For the first time since the start of the pandemic, more than one million new coronavirus infections have been recorded across the world in a single day.
Despite the mass vaccination campaigns in many countries, new infections are once again skyrocketing this winter. On Wednesday, some 1.35 million people tested positive with the coronavirus, according to the latest data from the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is almost double the number of cases reported last week. Another tally puts the figure as high as 1.75 million.
Driven by Omicron and fewer restrictions
This sudden increase in cases is mainly down to the more infectious Omicron variant, which has become the dominant strain in several countries including Belgium. Unlike this point last year, most countries now have more lenient restrictions in place than at the same period in 2020, although the Netherlands and Austria do have strict measures in place currently.
The United States – where just 62% of the total population is fully vaccinated – is top of the list for new infections. On Wednesday, it reported a record 490,000 new infections in one day, the highest daily figure recorded by any country ever.
In the United Kingdom, which is heavily relying on the rollout of the coronavirus booster doses rather than implementing new measures, an average of approximately 183,000 new cases was recorded in the last week. This figure is expected to be even higher as the country is facing a shortage of tests.
A very red Europe
The situation is also worsening in Europe, as was reflected in the latest update of the coronavirus map of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Thursday.
The south of the continent has now turned completely red as Spain, Portugal and Italy are recording a rising number of infections. Denmark reported 23,000 new infections, which in relation to the population size, is a world record.
Updated ? maps are online!
— ECDC (@ECDC_EU) December 30, 2021
In Belgium, where the average number of new cases on a weekly basis has been decreasing for several days but this looks set to increase, especially in Brussels.
A brighter future?
Despite the high case numbers painting a bleak picture of the pandemic’s progression, figures for hospitalisations and deaths are mercifully lower, and in some cases are even dropping.
This is largely down to many people being vaccinated in western countries where the Omicron variant is most rampant. The strain also seems to have less severe pathogenic properties.
A British study showed that the Omicron variant leads to severe illness and hospitalisation less often than previous strains. But, it remains to be seen whether the Omicron variant (predominant among younger people) will be less dangerous for older people.
Nevertheless, WHO expert Mike Ryan has said 2022 “could be the year that the acute pandemic is over,” if countries distribute vaccines equally to developing countries and with the help of specific drugs, such as Pfizer’s anti-Covid pill.