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COVID-19 cases decline 19% in world; South Korea sets daily record

By Allen Cone
COVID-19 cases decline 19% in world; South Korea sets daily record
People wait in line to take COVID-19 tests at a makeshift testing center in front of Seoul Station on Sunday. Photo by EPA-EFE/Yonhap

Feb. 13 (UPI) -- COVID-19 is subsiding worldwide with a 1% weekly decline in deaths and 19% drop in cases as only Russia, Germany, Netherlands and South Korea set national daily marks among large nations in the past week.

With coronavirus waning and vaccine usage percentages rising, nations are dropping restrictions, including lockdowns and required mask wearing and social distancing.

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In the past seven days, global cases increased 16,053,879 for a total of 412,089,674, according to tracking by Worldometers.info far Sunday. Deaths, which lag a few weeks behind infections, increased to 72,744, for a total of 5,834,176. One week ago, the cases declined 15% and deaths went up 10%.

Cases hit a daily record of 3,803,734 Jan. 20, and it dropped Sunday to 1,494,795. On Dec. 13, it was down to 480,954. During the height of the Delta variant spike, cases reached 904,084 on April 29.

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Deaths rose 5.722 Sunday and 13,032 Tuesday, the highest since late May last year, and a record 17,530 on Jan. 27 a year ago.

Since Omicron was first detected in South Africa on Nov. 24, most nations had set daily cases records.

But only a few big nations broke marks last week and they were spread around the world: Germany (247,128 Thursday), Russia (203,766 Saturday), Netherlands (189,377 Tuesday) and South Korea (56,425 Sunday).

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South Korea reported 323,187 cases in the week and rose to 1,350,630, a 102% gain, with cases under 4,000 daily before the Omicron detection.

Other nations with recent daily cases records include United States 904,168, France 501,635, Italy 228,1279, Brazil 286,050, Britain 218,724, Spain at 161,688, Australia 153,968, Argentina 134,439, Turkey 111,157, Japan 100,949, Israel 83,739, Mexico 60,552, Canada 55,350, Greece 50,126.

Indonesia, with 278 million people, had been relatively immune from the spike, but cases rose 282,829 in one week, an increase of 89% from the prior week, for a total of 4,807,778 in 17th, including 44,526 Sunday a day after 55,209 with the record 56,715 in mid-July last year during the Delta surge.

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Other nations are returning to a sence of normalcy.

"As we get out of the full-blown pandemic phase of COVID-19, which we are certainly heading out of, these decisions will increasingly be made on a local level rather than centrally decided or mandated," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Financial Times.

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There is a "but."

"Everything I am saying is based on a big caveat," Fauci told the Washington Post. "We must be prepared for the eventuality that we might get a completely different variant that breaks through all of the protection that you get from prior infection."

Vaccination have helped mitigate the outbreak.

In all, more than 10.3 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, according to Bloomberg tracking.

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 75%, Asia-Pacific 74%, Europe at 68%, Middle East 53% and Africa at 16%, according to The New York Times tracking.

Most nations in Europe are heavily vaccinated. In the European Union, it's 75.3%, including 87.0% in Spain, 83.2% in Denmark, 82.7% in France, 84.6% in Italy.1, 77.2% in Netherlands, 75.9% in Austria, 76.1% in Germany. Britain, which has left the EU, has a 78.3% rate.

Russia is lagging the world in vaccination with 53.2% of its population with at least one dose of a domestic-produced vaccine, including Sputnik 5.

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Two other Eastern European nations have low vaccination rates: Ukraine at 37.5% and Romania at 42%. Poland's rate is 59.1% and Czech Republic's is 64.9%.

In Europe, cases declined 16%, one week after going down 7% with a world-high 8,519,569 for 144,222,806 in first place among continents. Deaths rose 5%, the same percentage as the week before to a total of 1,661,187, also in first place.

In Germany, cases surged early during the Omicron variant and they continue to reach record levels. They rose 4% last week, a world-high 1,333,413 and have risen to eighth in the world at 12,294,820. On Sunday so far, 15,958 infections were reported.

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

Deaths rose 20% after a weekly gain of only 1% in Germany. On Dec. 24, Germany reported 575 deaths, the most since 589 on Feb. 16. Sunday's gain was 19 for 120,552 in 14th. Deaths are nowhere near the record of 1,249 on Dec. 29.

Germany extended a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated, including nonessential services, and social distancing rules. But German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach mentioned easing restrictions ahead of the Easter holidays in April.

"We still haven't reached the peak of the wave," he said. "Relaxing restrictions when case numbers are at their highest would be like pouring petrol into the fire."

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France reported the fourth-most cases in the world in the past week, 1,794,307, behind Germany, Russia and the United States but decreased 43%. France's 21,708,827 total cases are fourth in the world.

France has the worst infection rate among large nations: 330,077 per million with the world at 50,732. Britain is at 266,806 and United States at 237,310. Israel's rate is 364,011.

Sunday's increase was 86,562..

