Packed ICUs, crowded crematoriums: COVID roils Chinese towns
Yao Ruyan paced frantically outside the fever clinic of a county hospital in China’s industrial Hebei province, 70 kilometers (43 miles) southwest of Beijing. Her mother-in-law had COVID-19 and needed urgent medical care, but all hospitals nearby were full. “They say there’s no beds here,” she barked into her phone. As China grapples with its first-ever national COVID-19 wave, emergency wards in small cities and towns southwest of Beijing are overwhelmed. Intensive care units are turning away ambulances, relatives of sick people are searching for open beds, and patients are slumped on benches in hospital corridors and lying on floors for a lack of beds. Yao’s elderly mother-in-law had fallen ill a week ago with the coronavirus. They went first to a local hospital, where lung scans showed signs of pneumonia. But the hospital couldn’t handle serious COVID-19 cases, Yao was told. She was told to go to larger hospitals in adjacent counties. As Yao and her husband drove from hospital to hospital, they found all the wards were full. Zhuozhou Hospital, an hour’s drive from Yao’s hometown, was the latest disappointment. Yao charged toward the check-in counter, past wheelchairs frantically moving elderly patients. Yet again, she was told the hospital was full, and that she would have to wait. “I’m furious,” Yao said, tearing up, as she clutched the lung scans from the local hospital. “I don’t have much hope. We’ve been out for a long time and I’m terrified because she’s having difficulty breathing.” Over two days, Associated Press journalists visited five hospitals and two crematoriums in towns and small cities in Baoding and Langfang prefectures, in central Hebei province. The area was the epicenter of one of China’s first outbreaks after the state loosened COVID-19 controls in November and December. For weeks, the region went quiet, as people fell ill and stayed home. Many have now recovered. Today, markets are bustling, diners pack restaurants and cars are honking in snarling traffic, even as the virus is spreading in other parts of China. In recent days, headlines in state media said the area is “ starting to resume normal life.” But life in central Hebei’s emergency wards and crematoriums is anything but normal. Even as the young go back to work and lines at fever clinics shrink, many of Hebei’s elderly are falling into critical condition. As they overrun ICUs and funeral homes, it could be a harbinger of what’s to come for the rest of China. The Chinese government has reported only seven COVID-19 deaths since restrictions were loosened dramatically on Dec. 7, bringing the country’s total toll to 5,241. On Tuesday, a Chinese health official said that China only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID-19 death toll, a narrow definition that excludes many deaths that would be attributed to COVID-19 in other places. Experts have forecast between a million and 2 million deaths in China through the end of next year, and a top World Health Organization official warned that Beijing’s way of counting would “underestimate the true death toll.” At Baoding No. 2 Hospital in Zhuozhou on Wednesday, patients thronged the hallway of the emergency ward. The sick were breathing with the help of respirators. One woman wailed after doctors told her that a loved one had died. The ICU was so crowded, ambulances were turned away. A medical worker shouted at relatives wheeling in a patient from an arriving ambulance. “There’s no oxygen or electricity in this corridor!” the worker exclaimed. “If you can’t even give him oxygen, how can you save him?” “If you don’t want any delays, turn around and get out quickly!” she said. The relatives left, hoisting the patient back into the ambulance. It took off, lights flashing. Read more: Reports of severe COVID in China are "extremely concerning", WHO In two days of driving in the region, AP journalists passed around thirty ambulances. On one highway toward Beijing, two ambulances followed each other, lights flashing, as a third passed by heading in the opposite direction. Dispatchers are overwhelmed, with Beijing city officials reporting a sixfold surge in emergency calls earlier this month. Some ambulances are heading to funeral homes. At the Zhuozhou crematorium, furnaces are burning overtime as workers struggle to cope with a spike in deaths in the past week, according to one employee. A funeral shop worker estimated it is burning 20 to 30 bodies a day, up from three to four before COVID-19 measures were loosened. “There’s been so many people dying,” said Zhao Yongsheng, a worker at a funeral goods shop near a local hospital. “They work day and night, but they can’t burn them all.” At a crematorium in Gaobeidian, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Zhuozhou, the body of one 82-year-old woman was brought from Beijing, a two-hour drive, because funeral homes in China’s capital were packed, according to the woman’s grandson, Liang. “They said we’d have to wait for 10 days,” Liang said, giving only his surname because of the sensitivity of the situation. Liang’s grandmother had been unvaccinated, Liang added, when she came down with coronavirus symptoms, and had spent her final days hooked to a respirator in a Beijing ICU. Over two hours at the Gaobeidian crematorium on Thursday, AP journalists observed three ambulances and two vans unload bodies. A hundred or so people huddled in groups, some in traditional white Chinese mourning attire. They burned funeral paper and set off fireworks. “There’s been a lot!” a worker said when asked about the number of COVID-19 deaths, before funeral director Ma Xiaowei stepped in and brought the journalists to meet a local government official. As the official listened in, Ma confirmed there were more cremations, but