Home » Covid Live News: Germany Registers Record 92,223 New Cases; Omicron Variant Now Dominant In Italy

Covid Live News: Germany Registers Record 92,223 New Cases; Omicron Variant Now Dominant In Italy

11:48

Germany registers more than 90,000 Covid cases – another daily record

Philip Oltermann, our Berlin bureau chief, has the latest as Germany braces for yet another record high number of infections:

On Friday, the Robert Koch Institute reported another daily record of new infections, with 92,223 new cases and 286 new deaths. At 470.6, the seven-day incidence of infections per 100,000 people is approaching the record rate of 485, which was recorded in November 2021.

Omicron is now the dominant variant of Covid-19 in Germany, the country’s disease control agency said in a weekly report on Thursday. The highly infectious variant made up 73.3% of cases in Europe’s most populous country, up from 44.3% the previous week.

While other European countries have declared the arrival of the Omicron variant tantamount to the virus moving its pandemic to endemic stage, Germany’s government has struck a more cautious note.

Health minister Karl Lauterbach said this week that he was still opposed to letting the virus rip through the population, which he said would amount to an “unethical bet”.

At the same time, Germany has not opted to introduce tighter restrictions beyond restricting access to restaurants or bars to those who have been boostered or tested. The liberal-left coalition government has effectively ruled out imposing another lockdown, or any restrictions that would be referred to by that name.

Updated

14:05

England’s Covid-19 R number estimated between 1.1 and 1.5

The estimated range of England’s Covid-19 reproduction “R” number is between 1.1 and 1.5, the UK Health Security Agency said on Friday, with promising signs that cases are growing less each day.

An R number between 1.1 and 1.5 means that for every 10 people infected, they will on average infect between 11 and 15 other people. Last week the range was 1.2 to 1.5.

The growth rate range is currently 1% and 5%, meaning that the number of new infections is growing by between 1% and 5% every day. Last week, the growth rate was between +3% to +6% per day.

UK Health Security Agency (@UKHSA)

Latest weekly figures for the reproduction number (R) and growth rate of #coronavirus (#COVID19)

Statistics for England as of 14 January:

▶️R value range: 1.1 to 1.5

▶️Growth rate range: +1 to +5%

More info: t.co/tQUj8yTEVu pic.twitter.com/P9CGXemwOQ

January 14, 2022

13:54

Omicron has triggered a rise in UK infants hospitalised with Covid, figures suggest, though medics say most cases are very mild.

Nicola Davis, the Guardian’s science correspondent, reports:

The proportion of infants in hospital with Covid-19 in the UK has risen with the spread of Omicron, the latest data reveals, although researchers have urged calm, noting that infants’ symptoms are generally very mild.

The data from the Isaric/Co-CIN study, published on Friday by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and based on a broadly representative subset of NHS hospitals, reveals that in previous Covid waves about 30% of children in hospital with the virus were under the age of one.

Between mid-December and mid-January, however, when Omicron spread rapidly around the country, the proportion was just over 42%, with children from the most deprived areas most affected.

Calum Semple, a professor in child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, said infants were generally experiencing very mild symptoms.

For now, researchers aren’t raising alarm over the trend. Most infants in hospital with coronavirus experience a fever and a cough.

Updated

13:30

Downing Street apologises to Buckingham Palace over parties on eve of Philip’s funeral

No 10 has apologised to Buckingham Palace for two parties that took place in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last year, Boris Johnson’s spokesman has revealed.

The Daily Telegraph reported that two separate leaving parties, for former director of communications James Slack and a government photographer, were held on 16 April, with drinking continuing into the early hours.

The prime minister’s spokesperson said:

It’s deeply regrettable that this took place at a national mourning, and No 10 has apologised to the palace for that.

He declined to say whether Johnson would personally apologise to the Queen at his next private audience with her, but said the prime minister recognised the public’s “significant anger” about lockdown-busting social events.

The monarch mourned alone at her husband’s funeral because Covid rules at the time prohibited indoor mixing.

Sue Gray, the civil servant overseeing the inquiry into alleged lockdown-breaking government parties, is investigating the two leaving events held in Downing Street on the night before Philip’s funeral.

