Madrid Desk, Dec 31 (EFE).- The world brings 2021 to a close Friday having registered nearly 200 million cases of Covid-19, more than double the number detected in 2020, but the advanced vaccination campaign and the apparently less severe nature of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has added some hope looking ahead to the coming year.
Restrictions are back in force across the globe as people usher in 2022, a year that World Health Organization secretary-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he hoped would mark the end of the “acute stage” of the pandemic.
In this second year of the pandemic, authorities reported 198 million Covid-19 infections and 3.5 million associated deaths, according to WHO data.
Those figures in 2020, a year marked by strict lockdowns around the world, stood at 84 million infections and 1.9 million deaths.
The world is currently witnessing a sky-rocketing of cases driven by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, with a new daily record of 1.3 million cases registered on 29 December globally.
This “tsunami” of infections, as the WHO leader called it, has not been accompanied by a similar surge in deaths.
The mortality rate of Covid-19 dropped from 2.2% in 2020 to 1.7% in 2021.
Some 9.15 billion Covid-19 vaccinations have been administered globally, enough to provide at least one dose to 58% of the world’s population.
While around a dozen nations have a vaccination rate above 80%, among them the United Arab Emirates, Spain and China, many others lag far behind.
Unequal access to vaccines was exacerbated in 2021.
The majority of African countries have barely covered 8.5% of the population while Israel has begun to roll-out a fourth dose to its citizens.
Faced with the rapid rise in cases, New Year’s Eve celebrations on Friday were muted for a second time running, marked by tough restrictions on social life and the forced closure of bars and restaurants.
Emblematic venues like Moscow’s Red Square will not host public events on Friday, although parties will go ahead in others like New York’s Times Square — with a limit of 15,000 people — and in central London.
For the second year in a row, the traditional New Year’s celebrations in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg gate have been cancelled due to the pandemic.
Germans will instead have to celebrate privately in groups of no more than 10 people, or two others in the case of unvaccinated people.
Across the border in France, around 130,000 security agents have been mobilized across the country to ensure that Covid-19 restrictions are heeded.
Night clubs will remain closed for New Year’s Eve while large gatherings and firework displays in urban areas have been banned.
Although officials have not set a limit on the number of people permitted at social and family gatherings, prime minister Jean Castex urged the public to keep parties to a limited number of people. EFE