Dec 30 (Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
COVID-19 casts bleak shadow over New Year celebrations
COVID-19 will stifle New Year celebrations around the world for the second year running on Friday, with governments in many countries hurriedly scaling back festivities in an effort to contain rampant contagion.
Global coronavirus infections hit a record high over the past seven-day period, with almost 1 million cases detected on average each day worldwide between Dec. 23 and 29, some 100,000 up on the previous peak posted on Wednesday, according to Reuters data.
Numerous nations registered all-time highs during the previous 24 hours, including Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, the United States, France and Italy, as the all-conquering Omicron variant spread like wildfire.
J&J booster slashes Omicron hospitalizations
A booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine was 84% effective at preventing hospitalization in South African healthcare workers who became infected as the Omicron variant spread, researchers said on Thursday.
The real-world study, which has not been peer-reviewed, was based on a second dose of the J&J vaccine administered to 69,092 workers between Nov. 15 and Dec. 20.
Xian battles COVID-19 in worst outbreak to hit a Chinese city this year
China’s industrial and tech hub of Xian reported on Thursday more than 100 new cases of COVID-19, taking its tally of locally transmitted infections to the highest in any Chinese city this year.
Xian reported 155 new local cases for Dec. 29, official data showed. That takes its number of local infections to more than 1,100 since the flare-up began on Dec. 9 and compelled authorities to put the city of 13 million under lockdown.
Thousands of people left messages on the social media account of the late Chinese COVID-19 whistleblower Li Wenliang on the anniversary of the day he learned of possible pneumonia-causing virus cases in Wuhan and shared the information with fellow doctors.
Hospitalization surge among U.S. children spurs new Omicron concerns
Within weeks, the Omicron variant has fueled thousands of new COVID-19 hospitalizations among U.S. children, raising new concerns about how the many unvaccinated Americans under the age of 18 will fare in the new surge.
The seven-day-average number of daily hospitalizations for children between Dec. 21 and Dec. 27 is up more than 58% nationwide in the past week to 334, compared with around 19% for all age groups, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. Fewer than 25% of the 74 million Americans under 18 are vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Australia relaxes testing rules amid Omicron surge
Australia sought to relieve pressure on overrun COVID-19 testing facilities on Thursday by narrowing its definition of close contacts of infected people and relaxing requirements for tests, as daily cases topped 20,000 for the first time in the pandemic.
Australia is grappling with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant after most states eased tough restrictions, and like other countries, is betting on the highly transmissible variant being much less severe than previous variants.
Goa’s beaches packed with domestic tourists
Thousands of Indian tourists have thronged the beaches, pubs and nightclubs of Goa to see in the New Year, even as the government imposed tougher restrictions to curb Omicron.
India’s suspension of international commercial flights due to the pandemic has boosted domestic tourism, with hotels and restaurants in popular destinations such as Goa enjoying roaring trade. (Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Alex Richardson)