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World's weekly COVID-19 cases down 17%; Japan sets 247,830 daily infections record

By Allen Cone
People wearing protective masks walk toward Shinjuku railway stations after their work in Tokyo, Japan, on July 28. Tokyo marked a record of 40,406 new cases that day. Phoro by Kimimasa Mayama/ EPA-EFE
People wearing protective masks walk toward Shinjuku railway stations after their work in Tokyo, Japan, on July 28. Tokyo marked a record of 40,406 new cases that day. Phoro by Kimimasa Mayama/ EPA-EFE

Aug. 7 (UPI) -- The COVID-19 situation is easing worldwide with a weekly 17% cases decline and 11% deaths decrease though Japan continues to surge with one-quarter of the infections as well as a daily record 247,830 cases plus 215 daily deaths, the most in five months.

On Sunday, Japan announced 206,495 infections, four days after the record, for a total of 14,302,864 in 11th place, passing Spain in the past week. Deaths were 152, two days after the mark, for a total of 33,711 in 30th. Japan surpassed 200,000 for the first time two weeks ago.

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In the past week, Japan added a world-high 1,495,049 infections, a 10% gain, one week after a 54% rise.

As the BA.5 Omicron subvariant spreads worldwide, infections dropped to 5,853,223 with a daily average of 836,175 and passing 1 million the last time on April 13, according to tracking by Worldometers.info. On Jan. 21, the daily record was set at 3,842,371. The total is 589,311,389, including 563,621 Sunday after 644,604 Saturday when Japan added 227,563, including 30,970 in the capital Tokyo. The city's record was 40,406 on July 28.

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Fatalities in the past week were down to 14,603. That daily average is 2,086 with the recent low 1,294 on June 21, the lowest since 1,072 on March 21, 2020, 10 days after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The total is 6,436,487, including 870 Sunday and 1,367 Saturday. It was previously under 1,000 on June 19 with 931.

Some nations do not report data on weekends. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't report data on Saturdays and Sundays.

Other case increases in the past week with more than 25,000 in descending order were South Korea 22% with a second-high 681,160, Russia 60% with 103,175 and Spain 31% with 34,751.

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The United States reported the third most cases, 650,879 but a 26% drop, No. 4 Germany 375,002 with a 28% decline, No. 5 Italy 283,712 with a 28% decrease, No. 6 Australia 238,132 with a 24% drop, No. 7 France 225,000 ad a 35% decrease.

Among nations reporting more than 100 deaths with big increases in the past week: No. 4 Japan 932 with a 51% increase, No. 10 Iran 461 with a 61% rise, Peru 319 with a 39% boost, Romania 188 with a 45% rise.

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The United States reported the most deaths, 2,476 but an 11% drop. Brazil was second with 1,475 and a 5% decline, Italy third with 1,059 and a 12% decrease, Germany fifth with 886 and an 11% rise.

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Every continent reported a weekly case decrease. Africa dropped the most, 49% for a cumulative 12,547,258, followed by Europe 29% for a world-high 217,240,684, North American 27% for 111,518,729, South America 27% for 62,636,546, Oceania 24% for 11,642,345, Asia 2% for 173,725,106.

Asia reported the only deaths increase with 8% for 1,451,606. Decreases were Africa 58% for 257,009, Oceania 24% for 17,453, Europe 18% for a world-high 1,883,383, North America 11% for 1,508,657, South America 8% for 1,318,364.

The U.S. leads with 1,058,738 fatalities and 93,910,150 infections, according to Worldometers.info. The U.S. holds the world record for daily cases at 909,017 on Jan. 13. Brazil is second in deaths at 680,051, including 39 Sunday and fourth in cases at 34,074,568, including 7,198 Sunday. India is second in cases at 44,145,732, including 18,738 Sunday and third in deaths at 526,689, including 40 Sunday.

India has the daily deaths record at 4,529 on May 18, 2021, with no adjustments from regions.

Russia is fourth in deaths at 382,697, including 46 Sunday with 34 eight days ago, tied for the least since April 16, 2020.

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In the top 10 for deaths, Mexico is fifth with 328,320 including 14 Sunday, Peru sixth with 214,637 and 85 Sunday, Britain seventh with 183,052 with no data on weekends, Italy eighth with 173,136 including 74 Sunday, Indonesia ninth with 157,095 including 13 Sunday and France 10th with 152,537 with no change Sunday.

In the top 10 for cases, France is third with 34,074,568 including 21,528 Sundayt, Germany is fifth with 31,228,314, Britain sixth with 23,368,899, Italy seventh with 21,2313,427 including 26,656 Sunday, South Korea eighth with 20,489,128 including 105,507 Sunday, Russia ninth with 18,692,396 including 19,974 Sunday, Turkey 10th with 16,295,817.

