COVID-19 cases drop 15% worldwide; Hong Kong, New Zealand shatter daily records

By Allen Cone
Patients showing COVID-19 symptoms lie on beds outside the Accident and Emergency Department at Caritas Medical Center in Hong Kong, China, on Feb. 15. Hong Kong's medical system has been overloaded by the fifth-wave Covid-19 outbreak. Photo by Migue Candela/EPA-EFE
1 of 2 | Patients showing COVID-19 symptoms lie on beds outside the Accident and Emergency Department at Caritas Medical Center in Hong Kong, China, on Feb. 15. Hong Kong's medical system has been overloaded by the fifth-wave Covid-19 outbreak. Photo by Migue Candela/EPA-EFE

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- COVID-19 is continuing to subside worldwide with a weekly 16% decrease in deaths and 15% in cases three months after the Omicron variant was first reported. But Asia's infections rose 4% and deaths were only down 0.9% with South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Hong Kong setting daily records in the past week.

Notably, Hong Kong, a region of China, recorded 26,026 cases, one day after 17,053, after never going above 100 every day until this year.


The variant also has spread to New Zealand, also hitting five digits in cases for the first time, 15,016, with the high before Omicron 216 on Nov. 24.

In the past seven days, global cases increased 10,926,144 for a total of 435,633,116, according to tracking by so far Sunday. Deaths, which lag a few weeks behind infections, increased to 58,841, for a total of 5,967,060. One week ago, the cases declined 21% and deaths fell 10%.


Daily cases Saturday dropped to 1,308,059 compared with record of 3,804,960 Jan. 20. On Dec. 13, it was down to 486,455. During the height of the Delta variant spike, cases reached 903,836 on April 29. The 6,548 deaths reported Saturday is less than half of the record 17,494 Jan. 27, 2020.

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

Also records last week: South Korea (171,448 Wednesday then 163,558 Sunday) and Vietnam (77,982 Saturday),

Hong Kong, with 7.6 million population, has only total 158,683 infections and didn't hit four digits untl 1,111 Feb. 7 with Mainland China reporting only 239 Sunday. Also, 83 people died in Hong Kong for a total of 660. It's vaccination rate is 79.2% for one shot among the total population.

South Korea reported only 49 deaths Sunday, below the record of 109 Dec. 23 with Vietnam 88 on Saturday, far below 805 Sept. 1. New Zealand added no deaths Sunday.

Other nations with recent daily cases records include United States 904,168, France 501,635, Italy 228,1279, Brazil 286,050, Germany 247,128, Britain 218,724, Russia 203,766, Netherlands 189,377, Spain at 161,688, Australia 153,968, Argentina 134,439, Turkey 111,157, Japan 100,949, Israel 83,739, Indonesia 63,956, Mexico 60,552, Canada 55,350, Greece 50,126.


South Korea, with a population of 15.8 million, reported 973,274 cases in the week and rose to 2,994,841, a 73% gain, with cases under 4,000 daily before the Omicron detection. South Korea has reported 7,944 deaths, including a record 112 Saturday then 49 Sunday.

Korea is focusing on detecting virus in high-risk groups -- those 60 and older and people with pre-existing medical conditions. Starting Tuesday, those who live with people who have tested positive will no longer be required to quarantine, regardless of vaccination status.

Despite this policy, 643 patients were hospitalized in severe or critical condition on Saturday compared ith 408 patients a week earlier.

Lee Ki-il, a senior health official during a briefing Friday, said the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency was prepared to take in and treat up to 2,000 patients with severe cases.

Korea has vaccinated 86.6% of its population with at least one dose.

Indonesia, with 278 million people, had been relatively immune from the spike. One week ago they rose 74% but most recently dropped 8% to 355,397 for a total of 5,197,505 in 17th. Indonesia's previous record was 56,715 in mid-July last year during the Delta surge.

But Indonesia's weekly deaths rose 1,642 at 44% rise for a total of 148,073 in ninth place, including 229 Sunday after 317 Thursday, the most since mid-September.


Indonesia has vaccinated 70.1% of its population, mainly with Sinovac produced by China, which are an inactivated virus as opposed to messenger RNA using genetic material to trigger the infection-fighting process in the body,

Sinovac was shown to be 50.4% effective in a Brazilian trial compared with Pfizer and Moderna about 95%.

Vietnam's cases rose 78% with the total 2,787,493 for a total of 3,219,177. Deaths were up 12% and a total of 40,050.

Vietnam's vaccination rate is 81.6%.

In all, more than 10.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, an increase of 200 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 76%, Asia-Pacific 75%, Europe at 68%, Middle East 53% and Africa at 17%, according to The New York Times tracking.

Following is the rank order of some nations' vaccination rates elsewhere in Asia: Mainland China 89.7%, Singapore 87.5%, India 70.0%, Malaysia 81.7%, Japan 80.8%, Turkey 69.0%, Iran 74.5%, Israel 72.7%, and Philippines 57.6%.

In Asia over the past week, there were 3,959,541 for a total of 116,020,526 and deaths were 1,326,467 for a cumulative 1,346,142.


