© Reuters. People wait outside a COVID-19 testing center, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Manchester, England, December 28, 2021. REUTERS / Phil Noble
By Renju Jose and Crispian Balmer
SYDNEY/ROME (Reuters) – Daily COVID-19 infections have hit record highs in the United States, parts of Europe and Australia as the new Omicron variant of the virus spirals out of control, forcing workers to stay at home and overwhelm testing centers.
Nearly two years after China first reported a series of “viral pneumonia” cases in the city of Wuhan, the frequently mutating coronavirus is ravaging parts of the world, forcing governments to review of quarantine and inspection rules.
While some studies have found the Omicron variant to be less lethal than some of its predecessors, the large number of people testing positive means that hospitals in some countries are at risk. may soon become overwhelmed, while businesses may struggle to resume operations as workers are quarantined.
France, Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Malta all recorded record numbers of new cases on Tuesday.
The average daily number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has also hit a record high over the past seven days, according to a Reuters tally. The previous peak was in January of this year.
Daily new infections in Australia spiked to nearly 18,300, on Wednesday, eclipsing the previous pandemic high of around 11,300 reached a day earlier.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country needed a “change of equipment” to manage overcrowded labs, with long walk-and-drive queues reported in some areas.
Congestion testing has also been built in European countries, including Spain, where demand for free COVID-19 test kits provided by Madrid’s regional government has far outstripped supplies on Tuesday, with long queues outside pharmacies.
“I JUST WANT TO GO HOME”
Some governments are also increasingly worried by the large numbers of people being forced to self-isolate because they have come into contact with someone with the coronavirus.
Morrison of Australia told reporters: “We can’t have everyone taken out of circulation because they just happen to be in a particular place at a particular time.
Italy is expected to relax some quarantine rules on Wednesday amid fears the country will soon shut down due to how many people are self-isolating for protection, with the number of cases doubling on Wednesday. Three from a day earlier to 78,313.
However, China has not abandoned its zero-tolerance policy with outbreaks, keeping 13 million people in the city of Xi’an under strict lockdown for a Saturday as new COVID-19 cases still persisted. continues, with 151 cases reported on Tuesday.
“I just want to go home,” said a 32-year-old mechanic who was in Xi’an last week for a business trip when the city was completely untouched by the outside world.
No Omicron cases have been announced in Xi’an so far.
Many countries are still grappling with the previous Delta variant, including Poland, which reported 794 COVID-related deaths on Wednesday – the highest number in the fourth wave of the pandemic.
Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska said more than 75% of those who died were unvaccinated.
Preliminary data from the UK, South Africa and Denmark suggest a reduced risk of hospitalization for Omicron compared with the Delta variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest epidemiological report published via night.
However, the report says more data is needed to understand how severity of illness may be affected by vaccination and or, prior infection.
The number of cases spiked coincided with the New Year holidays, which are often the time to organize parties and travel. Some countries, such as Italy, have canceled public celebrations, while authorities in Japan encouraged people to hold small year-end gatherings.
“The highest risk is meeting people without taking measures,” said Norio Ohmagari, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s top health adviser. suitable to prevent infection.