UK sees more than 120,000 daily COVID-19 cases for first time

Shoppers, some wearing face coverings to combat the spread of Covid-19, pass High Street stores on Christmas Eve in Guildford, south of London on Dec 24, 2021. (ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP)

LONDON / HAVANA / LISBON – Britain has reported another 122,186 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, exceeding 120,000 daily cases for the first time since of the start of the pandemic, according to official figures released Friday.

It brought the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 11,891,292.The country also reported a further 137 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 147,857, with 8,240 COVID-19 patients still in hospital.

Another 23,719 Omicron cases have been confirmed in Britain, the biggest daily increase since the COVID-19 variant was detected in the country

Another 23,719 Omicron cases have been confirmed in Britain, the biggest daily increase since the COVID-19 variant was detected in the country, taking the total Omicron cases found in the country to 114,625, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said Friday.

However, experts said there are likely to be hundreds of thousands of infections per day, with many being missed by the system.

The latest figures came as data showed that around one in 20 people in London had COVID in the week to Dec 19, the highest proportion for any English region.

The Office for National Statistics said its headline results of a national survey showed the British capital had the country's highest rate of the virus. The result was based on data gathered between Dec 13 and 19.

In England, ONS said an estimated 1,544,600 have had COVID-19 in the past week, with 2.83 percent of the population testing positive. It equates to 1 in 35 people across England having the virus, added ONS.

More than 89 percent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and around 82 percent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 56 percent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine. To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines. 

Cuba

Cuba on Friday registered no COVID-19 death in the last 24 hours, but detected 76 new cases of infection, raising its total caseload to 964,482 and keeping its pandemic death toll at 8,317, the Ministry of Public Health said.

In its daily pandemic report, the ministry said 367 people remained hospitalized with active cases.

Havana saw the highest number of new daily cases (18), followed by the provinces of Holguin and Ciego de Avila, with nine new cases each.

ALSO READ: Cuba seeks WHO approval of vaccines as toddlers next for shot

A fast-paced mass vaccination campaign is underway on the island, with a little over 9.5 million of the country's 11.2 million inhabitants having been fully vaccinated, according to ministry data.

Meanwhile, over 978,000 people, including tourism and customs workers, as well as those who are immunocompromised, have received COVID-19 booster shots.

The immunization campaign is being carried out with the Cuba-made vaccines Abdala, Soberana-02 and Soberana Plus, three of five vaccines developed nationally.

Pedestrians wear masks to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 as they wait at a crosswalk, near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Dec 14, 2021.
(THIBAULT CAMUS/AP)

France

France hit another COVID-19 infection record on Friday, with the daily figure getting close to 100,000, a trend that prompted the government to convene a special meeting on the pandemic on Monday which could trigger new restrictions on movement.

Health authorities reported 94,124 new daily COVID-19 cases on Friday while the number of people hospitalized for the disease reached a seven-month high at close to 16,200, according to official data.

The seven-day moving average of new cases, which evens out weekly data reporting irregularities, also reached a new record of 66,417, a total that has tripled in just one month.

The number of COVID-19 related deaths climbed by 167 over 24 hours, bringing the total to 122,462. France's total number of cases since the outbreak of the pandemic stands at 8.98 million, the seventh highest in the world.

Earlier in the day, the French presidential palace said President Emmanuel Macron would convene a COVID-19 meeting Monday at 1500 GMT, which will be followed immediately by a cabinet meeting.

France plans to pass a law transforming its health pass needed to do some jobs and to go to cinemas and bars into a "vaccination" pass in the first half of January.

The main aim of a vaccination pass will be to do away with the option of obtaining a valid certificate by testing negative instead of having the vaccine shots.

The government is hoping that measure will be enough to contain the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of the disease, which already accounts for 20 percent of new infections in France.

Portugal

Portugal registered its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases in the last 11 months on Friday, with over 12,943 infections, announced the country's General Directorate of Health (DGS).

A further 11 deaths attributed to COVID-19 were also reported, bringing the national death toll to 18,851 since the start of the pandemic.

However, the epidemiological bulletin of the DGS reveals a decrease in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 — currently 864, of which 149 are in intensive care units.

According to data from the health authority, the most deaths were registered among people aged over 80. This age group has seen the highest number of fatalities since the start of the pandemic, a total of 12, 241.

As of Friday, Portugal imposed new restrictions until Jan. 5 to control the pandemic, such as mandatory working from home, and the closure of daycare centers, nightclubs and bars. Vaccination certificates and a negative COVID-19 test must also be presented at tourist establishments, parties, and restaurants.

Roche

Roche said on Friday that the US Food and Drug Administration  has granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to its COVID-19 at-home rapid test that can be used by people as young as 14.

The test, which uses a anterior nasal swab sample, is "able to produce accurate, reliable and quick results in as few as 20 minutes" for SARS-CoV-2 and all variants of concern, including Omicron, the drugmaker said in a statement.

The variant has become dominant in the United States with lightning speed, dashing hopes for a more normal holiday season, resurrecting restrictions and stretching the country's testing infrastructure ahead of holiday travel and gatherings.

"Roche has the capacity to produce tens of millions of tests per month to help support the pandemic response," the Swiss firm said, adding that the test will be available across the US from January.

The test's approval comes at a time when companies such as Walmart Inc, Walgreens Boots Alliance and CVS Health Corp have limited sales of at-home COVID-19 testing kits as demand surged owing to the swift spread of the variant of the coronavirus.

US President Joe Biden recently unveiled plans to buy 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests to be distributed for free to Americans who request them starting in January.

The test can also be used by for children aged 2-13 years under adult supervision, according to the company. "The launch will be in partnership with SD Biosensor Inc, with whom Roche has a global distribution agreement."