The number of new people getting the Covid-19 vaccine is at one of the lowest points since the rollout began, according to a review of the latest U.S. government data, even as average daily infections approach 800,000.
Beijing reported the city’s first case of the omicron variant just three weeks before the start of the Winter Olympics. The strain was also found in Shanghai.
The head of the U.K.’s Labour Party stepped up pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign amid revelations that government officials held social gatherings during lockdown.
- Virus Tracker: Cases pass 325.4 million; deaths pass 5.5 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 9.67 billion shots administered
- From pandemic to endemic: Can 2022 succeed where 2021 failed?
- U.S. parents and retirees teach class as omicron sidelines faculty
- Omicron surge gives bosses reason to order shots Biden now can’t
- Should I be wearing an N95 mask? The evolving advice: QuickTake
England Lowers Booster Age to 16 (8 a.m. HK)
England will lower the age threshold for booster shots to 16 from tomorrow. The change will mean that around 40,000 teenagers in England will now be eligible for the shot. Previously, only those over 18 could get the third shot. More than four in five adults in England have received the booster, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement announcing the change.
Restaurant Says N.Y. Senator Didn’t Wear Mask (5:28 p.m. NY)
A restaurant in upstate New York said that U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand ignored state regulations and walked in without a mask.
“My Senator blowing past my manager before she can even ask her to put a mask on. Walking right past a really big sign that says ‘masks required to enter,’” the restaurant, Innovo Kitchen, in Latham, posted on Instagram, which included a video of a maskless woman it said was the Democratic senator.
“I guess Senator Gillibrand thinks that the Governor is wrong or she is special and above the rules,” the post said.
Gillibrand issued a statement saying, “I will do better going forward,” the Albany Times Union reported.
New Virginia Governor Cuts Covid Restrictions (4:54 p.m. NY)
Glenn Youngkin, sworn in Saturday as Virginia’s governor, issued executive orders rolling back Covid-19 regulations.
The Republican governor signed 11 executive orders outlining priorities for his new administration, including rescinding the vaccine mandate for all state employees and allowing parents to decide whether a child wears a mask in school, WTOP news reported.
Outbreaks Hit Louisiana Nursing Homes (2:05 p.m. NY)
Louisiana nursing homes are battling outbreaks -- almost 1,000 infections among residents and more than 2,700 among staff in the last two weeks, the Times-Picayune reported. The level is six times higher than at the end of December, the newspaper said.
The outbreak is worsening the state’s shortage of nursing staff. Deaths at nursing homes are rising slightly, at a far slower pace than infections.
France Deactivates Vaccine Passes (1:56 p.m. NY)
France has begun deactivating vaccine passes for people who failed to get booster shots, Le Parisien reported. The deadline for receiving a booster shot varies by vaccine.
Meantime, protests erupted again in Paris and other cities against the vaccine passes, required for restaurants, museums and some transportation. French President Emmanuel Macron, who faces re-election in April, has taken an aggressive stance against the unvaccinated, saying in a recent interview he wants to “p--- off” people who don’t get their shots.
France reported 324,580 new cases in the last 24 hours, slightly lower than the record numbers reached earlier in the week.
U.K. Cases Slow (1:28 p.m. NY)
Daily cases in the U.K. fell to 81,713, the lowest since Dec. 15, adding to evidence that the surge in infections driven by the omicron variant may have peaked.
Daily cases reached a high of more than 218,000 on Jan. 4 as omicron infections raged after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Daily hospitalizations have yet to ease, reaching 2,423 in the Saturday report and have held above 2,000 everyday but one in January.
Another 287 people died from Covid, up from 270 reported Friday. The drop in infections may lead the government to ease existing Covid restrictions when it reviews current measures on Jan. 26.
More Protests in Vienna Over Vaccine Mandate (10:55 a.m. NY)
Austria’s capital saw another large protest Saturday against the government’s plans to start a mandatory vaccine program as soon as February. The marches have been a regular event since November.
Several thousand people took to the streets of Vienna to decry the mandate and other measures Austria has taken to marginalize the unvaccinated, including denying them entry to restaurants, many stores and cultural events. Anti-vaccine protesters also staged a drive-by rally near the Austrian Parliament on Friday night, disrupting traffic.
