COVID-19 ain’t over till it’s over. There are signs of the disease's resurgence in Europe, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea and China, and New Zealand.
Health authorities in these countries report COVID-19 cases going up — as they are just exiting from an Omicron BA.1 surge.
In the past week, nearly half of European nations have noted an increase in new COVID-19 cases, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Our World in Data tracking site confirms the trend (see table below).
What’s behind the spike in new cases?
Epidemiologists blame BA.2 — a more-transmissible strain of the omicron variant — for the rapid spread.
In Europe, COVID-19 cases have steadily been rising after many countries have moved to end COVID-19 restrictions. Another reason for the revival of pandemic risks is mixed messaging, in addition to the rush to unwind restrictions, say experts.
“The messaging from politicians is encouraging many people who were taking precautions to mix with others,” Martin McKee, professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Bloomberg. ”It does seem very courageous to assume that the pandemic is over."
Any proclamation that the pandemic is over ignores the potential recrudescence of a new variant with high transmission and immune escape.
Most authorities have shrugged off the surge after already easing measures just a few weeks ago. But as people call in sick, the virus makes its presence felt enough to cause problems.
On Saturday, Dr Eric Topol, MD, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, tweeted, “The next wave in Europe has begun.”
Since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, what’s happened in Europe has happened around the globe, too. This time, it can happen again, said Dr. Sam Scarpino, managing director of pathogen surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation and a member of its Pandemic Prevention Institute, told ABC News.
“We can’t afford to sit around and let this early warning from Europe again go unheeded,” Dr. Scarpino
It does seem very courageous to assume that the pandemic is over.
Vaccination, distancing, mask wearing
Writing for The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal published on Monday (March 14, 2022), Cheryl Cohen and fellow researchers support current public health approaches that encourage a combination of vaccination and non-pharmacological measures — such as wearing a face mask, social distancing, hand sanitation, and ventilation strategies to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
Household transmission is one area of research explored by Cohen’s team.
One evidence shows that transmission between household contacts is a “substantial driver” for COVID’s spread. “Increased transmission in household settings is likely to be due to non-use of personal protective equipment and close prolonged contact during daily activities within the household,” the team wrote.
Many health experts have warned about the global increase in infections and hospitalisations, they also pointed out that the proven vaccines, particularly with a booster shot, work "exceptionally well" in preventing hospitalisations and deaths.
Where COVID cases are rising
These are the countries/territories where authorities have reported a fresh surge in COVID cases:
South Korea’s new daily COVID-19 cases stayed above 300,000 for four straight days on Tuesday )March 15, 2022) as the country battles through the worst virus wave yet, sparked by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. The country added 362,338 new COVID-19 infections, mostly locally transmitted, putting the total caseload at 7,228,550, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
Tuesday’s tally marks the second-highest daily count after the all-time high of 383,664 reported Saturday. It’s also a big jump from the previous day’s 309,780. The daily counts tend to fall on Mondays due to fewer tests on the weekend before rising sharply toward the end of the week. The death toll from COVID-19 hit a record high of 293, up 93 from Monday, with the total at 10,88, a fatality rate came to 0.15 %. The number of critically ill patients also reached an all-time high of 1,196, up 38 from the previous day.
COVID-19 cases in the east Asian country Vietnam topped 6 million. This includes 3,601,788 cases reported in the past 28 days. The average number of new cases reported last week were 162,819 cases/day. Localities with high cumulative infections during this pandemic include Hanoi (808,384), Ho Chi Minh City (568,772), Binh Duong (339,051), Bac Ninh (224,142) and Nghe An (216,172).
The average number of deaths recorded in the past 7 days is 82 cases. The total number of deaths from COVID-19 in Vietnam so far is 41,385, accounting for 0.7% of the total number of infections. On Monday, Vietnam reported 166,968 new cases of COVID-19. Neighbours in Southeast Asia reported 91,197 total cases— Indonesia increased 26,485 cases, Malaysia increased 26,250 cases, Philippines increased 654 cases, Thailand increased 23,584 cases, Singapore increased 12,632 cases, Myanmar increased 641 cases, Laos increased 821 cases, Cambodia increased 125 cases, East Timor increased 5 cases.
