A record 9.5 million new COVID-19 cases were reported around the world during the week December 27-January 2, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday, with its chief warning that the “tsunami of cases” caused by the new Omicron variant was overwhelming health systems around the world.
You can track coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates at the national and State levels here. A list of State Helpline numbers is available as well.
Here are the updates:
Delhi may see 17k Covid cases with positivity rate of nearly 17% on Friday: Satyendar Jain
Delhi is expected to add 17,000 cases to its coronavirus infection tally with a positivity rate of around 17% on Friday, Health Minister Satyendar Jain said.
He said Delhi is the first to witness a surge in infections because most of the international flights come to the capital.
“That is the reason we have implemented stricter measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 as compared to other states. Some people may say that this is not needed but it is better than repenting later,” Mr. Jain told reporters.
Sri Lanka vaccinates children as doctors warn of COVID surge
Sri Lankan health authorities on Friday began vaccinating children aged 12 to 15, as the island nation’s top medical specialists warned of a wave of COVID-19 infections in the coming weeks driven by the omicron variant.
Under the new vaccination program, children will be given a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine, said the health ministry. Earlier, children above 15 could be vaccinated.
The latest effort begins as schools are set to fully reopen from Monday. Children were previously allowed to attend schools in two groups.
The move also comes as authorities take steps to make vaccination certificates compulsory to enter public places. – AP
Centre tells Delhi, adjoining districts to ramp up health facilities
Amid a surge in Covid cases, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has asked Delhi and neighbouring districts to immediately strengthen health infrastructure, maintain buffer stocks of essential drugs and ensure that oxygen supply equipment is fully functional.
At a meeting convened to review the COVID-19 situation in the national capital and adjoining districts on Thursday, Bhalla also favoured ramping up of testing in all districts of Delhi-NCR where the number of tests is low.
The home secretary stressed that the health infrastructure in all districts of Delhi-NCR should be immediately strengthened to be able to deal with any enhanced requirement, an official statement said. – PTI
Milder Omicron an “evolutionary mistake”; next variant could be more virulent: warns Indian-origin U.K. expert
The reduced severity of Omicron is good news for now, but it is the result of an “evolutionary mistake” as COVID-19 is transmitting very efficiently and there is no reason for it to become milder, indicating that the next variant could be more virulent, a leading Indian-origin scientist from the University of Cambridge has warned.
Ravindra Gupta, Professor of Clinical Microbiology at the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases (CITIID), led a recent study on the Omicron variant and was among the first globally to describe the modified fusion mechanism of cells at play which might make Omicron more visible to the body’s immune defences.
While the study showed that the new variant, dominant in the UK and now sweeping parts of India, is infecting the cells found in the lungs less, the virus itself is not intending to become milder. – PTI
Swara Bhasker tests positive for COVID-19, under home quarantine
Actor Swara Bhasker on Friday said she has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and is under home quarantine.
In a Twitter post, the 33-year-old actor shared that she and her family members developed symptoms for COVID-19 since January 5 and had isolated themselves.
“Hello Covid! Just got my RT-PCR test resulted and have tested positive. Been isolating and in quarantine. Symptoms include fever, a splitting headache and loss of taste. Double vaccinated so hope this passes soon. So grateful for family & to be at home. Stay safe everyone,” Bhasker said. In an accompanying statement, the actor urged everyone who came in contact with her to get themselves tested.
“I’m taking all necessary precautions. I’ve informed everyone I met in the week prior about my having Covid; but if anyone else did come into contact with me please get yourself tested. Double mask up and stay safe you all,” Bhasker added. – PTI
James Corden tests positive for COVID-19, ‘The Late Late Show’ pauses production
Actor-comedian James Corden has revealed that he has tested positive for a case of breakthrough coronavirus.
In a post on Instagram on Thursday, the 43-year-old actor said his CBS talk show “The Late Late Show” will be going “off the air for the next few days”.
“I just tested positive for COVID 19. I’m fully vaccinated, boosted, and because of this, am fortunate enough to say I feel completely fine,” Corden wrote in the post.