Austria tightened some Covid restrictions in the past week as the omicron variant pushed daily cases to record levels. Hospitalizations and deaths have fallen sharply, though, since the a national lockdown that ended before Christmas.
Labour Head Calls for Johnson’s Resignation (10:30 a.m. NY)
The leader of the U.K. Labour Party, Keir Starmer, stepped up pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign after a series of revelations that government officials had numerous social gatherings during the height of U.K. lockdowns.
In a speech Saturday, Starmer called on Conservative lawmakers to oust Johnson, saying it was in the national interest for the party to “get rid of him.” “We are witnessing every day the broken spectacle of a prime minister mired in deceit and deception and unable to lead,” he said.
The speech came hours after the Daily Mirror reported that the Downing Street gatherings were regular Friday events during lockdown, and that the prime minister would often stop by for a chat on the way to his private quarters in the building. Staff purchased a wine fridge to keep stocked for the happy hours, the newspaper said.
Risk Rises With Hospital Overcrowding (10:16 a.m. NY)
The crowding wrought by omicron has made going to the hospital more dangerous and likely to be more deadly.
The variant is so contagious that it is deluging hospitals with patients at a moment of severe staff shortages. That combination risks eroding the advantages of omicron’s oft-touted milder symptoms compared to previous versions of Covid.
“Overcrowding kills,” said Sameer Kadri, an intensive-care physician at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.
U.S. Vaccine Push Weakens (10:03 a.m. NY)
The number of new people getting the Covid-19 vaccine is at one of the lowest points since the rollout began, according to a review of the latest U.S. government data.
While millions of doses are being administered each week, the majority of those are now booster shots for people who have already gotten their first round of injections. Vaccination rates are high in many major cities, but remain low in other parts of the country—with little sign of increase. And the Biden administration’s most potent tool to push vaccinations has been wiped out by the Supreme Court.
Significant errors in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination data mean that any analysis is likely inexact. But the broad trend points to a decline in new vaccinations and a large share of people not fully vaccinated in vast parts of the country.
Beijing Reports Omicron Case as Olympics Near (7:46 a.m. NY)
Beijing reported the city’s first case of the omicron variant, adding pressure on authorities less than three weeks before the Winter Olympics begin.
Omicron cases were confirmed earlier in Shanghai and in Guangdong province.
German Minister Rejects New Financial Support (5:32 a.m. NY)
Germany Finance Minister Christian Lindner is against offering new financial aid for Covid-19 measures, Welt am Sonntag reports.
“We got used to high state payments during the pandemic. This phase must end,” he told the paper in an interview. Lindner also said he’s against paying a paying a vaccination “bonus” to people still reticent about getting the shot.
Germany reported a record seven-day incidence rate of 497 per 100,000 on the 24 hours into Saturday, according to the country’s public health authority, RKI.
U.K. Government Set to Drop England’s ‘Plan B’ (5 a.m. NY)
The U.K. government is set to lift some virus restrictions in England from Jan. 26, the Telegraph reports. The move, which could be announced this week, may include ending Covid passports and guidance on working from home, the paper said, without giving specifics. Some rules regarding the use of face masks will probably stay in place.
Uganda Destroys Expired Virus Shots (4:43 p.m. HK)
Uganda will destroy more than 400,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines after they expired following low uptake in the country’s northern region, the Saturday Monitor newspaper reported.
The vaccines were mainly made by Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc, the Kampala-based newspaper reported, citing Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng.
Dogs Can Detect Long Covid in Humans (1:26 p.m. HK)
Dogs are able to detect infection in some long Covid patients, which suggests that a simple and non-invasive test may be possible to detect the presence of the virus, according to a study from France.
The study showed that dogs can detect volatile organic compounds up to one-and-a-half years after the initial phase of Covid-19, the researchers said in the preprint posted on medRxiv.org. The study hasn’t been peer reviewed.
Australia Says Djokovic Poses a Public Risk (7:42 a.m. HK)
Tennis star Novak Djokovic’s entry permit to Australia was canceled because his presence risks strengthening anti-vaccination sentiment and creating a public order risk, according to court documents.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke barred the world men’s No. 1 tennis player despite saying Djokovic had entered with a valid medical exemption from being vaccinated and presents a negligible health risk himself.
His ongoing presence “may lead to an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment generated in the Australian community, potentially leading to an increase in civil unrest,” Hawke said in the filing.
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