COVID activity ramps up in India, Middle East

india students
india students

Arindam Ghosh/iStock

India today began vaccinating teens as its latest COVID-19 wave gained momentum, and some countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reported new case rises.

India enters third surge

Ever since it battled a catastrophic COVID-19 surge last spring, India has been bracing for another round of infections and making preparations. Over the past few days, cases have sharply risen, but hospitalizations remain low, New Delhi health officials said yesterday, according to Reuters.

Cases had dropped to about 6,000 a day, but daily totals have risen sharply for 5 days in a row, with 33,750 reported today, with much of the activity from New Delhi and Mumbai. So far, the country has reported 1,700 Omicron cases.

Today, India opened vaccination to teens ages 15 to 18, with campaigns at schools and health centers across the country, according to Reuters. India has the world's largest adolescent population. So far, the country has immunized more than 3.8 million teens.

Younger age groups have fueled the initial rise in Omicron cases in other countries, including the United Kingdom, and health officials are using vaccines as a key tool for keeping schools open, amid surging levels in many countries, especially in the wake of holiday gatherings.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia's daily COVID-19 cases rose above the 1,000-case threshold for the first time since August, and in the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE), cases crossed the 2,500-case threshold, according to a separate Reuters report.

Record highs in earlier affected countries

Despite case reporting delays over the holidays, many countries reported record daily cases over the past few days, including Australia, where hospitalizations are rising, but not at a level that is overwhelming facilities. Staff illnesses, however, are contributing to pressure on the health system.

Britain on Jan 1 reported a new daily record high of 162,572 cases, with hospitalizations and deaths at lower levels than earlier waves. Today, the country's Prime Minister Boris Johnson said officials are closely watching the numbers and hospital trends, but so far, the virus appears milder and no new restrictions are warranted for now. He also acknowledged that hospitals are likely to face increasing pressure in the weeks ahead.

Other European countries reported new daily record highs over the New Year's holiday, including France, Greece, Italy, and Portugal.

Meanwhile,  United States on Dec 29 reported a world daily record high of more than 484,000 new cases.

More global headlines

  • Israel yesterday announced that it would offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to people older than 60 and to health workers.

  • South African researchers writing in a new preprint study revealed more clues on how the Omicron behaves in cells. They suggest the variant is less specialized in its entry route into cells, which may allow it to more efficiently enter a greater number in the upper airway.

  • The global COVID-19 total has climbed to 291,651,187 cases, along with 5,447,340 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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