According to Deadline, “The Late Late Show” will air repeats this week and next before returning with new episodes. – PTI
Despite mounting cases, no plan to impose lockdown: Maharashtra
Despite rising COVID-19 cases in Mumbai, the Maharashtra government is not planning to halt the suburban train travel, which is used by lakhs of passengers daily to commute to Mumbai from suburbs and neighbouring areas such as Thane, Navi Mumbai, Raigad and Palghar. The government has however hinted at tightening restrictions.
The State government clarified that it has no plans of bringing restrictions on inter-district travel, neither it plans to impose a lockdown. It also ordered work from home for police personnel above 55 years. Deans of medical colleges have been asked to hire contractual doctors if medical professionals get infected with the virus, to ensure that services are not hampered.
Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Thursday held a meeting with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar which was also attended by Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil.
Contact tracing teams reactivated in Bengaluru
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has decided to reactivate quarantine watch and contact tracing teams. These teams were deactivated last year, after the cases started to decline.
As a direct consequence of the increase in number of cases, the number of containment zones has also increased. In just six days, the number of containment zones has increased from 110 on January 1 to 182 on January 5.
According to the daily BBMP’s COVID-19 War Room reports, there were 221 containment zones on Thursday.
Gehlot tests positive for second time
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, the second time he has contracted the virus. He had earlier tested positive on April 29, 2021.
Mr. Gehlot said his symptoms were “very light” and he was not having any difficulty.
In a tweet, Mr. Gehlot, 70, requested all of those who came into contact with him during the day to isolate themselves and undergo COVID-19 test. His son Vaibhav Gehlot, who is Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) president, also tested positive on Wednesday.
Odd-even formula ineffective in reducing crowds: traders
Expressing discontent over the ongoing odd-even formula imposed in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the city, market and trader associations said the measure is not effective in minimising crowds, and the upcoming weekend curfew will hamper their financial situation.
Atul Bhargava, president, New Delhi Traders’ Association, said the Delhi government should have consulted them prior to “implementing the restrictions effectively”.
“Each shop will end up operating only for 10 days in a month. The crowd management is for the authorities to take care of, but there are more people gathering around a limited number of shops because of the odd-even regulation. There has been no assistance from the civic bodies,” said Mr. Bhargava.
Hospital occupancy rises, 91% beds still vacant in Delhi
With the surge in COVID-19 cases in the Capital, the occupancy of hospital beds has also increased but 91.3% of the total 12,580 beds reserved for COVID patients are vacant as of Thursday, according to a health bulletin released by the Delhi government.
Delhi on Thursday reported 15,097 new cases over 24 hours, which is a jump of 41.5% in a day, said the bulletin. This is the highest number of new cases in more than seven months. The test positive rate increased to 15.34%, which is also the highest in seven months.
Six new COVID-related deaths were reported over 24 hours, taking the toll to 25,127. The number of active cases went up to 31,498 from 23,307 cases a day earlier.
Banks’ asset quality at risk from COVID-19 third wave, says ICRA
The asset quality of Indian lenders, especially the restructured loan book, is at risk from a potential third wave of COVID-19, ICRA Ratings said in a report.
“With the increased spread of the new variant Omicron, there is a high possibility of the occurrence of a third wave,” said Anil Gupta, Vice President, Financial Sector Ratings, ICRA Ratings. “As banks restructured most of these loans with a moratorium of up to 12 months, this book is likely to start exiting the moratorium from Q4 FY2022 and Q1 FY2023,” he noted.
“Therefore, a third wave poses high risk to the performance of the borrowers that were impacted by the previous waves and hence poses a risk to the improving trend of asset quality, profitability, and solvency,” he said.
India reports 1.16 lakh new COVID-19 cases on January 6, 2022
India reported 1,16,836 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the highest in over 200 days, taking India’s caseload to 3,52,25,699, according to data released by the health bulletins of States and Union Territories. This is the first time in seven months that daily cases have crossed the one lakh mark in the country. Previously, 1,01,209 new cases were registered on June 6, 2021.