said he didn’t know if COVID-19 was involved. He blamed the extra deaths on the arrival of winter. “Every year during this season, there’s more,” Ma said. “The pandemic hasn’t really shown up” in the death toll, he said, as the official listened and nodded. Even as anecdotal evidence and modeling suggests large numbers of people are getting infected and dying, some Hebei officials deny the virus has had much impact. “There’s no so-called explosion in cases, it’s all under control,” said Wang Ping, the administrative manager of Gaobeidian Hospital, speaking by the hospital’s main gate. “There’s been a slight decline in patients.” Wang said only a sixth of the hospital’s 600 beds were occupied, but refused to allow AP journalists to enter. Two ambulances came to the hospital during the half hour AP journalists were present, and a patient’s relative told the AP they were turned away from Gaobeidian’s emergency ward because it was full. Thirty kilometers (19 miles) south in the town of Baigou, emergency ward doctor Sun Yana was candid, even as local officials listened in. “There are more people with fevers, the number of patients has indeed increased,” Sun said. She hesitated, then added, “I can’t say whether I’ve become even busier or not. Our emergency department has always been busy.” Read more: China limits how it defines COVID deaths in official count The Baigou New Area Aerospace Hospital was quiet and orderly, with empty beds and short lines as nurses sprayed disinfectant. COVID-19 patients are separated from others, staff said, to prevent cross-infection. But they added that serious cases are being directed to hospitals in bigger cities, because of limited medical equipment. The lack of ICU capacity in Baigou, which has about 60,000 residents, reflects a nationwide problem. Experts say medical resources in China’s villages and towns, home to about 500 million of China’s 1.4 billion people, lag far behind those of big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Some counties lack a single ICU bed. As a result, patients in critical condition are forced to go to bigger cities for treatment. In Bazhou, a city 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Baigou, a hundred or more people packed the emergency ward of Langfang No. 4 People’s Hospital on Thursday night. Guards worked to corral the crowds as people jostled for positions. With no space in the ward, patients spilled into corridors and hallways. Sick people sprawled on blankets on the floor as staff frantically wheeled gurneys and ventilators. In a hallway, half a dozen patients wheezed on metal benches as oxygen tanks pumped air into their noses. Outside a CT scan room, a woman sitting on a bench wheezed as snot dribbled out of her nostrils into crumpled tissues. A man sprawled out on a stretcher outside the emergency ward as medical workers stuck electrodes to his chest. By a check-in counter, a woman sitting on a stool gasped for air as a young man held her hand. “Everyone in my family has got COVID,” one man asked at the counter, as four others clamored for attention behind him. “What medicine can we get?” In a corridor, a man paced as he shouted into his cellphone. “The number of people has exploded!” he said. “There’s no way you can get care here, there’s far too many people.” It wasn’t clear how many patients had COVID-19. Some had only mild symptoms, illustrating another issue, experts say: People in China rely more heavily on hospitals than in other countries, meaning it’s easier for emergency medical resources to be overloaded. Over two hours, AP journalists witnessed half a dozen or more ambulances pull up to the hospital’s ICU and load critical patients to sprint to other hospitals, even as cars pulled up with dozens of new patients. A beige van pulled up to the ICU and honked frantically at a waiting ambulance. “Move!” the driver shouted. “Let’s go, let’s go!” a panicked voice cried. Five people hoisted a man bundled in blankets out of the back of the van and rushed him into the hospital. Security guards shouted in the packed ward: “Make way, make way!” The guard asked a patient to move, but backed off when a relative snarled at him. The bundled man was laid on the floor instead, amid doctors running back and forth. “Grandpa!” a woman cried, crouching over the patient. Medical workers rushed over a ventilator. “Can you open his mouth?” someone shouted. As white plastic tubes were fitted onto his face, the man began to breathe more easily. Others were not so lucky. Relatives surrounding another bed began tearing up as an elderly woman’s vitals flatlined. A man tugged a cloth over the woman’s face, and they stood, silently, before her body was wheeled away. Within minutes, another patient had taken her place.
Covid-19: 2 more die, 620 new cases reported in 24hrs
Bangladesh registered two more Covid-linked deaths with 620 cases in 24 hours till Friday morning. With the latest figures, the country's total fatalities reached 29,258 while the caseload 2,000,899, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). The latest fatalities - both men - were from Barishal and Sylhet divisions. The daily case positivity rate decreased to 8.36 per cent from Thursday's 12.20 per cent as 7,419 samples were tested. The mortality rate remained unchanged at 1.46 per cent. The recovery rate rose to 96.62 per cent from Thursday's 96.52 per cent as 1,765 patients recovered during this period. Read: Global Covid cases near 571 million In June, the country reported 18 Covid-linked deaths and 20,201 new cases, according to the DGHS. Bangladesh reported its first zero Covid death on November 20 last year since the pandemic broke out here in March 2020. The country registered its highest daily caseload of 16,230 on July 28 last year and daily fatalities of 264 on August 10 in the same year.
