Germany’s COVID-19 cases hit daily record of more than 80,000

In this file photo taken on Dec 23, 2021, a girl is inoculated against COVID-19 during a children's vaccination action in the the Red City Hall in Berlin, Germany. (TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP)

PARIS / WASHINGTON / ATHENS / LA PAZ / BUENOS AIRES / GENEVA / BERLIN / SOFIA / MOSCOW / GABORONE / BUDAPEST / BOGOTA – Germany reported 80,430 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the highest recorded in a single day since the pandemic began, as the contagious Omicron variant rips through a population with lower vaccination rates than some other parts of Europe.

The previous daily record, on Nov 26, was more than 76,000.

Germany's tally of infections now stands at 7,661,811. The death toll also rose by 384 on Wednesday to reach 114,735

Germany's tally of infections now stands at 7,661,811. The death toll also rose by 384 on Wednesday to reach 114,735.

Just under 75 percent of the population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious disease show.

The seven-day incidence rate, a key yardstick in deciding coronavirus policy, has ticked up steadily since the start of the year, to stand at 407.5 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday, versus 387.9 the day before.

Argentina

Argentina registered 134,439 COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, a new record of daily infections, bringing the national tally to 6,533,635, the Ministry of Health reported Tuesday.

The figure exceeded the previous record set on Friday, when 110,533 cases were registered in a single day.

The health ministry also reported 52 deaths from the disease in the same period of time, bringing the number of fatalities to 117,595.

The South American country is facing a third COVID-19 wave due to the Delta and Omicron variants.

In this file photo taken on Jan 03, 2022 Bolivian Vice-President David Choquehuanca receives the first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine against COVID-19 in La Paz. (JORGE BERNAL / AFP)

Bolivia

Bolivia's Vice-President David Choquehuanca and six ministers tested positive for COVID-19, the government said Tuesday.

In a statement, the Ministry of the Presidency confirmed the infections, but said the officials were in stable condition and complying with corresponding treatment.

The six were Minister of Government Eduardo del Castillo, Defense Minister Edmundo Novillo, Education Minister Edgar Pary, Minister of Development Planning Gabriela Mendoza, Minister of Justice Ivan Lima, and Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta.

They "have received their two doses (of the vaccine against COVID-19), while the vice-president has received his first dose," Vice-Minister of Communication Gabriela Alcon told journalists, adding that "they are all in very good health, stable and under respective control and isolation."

According to the latest report from the Health Ministry, Bolivia has accumulated 686,023 COVID-19 cases and 19,999 deaths from the disease, registering record figures of more than 11,000 daily infections in the first week of 2022.

Faced with this situation, regional governments have taken a series of measures to reinforce containment, mitigation, epidemiological surveillance and mass vaccination.

This file photo taken on Nov 1, 2019 shows the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, delivering his speech after being sworn in as the 5th President of the country in Gaborone. (MONIRUL BHUIYAN / AFP)

Botswana

Health authorities in Botswana on Tuesday cleared the southern African country's President Mokgweetsi Masisi to leave self-isolation after "he continues to have no COVID-19 associated symptoms," a government spokesperson said.

"His medical team has assessed his health status and subsequently cleared him because he continues to have no COVID-19 associated symptoms," John-Thomas Dipowe, acting permanent secretary in the Botswana government communications and information systems, said in a statement.

The fully vaccinated 59-year-old leader entered into a mandatory self-isolation early last week at his official residence situated in the country's capital city of Gaborone after testing positive for COVID-19.

Bulgaria

Daily coronavirus infections in Bulgaria reached a record high of 7,062 on Wednesday, largely fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, official data showed.

New cases, on the rise since the beginning of the year, surpassed a previous peak set in late October, when the European Union's least vaccinated member state grappled with the Delta variant.

The virus has killed 89 people in the past 24 hours in the Balkan country, according to official figures, bringing the total death toll to 31,761.

More than 5,200 people were in hospitals, including 580 in intensive care. In the capital, Sofia, planned operations have been suspended as hospitals prepared to expand wards for COVID-19 patients.

In this file photo taken on Nov 24, 2021,
a child receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children in Montreal, Quebec. (ANDREJ IVANOV / AFP)

Canada

Quebec, Canada's second most populous province, is planning to force adults refusing to get COVID-19 vaccinated pay a "health contribution" in a move likely to spur a debate about individual rights and social responsibility.

Premier Francois Legault told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that the proposal, details of which were still being finalized, would not apply to those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons.

Unvaccinated people put a financial burden on others and the provincial finance ministry is determining a "significant" amount that unvaccinated residents would be required to pay, Premier Francois Legault said, adding that such an amount would not be less than C$100 ($79.50)

Unvaccinated people put a financial burden on others and the provincial finance ministry is determining a "significant" amount that unvaccinated residents would be required to pay, Legault said, adding that such an amount would not be less than C$100 ($79.50).

Governments globally have imposed movement restrictions on the unvaccinated and few have levied fines on the elderly, but a sweeping tax on all unvaccinated adults could be a rare and controversial move.

While such a tax could be justified in the context of a health emergency, McGill University medicine and health sciences professor Carolyn Ells said, whether it survives a court challenge would depend on the details.

But Ells expressed surprise that the government was taking such a "dramatic" step now, when options such as further expanding vaccine mandates remain.

Provinces across Canada are tackling an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases that has forced tens of thousands of people into isolation and burdened the healthcare sector.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant has made it difficult for restrictive measures to curb the spread and health experts have stressed the importance of getting double and tripled vaccinated.

Quebec has been one of the worst-hit, regularly recording the highest daily count of coronavirus cases of all provinces and having several thousand healthcare workers off their jobs.

