Home » Covid Live News: France’s Omicron Wave Expected To Peak In 10 Days; Germany To Debate Further Restrictions

Covid Live News: France’s Omicron Wave Expected To Peak In 10 Days; Germany To Debate Further Restrictions

France’s Omicron wave expected to peak in 10 days

The Covid-19 wave engulfing France could reach its peak in about 10 days’ time, said Prof Alain Fischer, an official responsible for France’s Covid vaccine strategy.

“I think we are coming to the peak of this new wave,” Reuters report Fischer told LCI TV, adding that this peak could come “primarily towards the beginning of the second fortnight of January, so if we work it out this would be in around 10 days’ time”.

France reported 261,481 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, less than the record of more than 332,000 set on Wednesday, but the seven-day moving average of new cases rose above 200,000 for the first time since the start of the health crisis.

French president Emmanuel Macron is banking that enough people will take up Covid vaccine booster shots to mitigate the effects of the virus, and thereby allow Macron to avoid enforcing major new restrictions to tackle the pandemic.

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France’s sports minister Roxana Mărăcineanu has stuck her oar into the Novak Djokovic drama by confirming that the Serbian world No 1 tennis player would be allowed to enter France and compete in the French Open at Roland Garros, which begins in May.

Reuters report her saying: “He would not follow the same organisational arrangements as those who are vaccinated. But he will nonetheless be able to compete because the protocols, the health bubble, allows it.”

France does not bar unvaccinated people from entering its territory, but it does imposes tougher restrictions on them than on those who have had the shot.

Djokovic, 34, has consistently refused to disclose his vaccination status, while publicly criticising mandatory vaccines.

Today so far

  • The Covid-19 wave engulfing France could reach its peak in about 10 days’ time, said Prof Alain Fischer, an official responsible for France’s Covid vaccine strategy. France reported 261,481 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, and the seven-day moving average of new cases rose above 200,000 for the first time since the start of the crisis.
  • Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Germany’s 16 state governors are likely to build on restrictions introduced just after Christmas when they meet later today. Health minister Karl Lauterbach said the hospitality industry was a “problem area, as people often sit there for hours without a mask.”
  • One measure under consideration is toughening the requirement for people to provide proof of full vaccination or recovery to enter restaurants or bars. Scholz and the governors also are expected to consider shortening required quarantine or self-isolation periods
  • The northern German maritime state of Bremen has become the hardest-hit by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. The seven-day infection rate there stood at 800 cases per 100,000 residents, more than double the national rate of 303.
  • India’s daily Covid-19 cases have jumped to 117,100, a five-fold increase in a week and on course to overtake its previous infection peak as the fast-spreading Omicron variant replaces Delta in cities.
  • Ten Hong Kong government officials were among more than 100 people sent into quarantine after attending a banquet where two guests tested positive for Covid-19. From today, 15 types of venues, including bars, clubs, gyms and beauty parlours have to close in the city for at least two weeks. Restaurants can stay open until 6pm, but are only allowed to offer takeaway service after that.
  • Thailand will extend the suspension of its quarantine waiver programme and bring in new restrictions after a jump in new coronavirus cases linked to the Omicron variant. To curb local virus transmissions, alcohol consumption in restaurants will be stopped after 9pm from Sunday in eight provinces including the capital Bangkok, and banned in the country’s other 69 provinces.
  • Australia’s treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has tested positive for Covid-19.
  • Australia’s home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, meanwhile, has dismissed any suggestion Novak Djokovic is being held “captive” in a Melbourne hotel, declaring the world No 1 is free to leave the country whenever he chooses.
  • Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has criticised the country’s health regulator Anvisa for authorising the vaccination of children aged five to 11 years against Covid.
  • Argentina reported a record number of Covid-19 cases for a third day in a row at nearly 110,000.
  • The true number of deaths from the Covid pandemic in the US are likely being undercounted, due to the long-lasting and little-understood effects of Covid infection and other deadly complications that surged during the past two years.
  • After the debacle of the Ruby Princess’ arrival in Sydney in March 2020 led to over 900 cases of Covid-19 and 28 deaths, the cruise ship appears to be in another Covid-19 outbreak situation in San Francisco.

Thanks for sticking with our coverage. Andrew Sparrow has a combined UK politics and Covid live blog today. I’m Martin Belam, and I’ll be here with you for a little while yet bringing you the latest coronavirus news from around the world.

The northern German maritime state of Bremen has the country’s highest Covid vaccination rate by far, but it has become the hardest-hit by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, reporting the highest infection rate of any region in Germany.

Experts say that the rise in Bremen could herald where Germany as a whole is heading in the coming days.

Riham Alkousaa reports for Reuters that the seven-day infection rate in Bremen stood at 800 cases per 100,000 residents on Thursday, the highest in Germany and more than double the national rate of 303, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.

“I assume that Bremen is just a little further ahead than other federal states,” said Hajo Zeeb of the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology in Bremen. He said he expected many of Germany’s federal states to report infection rates similar to Bremen in the coming days.

