Several European countries have reported record high COVID-19 cases, as the Omicron variant continues to surge across the continent.
France reported a record high of 179,807 new confirmed coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period on Tuesday, by far the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic. The previous record of 104,611 was set on Saturday
Britain reported a record 129,471 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours on Tuesday excluding Northern Ireland and Scotland. The previous record high of daily infections was 122,186 on December 24.
Portugal on Tuesday also reported record-high daily coronavirus cases on Tuesday, despite having one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, as did Cyprus, Italy, and Greece.
Meanwhile, Belgian theatres and other cultural venues won an initial legal victory on Tuesday to reopen after the government ordered their closure as part of coronavirus restrictions to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
Here are the latest updates:
US forfeit junior ice hockey championship game after two positives
The United States were forced to forfeit their preliminary game against Switzerland on Tuesday at the World Junior Championship after two of their players tested positive for COVID-19, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) said.
The two players were placed in quarantine and it was not immediately clear whether the US would be cleared to compete in their next preliminary game against Sweden on Wednesday.
“We’re extremely disappointed, especially for our players,” junior national team General Manager John Vanbiesbrouck said in a statement.
NYC to limit classroom closures, prioritise testing for schools
New York City officials have announced they will eliminate its current policy of quarantining entire classrooms exposed to the coronavirus and will instead prioritise a ramped-up testing program so that asymptomatic students testing negative for COVID-19 can remain in school.
The step shows health officials are increasing the focus on testing and trying to avoid long isolation periods.
A day earlier, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shortened the recommended isolation time for Americans with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to five days from the previous guidance of 10 days.
Greece reports record daily high of COVID-19 cases
Greece reported a new daily record of 21,657 coronavirus cases, more than twice the level on Monday.
“Omicron prevails, so we should be prepared and this should not cause panic,” Greek health minister Thanos Plevris told state TV ERT.
The country had reported 9,284 cases on Monday, when the government announced tighter curbs would be put in place from January 3 to January 16 to contain infections, targeting mainly night-time entertainment venues.
Italy reports record high daily infections
Italy’s Health Ministry reported more than 78,300 new cases of the coronavirus, more than double Monday’s figure and a new record for the country.
Some 200 people died from the virus in the same period.
South Africa recalls new isolation and quarantine rules
South Africa has recalled rules that no longer required people without symptoms of COVID-19 to isolate or test if they have been in contact with a positive case, the government announced, saying an amended circular will be re-issued.
Last week the health ministry said that asymptomatic individuals who had been in contact with a case of COVID-19 no longer had to isolate but should monitor for symptoms for 5-7 days and avoid attending large gatherings.
It had added that only those people who developed symptoms needed to get tested and that those with mild symptoms should isolate for eight days and severe cases for 10 days.
Turkey reports more than 30,000 daily infections
The number of daily COVID-19 infections in Turkey topped the 30,000 mark for the first time since mid-October, as the highly contagious omicron variant begins take hold.
The country reported 32,176 new cases and 184 deaths on Tuesday. A day earlier, the daily infections had jumped to around 26,000, after hovering around 20,000 for weeks.
More than 60 percent of South America vaccinated: report
Some 63 percent of the population of South America is now fully inoculated, making it the most vaccinated region in the world, according to Our World in Data website.
“It has been remarkable story for a region like South America that has been one of the most effected in the world during this pandemic, especially throughout 2020 and in the beginning of 2021.
“If you think about it, South America has only 8 percent of the world’s population. By by mid 2021, It accounted for more than a third Coronavirus related deaths globally. Just gives you an idea of just how bad the situation has been here,” Al Jazeera’s correspondent Alessandro Rampietti reported from Bogota, Colombia.
“Now … it is the region in the world with the highest number for vaccinated people. Why is that only also because a lot of people here have probably had less resistance towards being vaccinated in general, South Americans are more obedient to it,” he added.
Cyprus confirms record high COVID cases
Cyprus on Tuesday recorded a single-day record high of COVID-19 infections since the virus was first identified on the island in March 2020.
The island reported 2,241 infections on Tuesday, up from 1,925 a day before. To date, there have been 154,926 cases reported and 630 deaths.
“I think this is due to the Omicron variant, which may have arrived earlier than we thought,” Petros Karayiannis, professor of microbiology and molecular virology at the medical school of the University of Nicosia and a member of a scientific advisory committee to the government was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
France reports record high of 179,807 new coronavirus cases in one day
France has reported a record high of 179,807 new confirmed coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period, by far the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic.
The previous record of 104,611 was set on Saturday, after the 86,852 high of Nov. 11, 2020 was broken with two consecutive days of more than 90,000 new cases per day at the end of last week.
On Monday, the government announced new measures to curb infections, including limits on the size of big gatherings, a ban on eating and drinking in transport systems and the mandatory wearing of masks again outdoors.
Biden announces end to COVID-related southern Africa travel bans
US President Joe Biden has formally announced he will lift a ban this week on travel from South Africa and other countries in the region, imposed due to fear of the Omicron variant.
“The travel restrictions … are no longer necessary to protect the public health” and will at end 12:01am in Washington on Friday (05:01 GMT), Biden said in a statement.
Biden said that he was lifting the bans on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the coronavirus strain has now spread to more than 100 countries including the United States, the threat level is considered lower than initially feared because “scientific experts have determined that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are protected against severe disease,” Biden said.
UK reports record high daily COVID-19 cases
The United Kingdom has reported a record 129,471 new cases of COVID-19, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would not bring in new restrictions to limit the spread of the virus this year.
The data did not include figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland due to differences in reporting practices over the Christmas holidays.
The 12,378 cases reported for Wales included data that would normally have been reported in previous days.
The previous record high of daily infections was 122,186 on December 24.
The government said there had been 18 new deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test – well below the recent trend of more than 100 per day.
Belgian court suspends COVID closure of entertainment venues
A Belgian court has suspended the closure of concert halls, cinemas and other entertainment venues, a measure announced last week by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo to stem the spread of Omicron.
The authorities have not demonstrated “in what way entertainment venues are particularly dangerous places for [people’s] health … in that they would spread coronavirus, to the extent necessary to order their closure,” said the Council of State, Belgium’s highest administrative court.
Portugal reports record COVID cases
Portugal has reported record-high daily coronavirus cases despite having one of the world’s highest vaccination rates as the Omicron variant surges across Europe.
Health authorities on Tuesday registered 17,172 new infections in the past 24 hours, surpassing the previous record of 16,432 established on January 28 when the Alpha variant, first identified in the UK, swept through the Southern European nation.
Almost 90 percent of Portugal’s population has been vaccinated and nearly 2.4 million people have received a third “booster” jab. The United Arab Emirates is the only country with a higher proportion of vaccinated people.