Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 993rd day of the pandemic.
The collateral damage that will emanate from how China effectively threw out the baby with the bathwater in abruptly ending its draconian “zero-Covid” policies, which includes ending quarantine rules for travelers, may not be limited to repeated surges of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.
Virologists are watching with bated breath to see if the move turns out to impact Covid-19 variants and mutations.
Australian infectious diseases specialist Dr. Dominic Dwyer told the Guardian this week that a lack of transparency about Covid in the country is worrisome as “we don’t know what variants are circulating in China at the moment … [and] whether those variants are different in terms of their response to vaccination.”
Earlier this week China said it was ending daily Covid case reports and earlier in the month it stopped including asymptomatic cases in its reports. In addition, China has also changed the way it attributes deaths to Covid and only includes those individuals who die from respiratory failure or pneumonia after testing positive, something that differs greatly from the global standard.
As a result, multiple countries including Japan and India are placing restrictions on inbound travelers from the country. Japan and India will require arriving passengers from mainland China to present a negative coronavirus test, but that is far from a surefire measure in keeping out infectious cases.
The United States may end up following Japan’s lead at the start of the year but every day, during which no action is taken, is a giant step backwards given how fast the virus spreads.
In other news we cover today, a common diabetes drug may protect against Long Covid and China said that the current surge in cases has peaked.
Metformin, a commonly prescribed diabetes medication, may reduce the risk of Long Covid in patients. Preliminary data from a randomized clinical trial found that SARS-CoV-2 patients who took Metformin were less likely to be diagnosed with Long Covid up to ten months compared with people in the control group.
The study, conducted by various researchers at multiple universities, started out by examining whether three easily available and affordable oral medications could prevent Covid cases from worsening if taken early in a person’s illness.
It’s important to note that the findings relating to Long Covid were not part of the study’s original design. Another limitation is the fact that there is no commonly agreed upon definition of what symptoms comprise Long Covid.
Health authorities in Japan said that the country had on Wednesday alone recorded 415 deaths attributed directly to Covid. The figure is the highest death toll for the country since the start of the pandemic. The Land of the Rising Sun reported 216,219 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, a figure that approaches its all-time high in August of some 260,000.
Censors in China ended their crackdown on coronavirus-policy criticism, provided the criticism is directed at individuals who called for the country’s re-opening in rare nationwide protests last month.
Meanwhile, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, said the pandemic situation there was “generally as expected and under control” and that the current surge has peaked.
Officials in Taiwan said that the government will test arriving travelers from China for SARS-CoV_2 starting on January 1, 2023. The move is in response to a surge in cases there, the government said on Wednesday. Taiwan joins other countries that are stepping up controls on arriving passengers from China.
Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, December 28.
As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 663 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.6 million cases, and 6.69 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 635.4 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.5 million.
Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Wednesday at press time is 20,923,263, a decrease of 173,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,883,869, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 39,384, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.
The United States reported 75,769 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday for the previous day, compared to 4,923 on Tuesday, 3,449 on Monday, 4,923 on Sunday, 31,370 on Saturday, 157,552 on Friday, and 186,957 on Thursday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 67,065. Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.
The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 67,215, a decrease of 1% averaged over the past 14 days, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources. The average daily death toll over the same period is 388, a decrease of -18% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 39,432, a decrease of 1%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 4,871, an increase of 8% and the test positivity rate stands at 14%.
In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded 102.3 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of just over 1.1 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just under 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,696.
The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States. Rosstat reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.
Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 39.2 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 37.3 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 693,267, has recorded 36.2 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.
The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with over 28.8 million cases, Japan, with over 28.7 million, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with over 25 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.1 million, and Russia, with just under 21.8 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 268.1 million people in the United States – or 80.8% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69%, or 228.9 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 660.4 million. Breaking this down further, 91.7% of the population over the age of 18 – or 236.8 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.7% of the same group – or 203.2 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 16.8% of the same population, or over 43.4 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine.
Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.
Some 68.8% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Wednesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information. So far, 13.15 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 3.34 million doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 25.9% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.
Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain at or below 10%.
In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.
Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)