 23rd with 39,987.

On Sunday, Peru added 93 deaths, Colombia 239, Argentina 100 and Chile 57. These numbers are way down from records: Peru with 1,154, Colombia with 754, Argentina with 791, Chile with 316.

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Argentina posted 12,664 infections Sunday.

Peru has the world's highest death rate at 6,138 per million people.

Some South American nations have high vaccination rates. Chile has the best vaccination rate on the continent at 90.7% with Argentina 87.7%, Brazil at 81.1%, Colombia at 80.2% and Peru 75.7%.

Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo Carnival festivities have been postponed to April 21 from Feb. 25 to March 2 in a joint announcement Friday.

Like South America, it's summer in Oceania.

Australia had largely avoided mass infections until the Omicron surge, with only 2,688 as of Oct. 14. The nation reported 22,839 more cases Sunday, about one-seventh of the record recently.

Overall, the nation has climbed to 29th with 2,728,540. Deaths are 4,201, including 45 more Sunday and 524 in one week for an 8% decline. On Jan. 28, it set a daily record with 134, with the previous mark before Omicron 59 in early September 2020.

Students returned to classrooms this week after the break.

Australia has vaccinated 84.4% of its population with at least one dose.

In Oceania, cases decreased 53% for a total of 2,930,937 and deaths were down 8% for a total of 6,623.

New Zealand's deaths rose by one in a week fo 53 total and the nation added 227 cases Sunday one day after a record 269.

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New Zealand, which has an 82.6% vaccination rate, is on a traffic light system. The entire country is in Red, meaning everyone will be required to wear masks in public venues and on public transportation. Customers are limited and events have been called off because of participation curbs.

Though the variant emerged in Africa, the continent's situation has stabilized with an 18% weekly cases drop with a total of 11,196,687. Deaths went up 4% for a total toll of 241,826.

South Africa's infections decreased by 7% and deaths rose 8%.

Overall, South Africa has reported 3,623,962 cases, in 19th worldwide, with 1,752 Sunday. Eight weeks ago there was a record 37,875

The nation is 17th in deaths at 95,835, including 18 Sunday.

South Africa's vaccination rate is only 33.4%.

Africa has received more than 587 million vaccine doses through the United Nations-backed and COVAX Facility, according to a U.N. news release. In January, 96 million were shipped with 6 million vaccinated every week. But this figure needs to increase to 36% to achieve a 70% vaccination target.

Twenty-one of the 54 countries have fully vaccinated less than 10%.

UNIF "is at the forefront of the largest, most sophisticated ground operation in the history of immunization," according to Mohamed Fall, the agency's regional director for Eastern & Southern Africa.

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Tunisia has the second-most deaths with 26,679 ahead of Egypt with 22,936.

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