Global Covid cases top 568 million
The overall number of Covid cases has now surged past 568 million amid a rise in new infections in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe. According to the latest global data, the total case count mounted to 568,579,567 and the death toll reached 6,389,451 Tuesday morning. The US has recorded 91,429,409 cases so far and 1,049,274 people have died from the virus in the country, the data shows. India recorded 11,371 cases of Covid in 24 hours, taking the total tally to 43,779,265 in the country, according to the health ministry data released on Monday. Also read: Covid in Bangladesh: 7 more die, new cases 1,072 The country also logged 51 Covid-related deaths during this period, pushing the overall death toll to 525,760 since the beginning of the pandemic, the ministry said. The detection of a more contagious Omicron mutant, BA.2.75, which is gaining ground in India, has worried health officials. They feared that the new mutant may be able to spread rapidly. The Indian government has focused on promoting booster doses as the uptake for the third dose has been low. The drive to provide free booster doses of Covid vaccine to all adults at government centres began on Friday. Situation in Bangladesh Bangladesh recorded seven more Covid-linked deaths with 1,072 cases in 24 hours till Monday morning. With the latest figures, the country's total fatalities reached 29,241 and the caseload 1,997,412, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). Also read: Govt to launch special Covid-19 vaccination campaign Tuesday: Minister Of the deceased, four were men and three were women. The deceased were from Dhaka, Chattogram, Khulna and Sylhet divisions. The daily case positivity rate declined to 9.77 per cent from Sunday's 11.12 per cent as 10,974 samples were tested. The mortality rate remained unchanged at 1.46 per cent. The recovery rate rose to 96.47 per cent from Sunday's 96.42 per cent.
Global Covid cases surpass 543 million
The overall number of global Covid has surpassed 543 million amid a rise in new infections in parts of the world. According to the latest global data, the total case count mounted to 543,108,636 while the death toll from the virus reached 6,338,053 on Friday morning. The US has recorded 87,861,132 cases so far and 1,037,928 people have died from the virus in the country, the data shows. Also read: Covid positivity rate surges to 5.76 % with 357 cases, zero death reported India's COVID-19 tally rose to 43,270,577 on Friday, as new cases were registered during the past 24 hours across the country. Besides, 14 deaths from the pandemic registered across the country since Thursday morning took the total death toll to 524,817, showed the federal health ministry's latest data. Situation in Bangladesh Amid surging positivity rate, Bangladesh recorded 357 new Covid cases in 24 hours till Thursday morning taking the country's total caseload to 1,954,994, the health directorate said. The country's total fatalities, however, remained unchanged at 29,131 as no death was reported during the period, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). The daily test positivity rate rose to 5.76 per cent from Wednesday’s 3.88 per cent with 6,200 samples tested during the period. The country on Wednesday saw 232 cases with zero death. The mortality rate remained unchanged at 1.49 per cent. The recovery rates remained static at 97.49 per cent as 114 patients recovered during this period. In May, the country reported only four Covid-linked deaths and 816 new cases, while 7,356 patients recovered from the disease, according to the DGHS. Also read: WHO: COVID-19 deaths rise, reversing a 5-week decline Among the four deaths during the period, one was vaccinated with single dose of Covid vaccine while three were vaccinated with two doses. The country reported its first zero Covid death in a single day on November 20 last year, along with 178 cases, since the pandemic broke out here in March 2020. On January 28, Bangladesh logged its previous highest positivity rate of 33.37 per cent. The country registered its highest daily caseload of 16,230 on July 28 last year and daily fatalities of 264 on August 10 in the same year.
