Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Dec. 26: ‘We’re Sailing on a Petri Dish,’ South Africa and Germany Pass Peaks in Cases, Today’s Statistics

Christmas Day Air Travel Was Down in U.S., Says TSA

By Jonathan Spira on 26 December 2021
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Health officials in the Northeast United States are reporting daily caseloads that are sailing past last winter’s pandemic peak.  Hospitalizations are starting to rise slowly but not at the same rate as cases, and it appears from evidence in South Africa and Europe that the omicron variant, while more transmissible than its predecessors, does not cause as many cases of severe illness requiring time in hospital.

The first coronavirus case was reported in the United States 703 days ago.  The first in the world were reported in December 2019 in Wuhan although cases circulated for months prior to the first report.

Cases continue to climb there, as they do in France, Italy, and Canada, although they are noticeably declining in Germany, Russia, and South Africa.

On Wednesday, a senior health official in South Africa said that the country had passed the peak of its omicron outbreak.  France, on the other hand, reported a record-breaking 104,611 new cases on Christmas Day, a pandemic high.

Spain, Greece, and Italy all reimposed outdoor mask requirements for all residents and visitors regardless of vaccination status, while Switzerland announced that only those with proof of full vaccination or recent recovery could enter restaurants, cafés, and indoor event spaces going forward.

Austria is imposing a 10 p.m. closing time for restaurants that starts December 27.  The curfew includes Silvester or New Year’s Eve.

Meanwhile, multiple countries in Africa are tightening coronavirus-related restrictions amidst the omicron-fueled surge.  Twenty-one countries there are experiencing a fourth wave of Covid, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, and three – Algeria, Kenya, and Mauritius –  are in the midst of a fifth wave.

In the United States, Christmas Day air travel was substantially lower than pre-pandemic levels in 2019, in part due to the high number of flight cancellations by airlines due to omicron-fueled coronavirus outbreaks amongst crew members.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said just over 1.53 million people had traversed the nation’s airport security checkpoints Saturday.  The figure is higher than the 1.12 million on Christmas Day in 2020, but significantly lower than the 2.47 million in 2019.

Finally, the Carnival Freedom, a Carnival cruise ship that  had departed from Miami earlier in the week, was denied entry to two ports of call after reporting a small number of coronavirus cases on board.  The ship was finally allowed to Amber Port in the Dominican Republic, a spokeswoman for the line, AnneMarie Mathews, said in a statement.

“We’re sailing on a Petri dish,” one passenger, Ashley Peterson, told the Washington Post.

“Carnival Freedom is following all protocols and has a small number on board who are in isolation due to a positive Covid test,” the statement from Mathews reads.

Now here are the daily statistics for Sunday, December 26.

As of Sunday morning, the world has recorded 279.9 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.4 million new cases, and 5.42 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 250.2 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.3 million.

The current number of infections as of Sunday is 24,316,792.  Out of that figure, 99.6%, or 24,228,458, are considered mild, and 0.4%, or 88,334, are listed as critical.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 201,330, a 69% increase.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,345, an increase of 4% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Sunday, recorded 53 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 837,779. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just under  34.8 million, and a reported death toll of 479,682.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 618,457, and has over 22.2 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Saturday (no data were updated on Sunday), 241.5 million people in the United States – or 72.7% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 61.7%, or 204.7 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 500.2 million. Breaking this down further, 84.9% of the population over the age of 18 – or 219.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 72.7% of the same group – or 187.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 34.2% of that population, or 64.2 million people, has already received a booster shot.

The CDC also reported that the omicron variant is now the dominant strain in many parts of the United States, comprising at least 73% of recent Covid cases as of Sunday.  In many parts of the country, the new variant makes up 90% of all cases, it said.

Over 57.4% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, an increase that is largely unchanged from the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 8.96 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 8.3% 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 65% 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.

Paul Riegler contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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