COVID: Millions more locked down as China battles Omicron spread – Al Jazeera English

Five million residents in China’s central city of Anyang have started home confinement in a new lockdown to curb the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to state media.

China’s city of Xi’an, a city of 13 million people, was also placed under lockdown in late December.

Elsewhere, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under renewed pressure amid a new surge in cases, after an email was leaked inviting about 100 staff to bring drinks to a party during the country’s first lockdown in May 2020.

Here are the latest updates:

British minister: I understand the hurt caused by lockdown party claims

Allegations of parties at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office will have caused hurt to people who lost loved ones to COVID-19 but there must be time for a full investigation to establish what happened, junior health minister Edward Argar said.

“I can understand the hurt that these reports, these allegations, will have caused, particularly for those who’ve lost loved ones,” Argar told Sky News following a new report of alleged rule breaking, adding it was right that Johnson had previously commissioned a civil servant to investigate similar allegations.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate… for me to comment on those ongoing conversations or her ongoing investigation. We’ve got to give a space to conclude that investigation.”

Heathrow hit by Omicron cancellations in December

Britain’s biggest airport Heathrow handled 19.4 million passengers in 2021, less than one quarter of pre-pandemic levels and lower than 2020, after Omicron sparked a run of cancellations in December.

The airport to the west of London said that at least 600,000 passengers cancelled travel plans from Heathrow in December as new travel restrictions came into force.

Infographic showing the global vaccine divide as of Jan 2022(Al Jazeera)

Poland’s total COVID-19 death toll passes 100,000

Poland’s health minister has said that the country’s total COVID-19 death toll has passed 100,000.

“Today we can say it is another sad day, but especially so because we have passed the level of 100,000 COVID deaths,” Adam Niedzielski told private broadcaster TVN 24.

Australia’s Omicron surge puts pressure on hospitals

Australia’s COVID-19 infections has surged to near record levels due to the Omicron variant putting a strain on hospitals already stretched by staff isolating after being exposed to the virus.

Australia reported 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.

Chicago teachers to end COVID-19 walkout that shut out 340,000 students

Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest US education district, will resume in-person classes on Wednesday after a union backed ending a walkout over COVID-19 fears in an agreement it said would boost safeguards.

The teachers agreed to reinstate virtual instruction and a push for more rigorous safety protocols, including wider testing, as the Omicron variant spread.

The walkout had affected 340,000 students in Chicago, the third most populous city in the US.Infographic showing the number of days since each country recorded its highest number of COVID-19 cases 2022

Hong Kong airport to ban transit from high-risk nations

Bloomberg News is reporting that Hong Kong’s international airport is set to ban transit by passengers from designated high-risk countries from January 15 to February 14.

The report said that the ban will not apply to diplomats, government officials, athletes and staff participating in the Winter Olympics, which open on February 4 in Beijing.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced on Tuesday that the city will start vaccinating children over 5 years old. She also announced the suspension of face-toface classes among kindergartens and primary schools until after the Lunar New Year, which will be on February 1 this year.

US weighs recommending N95 or KN95 masks against Omicron

According to a new Washington Post report, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is considering updating its mask guidance amid the new surge in cases due to the Omicron variant.

The report published late on Monday said that the CDC will likely advise people to opt for the highly protective N95 or KN95 masks worn by healthcare personnel.

Earlier on Monday, the US reported a record number of hospitalisations reaching 142,388 on Sunday – the highest since the pandemic began.

Duterte: We can’t wait for new law to restrain unvaccinated amid new surge

Amid the record-breaking number of cases in the last few days, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that he cannot wait for a new law to be passed that would allow the unvaccinated Filipinos to be restrained.

“As I said, we have every right to restrain. We can’t wait for a law. Passing a law is very tedious in a democracy,” CNN Philippines quoted Duterte as saying during a recorded address to the nation that aired before midnight on Monday.

The Philippines hit a new daily record of more than 33,000 news cases on Monday, while also logging a new record positivity rate of 44 percent. On Tuesday, Duterte’s daughter, Sara Carpio, who is running for vice president, said she is against her father’s order to arrest or limit the movement of the unvaccinated.

Mexican president says he has COVID for second time

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has announced that he has contracted COVID-19 for a second time.

“I inform you that I am infected with COVID-19 and although the symptoms are mild, I will remain in isolation and will only do office work and communicate virtually until I get through it,” he posted on Twitter.

Interior Minister Adan Augusto Lopez will replace Lopez Obrador at his usual morning press conference and other public events while he recovers.

‘Bring your own booze!’: More party revelations hit Boris Johnson

Johnson_PM_UKThe UK’s death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 150,000, and the Omicron wave is fuelling a new wave of admissions to hospital [File: Peter Cziborra/Reuters]

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under renewed pressure following revelations of a Downing Street party during the United Kingdom’s first lockdown in May 2020.

In an email leaked to ITV News, an aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson invited just more than 100 people working in 10 Downing Street to “socially distanced drinks” in the garden.

“Please join us at 6pm and bring our own booze!” it concluded.

About 30 to 40 people accepted the invitation.

At the time, people in the UK were allowed to meet only one person from outside their household in an outdoor public space provided they remained two metres apart.

Merck: Molnupiravir should be effective against Omicron

Merck’s COVID-19 oral pill molnupiravir can work against Omicron and any other variant, the company says.

“We’re very confident that it will affect Omicron … This mechanism in molecule (will) work for Omicron, and I would imagine against any variant that comes up,” Dean Li, president of Merck Research Laboratories, said at JP Morgan’s annual healthcare conference.

Data on molnupiravir’s effect against Omicron is not yet available, but the pill was shown to be 30 percent effective at reducing hospital admissions and deaths, based on data from 1,433 patients, in data released in November.

The pill has secured regulatory authorisation from the US, UK, Japan and India.

Read all the updates from Monday here.

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COVID: Millions more locked down as China battles Omicron spread – Al Jazeera English

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