France is 11th in deaths, passing Iran in the past week, at 134,804, including 107 Sunday,.

With most restrictions ended, indoor mask mandates will end Feb. 28 though they will still be necessary on public transportation.

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

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.

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he wants to abolish all regulations, including the requirement to isolate after testing positive, in England starting Feb. 24.

Britain's deaths are 159,570 in seventh, including 52 Sunday with a 26% weekly drop. The record is 1,824 in January one year ago.

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Britain's cases decreased 29% with 41,270 Sunday for a total of 18,266,015 in fifth.

On Sunday, Russia reported 706 deaths, with the record 1,254 on Nov. 19, for a total of 340,248 in fourth place. Russia's cases are up 29% and deaths 3%.

Amid the spike, the mandatory quarantine after a positive test went from two weeks ago seven days. And people no longer need to have a negative test.

In deaths elsewhere, Italy is ninth with 151,015, including 191 Sunday. In the top 20: Poland 15th with 108,120, rising by 31; Ukraine 16th with 102,808, including 140 more; and Spain 18th with 95,995 and no data on weekends.

Italy reported 51,959 infections Sunday. Until the recent spike, the record was 41,198 in November 2020.

Italy's nightclubs and dance venues opened Friday for the first time in six weeks. Like other events, they only will need to display a "green pass" proving they have been vaccinated, recovered or tested negative recently.

Spain now is allowing non-EU travelers between the age of 12 and 17 if they have a vaccination certificate. Also gone is the outdoors mask mandate in most situations.

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

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In Asia over the past week, cases were down 9% with a total of 108,234,284 and deaths increased 7% to 1,319,655, one week after 45%.

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 60% with 44,877 Sunday to 42,631,421 in second place behind the United States. Since the Omicron strain, the most cases have been 347,254 in January. Until that time, cases were under 40,000.

Fatalities dropped 16%, including 684 Sunday, one week after rising 68% The total is 508,665 in third behind the United States and Brazil.

Starting Monday, India will end at-risk category of countries and instead wants self-monitoring for 14 days for symptoms, instead of the previous rule of home quarantine for seven days.

India, which is the prime manufacturer of vaccines for the world, has a one-shot rate for the entire population of 69.4%.

In Mainland China, where COVID-19 originated more than two years ago, the nation of 1.5 billion people, the largest in the world, no deaths have been reported in a year.

The bulk of China's fatalities 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 84th behind Palestine with 4,996. Cases reported Sunday: 67.

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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 Summer 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.

Unlike in other nations where events are being played in packed stadiums, including more than 100,000 in the United States, attendance is sparse with no foreigners allowed and only invited guests allowed in venues.

Testing is conducted daily. More than 1.3 million tests have been conducted for 13,492 arrivals, including 2,900 athletes from 84 countries.

A total of 429 Olympics-related cases have been reported since the closed loop launched on Jan. 23, including 182 involving athletes and team officials.

On Sunday, there were three new infections reported with two new arrivals and one in the closed loop.

Japan, which hosted the Summer Olympics during the Delta surge, reported 77,450 cases, seven days after a record 100,959. The total is 3,926,984. Until the surge, the record 6,184 less than two weeks after the Olympics ended.

Japan also added 137 deaths Sunday for a total of 20,387, rising 928 in a week for a 109% gain. The record was set Thursday with 164, not including 227 in mid-May where one area dumped in data.

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Japan has a relatively low 30,448 infections per million and its vaccination rate is 80.6%.

More than 90% of the large companies, 118, said they are preparing to administer booster shots to their employees and others, according to a Kyodo News survey.

Tokyo and 34 other prefectures are under a COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency, including refraining from nonessential travel. On Thursday, the capital and 12 prefectures were extended by three weeks through March 6.

U.S. Forces Japan two weeks ago lifted restrictions on its personnel's activities outside bases in Japan.

In South Korea, U.S. military had restrictions but on Friday, service members, their families, civilian employees and contractors are allowed to dine in local restaurants and visit shopping malls.

South Korea added 36 deaths Sunday after a record 109 on Dec. 23.

South Korea's vaccination rate is 86.4%.

The nation has surpassed 50,000 cases Sunday, compared with only 17,515 two weeks ago.

The National Institute of Mathematical Sciences, which is South Korea's state-run think tank, estimated daily new cases could reach a maximum of 360,000 early next month.

Indonesia ranks ninth in the world at 145,176, dropping behind Italy with an increase of 111 deaths Sunday, and 568 in a week, a gain of 168% in a week the same as the week before, but way down from a record 2,069 on July 27. Indonesia has vaccinated 69.5% of its population with at least one dose.

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Iran is 12th in deaths at 133,718 deaths, including 148 Sunday, and dropping behind France. Iran's one-shot vaccination rate is 73.0%.

Turkey is seventh in cases, adding 90,542 Sunday, for a total of 12,908,321, and 19th in deaths at 90,542 including 276 new ones. Turkey has a 68.8% vaccination rate.