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 51% with 10,273 Sunday, the fewest since late December, to 42,916,117 in second place behind the United States. Since the Omicron strain, the most cases have been 347,254 in January. The record during the Delta surge was 412,618 on May 5, 2021.

Fatalities dropped 44%, with 243 Sunday, three weeks after rising 68% The total is 513,724 in third behind the United States and Brazil.

Starting Saturday, the Delhi government lifted all restrictions, including no masks required while traveling in a vehicle. But mask mandates continue elsewhere.

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 announced 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 85th behind Australia with 5,159.

China has adopted a zero-tolerance stance on coronavirus, locking down cities of several million people and massive testing. And this was 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. The games ended last Sunday.


Japan, which hosted the Summer Olympics during the Delta surge, reported 63,703 cases, 21 days after a record 100,959 with a 16% weekly drop. The total is 4,498,175. Until the surge, the record was 26,184 less than two weeks after the Olympics ended.

Japan also added 143 deaths Sunday for a total of 23,485, rising 1,578 in a week for a 15% gain. The record was set Wednesday with 322.

Japan has a relatively low 38,823 infections per million and deaths at 185 per million.

Iran is 12th in deaths at 136,631 including 241 Sunday.

Turkey is eighth in cases, adding 49,792 Sunday, for a total of 14,025,181, and 19th in deaths at 94,332 including 206 new ones.

Israel has a death toll of 10,118 with four reported Sunday and 6,254 cases for a total of 3,613,765.

Starting Tuesday, all tourists will be allowed entry into the country, regardless of vaccination status, and the Green Pass system, requiring present proof of vaccination for most venues, also will end.

Guam, a territory of the United States with only 169,000 people, reported 1,089,1 cases per 100,000 in the past week, only second behind the Northern Mariana Islands at 2,144.6 and Palau at 1,221.4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine is the top state 1,017.1. Guam has 44,238 cases and 322 deaths.


Guam has vaccinated 95% of its adults with at least one vaccine dose.

Most nations in Europe are heavily vaccinated. In the European Union, it's 75.5%, including 87.2% in Spain, 84.9% in France, 84.8% in Italy, 83.2% in Denmark, 77.3% in Netherlands, 76.3% in Germany, 76.2% in Austria. Britain, which has left the EU, has a 78.3% rate.

Russia is lagging the world in vaccination with 53.6% 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 37.9% and Romania at 42.1%. Poland's rate is 59.3% and Czech Republic's is 64.9%.

In Europe, cases declined 22% with a world-high 5,086,546 for 155,561,944 in first place among continents. Deaths dropped 15% to a total of 1,705,636, also in first place.

In Germany, cases surged early during the Omicron variant. They declined 7% last week, 1,135,211 No. 1 in the world ahead of Russia with 975,303, and have risen to seventh in the world at 14,649,897. On Sunda, 95,241 infections were reported.

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

Deaths rose 13% in one week in Germany. On Dec. 24, Germany reported 575 deaths, the most since 589 on Feb. 16. Sunday's gain was 45 for 123,328 in 14th. Deaths are nowhere near the record of 1,249 on Dec. 29.


Germany has a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated, including nonessential services, and social distancing rules. But Germany plans to hold a "freedom day" on March 20.

On Sunday, Russia reported 769 deaths, with the record 1,254 on Nov. 19, for a total of 350,927 in fourth place. Russia's cases are down 23% but deaths are up 4%.

France reported the ninth-most cases in the world in the past week, 418,906, behind Germany, Russia, South Korea, Brazil, Japan with the United States seventh but decreased 31%. France's 22,646,731 total cases are fourth in the world, including 42,600 Sunday.

France is 11th in deaths at 138,135, including 76 Sunday.

France has the worst infection rate among large nations: 345,687 per million with the world at 55,847. Britain is at 274,621 and United States at 241,047. Demark's rate is 449,376 and Israel's is 387,494.

But starting Monday, people no longer will be required to wear masks indoors, including public areas, but they will be required on public transportation.

In deaths elsewhere, Italy is eighth with 154,560, including 144 Sunday. In the top 20: Poland 15th with 111,316 rising by 40 Sunday; Ukraine 16th with 10,505, with no data amid an invasion by Russia; and Spain 17th with 999,410 and no data on weekends.


Italy reported 30,639 infections on Sunday. Until the recent spike, the record was 41,198 in November 2020.

In March, Italy is planning a "return to normality" in scrapping its restrictions.

"Our aim is to reopen everything, as soon as possible", Italian premier Mario Draghi pledged, announcing that the country's state of emergency would not be extended once it expires on March 31.

Italy plans to phase out the "Green Pass," which is proof of vaccination, tested negative or previously had the disease, on public transportation and in many public spaces. And vaccines are now required for those older than 50 in the workplace. The outdoor mask mandate was recently eliminated.

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

And starting last Thursday, people won't be legally required to self-isolate after testing positive for the virus. And free tests will end in England on April 1. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced these changes on Monday as part of the "living with Covid" strategy.

