The omicron variant is starting to loosen its grip on the U.S. Northeast, but experts warn that it will take more time for the latest wave of Covid-19 to recede nationwide. Deaths in the U.S. rose to almost 14,300 in the week through Friday, the most since September, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told junior lawmakers in his party that he is considering relaxing mandatory vaccination rules for health service staff, according to The Times newspaper. Infections in Russia hit a daily record.
Daily cases in Tokyo broke above 10,000 for the first time Saturday.
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L.A. Schools Prohibit Cloth Masks (5:55 p.m. NY)
Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will no longer be allowed to wear cloth masks, the district announced on Saturday.
The new rule requires “well-fitted, non-cloth masks with a nose wire.” The masks must be worn “at all times, indoor and outdoors.” The higher-grade masks will be given to students who request them.
U.S. health officials have urged people to wear more-protective masks, particularly as the highly-transmissible omicron variant has spread. Cloth provides less protection than respirators or surgical-grade masks, they say.
Omicron Spreads to Rural Alabama (3:07 p.m. NY)
New infections are climbing steeply in rural Alabama, even though the omicron surge appears to have leveled off in urban areas like Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery, al.com reported.
Alabama is the second-least vaccinated state in the U.S., with less than 48% of people fully vaccinated, compared with the U.S. average of almost 63%. Hardest hit in the omicron wave are counties with the lowest vaccination rates, al.com reported. The state hit a record on Thursday of 46% of tests positive for Covid-19.
France Cases Slow Ahead of Vaccine Pass (2:09 p.m. NY)
French daily infections fell below 400,000 as the country braces for the implementation of a vaccine pass on Monday.
The country recorded 389,320 new Covid-19 infections on Saturday, according to data from the country’s public health office. That’s 16% less than the 464,769 cases reported on Tuesday.
The French government is set to relax some health restrictions, betting the current wave of infections is peaking. The implementation of the vaccine pass will effectively shut people out of most social activities if they’re unvaccinated.
India Extends Campaign Restrictions (12:41 p.m. NY)
Restrictions on election campaigns across five poll-bound Indian states will stay in place till the end of this month as daily infections have crossed the 300,000 mark, the federal election commission said.
No road show, rallies and procession shall be allowed till Jan. 31, according to a statement issued by the commission on Saturday. The commission has also raised the limit on door-to-door campaign to 10 people from 5, excluding security personnel.
U.S. Omicron Surge Eases (10:38 a.m. NY)
The omicron variant is starting to loosen its grip on the U.S. Northeast, but experts warn that it will take more time for the latest wave of Covid-19 to recede nationwide.
The strain’s fast surge and swift descent in one of the most populous parts of the U.S. echoes its trajectory in areas of Europe and South Africa, where infections skyrocketed only to come back down nearly as quickly. That’s raised hopes that while omicron has at times seemed like a replay of the worst days of the early pandemic, it will soon ebb.
However, the shape of the omicron wave may look different in various parts of the U.S., depending on vaccination rates and hospital capacity. Nationally, the omicron wave could peak as early as this week, according to projections from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. rose to almost 14,300 in the week through Friday, the most since September, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. That compares with record weekly death of more than 20,000 last January and early February.
Fewer German Covid Patients in ICU (7:05 a.m. NY)
Germany reported 2,398 Covid-19 patients in ICU, 20 fewer than the day before. The number of patients on ventilators was 1,422, 26 fewer than the previous day. A further 44 Covid-19 patients died while in ICU.
U.K. Weighs Scrapping NHS Staff Vaccine Mandate (6:38 p.m. HK)
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told junior lawmakers in his party that he is considering relaxing mandatory vaccination rules for health service staff, according to The Times newspaper.
Johnson told skeptical backbenchers that “we’ve got to do something” about a policy that could see the health service losing tens of thousands of staff within weeks, the newspaper reported.
Swiss Review Covid Measures Weekly (5:37 p.m. HK)
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset told newspaper Schweiz am Wochenende that he’s reviewing Covid measures weekly. If developments are positive, the government can reduce the work-from-home “obligation” to a “recommendation” in the next few weeks and lift the quarantine, Berset said. The days of the proof of vaccination certificate “also seem to be drawing to a close,” he said.
Russia Cases Hit Daily Record (5:10 p.m. HK)
Russia reported 57,212 new cases in the past day, the highest number during the pandemic, according to the government’s reporting center. Russia reported 681 deaths from Covid-19 in the past day.
Tokyo Daily Cases Break Above 10,000 (5:03 p.m. HK)
Tokyo reported a record number of daily Covid cases Saturday, eclipsing 10,000 infections for the first time as the highly contagious omicron variant begins to spread throughout Japan. The capital reported 11,227 new cases for the day, bringing its 7-day case average to 7,145.
Tokyo and 12 other prefectures are currently under a state of quasi-emergency, a decision that allows local governments to request limits on gatherings and hospitality operations.
Though serious cases remain low, at 12, Tokyo’s Covid bed occupancy rate has been creeping up, reaching 34.3% on Saturday. An occupancy rate of around 50% could prompt the city to return to a full state of emergency for the first time in more than three months.
Czech Republic Cases Double in a Week (3:07 p.m. HK)
The Czech Republic reported 26,597 new coronavirus cases, a doubling from a week earlier. The country had a record 28,469 Covid-19 infections on Tuesday and the numbers have been near that all week. The nation of 10.7 million had 1,566 patients hospitalized with Covid-19, according to health ministry data.
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