COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID digest: France sees record infection numbers

Published : January 06, 2022 16:14 IST

France is enforcing several stop-gap measures to alleviate staff shortages at hospitals. Photo: Michel Euler/AP Photo/picture alliance

Hospitals in France are preparing as case numbers rose to over 320,000 in a single day.

France recorded 332,200 new infections in a 24-hour period on Janaury 5, which is Europe's highest single-day number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. It was also the first time that French cases breached the 300,000 mark as the country continues to break daily case records during an omicron-driven surge. Although hospitals are preparing for a potential surge in patients, authorities are hopeful that France's high vaccination rate will prevent many people from developing severe infections, like those which were seen at the beginning of the pandemic.

Nevertheless, the number of COVID hospitalizations has seen an uptick, with 72 per cent of French ICU beds now occupied by people with the virus, The Associated Press reported. The increased pressure on resources has prompted authorities to allow health workers who have tested positive to keep treating patients in the face of staff shortages. At the same time, French legislators are debating a bill on a new "health pass" to limit unvaccinated people's access to public places including restaurants, regional trains and planes.

Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:

Europe

Italy has approved mandatory COVID vaccinations for people over the age of 50, as the country struggles with a new surge of infections fueled by the omicron variant of the virus. "We want to put the brakes on the growth of the curve of contagion and push Italians who are still not vaccinated to do so," Prime Minister Mario Draghi reportedly told his ministers at a cabinet meeting.

Germany is looking at cutting down on self-quarantine times of those who test positive for COVID-19 in order to keep critical services up and running. Under draft proposals being considered by regional leaders, workers in critical sectors, like hospitals and public utilities, could end their isolation after five days if they test negative on a PCR test. Isolation for the general population could also be reduced to seven days with a negative PCR test. Currently, the government has a 14-day isolation policy. Meanwhile, Germany reported 64,340 new COVID infections on January 5, taking the country’s total tally to 7,361,660, according to figures from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. With 443 deaths over the past 24 hours, the total toll has risen to 113,368.

Asia

U.S. military bases in Japan are strengthening COVID-19 measures after the Japanese government asked U.S. authorities to impose stricter countermeasures at its military installations in Japan. "The mitigation measures we have instituted ... are intended to protect our force's readiness, the well-being of our families, and the health of Japan’s citizens," U.S. Forces Japan said in a release. "We recognize we all have a part to play in keeping our communities safe." This comes after a call between Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

India has recorded 90,928 new infections in the last 24 hours, a 57 per cent increase from the day before. The health ministry said 325 new deaths were reported in the same period.

Thailand has raised its COVID-19 alert level from three to four to help curb the spread of the omicron variant. Experts say the change could set the tone for further restrictions, including closing high-risk areas and restrictions on domestic travel or public gatherings.

Oceania

Tennis player Novak Djokovic was denied entry to Australia after almost nine hours at an airport in Melbourne. He was scheduled to play at the Australian Open, which is scheduled to run from January 17 to January 30. The organizers had stipulated that only fully vaccinated players or those with an official medical exemption will be allowed to play. Earlier this week, Djokovic, an outspoken vaccine skeptic, claimed he had "exemption permission" and therefore would be able to compete. Australian authorities said his exemption was not valid.

Americas

Brazil will start vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11 this month. Under new government guidelines, vaccinations will not require prescriptions from doctors. Close to three weeks ago, the country approved the use of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine for children. The move was met with resistance by President Jair Bolsonaro, a vaccine skeptic, who warned of possible side effects.

An advisory panel of the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has voted to recommend a BioNTech-Pfizer booster for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. This comes as the U.S. struggles with a massive surge in omicron infections. The uncertainty around the new variant has led to the postponement of the Grammy music awards and pushed the renowned Sundance film festival online.

see/wmr (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)