On Thursday, Maharashtra reported 36,265 new infections, followed by West Bengal (15,421) and Delhi (15,097). The figures do not include cases from Tripura, Lakshadweep and Ladakh.
Until Thursday morning, the total number of infections detected of the new SARS CoV2 Omicron variant stood at 2,630, the biggest single-day jump of 495 Omicron cases, according to Union Health Ministry data.
ASI shuts centrally protected monuments in its Delhi, Patna, Kolkata and other circles
Due to the sudden rise in Covid cases, the Archeological Survey of India has decided to close all centrally protected monuments in its Delhi, Chennai, Trichy, Patna, Kolkata and Raiganj Circles from Thursday till coronavirus restrictions are lifted by the respective local administrations, officials said.
The Bengaluru, Hampi and Dharwad circles will remain closed only on weekends i.e. on January 8-9 and January 15-16. For the Kolkata and Raiganj circle, the closure is till January 15.
For the Chennai Circle, the monuments will be closed on January 9 only as of now due to a statewide curfew being announced by the state government. However, the state’s famous Mamallapuram and Tiger Headed Caves, Saluvankuppam under the Chennai Circle will remain shut from January 7 to January 9. – PTI
NRAI seeks PM’s intervention for uniform enforcement of COVID protocols, longer operating hours for restaurants
The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) on Thursday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention for uniform enforcement of COVID-19 protocols across all activities and making states permit longer operating hours for the industry, saying it is now facing a “challenge of mere survival”.
In a letter to the prime minister seeking immediate relief for the restaurant industry, NRAI also asked for suitable directions to be passed to states to consider hospitalisation data to determine the imposition of further restrictions and permit delivery of food from restaurants as part of essential services.
While stating that healthcare of people and preventing spread of the virus should be the top priority of the government, NRAI said, “In doing so, however, the restaurant industry seems to have been singled out to be on the receiving end of the most stringent restrictions as compared to all other sectors/activities.” After the second wave of the pandemic, the restaurant industry has continued to operate at 50 per cent capacity despite other activities like public transportation, metros, and airlines being permitted to operate at full capacity, it added. – PTI
Telugu star Mahesh Babu tests positive for COVID-19
Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu on Thursday announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19.
The actor took to social media to make the announcement and said he contracted COVID-19 with mild symptoms ‘despite taking all the necessary precautions.’ In a post, Mahesh Babu said he is under home quarantine and has been following proper medical guidance.
“Request all those who came in contact with me to get themselves tested. I urge everyone who has not taken their vaccination to do so immediately, as it reduces the risk of severe symptoms and hospitalisation. Please follow the COVID norms and stay safe. Can’t wait to be back,” Mahesh Babu’s post read. – PTI
WHO: Record weekly jump in COVID-19 cases but fewer deaths
The World Health Organization said January 6 that a record 9.5 million COVID-19 cases were tallied over the last week as the omicron variant of the coronavirus swept the planet, a 71% increase from the previous 7-day period that the U.N. health agency likened to a “tsunami.” However, the number of weekly recorded deaths declined.
“Last week, the highest number of COVID-19 cases were reported so far in the pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. He said the WHO was certain that was an underestimate because of a backlog in testing around the year-end holidays.
In its weekly report on the pandemic, the agency said the weekly count amounted to 9,520,488 new cases — with 41,178 deaths recorded last week compared to 44 680 in the week before that. – AP
196 healthcare workers at PGIMER, Chandigarh test COVID-19 positive over 10-day period
As many as 196 healthcare workers, including 87 doctors of PGIMER here, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus infection during the 10-day period from December 26 to January 4, the premier institute’s officials said on Thursday.
Nearly all of them have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine, they said, adding that they have mild symptoms and are in home isolation, while only one is hospitalised.
“From December 26 till January 4, 196 health workers have tested positive for Covid. These include 87 doctors,” an official said. – PTI
Chile to become first country in Latin America to offer fourth COVID shot
Chile will begin offering a fourth shot of the coronavirus vaccine next week to immuno-compromised citizens, the government said on January 7, the first country in Latin America and one of the first in the world to offer the extra dose.