Studies: Omicron has higher 'asymptomatic carriage'

"The vaccine is the key to fight the virus. This is why we're looking for a health contribution for adults who refuse to be vaccinated for non-medical reasons," Legault said.

Legault said that even though the province has about 10 percent unvaccinated people, they account for about 50 percent of those in intensive care units.

Legault and his CAQ party face a provincial election in October.

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the federal government had secured enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for all eligible Canadians to receive a booster as well as a fourth dose. 

Last month, Quebec said it had "no choice" but to allow some essential workers to continue working even after testing positive for COVID-19 to prevent staff shortages from impeding its healthcare services. It has also imposed curbs on gathering.

Colombia

Colombia will let people get their coronavirus booster vaccines four months after completing their initial vaccination course, President Ivan Duque said on Tuesday.

Colombia, which according to government figures has had more than 5.3 million coronavirus infections and 130,460 deaths from COVID-19, previously mandated that people wait six months for their booster shots after completing their initial vaccinations.

"Everyone aged 18 and over who has had both doses, or one dose in cases like Janssen, can now have their booster doses after four months instead of six," Duque said in a video message.

At the same time, people who are infected with coronavirus can have their vaccines 30 days after their isolation ends, rather than six months after, Duque said.

Colombia has also reduced quarantine times for those who test positive and show symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, to seven days, from 14 days previously.

Similarly, unvaccinated people who have been in contact with an infected person must isolate for seven days, Duque said.

In this file photo taken on Dec 14, 2021,
medical staff members tend to a COVID-19 patient under respiratory assistance, in a room of the intensive care unit of the Andre – Gregoire hospital in Montreuil, east of Paris. (JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

France

France on Tuesday reported 368,149 new coronavirus cases, the highest single-day tally of the country since the pandemic.

The previous high of 332,252 was set on Jan 5, since when France – where highly contagious Omicron has become the dominant variant – has recorded two more days above 300,000.

The seven-day moving average of new cases rose to over 280,000 on Tuesday.

By mid-January, the government aims to introduce a vaccine pass that will make inoculation mandatory for anyone wanting to go to restaurants or attend indoor events.

Until now, proof of vaccination or a recent negative test have been sufficient.

Greece

Greece's National Vaccination Committee approved on Tuesday a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccines for immunocompromised patients, Greek national news agency AMNA reported.

The fourth dose can be administered three months after the third one, it was announced.

The decision was made as Greece experiences a strong wave of the pandemic due to the Omicron variant in recent weeks. 

Hungary

Hungary's daily tally of new COVID-19 cases jumped to 7,883 on Wednesday from 5,270 reported a week earlier, but the number of patients treated in hospital declined over the week, the government said.

The government said 29 percent of the new infections were caused by the new Omicron variant, but some private labs have reported much higher figures.

In this file photo taken on Nov 23, 2021, a man puts on a face mask walking at the entrance to Troparyovo metro station during a snowfall in Moscow. (NATALIA
KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)

Russia

Russia warned on Tuesday it could face a "very intense" rise in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the coming weeks and authorities preparing for a new wave of infections said they would make more hospital beds available in Moscow.

Speaking at a televised meeting of the government's coronavirus task force, Anna Popova, a top consumer health official, said Russia had so far recorded 305 cases of Omicron across 13 of its regions.

"The risk of a very intense rise in (cases) of the disease is real," she said.

Omicron has pushed COVID-19 case figures to record highs in parts of western Europe and the United States, while cases in Russia have generally been declining from a peak of 41,335 registered in early November.

In this file photo taken on Nov 5, 2021, pins that will be given to children after the receive their first dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are seen at the Beaumont Health offices in Southfield, Michigan. (JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)

US

Nearly 8.5 million children in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, and COVID-19 cases among American children are "increasing exponentially," according to the latest report of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

A total of 8,471,003 child COVID-19 cases had been reported across the country as of Jan 6, and children represented 17.4 percent of all confirmed cases, according to the report published late Monday.

The overall rate was 11,255 cases per 100,000 children in the population.

COVID-19 cases among US children are "increasing exponentially," far exceeding the peak of past waves of the pandemic, according to the report.

For the week ending Jan 6, over 580,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported, a 78 percent increase over the week before, and an almost tripling of case counts from the two weeks prior, according to the AAP.

This marks the 22nd week in a row child COVID-19 cases in the United States are above 100,000. Since the first week of September, there have been over 3.4 million additional child cases, according to the AAP.

Children accounted for 1.7 percent to 4.3 percent of total reported hospitalizations, and 0 to 0.27 percent of all COVID-19 deaths, according to the report.

"There is an urgent need to collect more age-specific data to assess the severity of illness related to new variants as well as potential longer-term effects," the AAP said in the report.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration said on Tuesday that federal agencies should require weekly COVID-19 testing by Feb 15 for unvaccinated government employees who are working on-site or interacting with the public.

A vaccine mandate imposed by President Joe Biden in September covers about 3.5 million federal workers and required them to be fully vaccinated by Nov 22 or face potential discipline or even termination.

The administration said on Tuesday that unvaccinated employees – including those seeking religious or medical exemptions – "should be tested weekly for any week during which they work on-site or interact in person with members of the public as part of their job duties. Agencies may require more frequent testing."

The rules do not apply to federal workers who are working remotely.

WHO

A World Health Organization technical body said on Tuesday that current COVID-19 vaccines may need to be reworked to ensure they are effective against Omicron and future variants of the coronavirus.

The technical group, made up of independent experts, said it would consider a change in vaccination composition and stressed that shots needed to be more effective in protecting against infection.