Vietnam's cases rose 114% with the total 2,510,860, including 26,379 Sunday.

Israel has a death toll of 9,466 with 32 reported Sunday and 20,061 cases for a total of 3,394,765

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

"New variants will pop up all the time," Israeli Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash told a radio station last week. "One of the important things we do is be prepared and follow new variants as they develop and assess how dangerous they might be. I hope no new variants will bother us."

The coronavirus cabinet has 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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising against travel to Israel, raising it to "Level 4: very high." Most other countries are that designation. Level 1 only includes China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia. New Zealand and Pakistan head Level 3 with India, Iran, South Korea, South Africa among those on the second-highest level. Japan moved to the highest level in the past week.

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In North America, the deaths are 1,363,738 with a 1% weekly decrease, and cases are 93,082,669, declining 19%.

The United States' deaths declined 15% and cases dropped 44%. On Sunday, the United States reported 467 deaths and 31,652 cases though two-thirds didn't report data.

Mexico is fifth in the world in deaths at 312,819 with a weekly increase of 42% and 122 recorded Sunday with the record 1,4127 in late January a year ago. The nation's cases decreased 16% with 8,854 most recently for 15th at 5,292,706.

Canada's cases dropped 31% in one week with 4,401 Sunday for 26th in cases with 3,191,587.

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

Canada's deaths are down 19% and the nation ranks 26th worldwide with 35,474 including 35 on Sunday with the record 257 on Dec. 29, 2020.

Canada has around one-third the rates per million than the United States with deaths 925 and cases 83,268.

Canada has the best one-shot vaccination rate of the three largest countries in North America at 85%. The United States is at 75.1% for one shot. Mexico's percentage is 65.7%, though it was the first Latin American nation to begin vaccinating people.

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For two weeks, Canadian truckers have descended on Ottawa and other cities in protests against the country's COVID-19 restrictions and mandates. The Ambassador Bridge between the United States and Canada was set to reopen Sunday as police continued to arrest "Freedom Convoy" protesters.

Ontario Province will "very soon" lift "almost all" COVID-related restrictions on businesses, Premier Doug Ford said last week.

"There's no doubt they protected our hospitals from collapse and saved lives," Ford said of the restrictions.

In Mexico, no "red" maximum risk states after the risk level in Aguascalientes was downgraded to "orange" in the traffic light risk system. Cancun, a popular tourist designation, is "yellow" as part of Quintana Roo's state.

In South America, cases decreased 25% in one week with a total of 52,093,932 and deaths were up 1% to 1,237,804 one week after 19%.

Brazil reported 325 deaths Satutrday with 1,295 Wednesday, the most since last July and the record 4,211 in early April. Brazil's fatalities rose 20% with cases down 22%, with 57,288 most recently.

Also in the top 10 for deaths, Peru is sixth at 208,381 and Colombia is 10th at 137,155. Argentina is 13th with 124,081 and Chile 23rd with 40,558.

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On Sunday, Peru added 261, Colombia 162, Argentina 94 and Chile 94.

These numbers are way down from records: Peru with 1,154, Colombia with 754, Argentina with 791, Chile with 316.

Argentina posted 11,322 infections Saturday.

Peru has the world's highest death rate at 6,176 per million people.

Some South American nations have high vaccination rates. Chile has the best vaccination rate on the continent at 90.9% with Argentina 88.2%, Brazil at 82.1%, Colombia at 81% and Peru 77.7%.

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

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 22,786 more cases Sunday, about one-seventh of the record recently.

Overall, the nation has climbed to 29th with 2,901,923. Deaths are 4,593, including 47 more Sunday and 390 in one week for a 26% decline. On Jan. 28, it set a daily record with 134, with the previous mark before Omicron 59 in early September 2020.

Australia has vaccinated 85.2% of its population with at least one dose.

Australia no longer is in lockdown.

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In Oceania, cases decreased 3% for a total of 3,124,115 and deaths were down 21% for a total of 7,066.

New Zealand's deaths remained at 53 total for the week and the nation added a record 464 cases Saturday.

New Zealand, which has an 83% 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 a 30% weekly cases drop with a total of 11,332,375. Deaths went up 13% for a total toll of 244,722.

South Africa's infections decreased by 13% and deaths rose 28%.

Overall, South Africa has reported 3,641,811 cases, in 20th worldwide, with 1,649 Sunday. Nine weeks ago there was a record 37,875

The nation is 17th in deaths at 96,993, including 8 Sunday.

South Africa's vaccination rate is only 33.8%.

"Against the odds, including huge inequities in access to vaccination, we've weathered the COVID-19 storm with resilience and determination, informed by Africa's long history and experience with controlling outbreaks," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa said in a United Nations release last week. "Although COVID-19 will be with us for the long-term, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This year we can end the disruption and destruction the virus has left in its path, and gain back control over our lives."

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But she noted COVID-19 has pushed some 40 million people into extreme poverty, according to World Bank estimates.

Tunisia has the second-most deaths with 27,119 ahead of Egypt with 23,292.

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