US with Record Daily Cases, Some US Flights, Australia Swamped, Chile Offering 4th Dose

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U.S. reports 1.35 million COVID-19 cases in a day, shattering global record

People wait outside a community center as long lines continue for individuals trying to be tested for COVID-19 during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in San Diego, California, U.S., January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Blake

People wait outside a community center as long lines continue for individuals trying to be tested for COVID-19 during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in San Diego, California, U.S., January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Jan 11 (Reuters) – The United States reported 1.35 million new coronavirus infections on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, the highest daily total for any country in the world as the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant showed no signs of slowing.

The previous record was 1.03 million cases on Jan. 3. A large number of cases are reported each Monday due to many states not reporting over the weekend. The seven-day average for new cases has tripled in two weeks to over 700,000 new infections a day.

The record in new cases came the same day as the nation saw the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients also hit an all-time high, having doubled in three weeks, according to a Reuters tally.

There were more than 136,604 people hospitalized with COVID-19, surpassing the record of 132,051 set in January last year.

While the Omicron variant is potentially less severe, health officials have warned that the sheer number of infections could strain hospital systems, some of which have already suspended elective procedures as they struggle to handle the increase in patients and staff shortages.

The surge in cases has disrupted schools, which are struggling with absences of staff, teachers and bus drivers.

Chicago canceled classes for a fourth day as the district and teachers failed to agree on how to deal with increased infections.

New York City suspended service on three subway lines as a large number of workers were out sick, according to its Twitter account. Companies’ plans for workers to return to office have also been derailed.

Deaths are averaging 1,700 per day, up from about 1,400 in recent days but within levels seen earlier this winter.

A redesigned COVID-19 vaccine that specifically targets the Omicron variant is likely needed, Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) CEO said on Monday, adding his company could have one ready to launch by March.

Reporting by Lisa Shumaker in Chicago, Aparupa Mazumder and Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Himani Sarkar

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Australia swamped by Omicron surge as pressure grows on hospitals

Customers queue outside a Western Sydney chemist to purchase Rapid Antigen Test kits in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Sydney, Australia, January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

Customers queue outside a Western Sydney chemist to purchase Rapid Antigen Test kits in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Sydney, Australia, January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

SYDNEY, Jan 11 (Reuters) – Australia’s COVID-19 infections hovered near record levels on Tuesday as a surge of infections caused by the Omicron variant put a strain on hospitals already stretched by staff isolating after being exposed to the virus.

After successfully containing the coronavirus for most of the pandemic, Australia has been swamped by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant after authorities eased mitigation measures as high vaccination rates were reached.

Australia has reported about 1.1 million cases since the pandemic began, with more than half of those in the last two weeks, including nearly 86,000 cases on Tuesday, with two states due to report later.

“There is significant pressure in our health system,” the premier of Victoria state, Daniel Andrews, told a media briefing, adding about 4,000 hospital and 400 ambulance staff in the state were isolating due to virus protocols.

Ambulance services in Victoria were forced to declare a code red – when there are more call requests than ambulances available – for several hours on Monday night, ambulance union official Olga Bartasek told broadcaster ABC.

There are more people in hospital in Victoria and New South Wales, home to more than half Australia’s 25 million people and the worst-affected states by the virus, than at any time during the pandemic.

In all, about 4,000 people are in hospital with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, nearly double from a week ago. More than 92% of the population over the age of 16 have had a double dose of vaccine and a booster programme is picking up pace.

The number of patients in intensive care and the number of deaths are creeping up, with 25 new fatalities registered on Tuesday, with data from some states still not in.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, facing pressure for his handling of the Omicron wave in an election year, has vowed to “push through” the outbreak and plans to ease isolation rules for asymptomatic workers in key sectors amid reports of bare supermarket shelves. read more

Reporting by Renju Jose Editing by Robert Birsel
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China orders suspension of some U.S. flights after COVID-19 cases

Stairs stand on a tarmac next to a Delta Air Lines plane at Pittsburgh International Airport in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 3, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Stairs stand on a tarmac next to a Delta Air Lines plane at Pittsburgh International Airport in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 3, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

WASHINGTON/BEIJING, Jan 10 (Reuters) – China has ordered the cancellation of more than two dozen scheduled flights from the United States in recent weeks after numerous passengers tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in China.

