Omicron cases in US surge from 3% to 73%
The Omicron variant of coronavirus accounted for 73% of all sequenced COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the latest figures. The figure has risen from about 3% last week. The strain has been found all over the US, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Notably, Omicron was responsible for 96% of infections in Washington and 92% in New York.
Why does it matter?
- In the US, Omicron has become the dominant COVID-19 strain, health authorities say.
- The previously dominant Delta variant now comprises 27% of sequenced cases.
- Some countries have been forced to return to tight restrictions because of the new variant.
- COVID-19 infections are doubling in one to three days in regions where community transmission is present, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
US reports first death due to Omicron
The US also confirmed its first death linked to Omicron from Texas' Harris county, ABC News reported citing health officials. The deceased, a man in his 50s, was unvaccinated and had underlying health conditions, the report said. County judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted saying it was the "first local fatality." "Please - get vaccinated and boosted," the tweet added.
'Don't celebrate now and grieve later'
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to step up efforts to help end the pandemic. He said it was preferable to "celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later." We have to focus now on ending this pandemic."
Countries tighten curbs during holiday season
Morocco has declared New Year's Eve celebrations illegal. A 6,500-person New Year's Eve event planned for Trafalgar Square in London has been canceled. Private parties and indoor nightclubs will be subjected to strict regulations in Germany. New Year celebrations in Paris have already been canceled. The Netherlands has implemented a Christmas shutdown amid worries that Omicron could become dominant in Europe by mid-January.
Booster dose to keep Omicron at bay
Amid the Omicron threat, the US is recommending eligible persons to get their primary and booster doses. A booster jab is recommended as vaccine protection wanes over time. Vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have indicated that a third dose offers increased protection against Omicron. Meanwhile, the CDC has suggested wearing masks indoors to curb transmission.