Korea's 110,610 cases Saturday were the first time the nation reported more than six digits since 107,882 April 16.

In all, more than 12.4 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, a gain of 100 million, with the world's population of 7.9 billion, according to Bloomberg tracking. Mainland China leads with 3.4 billion doses administered and a 92.4% one-shot vaccination rate among the 1.5 billion population, the most in the world. India is second with 2 billion among the 1.4 billion population and a 74.1% rate.

Broken down by world regions, Asia-Pacific, Latin American and U.S.-Canada have administered at least one dose to 80% of the population, with Europe at 69%, Middle East 57% and Africa at 26%, according to The New York Times tracking. The percentages didn't change from the past two weeks.

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Japan is in the midst of a seventh wave as the government plans to roll out a new type of COVID-19 vaccine considered effective for the Omicron variant as early as October, Kyoda News reported, according to sources. The new vaccine is under development by U.S. pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna.

It will be first available to the elderly and those with preexisting conditions.

In the northeastern city Sendai, an annual star festival known for its hanging decorations in shopping areas, began Saturday with the largest crowds since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

The Sendai Tanabata Festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021. But this year around 2 million attendees are expected during the three-day event.

"I'm pleased to see a bustling atmosphere returning after the mood of self-restraint lasted a long time," said Kikuo Shimura, a 70-year-old man visiting from Tsuru in Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan, told Kyodo News.

Unlike previous waves, the government has not imposed restrictions on businesses or people.

In the first peak, cases hit 26,184 on Aug. 22, amid the Delta surge and two weeks after the close of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, which were delayed one year because of the pandemic. The cases record until the surge was 105,816 on Feb. 6.

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But hospitalizations are high.

Through July 27, 15 prefectures had occupancy rates for hospital beds set for COVID patients above 50%, with the highest rate recorded at 71% in Kanagawa.

"Medical workers are human beings, just like everyone else," Fumie Sakamoto, a nurse and infection control manager of the quality improvement center at St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo, told The Japan Times. "Since the arrival of BA.5, we have seen an inevitable rise in the number of medical workers who are testing positive or who are suspected of being infected even if they test negative."

Despite the rising numbers, Japan has low cases and deaths rates.

Japan has 267 deaths per million, which is 148th in the nation with the world at 825.7 and Peru No. 1 at 6,323.

In cases, roughly 10% of the population has been infected with 111,803 per million in 112th place with the world 75,586 and Portugal the highest among large countries at 528,847. Japan's population is 125 million.

The BA.5 Omicron strain has become the most dominant in the world, accounting for 85.5% of cases in the United States, according to the CDC data through July 30. The strain was first tracked in late April. Virtually all of the cases are linked to the Omicron variant.

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The CDC has classified 41.7% of countries, districts and territories with a "high" category level, compared with 45.8% last week, with 38.9% "medium" and 19.4% "low." In "high" locations, masks are urged indoors.

New hospitalizations in the U.S. from July 27 to Tuesday were 6,112, which is a 4.4% weekly gain. A total of 5,078,893 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since its inception.

Although a vaccine more targeted for Omicron is not due out until the fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the nation's top infectious diseases expert, urged people to stay up-to-date on vaccines, including two boosters for those 50 and older, because they help protect people from several complications.

"If they don't get vaccinated or they don't get boosted, they're going to get into trouble," Fauci told Los Angeles radio station KNX News last week. "It is about you as an individual, but it's also about the communal responsibility to get this outbreak under control."

CDC data show that 67.2% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated but only 48.2% has received the first booster shot. Only 32% of people 50 and older have received the second booster.

"You don't want COVID to dominate the lives of people in this country or throughout the world, but you don't want to, by wishing it's behind us and it's in the rearview mirror, not do things that would be prudent," Fauci said.

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COVID-19 treatments, including Paxlovid, are predicted to be effective to mitigate the illness. It is free in the United States.

China, where COVID-19 emerged more than 2 1/2 years ago, has reported 5,226 deaths. Before a spike in April, it was 4,636, which stayed at that number since early February 2021.

On Sunday, China reported 390 cases with 5,659 on April 29. Those are confirmed cases with illness. Asymptomatic ones are reported separately in Mainland China.

Shanghai, which was locked down because of the recent outbreak, has been trending down with no local new confirmed or asymptomatic cases Sunday. There were 11 imported infections Sunday.

But there is a lockdown in the resort city of Sanya on China's tropical Hainan. Around 80,000 tourists are stranded in the city since 6 p.m. Saturday.

The entire city of one million was considered under "static management," which means the deployment of lockdown measures. Sanya recorded 827 cases between Aug. 1 and midnight Saturday.

On Saturday, there were 240 confirmed and 173 asymptomatic ones.

Hainan's provincial authorities on Saturday announced province-wide nucleic acid testing for its population of 10 million.

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