China’s aviation regulator has mandated the cancellations of eight total scheduled U.S. passenger airline flights for Shanghai under its COVID-19 pandemic rules: four by United Airlines and two each from Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and American Airlines (AAL.O).

Delta said it canceled Detroit to Shanghai flights last Friday and Jan. 14 due to the Chinese rule requiring “all affected carriers”, whose passengers test positive for COVID-19, “to cancel inbound service on certain China flights.”

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has also canceled at least 22 other U.S. bound flights operated by Chinese carriers since December after positive COVID-19 tests, including eight by China Southern Airlines Co (600029.SS).

The United States is facing a surge in infections caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant and on Monday had 132,646 people hospitalized with COVID, surpassing the record of 132,051 set in January 2021. The seven-day average for new cases has doubled in the last 10 days to 704,000.

United said it had been forced to cancel flights from San Francisco to Shanghai scheduled for Jan. 15, 19, 22 and 26. The Chicago-based carrier flies from San Francisco to Shanghai four times weekly.

The U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT) did not immediately comment late Monday.

U.S.-CHINA AIR SERVICES

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, China and the United States have sparred over air services.

In August, USDOT limited four flights from Chinese carriers to 40% passenger capacity for four weeks after Beijing imposed identical limits on four United Airlines flights.

China told United in August it was imposing curbs on some flights after it alleged five passengers who traveled from San Francisco to Shanghai tested positive for COVID-19 on July 21.

USDOT said in August that China’s policy “places undue culpability on carriers with respect to travelers that test positive for COVID-19 after their arrival in China.”

The department said carriers “have no means to independently verify positive test results alleged by Chinese authorities.”

A long-standing U.S.-China air agreement allows the countries to operate over 100 weekly flights between the two nations but only a fraction of those are currently operating.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump in January 2020 barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who had been in China within the last 14 days from traveling to the United States.

President Joe Biden in November lifted the Chinese travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign air travelers.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Stella Qiu in Beijing; Editing by Himani Sarkar
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Chile, a vaccine front-runner, launches fourth COVID dose

A healthcare worker prepares a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a mobile vaccine clinic, in Valparaiso, Chile, January 3, 2022. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

A healthcare worker prepares a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a mobile vaccine clinic, in Valparaiso, Chile, January 3, 2022. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

SANTIAGO, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Chile, one of the world’s fastest movers on COVID-19 vaccines, started its campaign to give fourth doses on Monday to immunocompromised people, a regional first, as infections rise driven by the fast spread of the Omicron variant.

The South American country has seen daily infections rise to over 4,000, doubling over the last week, government data show, a reflection of soaring infections globally, despite hopes over data suggesting Omicron may be less fatal, if more contagious.

“This vaccine, this fourth dose or second booster dose, will be available to everyone. We start today with immunocompromised people and we will continue with maximum speed,” said Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera at a hospital in capital Santiago.

The campaign began with people aged 12 or older with compromised immunity who received their first booster dose up until last September. The process will be extended to the general population of people aged over 55 years in February.

“This shows a great advance in terms of health issues,” said Maria Isabel Sandoval, a 61-year-old retired teacher with cancer, who received her dose in a health center in the municipality of La Florida, in the southeast of the capital.

“It is like being a little bit ahead of things.”

Carla Riquelme, 37, a nurse technician who had breast cancer, agreed.

“As infections rise, it is ideal to get vaccinated again, to have more booster doses. I feel calmer,” she said.

Since the end of 2020, Chile has fully inoculated more than 14 million people – out of a population of 19 million – while 11.3 million people have already received a third booster dose, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

Reporting by Natalia Ramos and Reuters TV; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Lisa Shumaker
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