Follow more updates on our politics blog:

Updated

13:12

As panto season comes to an end, Britain’s theatres are counting the cost of another Christmas wrecked by Covid, with cancelled shows decimating income during a traditionally lucrative period.

My colleague and the Guardian’s stage editor, Chris Wiegand, spoke to the cast and crew who have been lighting up Britain’s theatres – but are now faced with eye-watering losses.

York Theatre Royal’s Cinderella – whose star and understudy both had to self-isolate – cancelled 12 performances with an estimated loss of up to £200,000. Theatr Clwyd’s Beauty and the Beast achieved ticket sales comparable to pre-Covid times but the Welsh government’s Covid restrictions, introduced on Boxing Day, led the venue to cancel all remaining performances, worth an estimated £500,000.

At Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph theatre, almost half of Jack and the Beanstalk’s run was lost because of coronavirus cases in the company; now the theatre hopes to attract viewers to an online version this month.

At Liverpool Everyman, Robin Hood’s first week was cancelled because Covid cases prevented the set from being supplied in time. An additional 15 shows were lost owing to cast and crew illness. “If we get through to Saturday, we’ll have delivered 50 shows out of a planned 71,” said its CEO, Mark Da Vanzo. “That’s pretty good going considering everything we’ve had to face with Omicron and the isolation rules.” The cast included two “swing” performers, who fill in for other roles when required, and an understudy was available to cover. Without them, “we’d have lost even more shows”, said Da Vanzo. “Once Covid got into the company, it was very hard to stop it transmitting.”

For more on the Covid-battered landscape of British theatre:

And to find out more about what it’s like to be working in pantomimes right now, listen to our Today in Focus podcast episode from before Christmas:

Updated

12:43

Wales’ Covid restrictions on pubs and sport to be scrapped

First minister Mark Drakeford said Covid cases are “coming down very rapidly”, and he hopes to relax most rules by the end of January. The Welsh government is currently giving a press conference to announce the changes.

Since Boxing Day, strict measures have been in place in a bid to curb the spread of Omicron. These include mask-wearing in all public venues, the two-metre rule, and the rule of six in hospitality settings.

However, Drakeford has now said rules will be relaxed “gradually”, bringing Wales to alert level 0 – the lowest level of restrictions. “The measures we have taken are working and they give us hope that we may be turning a corner,” he said.

  • From tomorrow – 15 January – the number of people who can attend outdoor events will rise from 50 to 500.
  • From 21 January, all outdoor activities will have no limits on those who can take part or watch.
  • From 28 January, nightclubs can reopen and hospitality will be allowed to operate normally.
  • From 28 January, working from home if possible will no longer be a legal requirement.
  • Covid passes will be required to enter large events.

Under the plan, spectators will be able to return to outdoor sporting events, including the Six Nations rugby matches in Cardiff, though Covid passes will be required.

Drakeford warned: “Omicron is still with us and levels of coronavirus are still incredibly high in our communities”.

The Welsh government said working from home would remain important but it would no longer be a legal requirement.

Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Because the data and the science is saying to us – as the modelling we have in Wales predicted – we appear to have passed the peak of Omicron, and are coming down very rapidly on the other side, that gives us confidence that over the next two weeks we can gradually and carefully lift the level of protections we needed over the Christmas period, because from a public health perspective it will then be safe to do so.”

Updated

12:26

Omicron variant now dominant in Italy, health body says

Omicron has become the dominant variant of coronavirus in Italy, the National Health Institute (ISS) said on Friday, accounting for 81% of cases in a flash survey on 3 January.

Reuters reports:

The previous survey showed Omicron at just 28% of cases on 20 December.

‘In Italy on 3 January, the Omicron variant was predominant, with an estimated prevalence of 81%, while Delta was at 19% of the sample tested,’ the ISS said in statement.

The analysis is based on 2,632 swabs tested in 120 laboratories and collected in all 21 Italian regions and autonomous provinces, the Institute said.

Italy, the first western country to be hit by Covid-19 early in 2020, has been grappling with rising infection rates and deaths in recent weeks. Earlier this month, it made vaccination compulsory for about 28 million people aged over 50, in a bid to curb infections and reduce strain on hospitals.

