COVID cases hit global record of 1 million a day on two-year anniversary of viruses

Two years ago, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported that the city saw a cluster of cases of pneumonia.

The cause of the infection was later identified as a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes was named COVID-19.

Since then, more than 5 million people have died with the virus, international borders have been closed, and cities around the world have gone into several lockdowns.

But the COVID pandemic is far from over.

This week, global coronavirus infections hit record highs, with nearly 1 million cases detected on average each day between December 23 and 29, according to Reuters data.

Australia was one of many countries that experienced the heights of all time as the Omicron variant spread like wildfire.

“Two years ago, when people gathered for New Year’s Eve, a new global threat arose,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Early on, we figured out that it would take three things to beat this new health threat – a new coronavirus potentially capable of spreading rapidly across the globe – … Science. Solutions. Solidarity.”

A young boy wearing glasses and mask looks at the camera while being vaccinated
Vaccines and treatments have been rapidly tracked in countries across the globe.(AP: Richard Chung)

As the severity of the virus became known, vaccines and treatments were quickly tracked. More than 9 billion vaccine doses have now been administered.

But Dr. Tedros said that “politics too often triumphed over solidarity”.

Although millions of people are now fully vaccinated, the annual recorded global death toll – which reached 1.8 million in 2020 – rose to 3.5 million this year.

“Misinformation and misinformation, often spread by a small number of people, has been a constant distraction that undermines science and confidence in life-saving health tools.”

But Dr. Tedros said it was not “too late to get together to do the right thing”.

“I remain optimistic that this could be the year in which we not only end the acute phase of the pandemic, but we also map out a path to stronger health security.”

COVID whistleblower remembered in China

On December 20, 2019, COVID-19 whistleblower Li Wenliang learned about the possibility of a pneumonia-causing virus in Wuhan.

This year, on the second anniversary of his discovery, thousands of people left messages on his social media account.

But Dr. Li did not see them – he died in hospital with the virus in February 2020.

As of Wednesday, mainland China had reported 101,890 confirmed coronavirus cases, including both domestic and imported, with a death toll of 4,636.

China’s Industrial and Technology Center in Xian on Thursday reported 155 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of locally transmitted infections to the highest in any Chinese city this year.

People register for testing at a COVID-19 test site where staff are wearing white protective suits.
China’s zero transmission program includes frequent shutdowns, universal masking and mass testing.(AP: Xinhua / Shao Rui)

Despite the low number of cases compared to clusters in many cities around the world, Xian officials have put the city at 13 million under lockdown.

Xian is also a major tourist destination, attracting visitors to its collection of terracotta warriors buried with China’s first emperor more than 2,000 years ago.

COVID-19 will once again stifle the New Year celebration

An elderly man in mask gets a needle in his shoulder through an open car window
More than 9 billion vaccine doses have now been administered.(Reuters: Paul Ratje)

Governments in many countries are turning down New Year celebrations for the second year in an attempt to curb the violent contagion.

In Europe, where nearly 1 million people have died from coronavirus in the last 12 months, traditional concerts and fireworks, which typically draw thousands of people to the streets, have been canceled in most major cities, including London, Paris, Zurich, Brussels, Warsaw and Rome.

Indian authorities began imposing strict rules on Thursday to prevent mass gatherings, with night exit bans imposed in all major cities and restaurants ordered to restrict customers.

“It is seen that social gatherings take place in an unlimited way with people who override all norms of social distancing,” said Rajesh Tope, the health minister of the western state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital.

Dr. Tedros urged people to reconsider their party plans.

But despite spikes, some places are plowing ahead with events regardless, including Sydney, which hosts its annual spectacular fireworks display over the Opera House and Harbor Bridge.

NSW’s daily COVID-19 cases almost doubled for the second time in three days on Friday with 21,151 new infections.

Last year, the state banned crowds from participating in the fireworks when the number of cases was below 100.

Likewise, New York said it would hold its Times Square party, albeit in a scaled-down version, with far fewer people allowed to watch as the iconic, giant ball falls off a pole to mark the arrival of 2022.

ABC / wires

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