Bremen’s location near the Netherlands and Denmark, where Omicron has already become the dominant variant, could be one reason for the higher infection rate in the state, Zeeb said. Omicron now accounts for more than 85% of coronavirus infections in Bremen, well above the national figure of around 44%, according to data from the RKI on Thursday.

Hong Kong government officials sent into quarantine after attending banquet

Ten Hong Kong government officials, including the heads of home affairs and immigration, were among more than 100 people sent into quarantine after attending a banquet where two guests tested positive for Covid-19, health authorities have said.

The banquet was on Monday, before the new restrictions came into force but after the first Omicron community transmission was confirmed in Hong Kong on 31 December.

None of the officials has tested positive but they were sent into quarantine as a precaution, in line with the city’s zero Covid policy.

City leader Carrie Lam said she was “highly disappointed” that so many officials attended a big gathering and they should not be “engaging in activities that carry risks and create more work for the city’s health bureau.”

Reuters report that senior officials who attended included home affairs secretary Casper Tsui, director of immigration Au Ka-wang, police commissioner Raymond Siu and the head of the city’s independent commission against corruption, Simon Peh.

The true number of deaths from the Covid pandemic in the US are likely being undercounted, due to the long-lasting and little-understood effects of Covid infection and other deadly complications that surged during the past two years.

There have been an estimated 942,431 excess deaths in the US since February 2020, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hispanic, Black and Native American and Alaska Native populations have been disproportionately affected with high death rates, research shows.

In addition to deaths from Covid-19, drug overdoses – already one of the leading causes of death for working-age adults – and homicides have also risen during the pandemic.

Insurers are also seeing a rise in disability claims – at first for short-term disability and now for long-term disability, because of both long Covid and delayed care for other illnesses.

Deaths from long Covid have been particularly difficult to track, because the virus may no longer be present at the time of death, but it weakened organs or created fatal new ailments.

“We’re seeing the statistics get written as we go, almost,” Micah Pollak, associate professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest, said. “We really don’t know what the tail of this thing looks like,” Pollak said of long Covid. “The further you get out [from infection], the longer time you have to potentially develop some kind of complications.”

Read more of Melody Schreiber’s report here: True number of Covid deaths in the US likely undercounted, experts say

Australia’s treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has tested positive to Covid-19, he has announced.

As the country deals with a massive rise in case numbers due to the spread of the Omicron variant, with more than 78,000 Covid cases reported in a single day on Friday, Frydenberg tweeted the news that he had joined the statistics.

“Like thousands of Australians, I tested positive today to Covid-19. I have the common symptoms and am isolating with my family,” he said.

Miranda Murray at Reuters has a small update on Germany. She reports that health minister Karl Lauterbach said the hospitality industry was a “problem area, as people often sit there for hours without a mask”, in an interview with broadcaster RTL Direkt.

Additionally, Hendrik Wuest, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, told the news outlet Welt that tighter dining rules were reasonable, since being around maskless people required maximum protection and the booster shot was available to everyone.

There is an expectation, however, that rules on quarantine are set to be relaxed, to avoid having too many people in isolation at the same time, especially in critical sectors.

Andrew Sparrow has launched our UK Covid live blog for the day. He is leading with the news that the military are on standby to extend hospital support beyond London. You can find that here:

I’ll be continuing here with the latest coronavirus developments from around the world.

Australia’s home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, has dismissed any suggestion Novak Djokovic is being held “captive” in a Melbourne hotel, declaring the world No 1 is free to leave the country whenever he chooses. Here’s the clip:

‘He is free to leave’: Australian minister says Djokovic not being held ‘captive’ – video

Updated

France’s Omicron wave expected to peak in 10 days

The Covid-19 wave engulfing France could reach its peak in about 10 days’ time, said Prof Alain Fischer, an official responsible for France’s Covid vaccine strategy.

“I think we are coming to the peak of this new wave,” Reuters report Fischer told LCI TV, adding that this peak could come “primarily towards the beginning of the second fortnight of January, so if we work it out this would be in around 10 days’ time”.

France reported 261,481 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, less than the record of more than 332,000 set on Wednesday, but the seven-day moving average of new cases rose above 200,000 for the first time since the start of the health crisis.

French president Emmanuel Macron is banking that enough people will take up Covid vaccine booster shots to mitigate the effects of the virus, and thereby allow Macron to avoid enforcing major new restrictions to tackle the pandemic.

Updated

There are more quotes here from Dr Chaand Nagpaul, council chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), about the status of the NHS in the UK.

PA Media reports him telling Sky News “we have never known this level of staff absence before”, adding: “Every winter of course, the NHS has additional pressures, but I don’t think anyone who’s worked in the NHS has experienced this level of absence of their colleagues and we’re feeling it in very real time because doctors and nurses and healthcare workers are having to cover for their absent colleagues – that’s adding additional, exceptional strain.”

Asked how close the NHS was to being overwhelmed, he said: “I think that the words like overwhelmed, I mean, I think we should just look at the reality. The reality of the army having been drafted in to London, the reality of 24 hospitals having declared critical incidents, the reality of having some hospitals having to cancel all their routine surgery, the reality of general practices having to cancel clinics on the day. I’m a GP, I’ve never known it this bad.”

Updated