Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II tests positive for COVID-19

Queen Elizabeth II speaks during an audience at Windsor Castle where she met the incoming and outgoing Defence Service Secretaries, Feb 16, 2022. (STEVE PARSONS, POOL VIA AP)

LONDON / LJUBLJANA / ADDIS ABABA / – Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for COVID-19, Buckingham Palace confirmed on Sunday.

The queen is experiencing mild cold-like symptoms but expects to continue light duties at Windsor over the coming week, the palace said.

"She will continue to receive medical attention and will follow all the appropriate guidelines," it added.

The announcement was made just a few weeks after the 95-year-old monarch marked her Platinum Jubilee, the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne.

Earlier this month, Prince Charles tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time after he fell ill with the virus in 2020. British media said he had seen the queen a few days before his positive diagnosis, citing palace sources. 

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to set out plans next week to remove self-isolation requirements for people infected with COVID-19, his office said on Saturday.

Britain would become the first major European country to allow people who know they are infected with COVID-19 to freely use shops, public transport and go to work – a move many of his health advisors think is risky.

Britain would become the first major European country to allow people who know they are infected with COVID-19 to freely use shops, public transport and go to work – a move many of his health advisors think is risky

"COVID will not suddenly disappear, and we need to learn to live with this virus and continue to protect ourselves without restricting our freedoms," Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson will also give more details on how Britain will guard against future coronavirus variants through ongoing surveillance, amid reports that the government wants to end free testing and scale back public health studies.

Currently people in England are legally required to self-isolate for at least five days if instructed to by public health officials, and are advised to isolate even without a specific order if they have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive. 

Removing the COVID-19 self-isolation legal requirements and replacing them with voluntary guidance would bring the disease in line with how Britain treats most other infections.

Some 85 percent of Britain's population aged 12 or over have had at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and two thirds of the population – including the vast majority of those most at risk – have had three.

Britain's death toll of more than 160,000 fatalities within 28 days of infection is the second-highest in Europe after Russia's. Relative to the size of Britain's population, it is 6 percent higher than the average for the European Union.

COVID-19 restrictions are unpopular with many members of Johnson's Conservative Party, who view them as disproportionate given widespread take-up of vaccines.

"Pharmaceutical interventions, led by the vaccination program, will continue to be our first line of defense," the government said. "An awareness of public health guidance should remain, as with all infectious diseases such as flu."

Africa

A total of 11,104,160 COVID-19 cases were reported in Africa as of Saturday evening, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The specialized healthcare agency of the African Union said the COVID-19 death toll across the continent stands at 246,584, while 10,254,788 patients have recovered from the disease so far.

South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Ethiopia are among the countries with the most cases on the continent, said the Africa CDC.

South Africa has recorded the most COVID-19 cases in Africa with 3,654,824 cases, followed by Morocco with 1,158,145 cases, Tunisia with 979,612, and Libya with 482,153.

In terms of caseload, southern Africa is the most affected region in Africa, followed by the northern and eastern parts of the continent, while central Africa is the least affected region.

An elderly couple (3 and 4-right) wait to receive a BioNtech Pfizer COVID-19 jab as a booster, in Santiago on Feb 7, 2022. (PHOTO / AFP)

Chile

Chile registered 33,769 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 129 related deaths over the past day, bringing its total caseload to 2,819,246 and national death toll to 41,196, the Chilean Ministry of Health said Saturday.

The number of new COVID-19 cases has fallen 6 percent over the course of the week, but is still 28 percent higher compared to figures 14 days ago, said the ministry.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 "continue to show a decline" amid a wave of infections caused by the Omicron variant of the virus and an increase in mobility due to the summer holidays, said Chilean Minister of Health Enrique Paris.

Currently, there are 124,640 active COVID-19 cases in the country, with 994 people hospitalized in intensive care units, among whom 809 are on ventilators.

Official figures indicate that COVID-19 patients represent 45 percent of the total occupancy of critical care beds in the country.

Russia

Russia has confirmed 170,699 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 15,370,419, the official monitoring and response center said Sunday.

The nationwide death toll has increased by 745 to 345,500, while the number of recoveries increased by 147,296 to 12,365,238.

Meanwhile, Moscow reported 6,388 new cases, taking its total to 2,664,189.

Over 86.6 million Russian citizens had received at least one dose of vaccines and over 82.6 million had been fully vaccinated, according to data released on Friday.

The level of herd immunity in the country stood at 59.7 percent, the data showed.

Protesters hold flags and banners as they walk during a rally against COVID-19 restrictions in Ljubljana on Oct 27, 2021. (JURE MAKOVEC / AFP)

Slovenia

Slovenia on Saturday started to ease COVID-19 restrictions as the number of new daily cases had been gradually falling over the past weeks.

From Saturday, it is possible to enter Slovenia without a vaccination certificate, a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery.

In the country, people no longer have to go into mandatory self-isolation after close contact with someone with COVID-19, the government said on its website.

The country reported 3,731 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, down from 3,818 a day before and well below the all-time high of 24,230 daily infections registered on Feb 1, the National Institute of Public Health said on Saturday.

Certain other restrictions continue to remain in force, including a face mask mandate in all indoor public spaces and the obligation to present a vaccination certificate, proof of recent recovery from COVID-19 or a negative test before entering most indoor public spaces.

Capacity limits will also continue to apply in certain public indoor spaces.

A person receives a COVID-19 test out of a mobile testing van on Jan 5, 2022 in New York City. (ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

US 

There have been more than 1 millon excess deaths in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Guardian said in a recent report.

The deaths are mainly attributable to COVID-19, as well as conditions that may have resulted from delayed medical care and overwhelmed health systems, the report quoted figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as saying.

At least 923,000 Americans have died from confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the US CDC

At least 923,000 Americans have died from confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the US CDC. Other causes of death above the normally expected number include heart disease, hypertension and Alzheimer's disease.

Excess deaths are also known as untimely or "early" deaths, The Guardian explained, adding while the majority of excess deaths in the United States occurred among those 65 and older, many of those Americans had many years left to live.

Excess deaths are calculated based on previous years' fatalities. In 2019, there were 2.8 million deaths in the United States. In 2020, it was approximately 3.3 million, the report noted.

Many Americans delayed seeking care during the pandemic, and others saw the quality of their care worsen as the country's healthcare system was overburdened by COVID-19, it said.

The United States is also in the midst of an overdose crisis, with more than 100,000 overdose deaths in the first year of the pandemic, the report added.