N.Y. Hits Record Cases; U.S. Infections Double: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- New York reported a record 90,132 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday as the state passed 4 million total infections since the start of the pandemic. U.S. daily infections almost doubled over the last week, with hospitalizations rising rapidly and fatalities trending upward.
From Boris Johnson to Emmanuel Macron, Europe’s leaders are increasingly going after anti-vaxxers as the battle against omicron deepens the region’s pandemic fatigue. A strain of Covid-19 that combines delta and omicron was found in Cyprus, according to a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus.
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- Hong Kong is at a Covid-19 tipping point
- NYC return plans on hold as Schwarzman cancels birthday bash
- Here’s a roundup of what’s been delayed in Hollywood
N.Y. Breaks Record; Cases Pass 4 Million (4:06 p.m. NY)
New York reported a record 90,132 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday as the state passed 4 million total infections since the start of the pandemic.
Another 154 people died, one of the highest daily figures in almost a year. Hospitalizations continued to increase to 11,843 and the state’s health-care system remains significantly strained.
New York is the fourth state to surpass 4 million infections, after California, Texas and Florida, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.
U.K. May Restrict Free Lateral Flow Tests: Times (4 p.m. NY)
The U.K. government plans to restrict free lateral flow tests to high-risk settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools, and to people with symptoms, the Times reported, citing an unidentified Whitehall source.
The move, which Boris Johnson is set to announce within weeks, is part of the government’s plan to get the population used to living with Covid-19.
In a tweet, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the approach “utterly wrongheaded.”
France Protests Oppose Curbs on Unvaccinated (3:38 p.m. NY)
Protests in France against President Emmanuel Macron’s restrictions on unvaccinated people drew 105,200 people on Saturday, according to interior ministry figures cited by Agence France Presse. The turnout marked an almost fourfold increase from the last day of marches in December.
Demonstrators brandished placards slamming the government’s health pass and vaccination policy. Ten people were arrested at the Paris protests and a further 24 in the rest of the country, the AFP reported.
French health authorities on Saturday reported more than 300,000 cases for the third day in the last week. Another 142 deaths were recorded.
Traffic Snarls in Delaware for Free Home Tests (1:52 p.m. NY)
New Castle County in Delaware announced a plan to distribute 6,500 at-home tests on Saturday morning -- and cars began lining up four hours early, the News Journal reported. County police were called in to direct backed-up traffic.
“This is an extremely challenging time for us,” County Executive Matt Meyer was quoted as saying, as cases soar in Delaware, with hospitalizations hitting a pandemic record on Thursday. “We want to make sure we’re all working together moving in the right direction.”
Snow Leopard Dies in Illinois Zoo (12:11 p.m. NY)
An 11-year-old snow leopard died “after struggling with Covid-19-induced pneumonia,” Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington, Illinois, said on Instagram. Since Rilu arrived at the zoo in 2011, she produced seven living offspring, the zoo said in a post on Thursday.
In November, three snow leopards, considered vulnerable and in danger of extinction, died at Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska. Animals in zoos around world have contracted the virus, spurring vaccination campaigns.
Italy Limits Fans for Soccer Matches (11:48 a.m. NY)
Serie A League decided to limit to 5,000 viewers the capacity in Italian football stadiums on Jan. 16 and 23 in order to contain the spread of the virus. Italy’s government had already cut capacity for open-air sports events from 75% to 50% at the end of 2021, with many top football clubs like Inter Milan and Juventus suspending ticket sales for upcoming matches.
Cyprus Finds Cases With Delta and Omicron (11:11 a.m. NY)
A strain of Covid-19 that combines delta and omicron was found in Cyprus, according to Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology.
“There are currently omicron and delta co-infections and we found this strain that is a combination of these two,” Kostrikis said in an interview with Sigma TV Friday. The discovery was named “deltacron” due to the identification of omicron-like genetic signatures within the delta genomes, he said. Kostrikis and his team have identified 25 such cases.
U.S. Cases Almost Double in a Week (10:53 a.m. NY)
U.S. daily infections almost doubled over the last week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Average daily cases reached a record of more than 663,000 on Friday, compared with about 385,500 a week earlier, with hospitalizations rising rapidly and fatalities trending upward.
Covid Test Makers Hit by Omicron (10:51 a.m. NY)
As the omicron variant sends U.S. Covid case numbers soaring to records and drugstores and walk-in clinics clamor for test kits, suppliers have been struggling with their own mounting problems: Infected workers, delayed government authorizations for new tests and the pressure of panic buying and hoarding have left these companies scrambling.
Vault Health, a telehealth company that now sells tests, has found itself shuffling test samples across the country, as sick lab workers who usually processes its at-home PCR test stay home. In New Jersey, one of the labs Vault regularly contracts with had more than 40% of its workforce out with Covid recently, said Jason Feldman, the company’s chief executive officer.
