A health worker performs COVID-19 screening of people queued outside a metro station in New Delhi on Jan 2, 2022.
(MONEY SHARMA / AFP)
SYDNEY / JERUSALEM / NEW DELHI – India reported more than 27,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, with infections sharply rising for a fifth consecutive day, but the chief minister of the capital New Delhi said there was no need to panic, citing low hospitalization rates.
The country's largest cities, including Delhi and the financial capital Mumbai, have seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, including those of the Omicron variant, which has triggered a fresh wave of infections in other parts of the world.
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Although the number of active cases in Delhi has tripled in just the last three days, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that hospitalizations had not gone up.
"This means that most people who are coming down with (COVID-19) are not requiring hospital care. They are mild cases," Kejriwal said in an online briefing.
"Cases are going up but there is no reason to worry. There is no need to panic," he said.
Delhi was among hardest-hit cities during the second wave of the pandemic in India last year, with hospitals running out of beds and life-saving oxygen, leaving patients gasping for breath.
India has recorded a total of 34.88 million COVID-19 infections, with 27,553 new cases in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Sunday.
The country's total death toll stands at 481,770.
New Australian COVID-19 cases dipped on Sunday as testing slowed over a holiday weekend, but remained well over 30,000 and hospitalizations rose further in New South Wales as concerns grow about potential strains on the national health system.
Newly diagnosed cases in New South Wales, the most populous state, dropped to 18,278 from 22,577 the day before as the number of tests conducted on New Year's Day dropped by a quarter, health department figures showed.
But hospitalizations, which authorities have signaled is a figure they are more closely monitoring than total case numbers as they shift towards living with the virus, jumped by 18 percent to 1,066.
In Victoria, daily case numbers remained above 7,000 and Queensland reported a record 3,587 new cases.
"As we enter a new year, we are entering a new battle against COVID-19," Queensland state Treasurer Cameron Dick said.
"If we can slow the spread of the virus, that takes the pressure off our health system in particular," Dick said, asking people to get vaccinated and get booster shots, wear masks in indoor settings and work from home if possible.
With only Western Australia and the Northern Territory still to report figures on Sunday, the national tally of new cases was more than 32,200, below Saturday's record of 35,327.
All Australian states, except for Western Australia, have begun to live with the virus as vaccination levels have risen, and the easing in restrictions has pushed cases higher.
There were five deaths reported in New South Wales and Victoria, bringing the national death toll throughout the pandemic to almost 2,260 people.
A surge of Omicron infections could see Israel reaching herd immunity, the country's top health official said on Sunday as daily cases continued to climb.
The highly transmissible Omicron variant has brought a surge in coronavirus cases across the globe.
Until late December, Israel managed to stave off Omicron to some degree but with infection rates now gaining pace, daily cases are expected to reach record highs in the coming three weeks. This could result in herd immunity, said director-general of the health ministry, Nachman Ash.
"The cost will be a great many infections," Ash told 103FM Radio. "The numbers will have to be very high in order to reach herd immunity. This is possible but we don't want to reach it by means of infections, we want it to happen as a result of many people vaccinating," he said.
Around 60 percent of Israel's 9.4 million population are fully vaccinated – almost all with Pfizer /BioNTech'S vaccine – according to the health ministry, which means they have either received three doses or have had their second dose recently. But hundreds of thousands of those eligible for a third inoculation have so far not taken it.
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Around 1.3 million coronavirus cases have been documented in Israel since the start of the pandemic. But between two to four million people may well be infected by the end of January when the Omicron wave could subside, according to Eran Segal, data scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and an adviser to the government.
Over the past ten days, daily infections have more than quadrupled. Severe cases have also climbed but at a far lower rate, rising from about 80 to around 100.
Watching severe morbidity closely, Ash is considering allowing a fourth vaccine dose for people over 60, following its approval last week for immune-compromised and elderly people in care homes.