Coronavirus Morning News Brief – April 2: Introducing Omicron XE, England’s Reinfection Rate Soars Amidst Fewer Restrictions

Broadway Vaccine and Mask Mandates to Remain in Place

By Jonathan Spira on 2 April 2022
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Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 753rd day of the pandemic.

The reinfection rate is rising in Britain. What does that bode for other countries?

Past experience with the coronavirus tells us that what happens in Britain and on the European continent is quickly followed by a reprise in the United States, just as coronavirus restrictions have been close to eliminated in most jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, omicron continues to mutate further beyond just the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant.

A new hybrid strain, provisionally dubbed Omicron XE, has now emerged. It features aspects from both the initial version, dubbed BA.1, and the BA.2 version and two cases of omicron XE have already been confirmed by scientists in Hong Kong.

Exactly how transmissible and how deadly the latest variant is remains unknown, however.

“The transmissibility and the severity of this new recombinant variant is still being investigated, so we’re closely monitoring the latest situation,” said Chuang Shuk-kwan, who heads the Communicable Disease Branch at Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection, on Friday.

In other news we cover today, Covid-related hospitalizations in the United States are down, New York City will keep its school mask mandate for children under the age of 5 in place, and Broadway will keep its mask and vaccine mandates in place for now.

Here’s a look at what has taken place over the past 24 hours.


Covid-related hospitalizations in the United States hit a pandemic low on Friday, 16,138, the lowest figure since the Department of Health and Human Services began tracking it in July 2020. The figures reveal that just 2% of hospital beds are in use by coronavirus patients.  This is compared to the peak in January of this year, when over 160,000 people – ten times the figure – were in hospital beds due to Covid amidst the highly-transmissible surge of the omicron variant.

New York Mayor Eric Adams said that the city will keep its school mask mandate in place for children under the age of 5 in response to rising coronavirus cases in the city.  Daily case figures have more than doubled in the Big Apple since early March from roughly 500 per day to the current figure of 1,250, in a wave fueled by the highly transmissible subvariant of omicron, BA.2.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, said Friday it will no longer require employees to have a third or booster dose of coronavirus vaccine in order to enter its offices in the United States.  The company continues to require all workers to be fully vaccinated


England is experiencing a significant uptick in coronavirus reinfections, defined as two positive test results more than 90 days apart.

Reasons for the increase are believed to include surge of the BA.2  subvariant which is even more contagious than the original and highly transmissible omicron variant, waning immunity from vaccines and prior infections, and the further relaxing of Covid-19 mitigation measures there.

The number surged from 20,000 per week to over 50,000, 10.7% of all cases, according to a weekly report from the U.K. Health Security Agency that was released on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the number of active coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom has hit an all-time, with almost 5 million people, or one in 13 of the population, estimated to currently have the virus, according to official data released late last week.  The rise has prompted experts to call for the return of free coronavirus testing, something that ended over the past few weeks.

The New York Times reported that a Covid outbreak is ravaging a hospital for older adults in Shanghai, a city currently under lockdown.  Two orders at the at the Shanghai Donghai Elderly Care Hospital told the paper that the coronavirus was “spreading widely” among the patient population, and that more than one person had died on each of the past three days


The Broadway League, the organization that represents owners and operators of the 41 Broadway houses, said Friday that the theaters will continue to require that all theatergoers don face masks and are fully vaccinated in order to gain entry through at least April 30.  The group plans to reassess the policy in mid-April, it said.


Now here are the daily statistics for Saturday, April 2.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 490.3 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 1.3 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and almost 6.2 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 425.1 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.2million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Saturday is 58,992,163, an increase of 76,000 from the prior day. Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 58,935,893are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 56,270 are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 31,112 new coronavirus infections on Saturday for the previous day, compared to 38,273  on Friday, 49,503 on Thursday, and 25,528 on Wednesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 27,550, an 7% decrease, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 658, a decrease of 43% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Saturday, recorded over 81.8 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of over 1 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just over 43 million, and a reported death toll of 521,293. Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 660,065, and has seen over 29.9 million cases.  France continues to occupy the number four position with 25.8 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 21.5 million, having moved up on Thursday from the number six position.  The United Kingdom, with 21.2 million cases, is now number six and is the only other country in the world with a total number of cases over the 20 million mark.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Saturday, over 255.6 million people in the United States – or 77% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, a figure that is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours. Of that population, 65.6%, or 217.7 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now over 561.2 million. Breaking this down further, 88.4% of the population over the age of 18 – or 228.3 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 75.5% of the same group – or 194.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 48.4% of that population, or 94.3 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 64.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Saturday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 11.29 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 18.7 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 14.5% 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.

Paul Riegler contributed to this story.


(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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