The new measure obliges people over 50 who do not work to get vaccinated, while from 15 February, those who do have jobs will have to show a vaccine pass to enter the workplace, removing the option of taking a coronavirus test. This week, Italy introduced compulsory vaccine passes for access to public transport, as well as hotels, restaurants and gyms – again, excluding those who can only show a negative test.

The country reported 184,615 daily cases on Thursday, compared with 196,224 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths rose to 316 from 313.

Italy has registered 140,188 deaths linked to Covid-19 since the pandemic began, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth highest in the world. The country has reported 8.15m cases to date.

Updated

12:04

Novak Djokovic will have to report for an interview with Border Force at 8am tomorrow.

Judge Anthony Kelly has ordered the proceedings to be transferred to the Federal Court. That’s a slight setback from Djokovic, whose lawyers had urged it to stay with this court (Federal Circuit), to speed things up.

The judge’s orders are as follows:

  • Djokovic to serve as soon as is reasonably practical an originating application, an affidavit attaching Alex Hawke’s reasons and submissions for decision.
  • The minister will not take any step to remove Djokovic from Australia.
  • Djokovic will attend an interview at 8am Saturday with immigration officials, then will be supervised by Border Force officers from 10am to 2pm on Saturday at his solicitors’ offices.
  • Djokovic may continue in detention from 9am Sunday 16 January, at his solicitors’ offices.

This comes after Australian officials cancelled Djokovic’s visa again. Immigration minister Alex Hawke announced earlier that he had used his ministerial discretion to cancel the tennis player’s visa on public interest grounds.

Updated

11:55

Italy has lifted an entry ban on people who had visited any of eight southern African states, which it imposed in November as the Omicron variant began to spread.

“Health minister Roberto Speranza has signed a new order lifting the special restrictive measures for South Africa and neighbouring countries,” a ministry spokesman said.

Italy banned entry for travellers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini on 26 November.

Updated

11:48

Germany registers more than 90,000 Covid cases – another daily record

Philip Oltermann, our Berlin bureau chief, has the latest as Germany braces for yet another record high number of infections:

On Friday, the Robert Koch Institute reported another daily record of new infections, with 92,223 new cases and 286 new deaths. At 470.6, the seven-day incidence of infections per 100,000 people is approaching the record rate of 485, which was recorded in November 2021.

Omicron is now the dominant variant of Covid-19 in Germany, the country’s disease control agency said in a weekly report on Thursday. The highly infectious variant made up 73.3% of cases in Europe’s most populous country, up from 44.3% the previous week.

While other European countries have declared the arrival of the Omicron variant tantamount to the virus moving its pandemic to endemic stage, Germany’s government has struck a more cautious note.

Health minister Karl Lauterbach said this week that he was still opposed to letting the virus rip through the population, which he said would amount to an “unethical bet”.

At the same time, Germany has not opted to introduce tighter restrictions beyond restricting access to restaurants or bars to those who have been boostered or tested. The liberal-left coalition government has effectively ruled out imposing another lockdown, or any restrictions that would be referred to by that name.

Updated

11:38

Time for a refresher: here is our video explaining the Novak Djokovic saga as it unfolded.

Novak Djokovic’s visa cancelled: how the controversy unfolded – video

Djokovic’s case is in front of Judge Anthony Kelly today. The hearing is adjourned right now. Our sports writer Luke McLaughlin will bring you the updates on our other live blog once it’s back on.

11:29

Our US southern bureau chief Oliver Laughland brings us the latest from New Orleans, where staff shortages and spiralling cases are pushing hospitals to breaking point:

As the Omicron variant rips through the US, states in the south continue to report record case numbers amid serious concern around hospital staff shortages.

In Mississippi, officials warned this week the hospital system was on the verge of crisis due to staff shortages as local media reported most hospitals in the state were at or had reached capacity during the Omicron surge.

The state already faces a chronic nursing shortage, exacerbated by the pandemic, with approximately 3,000 positions vacant, according to a survey by the Mississippi Hospital Association. Around a third of the state’s hospital nurses have left for other jobs, according to the research, many of them to better paying positions out of state.

