Weekly deaths in the United States have reached their highest level in nearly a year, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Russia reported more than 100,000 new infections for the first time over the previous day.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is self-isolating after being considered a close contact of a positive case, while Republican US Senator Mitt Romney tested positive for the virus without symptoms.
In Vienna, several thousand people attended protests against Austria’s impending vaccine mandate, even as restrictions for unvaccinated people are expected to be relaxed.
China is experiencing surges of the omicron variant, with Lunar New Year celebrations and the Winter Olympics fast approaching. Hong Kong researchers have found evidence that pet hamsters can transmit the disease to people.
US Weekly Deaths Highest in Almost a Year (9:57 a.m. NY)
Even as infections in the United States are slowing, weekly deaths have reached their highest level in almost a year, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Figures show deaths reached nearly 16,700 in the week ending Friday, the most since mid-February 2021 and the fourth consecutive weekly increase.
Weekly cases fell for two straight weeks to 3.8 million from a peak of 5.6 million two weeks ago, the data showed, as the surge caused by the omicron variant began to subside in many parts of the United States. peak of infections for several weeks.
March of anti-warrant protesters in Vienna (9:14 a.m. NY)
Several thousand people attended protests in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Saturday, the latest in a series of demonstrations organized by the far-right Freedom Party against the country’s upcoming vaccination mandate. Police reported that 22 permits had been issued.
The government earlier announced a demotion in february some restrictions on shopping and restaurant dining by unvaccinated people, but has not moved on its plan to make Covid vaccinations mandatory, with fines for non-compliance due to start in mid-March.
Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig criticized the measures announced by the federal government, saying it was not the “wrong time” to make changes, with daily cases still high.
Cases in Indonesia Reach Highest Level in Five Months (7:07 a.m. NY)
Indonesia reported 11,588 new Covid-19 infections on Saturday, the highest in five months due to the spread of the infectious omicron strain. The number of daily cases could reach 285,000, more than five times the peak recorded during the delta epidemic in 2021, according to health authorities.
The government will weigh in on movement restrictions if hospitals reach critical capacity. On Friday, patients occupied 12% of the beds dedicated to Covid-19 across the country, compared to only 2% at the start of the year. The bed occupancy rate is currently 43% in Jakarta, the capital.
China Cases Spread Ahead of Olympics, Lunar New Year (6:21 p.m. HK)
China is seeing surges of the omicron variant ahead of the Lunar New Year on Feb. 1 and the Winter Olympics, scheduled for Feb. 4-20 in Beijing. The country reported 40 nationwide Covid infections on Saturday, including three asymptomatic cases.
Cases have been spreading in Tianjin over the past two days after the northern port city appeared poised to bring them under control. Hangzhou, an e-commerce hub in the east, has also seen infections rise. Omicron has spread to four other provinces, including Xinjiang in the west, government officials said at a briefing in Beijing on Saturday.
Health authorities are under pressure to eradicate the virus through aggressive tactics including mass testing, sweeping quarantines and lockdowns under China’s so-called Covid Zero strategy. Officials in the country’s major economic, political and tech hubs are more reluctant to resort to sweeping restrictions, compared to the harsh lockdowns enacted in smaller jurisdictions.
New Zealand’s first self-isolation (6:19 p.m. HK)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern entered self-isolation after being considered a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case, according to a statement from her office. The exposure occurred on January 22 during a flight from Kerikeri to Auckland.
“The prime minister is asymptomatic and feeling well,” the statement said. She will be tested immediately on Sunday and self-isolate until Tuesday.
UK Workers Resist Return to Office (5:36 p.m. HK)
Almost two in five people working from home in the UK say they will not return to the office, The Times reported, citing a YouGov survey. Only 9% of people have returned to their desks permanently since the government ended its advice to work from home last week, he said. Almost three-quarters of respondents said they preferred working remotely.
Russia Reports Over 100,000 Cases for First Time (4:40 p.m. HK)
Russia reported a record 113,122 Covid-19 cases in the past day, marking the first time new infections hit six figures as the omicron variant swept the country. Last year was Russia’s deadliest since World War II, according to official statistics released Friday evening.
Study Shows Spread From Hamster to Human: Lancet (4:19 p.m. HK)
Hong Kong researchers have found evidence that the pet hamster can spread Covid-19 to people and has linked animals to human infections in the city. The study, published Saturday in The Lancet as a preprint and not yet peer-reviewed, provided the first documented evidence of transmission of the delta variant from hamsters to humans.
Tokyo’s New Covid Cases Are Below Records (3:45 p.m. HK)
New cases were 17,433, down from 17,631 yesterday, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, while the hospital bed occupancy rate for Covid rose from 46.1% to 48%. Governor Yuriko Koike will consider asking the government to declare a state of emergency if the rate hits 50%, Kyodo News reported earlier this month.
US urges China to change quarantine rules for diplomats (2:18 p.m. HK)
The Biden Administration Said It recommended changes China’s demands for quarantine and Covid-19 testing among US diplomats, adding to tensions between the world’s biggest economies ahead of the Olympics.
“We have long-standing concerns about the PRC’s quarantine and testing policies that violate diplomatic privileges and immunities,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Thursday, saying reference to the official name of China. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of normal working hours on Saturday.
Australia Sends Aid to Solomon Islands (1:26 p.m. HK)
Australia has deployed an eight-person team to support Solomon Islands’ response to the growth Covid19 epidemic. Specialists arrived on a flight also carrying 37,800 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines. The team is to report to inform future Australian support in partnership with the government there.
More Winter Olympics cases in China (11:51 a.m. HK)
On Friday, China reported a total of 36 Covid-19 cases for people involved in the Winter Olympics. They include infected people arriving on planes as well as others involved in its “closed loop” system, which includes broadcast staff and the media. Covid infections among those involved in the event have risen to 177 since January 4, according to Bloomberg calculations based on official data.
Romney Tests Positive, Isolates (8:44 a.m. HK)
Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday, his office said.
“He is currently asymptomatic and will self-isolate and work remotely for the recommended time period,” his office said in a statement. “Ms. Romney tested negative. Both the senator and Ms. Romney have been fully vaccinated and strengthened against the virus.
South Korean critical cases are down (8:30 a.m. HK)
The number of people with Covid-19 in critical condition in South Korean hospitals fell to 288, a two-week low, according to health authorities. Daily cases hit a record high of 17,542. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency still expects the number of daily cases to reach 30,000 in February.