“Starting next Monday, January 10, we are going to start a new mass vaccination process with a fourth dose or a second booster dose,” said Mr. Pinera in a press conference.
Chile has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates and has been hailed as a model for its response to the pandemic, having administered two doses to over 85% of the population. About 57% have received a third booster shot, according to Our World in Data. – Reuters
Spike in COVID-19 cases in Assam; CRPF camp in Dalgaon sealed
Assam reported 844 fresh COVID-19 infections on Thursday, a spike of more than 250 cases over the previous day, pushing the state’s overall caseload to 6,23,332, a National Health Mission (NHM) bulletin said.
The day’s fatalities caused by the virus decreased to two against four deaths on Wednesday.
The CRPF Cobra battalion camp at Dalgaon in Darrang district has been declared a containment zone following the detection of 65 COVID-19 cases on the campus since Monday, an official report said. – PTI
Cruise liner Hurtigruten cuts short Antarctic voyage after COVID outbreak
Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten will cut short a voyage in the Antarctica region following an outbreak of coronavirus, the company said on January 6.
Ten people on board the MS Roald Amundsen cruise vessel had tested positive for COVID-19, and the ship will return to port in Chile two days ahead of schedule, a spokesperson for Hurtigruten said.
The ship, carrying some 362 passengers and crew, had set out for an 18-day cruise from Punta Arenas in southern Chile and will now return to the same port. – Reuters
Nigeria is working on COVID-19 vaccine, President says
Nigeria is working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a televised interview on January 6, as the country battles growing cases of the virus.
Health experts say Nigeria needs to triple its vaccination drive from just over 100,000 doses a day to meet its target of inoculating more than half its population by the end of next year.
The West African country has been exploring options to acquire or purchase vaccines through the COVAX facility to enable it to inoculate at least 70% of its population. – Reuters
J&J says its single dose protects against breakthrough COVID-19 for up to 6 months
Johnson & Johnson said on January 6 that a real-world study showed its single shot COVID-19 vaccine protects against breakthrough infections and hospitalizations for up to six months.
The study, sponsored by the vaccine developer, was conducted between January 1 and September 7 last year, before the Omicron variant was discovered. It is also yet to be peer-reviewed.
J&J said protection against infection from its single dose vaccine starts to wane only from the fourth month compared to the second month in the case of two-dose vaccines from rivals Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s as well as Moderna. – Reuters
Study offers reassurance on COVID shots, women’s periods
Research published January 5 tracked nearly 4,000 U.S. women through six menstrual cycles and on average, the next period after a shot started about a day later than usual. But there was no change in the number of days of menstrual bleeding after COVID-19 vaccination.
“This is incredibly reassuring,” said Dr. Alison Edelman of Oregon Health & Science University, who led the research and said it’s important to tell women what to expect.
Some women have reported irregular periods or other menstrual changes after their shots. The National Institutes of Health is funding studies to examine if there’s any link. – AP
Japan government panel requests 3 prefectures enact measures to curb COVID surge
A Japanese government panel put forward a request on Friday to declare quasi-emergency measures in three regions to stem a COVID-19 surge that some officials have linked to U.S. military bases in the country.
If approved by the government, it would mark the first such measures since September, when Japan lifted emergency controls that had prevailed over the country for most of last year.
The measures, affecting the southern prefecture of Okinawa and the western prefectures of Hiroshima and Yamaguchi, would last from Jan. 9 until the end of the month, Economy Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa told reporters. – Reuters
Chicago public schools cancel classes again amidst teacher walkout
Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest U.S. education district, canceled classes for a second day on Thursday amid a walkout by teachers demanding tougher COVID-19 protection measures, although city officials insisted schools are safe.
The stalemate, idling some 340,000 students, came after the teachers’ union voted to reinstate virtual instruction and pushed for more rigorous safety protocols, including wider testing, citing the rapid spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant in recent weeks.
The Chicago Teachers Union urged its 27,000 members to stay out of the classroom and work remotely through Jan. 18, unless the coronavirus surge subsides or the union and district come to terms on new in-person learning protocols before then. – Reuters