People waiting in long lines for coronavirus testing in December 2021, as the Omicron variant continued to spread in Memphis. Photograph: Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters

Last week Mississippi recorded its highest seven day average of new Covid cases, 7,185, since the pandemic began, according to state health department data. As of Thursday the number of people hospitalised with Covid in the state had risen to 1,332 people. Health department data showed that 90% of Covid deaths for the period between 16 December 2021 and 12 January 2022 had been among unvaccinated people.

“The game has changed since the Delta wave,” said Dr Alan Jones, chancellor of clinical affairs at University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital, during a Tuesday press conference reported by Mississippi Today.

Jones continued: “The challenges we are facing are really around staffing. Compounding that is that this is a much more infectious variant, taking more staff out that we have in the workforce.”

In Nashville, one of the city’s largest hospitals was being forced to reassign specialist staff to cope with the Omicron surge. As of Tuesday, Tennessee hit its peak Covid-positive seven-day average of 14,345 new cases, according to CDC data.

“We have tons of employees that have Omicron Covid,” said Dr Todd Rice, associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in an interview with local radio. “One of our biggest problems is just finding employees to take care of patients because we have so many employees that are out sick.”

You can read Oliver Laughland’s alarming dispatch here:

Updated

11:18

Hello, I’m Georgina Quach, and will continue updating our global live blog from now. As always, my inbox is open for suggestions, thoughts and story tips:

Email [email protected] or tweet @georginaquach.

11:00

Today so far …

  • Sweden’s Social Democratic prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, has tested positive for Covid. A spokesperson said she would carry out her work from home.
  • Israel’s health ministry says the country has administered a fourth vaccine dose to more than 500,000 people. Israel began administering second boosters to the most vulnerable late last month and later began offering them to everyone aged 60 and older.
  • The world No 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic has had his visa to enter Australia cancelled again, after immigration minister Alex Hawke intervened to make the decision “on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so”.
  • Poorer nations last month rejected more than 100m doses of Covid-19 vaccines distributed by the global programme Covax, mainly due to their rapid expiry date, a Unicef official has said.
  • In the UK, prime minister Boris Johnson’s former head of communications, James Slack, has apologised for the “anger and hurt” created after it emerged that a leaving party was held for him in Downing Street during Covid restrictions last year, the night before the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. Labour’s Emily Thornberry has called on Johnson to apologise to the Queen and resign. Slack is currently deputy editor of the Sun newspaper, which has been a fervent supporter of Johnson’s government.
  • Wales is to set out a two-week plan to ease coronavirus restrictions at 12.15pm today.
  • Spain is making available a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to vulnerable citizens, including those with cancer, who have had a transplant or are receiving dialysis, the health ministry said.
  • China suspended dozens of international flights today over the global surge in Omicron cases, while the city of Shanghai curbed tourist activity as it attempted to head off local Covid infections as imported cases rose.
  • Hong Kong will extend its stringent coronavirus restrictions until after the lunar new year celebrations.
  • Cambodia has began a fourth round of vaccinations against Covid in response to the Omicron variant, with high-risk groups being among the first to receive the additional boosters.
  • The Philippines will extend coronavirus curbs in the capital region of Manila and other provinces until the end of January while the government defended a controversial ban that prevents unvaccinated people from using public transport in the capital.
  • Twenty new “pandemic billionaires” have been created in Asia thanks to the international response to Covid-19, while 140 million people across the continent were plunged into poverty as jobs were lost during the pandemic, according to a report from Oxfam.

There is plenty of live blog action on the website today. Lucy Campbell, who you will often see on here, is today taking the combined UK politics and Covid live blog. You can find that here:

Mostafa Rachwani is following the latest developments in the Novak Djokovic saga – there is currently a late-night court hearing going on.

Georgina Quach will be here shortly to take over from me, and bring you the latest Covid developments from around the world. I will see you bright and early again on Monday. Have a great weekend, take care and stay safe.

Updated

10:48

China suspended dozens of international flights today over the global surge in Omicron cases, while the city of Shanghai curbed tourist activity as it attempted to head off local Covid infections as imported cases rose.

