Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Jan. 24: WHO Says Omicron Could Lead to ‘Normalization,’ Fauci Cautions Against Overconfidence

By Jonathan Spira on 24 January 2022
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Park Avenue in the 40s in New York City

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the Biden administration said that the current surge of omicron-fueled coronavirus looks like “it’s going in the right direction right now,” but cautioned against overconfidence.

The number of new daily infections in the United States is down 14% over the past week, although the numbers continue to rise in the South and West.  Hospitalizations have started to fall as well, although not significantly.

In other news we cover today, China ended a lockdown in Xi’an, Saudi children returned to school, and the United Kingdom ended a testing requirement for vaccinated travelers.

UNITED STATES

Speaking on the ABC news program “This Week,” Fauci expressed optimism about the direction the pandemic is going.  “What we would hope, is that, as we get into the next weeks to month or so, we’ll see throughout the entire country the level of infection get to below what I call that area of control,” he said.

Fauci added that states in the south and west are still reporting higher case numbers,  “but if the pattern follows the trend that we’re seeing in other places, such as the Northeast, I believe that you will start to see a turnaround throughout the entire country,” Fauci said.

Transit officials in New York City said that the W line, the last of six omicron wave-impacted subway lines, will resume service on Monday.  The other subway lines suspended amidst high absenteeism, namely the B, Z, Rockaway Shuttle, and express service on the No. 6 and No. 7 lines all resumed last Wednesday.

GLOBAL

The CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, said he hopes that coronavirus vaccines will become a yearly occurrence, rather than an every four or five month requirement.  Speaking in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 on Saturday, he said that he’s hoping for “a vaccine that we will have to do once a year like we do for many other things.”

The head of the European division of the World Health Organization said Monday that the pandemic, now in its third year, is entering a “new phase” and that the rapid spread of the omicron variant offers the world “plausible hope” for a “normalization” in the coming months.  Dr. Hans Kluge also said that it was too early for nations to drop their guard.

“It’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the general-director of the WHO.

Adopting a new testing strategy, China said it would require anyone who purchases medication for either fever or cough within the past 14 days to take a coronavirus test within 72 hours

China also lifted a month-long lockdown covering 13 million people in the city of Xi’an.  Officials there said that the city was now a “low-risk area” as shops and offices reopened.

Officials in Saudi Arabia reopened elementary schools to in-person learning for the first time in almost two years. The closure was one of the world’s longest and had angered some parents who said their children experienced learning difficulties and emotional setbacks during the period.

Meanwhile, officials in South Korea asked the public to avoid travel during the coming Lunar New Year celebration, which takes place January 31 through February 2, amidst a rising number of coronavirus cases there.  Health officials there reported 7,513 new cases on Monday, double the number for the same day last week.

TRAVEL

The United Kingdom said it would no longer require fully vaccinated travelers from abroad to take coronavirus tests.  Speaking on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the country is “open for business, open for travelers.”

Belize will require visitors to carry travel insurance starting in February.  The mandatory policy will cover up to $50,000 in Covid-19-related medical expenses and up to $2,000 for additional hotel costs should a traveler need to quarantine there.

Carnival Cruise Line said that it will continue to follow mask, testing, and vaccination protocols until further notice.  All passengers 12 years of age and older must be fully vaccinated, all passengers must present a negative coronavirus test, and they must don face masks when indoors.  The cruise line said it plans to expand its testing capabilities at its terminal, specifically for passengers on shorter three- or four-day cruises.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it plans to suspend 44 flights operated by four Chinese carriers to China in response to the Chinese government’s decision to suspend some flights to China operated by U.S. carriers over coronavirus concerns.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Monday, January 24.

As of Monday morning, the world has recorded 352.7 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 2.3 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 5.62 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 280.4 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.7 million.

Worldwide, the number of active cases as of Monday is 66,657,508.  Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 66,561,754, are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 95,764, are listed as critical.  The number of cases considered critical fell by 0.1 percentage points over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 199,744 new cases on Monday for the previous day, compared with 337,388 reported on Sunday, 825,052 new cases on Saturday, and 748,484 reported on Friday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 690,448, a 2% increase, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 2,128, an increase of 39% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Monday, recorded 71.9 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 889,127. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 39.5 million, and a reported death toll of 489,896.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 623,145, and has seen 24 million cases.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Monday, 250.8 million people in the United States – or 75.5% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 63.4%, or 210.4 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 534.6 million. Breaking this down further, 87.4% of the population over the age of 18 – or 225.7 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 73.8% of the same group – or 190.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 43% of that population, or 82 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 60.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Monday, a figure that is largely unchanged in the past 24 hours, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 9.89 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 9.4% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

Figures from the World Health Organization show that well-off countries are vaccinating people at the rate of one person per second, while the majority of poor countries have yet to give a single dose to its citizens.

It is critical that the world do a better job of sharing vaccines with poorer nations.

Sharing vaccines is not merely a form of charity.  Rather, the equitable distribution of vaccines is in every country’s health and economic interest and no country will be able to move past the pandemic until other countries have recovered as well.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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