Britain's deaths are 161,224 in seventh, including 120 Friday -- the most recent data -- with a 28% weekly drop. The record is 1,824 in January one year ago.


Britain's cases decreased 28% with 31,933 Friday for a total of 18,804,765 in fifth.

In North America, the deaths are 1,401,000 with an 18% weekly decrease, and cases are 94,803,832 declining 41%.

The United States' cases dropped 45% and deaths went down 19%. On Saturday, the United States reported 635 deaths and 126,003 cases though two-thirds didn't report data. Totals are 972,984 fatalities and 80,564,709 infections.

Mexico is fifth in the world in deaths at 318,014 with a weekly decrease of 11% and 331 recorded Saturday and the record 1,4127 in late January a year ago. The nation's cases decreased 22% with 13,459 most recently for 17th at 5,502,586.

Canada's cases dropped 14% in one week with 3,037 on Sunday for 27th with 3,283,732.

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

Canada's deaths are down 12% and the nation ranks 26th worldwide with 36,537 including 15 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 941 and cases 84,594.

Canada has the best one-shot vaccination rate of the three largest countries in North America at 85.1%. The United States is at 75.6% for one shot. Mexico's percentage is 66.6%, though it was the first Latin American nation to begin vaccinating people.


In Canada, several provinces plan to put an end to restrictions, including masks no longer mandatory in many parts of the nation, But those measures could return if needed.

"We need to be ready for the fall, in case we need to up our game again," chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday.

In Mexico, there are no "red" maximum risk states or "orange" second highest in the traffic light system. Cancun, a popular tourist designation, is "yellow" as part of Quintana Roo's state with adjacent Yucatan also that color. All states bordering the United States are yellow except Baja California "green."

In South America, cases decreased 25% in one week with a total of 54,214,527 and deaths were down 17% to 1,257,061.

Brazil reported 145 deaths Sunday with the record 4,211 in early April for a total of 649,134 in second. Brazil's cases declined 7% with cases down 22%, with 72,856 most recently, for a total of 28,744,050 in third.

Also in the top 10 for deaths, Peru is sixth at 210,407 and Colombia is 10th at 138,693, Argentina is 13th with 126,112and Chile 23rd with 42,070.

On Sunday, Chile added 151 deaths with 234 Thursday, the most since early last July. Colombia added 95 Sunday, Peru 178 Saturday and Argentina 72 Sunday..


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 6,238 per million people.

Some South American nations have high vaccination rates. Chile has the best vaccination rate on the continent at 91.1% with Argentina 88.6%, Brazil at 83.2%, Colombia at 81.6% and Peru 79.7%.

Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo Carnival festivities have been postponed to April 21 from Friday.

Like South America, it's summer in Oceania.

Cases increased 9% for a total of 3,515,839 and deaths were down 22% for a total of 7,741.

Australia had largely avoided mass infections until the Omicron surge, with only 2,688 on Oct. 14. The nation reported 18,474 more cases Sunday, about 12% of the record recently.

Overall, the nation has climbed to 30th with 3,191,986. Deaths are 5,159, including 27 more Sunday. On Jan. 28, it set a daily record with 134, with the previous mark before Omicron 59 in early September 2020.

Australia has vaccinated 85.8% of its population with at least one dose.

Australia no longer is in lockdown.

On Monday, Australia allowed international tourists for the first time in nearly two years. Australians and some others were allowed to return from late last year.


New Zealand's deaths rose by three in one week after none for two weeks. New Zealand, with only 5 million people, hit five digits in cases for the first time Saturday with 13,625. The previous Sunday it was a record 2,366.

In the nation, about half the recent cases have been among people in their teens and twenties.

"Younger people, much more mobile and tending to go out a lot more and also tending to get symptoms at lower rates and so less likely to be tested, less likely to know they're infected, less likely to be isolating," Auckland University COVID modeler Dr. Dion O'Neale told Newshub.

"New Zealand is currently one of the most permissive countries in terms of what we can do with an Omicron wave.

"The government is putting its head in the sand ... I guess the Government messaging makes people inclined to put their heads in the sand as well."

One teen said: "It probably doesn't surprise me since we're having to be at school at the moment."

New Zealand, which has an 83.7% 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 11,515,727. Deaths went down 45% for a total toll of 249,140.

South Africa's deaths went down 65% and cases dropped 12%.

Overall, South Africa has reported 3,673,257 cases, in 20th worldwide, with 1,266 Sunday. Eleven weeks ago there was a record 37,875

The nation is 18th in deaths at 99,229, including 38 Sunday.

South Africa's vaccination rate is only 34.1%.

The COVAX Facility delivered the first COVID-19 vaccines to Africa one year ago and it has grown to around 400 million doses have been administered in 50 nations, which have a combined population of 1.2 billion.

"While this is a big step forward, we need a quantum leap," said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement. "Mass vaccination drives are one tactic which is enabling countries to speed up their rollout."

WO is partnering with UNICEF and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, to push mass vaccination campaigns in 10 priority countries to reach 100 million people by the end of April.

Tunisia has the second-most deaths with 27,702 ahead of Egypt with 23,992.


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