Cities across China are becoming more vigilant ahead of the Lunar New Year travel season later this month and as Beijing readies to stage the Winter Olympics. Many local governments are urging residents not to leave town unnecessarily.

Associated Press report that Shanghai’s tourism and culture authority said travel agencies and online tourism companies must once again halt organising group tours into and out of Shanghai after it reported five new domestically transmitted infections on Thursday, all linked to an arrival from overseas.

The order, in line with a national guideline to cut tourist activities in provinces where new infections have emerged, came less than a month after Shanghai lifted a suspension that had come into effect in November.

China on Friday announced that 30 inbound international flights from several countries were suspended due to Covid cases, including four more from the United States. So far this year, China has announced the cancellation of 74 flights from the United States.

10:27

Hong Kong will extend its stringent coronavirus restrictions until after the lunar new year celebrations at the start of February as it aims to stop the spreading of Covid within the community, the city’s leader Carrie Lam has said.

Reuters reports that the move comes as the city has seen around 50 cases of the Omicron variant since the end of last year.

Updated

10:09

Alon Mwesigwa reports to us from Kampala on the alarming impact Covid has had on schools in Uganda:

The gate that once proudly displayed the name of Godwins primary school in Kampala has been removed. The compound, where pupils played at break time, is now a parking area for trucks ferrying goods to the nearby market, while the classrooms have been turned into a travellers’ lodge.

Uganda’s schools were ordered to reopen on Monday 10 January, after nearly two years of closure – the longest school shutdown in the world – but not all were able to welcome pupils back. Godwins, in Kalerwe in Kawempe division, is one of the many schools that will never reopen. It had been in existence for 20 years catering to children whose parents work in nearby Kalerwe market.

Harriet Namubiru, a charcoal seller whose two grandchildren, aged eight and 10, attended the school, says its closure is a “tragedy that has befallen us”.

“The management of the school called a meeting and they told us ‘It has become very hard for us to run again. We shall not open,’” she says. “It was like lightning or something [had hit us]. Some parents who were in the meeting fainted. Some fell sick for weeks.”

Kampala’s suburbs are littered with ghost structures that were once schools. Some buildings were sold, while others have been destroyed to make way for real estate development. Kampala Capital City Authority said that more than 40 schools in the city have closed for good. Local media is awash with reports of schools turned into bars, restaurants or travellers’ accommodation.

There are no official figures on the number of schools that have failed to reopen countrywide.

Read more of Alon Mwesigwa’s report here: Term starts in Uganda – but world’s longest shutdown has left schools in crisis

10:05

Lucy Campbell is at the helm of our combined UK Covid and politics live blog today. You can follow all that as it unfolds today with her over here.

We’ve also got a live blog running in the hands of Mostafa Rachwani following reaction to the news that Novak Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled – again – by Australia. You can find that here.

I will be continuing on this blog with the latest Covid developments from around the world.

09:31

Twenty new “pandemic billionaires” have been created in Asia thanks to the international response to Covid-19, while 140 million people across the continent were plunged into poverty as jobs were lost during the pandemic, according to Oxfam.

A report by the aid organisation says that by March 2021, profits from the pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and services needed for the Covid response had made 20 people new billionaires as lockdowns and economic stagnation destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of others.

From China, Hong Kong, India and Japan, the new billionaires include Li Jianquan, whose firm, Winner Medical, makes personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, and Dai Lizhong, whose company, Sansure Biotech, makes Covid-19 tests and diagnostic kits.

The total number of billionaires in the Asia-Pacific region grew by almost a third from 803 in March 2020 to 1,087 by November last year, and their collective wealth increased by three-quarters (74%), the report said.

Read more of Sarah Johnson’s report here: Covid created 20 new ‘pandemic billionaires’ in Asia, says Oxfam

09:18

Israel’s health ministry says the country has administered a fourth vaccine dose to more than 500,000 people.

Israel began administering second boosters to the most vulnerable late last month and later began offering them to everyone aged 60 and older.

Authorities hope the additional jabs will blunt a wave of infections driven by the Omicron variant. Associated Press reports that official figures show Israel has about 260,000 active cases but only 289 patients are listed as seriously ill, which is far fewer than during previous waves.

Updated