Vienna Protesters March Against Mandates (10:42 a.m. NY)
Thousands marched in central Vienna on Saturday to protest against virus restrictions and an upcoming vaccine mandate. The mostly maskless crowd carried banners with slogans that included, “Your needle breaks on us” and “Have the courage to use your own judgment.” The protest was met by Viennese police in riot gear though the confrontation, while noisy, was mostly peaceful. Police said “dangerous objects” were found on some demonstrators.
The rally marked a post-holiday resumption of protests that started in late November after the Austrian government announced a three-week national lockdown. The shutdown helped knock Austria’s daily virus cases down by about 80%, but levels are climbing again as the omicron variant spreads. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said Friday he had tested positive.
Mumbai’s State Tightens Restrictions (10:27 a.m. NY)
Maharashtra, the Indian state that houses financial hub Mumbai, will limit attendance at private sector offices at 50% of capacity and allow only fully vaccinated people from Monday. “Non-vaccinated employees must be encouraged to go for full vaccination,” the government said in a statement late Saturday. Schools will remain shut through Feb. 15.
Mumbai reported more than 20,000 new infections in the past 24 hours, with hospital occupancy crossing 21% of capacity. The capital of Delhi also reported more than 20,000 cases over the same period, with test positivity approaching 20%.
India’s health ministry reported more than 100,000 new cases for a second consecutive day, with the daily surge starting to look similar to levels in June.
Logjam at New York Port (9:05 a.m. NY)
The Port of New York and New Jersey is working to clear a small but rare bottleneck of container ships anchored off the coast of Long Island. Hundreds of dockworkers are ill with Covid-19, or quarantining, while cargo volumes remain unusually high because of a pandemic-led surge in imports.
“We have seen a spike in the number of labor going out into quarantine,” Port Authority Director Sam Ruda said in an interview this week. The average wait at anchorage for container carriers was 4.75 days in the final week of 2021, compared with an average of 1.6 days for all of last year.
German Cases Rise as Restaurants Complain (8:03 a.m. NY)
Germany’s seven-day incidence rate climbed to about 336 per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest since Dec. 16. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told the newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the government is preparing for the possibility that another variant may emerge that is “as contagious as omicron, but significantly more deadly.” Germany needs a permanent infrastructure to vaccinate the population quickly, he said.
Separately, the country’s hotel and restaurant lobby said the government’s decision to limit dining access only to people with booster vaccinations or a fresh test is “a disaster” for many businesses. A survey among member firms showed that December sales were already 50% below levels in 2019.
South Africa’s ANC Seeks Vaccine Mandate (7:49 a.m. NY)
South Africa must finalize a policy on vaccine mandates for certain settings and activities as it seeks to fully reopen its virus-battered economy, the nation’s ruling party said.
“The success of our economic recovery depends to a large measure on our ability to effectively manage Covid-19, as this virus is likely to remain part of our lives for the foreseeable future,” President Cyril Ramaphosa, who heads the African National Congress, said at a rally on Saturday.
The government started offering Covid-19 booster shots in December, even with only about 45% of adults fully vaccinated.
Some Hong Kong Officials Avoid Quarantine (6:44 a.m. NY)
Some Hong Kong government officials who attended a large birthday party that emerged as a Covid-19 cluster may avoid the city’s spartan quarantine camp after a surprising turn of events in the scandal.
One of the two people who were at the party and tested positive for the virus was found to be a false positive, an infectious disease expert and a government health official said at a briefing on Saturday. This means about 80 of some 180 people who were at the event and in contact with the woman, an anchor for broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong, are not at risk of catching the virus, they said.
Tennis Star Djokovic Had Covid Already (6 a.m. NY)
The case of Australia versus Novak Djokovic took another turn as the tennis star battles against a visa cancellation days before he is due to compete. Lawyers for the world’s number one ranked player said in court documents that he had a valid vaccine exemption to enter Australia based on a positive Covid-19 test on Dec. 16.
The Serbian has been held by authorities since Jan. 5 when he landed in Melbourne, where he’s seeking a record 21st Grand Slam victory. He will remain in detention following a court decision to adjourn his appeal. The proceedings will resume Monday.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said on Friday Djokovic “is not being held captive” and is “free to leave at any time that he chooses to do so and Border Force will actually facilitate that.”
Vaccine Skeptics Slammed Across Europe (3:24 p.m. HK)
From Boris Johnson to Emmanuel Macron, Europe’s leaders are increasingly going after anti-vaxxers as the battle against the fast-spreading omicron variant deepens the region’s pandemic fatigue.
Amid a seemingly unstoppable surge in infections, officials are focusing restrictions on unvaccinated people rather than resorting to widespread clampdowns. The strong overall uptake in inoculations has emboldened leaders to go more aggressively after holdouts, prodding them to roll up their sleeves.
French President Macron took the rhetoric to a new level this week when he said his government’s strategy was to “p--- off” those who have refused shots. In the U.K., Johnson accused anti-vaxxers of spreading “nonsense.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who supports making shots compulsory, has labeled the anti-vax movement “a tiny minority of reckless extremists.”
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