Despite a decline in cases around the world, Covid-19 refuses to show signs of completely abating anytime soon. In the last week, the infection reached record levels in the United Kingdom as it rolled out its Living With Covid strategy. Whereas China is contending with its worst coronavirus outbreak in the last two years, prompting authorities to clamp down restrictive measures to curb the spread of the disease.
Globally, Covid-19 cases have exceeded 489.4 million, while deaths have surged to more than 6.14 million. Meanwhile, the WHO has flagged a new strain of coronavirus that may be the most contagious yet.
Here are the top Covid-19 developments from across the world:
Hospitalisations and death rates are again on the rise in Britain as Covid infections reached record levels, with around 4.9 million people estimated to have the virus in the week ending March 26. The latest surge is driven by the more transmissible Omicron variant BA.2, which is the dominant variant across the UK.
The highly transmissible Omicron variant continued its sweep across China, with the country reporting 13,146 Covid cases on Sunday, the highest since the peak of the first wave more than two years ago. Financial hub Shanghai accounted for 70 per cent of the cases, even as nearly all of its 25 million residents stayed at home under strict “zero-Covid” orders.
South Korea logged 264,171 new Covid cases on Saturday, remaining below the 300,000-mark for the second consecutive day in signs that the Omicron variant was slowing down. Relaxing restrictions, the country has decided to allow fully vaccinated travelers from all nations to enter without quarantine. A negative coronavirus test is still required for entry.
NEW VARIANT ALERT
The WHO has said that a new strain of the Omicron variant, first detected in the UK and dubbed XE, appears to be more transmissible than previous strains of the coronavirus. Early reports indicate that the XE recombinant (BA.1-BA.2) has a community growth rate advantage of 10 per cent as compared to BA.2 variant. However, further studies are needed to corroborate this data, the agency said.
Hong Kong authorities on Saturday asked the entire population of more than 7.4 million people to voluntarily test themselves for Covid-19 at home for three days in a row starting next week. The semi-autonomous Chinese territory reported 5,820 cases on Friday as the latest Covid-19 surge begins to taper off.
COVAXIN SUPPLY SUSPENDED
The WHO has suspended the supply of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, India’s first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine, through procurement agencies of the United Nations, advising countries that have received the vaccine to take appropriate action. The suspension was aimed at allowing the manufacturer to upgrade facilities and address deficiencies found in an inspection, while clarifying that the vaccine is effective and no safety concerns exist.
(With inputs from agencies)