Barbados 1st Omicron Case, Hong Kong Spread, S.A. May Have Peaked, Fauci Defends New Rules, World Stats

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Barbados First Omicron Case

Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George Thursday evening disclosed that Barbados has recorded its first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.ci o(CARPHA) Laboratory, he said.

“To date, that is the only confirmed case we have. However, I must couch that by saying that we have been doing testing, preliminary sequencing at the [local] Best-Dos Santos Laboratory and there is also preliminary evidence is Omicron is established in Barbados,” Dr George said, although declining to disclose where the person who tested positive for the variant was from.

“We do not need to panic. We have come to this road before,” he added.

The Chief Medical Officer suggested it was no surprise that Barbados had now joined the list of countries recording the presence of Omicron.

“We have been consistently saying to the public within the last two to three weeks that the likelihood of Omicron being within our borders was high. We had a reason for saying this because the experience in several other countries across the globe indicated that the virus spreads extremely rapidly within communities and therefore Barbados was not going to be spared,” he pointed out.

Dr George added that the Ministry of Health has sent “carefully selected” samples to CARPHA lab and the results are expected in seven to ten days.

“Once we have this information we will share it with the public,” he said.

Meantime, the CMO expressed concern that cases of COVID-19 in Barbados are trending upwards.

He, therefore, urged residents to continue to protect themselves by wearing masks at all times in public spaces and when in close quarters with others; observe physical distancing; sanitize frequently, and get vaccinated and/or booster shots.

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Hong Kong says Omicron has spread despite COVID restrictions

A staff member holds a QR code for the “LeaveHomeSafe” COVID-19 contact-tracing app to people lining up outside a community vaccination centre providing Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine in Hong Kong, China December 2, 2021. REUTERS/Lam Yik

A staff member holds a QR code for the “LeaveHomeSafe” COVID-19 contact-tracing app to people lining up outside a community vaccination centre providing Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine in Hong Kong, China December 2, 2021. REUTERS/Lam Yik

HONG KONG, Dec 31 (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s health officials said on Friday the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has made its way past some of the world’s toughest COVID 19 restrictions, with the city reporting its first cases outside its strict quarantine system.

The findings raise risks that the global financial hub might keep its borders shut well into 2022. It has largely isolated itself from the world hoping in turn to open the border with mainland China for a limited number of business travellers.

Hong Kong’s last COVID-19 case tracked outside its quarantine facilities and hotels was discovered in October. Previous infections with the Omicron variant were discovered during quarantines of people returning to Hong Kong.

Health Secretary Sophia Chan told reporters one of four air crew members who tested positive after their return to Hong Kong had breached home quarantine rules by going to a restaurant, where he passed the virus to his father and a client sitting at another table.

“Omicron is raging around the world … and it has now found its way into the community,” Chan said.

She added that China border reopening preparations continued, but “the priority was handling the pandemic.”

Health official Chuang Shuk-kwan told reporters a different airline worker, who tested positive but was previously thought to have stayed at home, had visited a bar in a crowded nightlife district shortly after their latest flight back.

The government this week tightened quarantine rules for air crew, who had been allowed to quarantine at home, unlike most people returning to the city who have to quarantine in hotels for up to 21 days at their own cost. read more

Pilots had expressed worries about their mental health amid prolonged periods of isolation even before the tightening. read more

Cathay Pacific Airways said on Thursday the latest tightening had forced it to cancel a significant number of passenger and cargo flights to and from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong which has been coronavirus-free for extended periods since the pandemic began.

But less than 70% of its eligible population, far lower than in other developed cities, have taken two shots of either China’s Sinovac (SVA.O) or Germany’s BioNTech vaccines (22UAy.DE).

Only about 5% of people have received a third booster shot.

Even three doses of Sinovac’s vaccine do not produce adequate levels of antibodies to fight the Omicron variant, researchers from Hong Kong found. read more

Reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Kim Coghill
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South Africa says Omicron wave may have peaked

South Africa has lifted overnight curfew rules, with officials saying the country may have passed the peak of its fourth wave of Covid infections sparked by the Omicron variant. A statement released after a special cabinet meeting said cases and hospital admission rates had dropped in almost all provinces across the country. Omicron – first reported by the country last month – is spreading fast elsewhere, leading to widespread curbs.

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Fauci defends new CDC isolation guidelines

Anthony Fauci on Thursday defended the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) decision to cut its recommended isolation time to five days for people infected with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic.

Fauci said there was a need to cut the isolation period for asymptomatic people to keep society running as the nation is hit with the highly contagious omicron variant.

“The reason is that now that we have such an overwhelming volume of cases coming in, many of which are without symptoms, there’s the danger that this is going to have a really negative impact on our ability to really get society to function properly,” Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said in an interview on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.”

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WORLD STATS

Coronavirus Cases:

286,909,243

Deaths:

5,446,797

Recovered:

253,256,354

 

Highlighted in green
= all cases have recovered from the infection
Highlighted in grey
= all cases have had an outcome (there are no active cases)

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Latest News

December 31 (GMT)

Updates

  • 8,024 new cases and 153 new

 

 

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