‘Tsunami’ of COVID-19 cases around the world raises fears of testing and quarantine

The executive order applies to everyone over the age of 11 with exceptions for cycling, exercise and driving.

In the United States, new COVID-19 cases have risen to the highest level ever, averaging over 265,000 a day. The former mark was 250,000 cases a day, set in mid-January, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta all registered a record number of new cases on Tuesday.

Director of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, said she expected many more cases in the United States, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said 90 per cent of patients who end up in intensive care had not received booster vaccines , which doctors say is the best protection against Omicron.

“You see more cases in hospitals, but it’s obviously milder than the Delta variant,” Johnson said.

A hand alcohol station on Oxford Street in London this week.

A hand alcohol station on Oxford Street in London this week.Credit:Getty Images

In Spain, the demand for free test kits from the Madrid regional government far exceeded supply, with long queues outside pharmacies.

Early data from the UK, South Africa and Denmark suggest that the risk of hospitalization from Omicron is lower than from Delta, the WHO said in its latest epidemiological report.

However, WHO’s top emergency expert, Mike Ryan, said it was too early to draw definitive conclusions because Omicron has so far largely circulated among younger, less vulnerable age groups.

“What we have not seen is the Omicron wave is fully established in the wider population,” he said.

‘I just want to go home’

A number of governments also became more and more concerned about the huge number being forced into self-isolation because they had been in contact with a corona sufferer.

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Italy was expected to ease some quarantine rules on Wednesday, worried about stalling due to the number in preventive self-isolation. Cases doubled in a day to 78,313 on Wednesday.

China, however, stuck to its zero-tolerance policy, keeping 13 million people in Xian under rigid blockade for a seventh day, as 151 new cases were reported on Tuesday, though none with Omicron so far.

“I just want to go home,” said a 32-year-old mechanic who was in town on a business trip last week when it was effectively closed off from the outside world.

The increase in cases coincides with many countries’ New Year holidays, usually a period of parties and travel. Some countries, such as Italy, have canceled public parties, while Japanese authorities urged residents to keep New Year’s meetings small.

“The highest risk is meeting people without taking appropriate precautions to prevent infection,” said Norio Ohmagari, director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center.

Reuters with AP

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