The omicron variant of the coronavirus already accounts for 95% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, where infections have doubled in the last week, health authorities announced.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, in English), Rochelle Walensky, said at the press conference of the White House response team to the pandemic that the average number of cases per day in the last week has been 491 thousand 700 infections, “an increase of 98% compared to the previous week.”
Only last Monday there were more than a million new cases in the country, boosted by the expansion of the omicron variant.
Walensky added that in the last seven days the average hospital admissions was 14,800 per day, which represents an increase of 63% compared to the previous week, while there were an average of 1,200 deaths a day, an increase of five percent.
“In recent weeks and during the holidays we have seen a rapid and significant increase in COVID-19 cases. This increase is due to the influx of cases caused by the delta variant, and what is more important, due to the rebound in omicron cases,” said Walensky.
Even so, she remarked that in the last month the percentage of omicron infections has grown compared to a decrease in those caused by delta, which currently represents 5% of cases compared to 95% of the new variant, detected for the first time at the end November in South Africa.
The United States continues to be the country with the highest number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 in the world, accumulating up to 57.1 million cases and more than 830 thousand deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Support booster for kids ages 12-15
Advisers to the United States Government strongly urged that children 12 years and older receive booster doses of the vaccine against COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible, to help combat the highly contagious omicron variant that plagues the country.
Booster doses were already recommended for all Americans 16 years of age and older, but yesterday the CDC approved an additional injection of the Pfizer vaccine for the youngest adolescents – ages 12 to 15 – and stressed its recommendation that those of 16 and 17 year olds also get a new dose.
Vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness caused by any type of COVID-19, including omicron, something experts say is their main benefit. But the most recent mutation in the virus can break through a layer of vaccine protection and cause moderate infections.
Studies show that an additional dose boosts, at least temporarily, the antibodies that fight the virus to levels that offer the best chance of avoiding a symptom picture, even omicron.
England, no travel restrictions
Faced with the strong spread of the omicron, the British government announced the end of restrictions on travel from abroad imposed to protect the country from that much more contagious but apparently less lethal variant of the coronavirus.
“Now that the variant omicron is so dominant, these measures have only a limited impact on increasing the number of cases, while still causing significant costs to the tourism industry,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson explained to parliament.
Thus, starting next Friday, travelers will no longer have to present a negative coronavirus test before boarding for England and, if they are vaccinated, they should not isolate themselves while waiting for the result of a PCR test performed upon arrival.
Instead, they will have to undergo an antigen test within two days of arrival, as was the case before the December appearance of the omicron variant, he said.
Under strong pressure from his Conservative Party to avoid new measures, Johnson also announced the extension for at least three weeks, until January 26, of the recommendation to telework, as well as the obligation to wear masks indoors and the requirement of health passes for mass events, in force in England since mid-December.
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