Infection records tumble as Omicron surges through Europe

(Update 1: re-casts news with records, adds details throughout, re-ledes, changes headline)

Madrid Desk, Dec 29 (EFE).- France, Denmark, Greece and Portugal registered daily infection records Wednesday as a rapid surge of Covid-19 cases spreads through Europe, driven by the highly-contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which authorities in the United Kingdom said now accounts for 90% of community cases in England.

France set a new European record with 208,000 Covid-19 cases detected in the previous 24 hours, while Greece and Portugal notified nearly 29,000 and 28,000 respectively.

Denmark registered its highest daily toll of 23,228 on Wednesday, in line with sky-rocketing trends that have also seen Spain and the UK recently report their highest surges in daily infections since the beginning of the pandemic.

World Health Organization secretary-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said the “twin threat” of the Delta and Omicron variants of coronavirus would lead to a “tsunami of cases” and spikes in hospitalizations and deaths.

“But, I still remain optimistic that this can be the year we not only end the acute stage of the pandemic but we also chart a path to stronger health security,” he added, tempering his message with a dash of optimism.

To deal with surging cases French lawmakers on Wednesday began studying a government proposal that would ban unvaccinated people from accessing public spaces such as bars, restaurants, libraries and sporting facilities.

The law, which the government wants to enforce next month, would mean proof of a negative Covid-19 test would no longer be sufficient to access such establishments.

In Spain, where a record 99,671 cases were detected Tuesday, authorities agreed to shorten the mandatory quarantine period for asymptomatic cases or those with a low viral load from 10 to seven days.

The UK’s Health Security Agency on Wednesday said the Omicron variant accounted for 90% of community transmission in England, which for days has been the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak with daily cases hovering around 100,000.

Prime minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday acknowledged that the Omicron-driven surge in cases had led to a rise in hospital admissions.

“The Omicron variant continues to cause real problems. You are seeing cases rising in hospitals. But it is obviously milder than the Delta variant and we are able to proceed in the way that we are,’ he said. His government recently dismissed the possibility of introducing further restrictions in England ahead of the New Year.

In Germany, there are concerns the apparently decreasing number of Covid-19 cases are a result of delays over the Christmas period and could, in reality, be two to three times higher.

According to the Robert Koch Institute for disease control on Wednesday, there were 40,043 cases in the previous 24 hours, a decrease from 45,659 last week.

Health authorities in Israel are mulling a change of approach to the Omicron variant of coronavirus that would involve allowing the apparently milder form of the disease to spread widely rather than enforce restrictions, according to local media.

The global surge of the Omicron coronavirus variant is being felt on transport and service industries due to an increase in worker absences while healthcare systems are also noting rising Covid patients although so far with less severity than in previous waves.

The number of Covid-19 cases worldwide rose 11% last week as the Omicron variant took hold in a number of countries, although the global mortality rate decreased in that same time period by 4%, suggesting the new variant was less deadly than its dominant predecessors like Delta.

In its weekly report, the WHO reported 4.9 million Covid-19 cases around the globe between 20-26 December at a record rate of about 900,000 cases per day.

In absolute terms, Europe saw the largest rise in cases with 2.8 million, a 3% rise compared to the previous week. EFE


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