France Cases at Record, U.S. Omicron Patients Jump: Virus Update

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France Cases at Record, U.S. Omicron Patients Jump: Virus Update
People wait in line outside a Covid-19 testing clinic in Sydney, Australia. (Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

France reported a daily record of more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases as the government considers measures including requiring people to be fully vaccinated to enter bars, restaurants and cultural venues.

Italy also reported a record number of cases, while the pace of new infections in Germany eased further from a peak almost a month ago. 

New daily omicron cases in the U.S. have surpassed those in the delta wave, CNN reported. Meanwhile, U.S. airlines scrapped almost 1,800 flights for the holiday weekend because of personnel shortages linked to a spike in cases of the new variant.  

India will begin vaccinating older teenagers in the first week of 2022 and administer booster vaccine doses for health-care workers as omicron drives a surge in infections there, while Turkey says the variant accounts for a tenth of cases in major cities. 

Key Developments: 

France Cases at Record, U.S. Omicron Patients Jump: Virus Update

U.S. Omicron Daily Cases Surpassing Delta (1:55 p.m.)

New daily U.S. cases from the omicron variant have now surpassed delta’s peak, CNN reported.

Hospitalizations remain lower than the peaks earlier this year, it said. More than 69,000 people were hospitalized on Friday, CNN said, citing Department of Health and Human Services data. 

France Cases Top 100,000 (1:45 p.m.)

France reported a daily record of more than 100,000 new cases as President Emmanuel Macron weighs measures to contain the fast-spreading omicron variant.

New cases totaled 104,611 on Saturday, according to data from the public health office, topping the 94,124 infections recorded the previous day. The country reported 84 deaths.

Macron, who is widely expected to seek a second term in April’s presidential election, will convene his health defense council on Monday to discuss the coronavirus.

BTS Members Diagnosed With Covid (1:15 p.m.)

Three of the seven members of K-pop group BTS have been diagnosed with Covid-19 after returning from overseas, the Associated Press reported, citing the band’s management agency.

RM and Jin were diagnosed Saturday evening, the Big Hit Music agency said, a day after it said another member, Suga, tested positive. all three had their second vaccination dose in August and had mild or no symptoms, AP said, citing the agency.

Italy Posts Daily Case Record (1 p.m. NY)

Italy recorded its most daily cases for a third straight day, as the government tightens coronavirus measures to slow the spread of the omicron variant. 

The first country in Europe to move into lockdown last year reported 54,762 cases on Saturday, up from 50,599 a day earlier.

Queen Says U.K. Can Still Enjoy Festive Season (12:45 p.m. NY) 

Queen Elizabeth II gave a personal message in her first televised Christmas Day address since the death of her husband, Prince Philip, saying the U.K. can still enjoy the festive season even as a raging pandemic means not celebrating quite as freely.

An estimated one in 10 Londoners is currently infected with Covid-19. 

Turkey Says Omicron Makes Up 10% of Cases (12:15 p.m. NY)

The omicron variant accounts for 10% of all cases found in Turkey’s major cities, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Saturday. 

He announced no additional measures, citing the lack of a significant increase in hospitalizations. The minister also renewed calls to get booster shots as the country stepped up its vaccination efforts. 

Turkey started the mass production of its locally made Covid-19 jab Turkovac this week.

India to Start Vaccinating Teenagers (12 p.m. NY)

India will begin vaccinating teenagers from 15 to 18 starting on Jan. 3 and  administer booster doses for health-care workers a week later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

Citizens who are older than 60 and suffer from co-morbidities can also get booster shots in January, Modi said in a televised national address.

“India needs to be vigilant about the spread of the coronavirus,” Modi said, adding that people should not pay attention to rumors nor panic about rising infection numbers.

Christmas Travel Chaos Deepens (11:50 a.m. NY)

Airlines’ U.S. flight cancellations neared almost 1,800 for the Christmas weekend, disrupting travel on one of the busiest periods of the year as the omicron-fueled wave of Covid cases triggered air-crew shortages. 

Saturday’s pullbacks erased at least 10% of the schedule at Delta Air Lines Inc., United Airlines Holdings Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp., according to data tracker The cuts on Christmas Day in the U.S. totaled almost 900.

Irish Cases at Record Again (8:30 a.m. NY)

Ireland reported its most daily cases for a second straight day, with the omicron variant now dominant in the country. There were 13,765 newly confirmed cases, the health ministry said in a Twitter post, more than double the total of four days ago. 

Hospitalizations fell to the their lowest level since Oct. 9, though, while intensive care admissions are at a six-week low. The government continues to caution that those numbers will rise though as omicron’s impact is felt. 

German Minister Urges Family Testing (7:08 a.m. NY) 

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he was planning to test everyone at his family Christmas gathering and urged others to do the same.

“It can save lives,” Lauterbach, a professor of epidemiology who’s warned of an imminent “massive wave” of the omicron strain, said in a tweet. He also thanked everyone who is getting a Covid jab on Christmas Day and said it’s a “gift for the whole of society.” 

Dutch Health Minister Faces Threats (7:15 p.m. HK)

Security around the home of Dutch caretaker Health Minister Hugo de Jonge was increased due to threats following a strict lockdown in the country, according to local media reports. Authorities set up a mobile police post with several cameras outside his house. 

In attempt to stem the spread of the omicron variant, the Netherlands announced a so-called full lockdown last week that allows only supermarkets and essential shops to stay open until at least Jan. 14.

Germany Reports 22,214 New Covid Cases (3:13 p.m. HK)

The country recorded a total of 22,214 new cases, compared with 35,431 the day before, according to the nation’s public health authority RKI. Germany’s 7-day incidence rate dropped to 242.9 per 100,000 people. Deaths, a trailing indicator, have started to recede slightly. 

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has warned of a “massive fifth wave” of the virus powered by omicron, though for the time being the infection rate continues to decline from a peak in late November. 

Tokyo Expands Testing Sites to Combat Omicron (3 p.m. HK)

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike plans to expand the number of testing locations where patients can take free PCR tests to 180 from Dec. 27, the Nikkei reported. 

The new measures began on Saturday at 15 locations, and are aimed at bolstering the city’s defense against the omicron variant after the capital’s first community spread case was found Friday.

Malaysia Suspects First Local Omicron Case (11:44 a.m. HK)

Malaysia has a total of 62 cases of the omicron coronavirus variant, one of which is suspected to be the country’s first incident of local transmission, according to Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

The probable local case was reported in the Borneo state of Sarawak on Dec. 24, in a 38-year old Chinese national. The individual is vaccinated and has been working with a local engineering company for three years and hasn’t traveled abroad during that period.

China Reports 140 Cases, 75 in Xi’an City in Lockdown (9:23 a.m. HK)

China reported a total of 140 new infections across the country, of which 87 were local, according to a statement by the National Health Commission on Saturday. In the western Chinese city of Xi’an, where 13 million residents have been placed under a lockdown since Thursday, 75 new local cases were identified. 

Australia’s Biggest State Hits Covid-19 Record (8:09 a.m. HK)

In New South Wales, where Sydney is the capital, 6,288 cases were reported on Christmas morning. Some 383 people are currently hospitalized with the virus in the state. Further south, Victoria recorded about a third of the number with 2,208 new infections. Active case numbers in intensive care declined in both states. 

With about 91% of people 16 years and over double-dosed, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said lockdowns are no longer necessary. Delivering his annual Christmas message, the leader urged the nation to “overcome and to push through.”

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With assistance from Bloomberg