U.S. Faces ‘Tough’ Weeks Ahead; Djokovic Departs: Virus Update

U.S. Vaccinations Stall; Beijing Reports Omicron: Virus Update

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy defended the Biden administration’s response to the omicron surge, conceding though that health officials need to “close that gap” in the severe shortage of testing. He said the outbreak is likely to worsen, that “a tough few weeks” are ahead.

Austria will impose fines on those without vaccinations from mid-March. England will start giving boosters to those as young as 16, while Saudi Arabia will allow shots for children from the age of five. 

Novak Djokovic has left Melbourne after his entry permit was revoked and will miss the Australian Open.

Key Developments: 

  • Virus Tracker: Cases pass 327.2 million; deaths pass 5.5 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 9.69 billion shots administered
  • From pandemic to endemic: Can 2022 succeed where 2021 failed?
  • U.S. parents and retirees teach class as omicron sidelines faculty
  • Omicron surge gives bosses reason to order shots Biden now can’t
  • Should I be wearing an N95 mask? The evolving advice: QuickTake
U.S. Faces ‘Tough’ Weeks Ahead; Djokovic Departs: Virus Update

Idaho Primary Care Offices Deluged (2:39 p.m. NY)

With new infections in Idaho spiking, primary care offices and clinics are seeing a record number of patients seeking Covid-19 tests and treatment, the Idaho Statesman reported. 

Primary Health Medical Group tested a record 2,000 people a day last week and saw 2,500 patients. Positive test results Monday through Friday hit 46.7%, the newspaper reported. 

Hospitalizations in Idaho are rising quickly, though not to the point of the deadly wave caused by the virus’s delta variant last year. 

France Continues Curbs on Unvaccinated (2:07 p.m. NY)

France’s Parliament on Sunday approved a bill to prohibit access to restaurants, cafes and other public venues to unvaccinated citizens 16 years and older.  

The country is switching to a new pass that requires vaccination instead of also allowing for negative tests. 

Health authorities say a plateau in virus infections may be in sight after daily cases surged to record levels. The figures of the past few days suggest France may be “close to a peak,” Vittoria Colizza, an expert in mathematical modeling of infectious diseases from Inserm, France’s health-research organization, said in an interview with Journal du Dimanche. The country reported 278,129 new cases on Sunday, the first day in six that cases grew by fewer than 300,000. 

Murthy Defends Biden Omicron Response (12:04 p.m. NY)

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy defended the Biden administration’s response to the surge of infections caused by the omicron variant, conceding though that health officials need to “close that gap” in the severe shortage of testing. 

“We have more to do,” Murthy said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that the spike in infections outstripped what he said was an eight-fold increase in testing over the last month.

President Joe Biden and his top health officials are coming under increasing criticism, from the lack of tests to overcrowded hospitals around the nation. A new CBS News poll shows that a majority of Americans find coronavirus information from health officials confusing, with changing guidelines on masking and isolation periods for those who are infected. 

He said the outbreak is likely to worsen, that “a tough few weeks” are ahead.

England to Give Boosters to 16 and 17 Year Olds (8:39 a.m. NY)

England lowered the age threshold for Covid booster shots to 16, expanding access after the health service delivered more than 30 million of the shots to people over 18. 

Austria to Start Fines for Unvaccinated in March (8:33 a.m. NY)

Austria will impose fines on those without Covid-19 vaccinations from mid-March after a transition phase that starts in February, said Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

Djokovic Departs Australia (7:54 a.m. NY)

Novak Djokovic has left Australia after his anti-vaccination stance cost him a potential payday of A$2.875 million ($2.1 million) and a shot at tennis history.

Omicron Is Denting French Support for Macron (7:40 a.m. NY)

French President Emmanuel Macron, who’s expected to seek re-election in April, is losing support following the nation’s latest spike in Covid cases, Journal du Dimanche reported, citing an Ifop poll.

Germany Reports Record in 7-Day Incidence Figure (7:15 a.m. NY)

Germany’s health institute RKI reported a record in the 7-day incidence on Sunday, reaching 515.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Earlier, Germany reported 52,504 new cases.

Chinese City Lifts Some Restrictions (6:59 a.m. NY)

The Chinese city of Xi’an has gradually begun lifting restrictions after over three weeks of lockdown as authorities sought to stamp out a local outbreak, AP reported, citing state media. 

State-owned broadcaster CCTV reported Sunday that certain counties and development zones in Xi’an had begun restoring production, citing a news conference by Xi’an officials.

Covax Deliveries Reach One Billion (6:31 a.m. NY)

A cargo of vaccines that arrived in Rwanda pushed Covax, the program created to deliver Covid-19 inoculations more equitably, over the one-billion mark in shots delivered so far, the World Health Organization said.  

Of 194 member states, 36 countries have vaccinated less than 10% of their population, even as richer nations having moved on to provide citizens with their third or even fourth shots. 

Indonesia Expects Wave to Peak by Early March (6:30 a.m. NY)

The current wave of cases in Indonesia could peak in mid-February or early March, said Luhut Panjaitan, the minister who is overseeing the pandemic response.

The government has no plans to impose tighter restrictions despite daily new cases exceeding 1,000 on Jan. 15 for the first time since October. People should limit gatherings and avoid in-person meetings unless necessary to curb the spread of the virus, Panjaitan said. 

Saudi Arabia Starts Vaccinations in Children From Five Years Old (4:20 p.m. HK)

Saudi Arabia will begin vaccinating children aged from 5 to 11 against coronavirus, the Ministry of Health said in a tweet.

People in Saudi Arabia can now take the third vaccine dose, or booster, three months after the second dose. In December, Saudi Arabia advised citizens to avoid “unnecessary” travel outside the country amid rising coronavirus cases and the new omicron variant.

Highest Number of Russian Cases Since Mid-December (4:15 pm HK)

Russia reported 29,230 new cases in the past day, the highest daily figure since mid-December, according to the government’s reporting center. While the number of new cases has risen for six days, the number of deaths fell to 686 in the past day, the lowest since the start of July.

Greek Seniors Face Monthly Fine For Failure to Get Covid Shot (3 p.m. HK)

Greece from Monday intends to fine all people ages 60 and over who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 as a way to boost lagging inoculation levels and reduce pressure on health care.  

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has told seniors the simplest way to avoid the levy is to get vaccinated. Greek authorities say the non-vaccinated remain at high risk for hospitalization from the coronavirus. Some nine in 10 Covid-related deaths in Greece have been among people 60 and above, while seven in 10 of those hospitalized from the virus are over 60. And of those, eight in 10 are unvaccinated.

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