Aljazeera – Omicron is driving record daily cases of coronavirus from the United States to Australia, adding to pressure on health services.
Australia, once feted for its success in controlling the virus, reported 64,758 new cases on Wednesday most of them in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
Meanwhile, China is doubling down on its COVID-zero strategy, announcing new city lockdowns in response to only a few cases, and Hong Kong is ordering people who were in some 57 locations visited by close contacts of a person later confirmed with Omicron to undergo compulsory testing.
Here are the latest updates:
‘Taken for fools’: Djokovic’s COVID ‘medical exemption’ slammed
The decision to award the world’s top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic a medical exemption to travel to Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title has prompted an outcry on social media and criticism from other sportspeople, medical professionals and politicians.
The Serb, who is seeking a record 21st Grand Slam singles title, has continually refused to reveal if he is vaccinated against the coronavirus.
He has been vocal in his opposition for vaccine mandates, calling for freedom across the world. On Tuesday, Djokovic wrote on Instagram he has “an exemption permission”.
US reports nearly 1 mln COVID-19 cases in a day, setting global record
The United States reported nearly 1 million new coronavirus infections, the highest daily tally of any country in the world and nearly double the previous US peak set a week ago.
The number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients has risen nearly 50 percent in the past week and now exceeds 100,000, according to data collected by Reuters news agency, marking the first time that threshold has been reached in a year.
The latest surge, which forced waves of cancellations from commercial airlines flights to Broadway shows in recent weeks, was disrupting plans for public schools to welcome students back from winter vacation.
German minister wants to avoid lockdown as infections jump
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has said that the country does not want to impose another lockdown even as coronavirus cases are jumping again.
“We want to avoid blanket and area-wide closures in the future,” Lindner was quoted as saying by the Stuttgarter Nachrichten daily and the Neue Berliner Redaktionsgesellschaft.
“Our goal remains to maintain social life as far as possible and to avoid social damage as far as possible.”
Lindner has called for Germany to be in a position to vaccinate the entire population within a month in the event of future waves of the pandemic.
Pakistan cases record biggest daily jump since mid-October
Pakistan says it registered 898 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, the biggest jump in daily cases since mid-October.
There were five deaths recorded on Tuesday, taking the official death toll since the pandemic began to 28,950.
Asad Hashim, Al Jazeera’s Islamabad correspondent, says authorities are warning of the beginning of a fifth wave of the virus.
Australia facing ’emerging crisis’
More on the situation in Australia…
Al Jazeera’s Sarah Clarke, who is in Brisbane, says the National Cabinet, which includes Prime Minister Scott Morrison as well as state premiers and other senior officials, is meeting to discuss next steps amid fears of an “emerging crisis”.
She says there are three main issues:
- The health system is under stress not only from the surge in patients but a lack of manpower because of the surge in COVID-19.
- Australians are struggling to find rapid antigen tests.
- There is a huge backlog in results from PCR tests
Okinawa emerges as Japan COVID-19 hotspot
Okinawa in Japan’s south appears to be emerging as a new hotspot for coronavirus in Japan.
Citing local officials, the Reuters news agency is reporting cases more than doubled to about 600 on Wednesday, compared with 225 on Tuesday.
It says emergency steps to contain the outbreak are being considered.
India cases double in four days
India has reported 58,097 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, twice the number of only four days ago, according to health ministry data.
Deaths rose by 534, including the southern state of Kerala’s updated death toll of 423, lifting the national total to 482,551.