In Germany, infections are up by 45%. The country is sliding into a new "critical" health situation with coronavirus cases soaring to new records, its health minister has warned. Karl Lauterbach warned that intensive care services could get overwhelmed and cases of so-called long COVID could grow.
Lauterbach said the public and political mood was deceptive - that "we have mastered the pandemic." But "we cannot be satisfied with a situation where 200 to 250 people are dying a day," a toll that could worsen in the coming weeks, he argued. Germany yesterday reported 101,872 new cases of the coronavirus and 136 deaths. Total deaths in the country due to COVID-19 have hit 126,245.
In early March, new cases per capita in the UK have grown by 32% and hospitalisations are also up by 5% in the last week. Sajid Javid, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care asked Britons to “brace” for rising COVID cases, as 72,898 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the UK on Friday.
On February 24, most of the remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England were lifted. David said the latest figures show rates are increasing as people socialise more. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (COVID-19 Infections Survey) showed an increase in cases across the whole of the UK. In the week ending 5 March, one in every 25 people in England, one in 13 in Northern Ireland, one in 18 in Scotland and one in 30 in Wales were estimated to have COVID-19.
New cases jumped by 84% in its weekly case total, to nearly 62,500 weekly cases. On Monday (March 14, 2022), Finland reported 26,848 new Covid infections since Friday (March 11, 2022). Eeva Ruotsalainen, Deputy Chief Physician of the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), believed it was premature for Finland to ease mask recommendations. She pointed out that Finland continues to see a high number of new cases, while this was a time when many people were beginning to return to offices.
Weekly total rose by 45%, to 182,190 — with 1,727 infections per 100K people reported last 7 days, according to a Reuters tally as of 3.43pm GMT. The country is reporting 21,157 new infections on average each day, 59% of the peak — the highest daily average reported on January 27. There have been 3,127,503 infections and 12,786 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.
Daily cases have increased by 26%. The number of Covid cases detected in Italy has been falling for the last five weeks. But it began to rise again in early March, according to the latest data published by the Higher Health Institute (ISS) and the health ministry on Friday. The increase came despite the fact Italy has strict health measures in place including the requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery under ‘super green pass’ rules, and a mask mandate for all indoor and some outdoor public places. In the last two weeks, the incidence of COVID infections in around half of all Italian provinces has stalled or risen, health ministry data showed.
The US is still averaging nearly 50,000 confirmed new cases a day — more than three-fold the level of new cases, and three-fold the number of COVID hospitalisations, than in June 2021. “The metrics do not lend any support to the mission of containment accomplished. We will still benefit from using masks for many situations including protecting immunocompromised and vulnerable people, which also includes nearly 100 million Americans who haven’t been vaccinated, many without infection-acquired immunity,” Topol said.
CHINA AND HONG KONG
In China, nearly 30 million were under lockdown as the mainland’s COVID-19 cases surged, with the highly-transmissible Omicron variant spreading across the country.
On Tuesday (March 15, 2022), China reported 5,280 new COVID-19 cases, more than double the previous day's tally as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant spreads across a country which has tethered tightly to a 'zero-COVID' strategy. At least 13 cities nationwide were fully locked down on Tuesday, while various other cities had partial lockdowns. The worst-hit, the northeastern province of Jilin, reported 3,000 new cases on Tuesday, according to the National Health Commission.
The numbers are low compared with countries elsewhere in the world. The more than 10,000 cases China recorded in the first two weeks of March are far higher than previous outbreaks. No new deaths have been reported, but cases have been reported in more than a dozen provinces and major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.
Hong Kong has reported more than 600,000 COVID-19 infections and more than 3,100 deaths — most of them in the past two weeks. According to data publication Our World in Data, most have been unvaccinated senior citizens, Hong Kong reported the most deaths globally in the week to March 9.
> For 2-shot vaccination, the reduction of hospitalisations was 75% and for deaths 85%.