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 deaths: A look at the US numbers
Doug Lambrecht was among the first of the nearly 1 million Americans to die from COVID-19. His demographic profile — an older white male with chronic health problems — mirrors the faces of many who would be lost over the next two years. The 71-year-old retired physician was recovering from a fall at a nursing home near Seattle when the new coronavirus swept through in early 2020. He died March 1, an early victim in a devastating outbreak that gave a first glimpse of the price older Americans would pay. The pandemic has generated gigabytes of data that make clear which U.S. groups have been hit the hardest. More than 700,000 people 65 and older died. Men died at higher rates than women. White people made up most of the deaths overall, yet an unequal burden fell on Black, Hispanic and Native American people considering the younger average age of minority communities. Racial gaps narrowed between surges then widened again with each new wave. With 1 million deaths in sight, Doug’s son Nathan Lambrecht reflected on the toll. “I’m afraid that as the numbers get bigger, people are going to care less and less,” he said. “I just hope people who didn’t know them and didn’t have the same sort of loss in their lives due to COVID, I just hope that they don’t forget and they remember to care.” ELDERS HIT HARD Three out of every four deaths were people 65 and older, according to U.S. data analyzed by The Associated Press. READ: Global Covid cases top 515 million About 255,000 people 85 and older died; 257,000 were 75 to 84 years old; and about 229,000 were 65 to 74. “A million things went wrong and most of them were preventable,” said elder care expert Charlene Harrington of the University of California, San Francisco. Harrington, 80, hopes the lessons of the pandemic lead U.S. health officials to adopt minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes, “then maybe I can retire.” SPOUSES LEFT BEHIND In nearly every 10-year age group, more men have died from COVID-19 than women. Men have shorter life expectancies than women, so it’s not surprising that the only age group where deaths in women outpaced those in men is the oldest: 85 and older. For some families who lost breadwinners, economic hardships have added to their grief, said Rima Samman, who coordinates a COVID-19 memorial project that began as a tribute to her brother, Rami, who died in May 2020 at age 40. “A widow is losing her home, or she’s losing the car she drove the kids to school with, because her husband died,” Samman said. “Little by little, you’re getting pulled down from middle class to lower class.” RACE, ETHNICITY AND AGE White people made up 65% of the total deaths, the largest proportion of any race by far. This isn’t that surprising because there are more white people in the U.S. than any other race. American Indians, Pacific Islanders and Black people had higher death rates when looking at COVID-19 deaths per capita. Death rates per capita still leave out a characteristic that is crucial to understanding which groups were disproportionately affected — COVID-19 is more deadly for the elderly. In the U.S. there are many more elderly white people than elderly people of other races. To evaluate which race has been disproportionately affected, it’s necessary to adjust the per-capita death rate, calculating the rates as if each race had the same age breakdown. After the share of COVID-19 deaths are age-adjusted in this way, we can compare that with the race’s share of the total population. If the age-adjusted share of COVID-19 deaths is higher than the share of the U.S. population, that race has been disproportionately affected. When considering age, it’s apparent that Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander and Native American people suffered disproportionately more from COVID-19 deaths than other groups in the U.S. Looking at deaths per capita, Mississippi had the highest rate of any state. “We’ve lost so many people to COVID,” said Joyee Washington, a community health educator in Hattiesburg. “The hard thing in Mississippi was having to grieve with no time to heal. You’re facing trauma after trauma after trauma. ... Normal is gone as far as I’m concerned.” Communities pulled together. Churches set up testing sites, school buses took meals to students when classrooms were closed, her city’s mayor used social media to provide reliable information. “Even in the midst of turmoil you can still find joy, you can still find light,” she said. “The possibilities are there if you look for them.” Native Americans experienced higher death rates than all other groups during two waves of the pandemic. For Mary Francis, a 41-year-old Navajo woman from Page, Arizona, the deaths reinforce a long-held value of self-sufficiency. “It goes back to the teachings of our elders,” said Francis, who helps get vaccines and care packages to Navajo and Hopi families. “Try to be self-sufficient, how to take care of ourselves and how to not rely so much on the government (and) other sources that may or may not have our interests at heart.” RURAL VS URBAN The surge that began in late 2020 was particularly rough for rural America. Americans living in rural areas have been less likely to get vaccinated than city dwellers, more likely to be infected and more likely to die. “I’ve had multiple people in my ambulance, in their 80s and dying,” said paramedic Mark Kennedy in Nauvoo, Illinois. “Some did die, and when you ask if they’ve been vaccinated, they say, ‘I don’t trust it.’” Surges swamped the thin resources of rural hospitals. During the delta surge, Kennedy transferred patients to hospitals in Springfield, which is 130 miles away, and Chicago, 270 miles away. “Every day you had multiple transfers three and four hours away in full protective gear,” Kennedy said. The recent omicron wave felt even harder to David Schreiner, CEO of Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital in Dixon, Illinois. “In the first wave, there were signs throughout the community about our health care heroes. ... People loved us the first time around,” Schreiner said. But by this past winter, people had COVID-19 fatigue. “Our people have been through so much. And then we would get a patient or a family member who would come to the hospital and refuse to put a mask on,” Schreiner said. “It’s a little bit hard to take.”
Nearly 15M deaths associated with COVID-19: WHO
The World Health Organization is estimating that nearly 15 million people were killed either by the coronavirus or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems in the past two years, more than double the official death toll of 6 million. Most of the fatalities were in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas. In a report released on Thursday, the U.N. agency’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the figure as “sobering,” saying it should prompt countries to invest more in their capacities to quell future health emergencies. Also read: WHO recommends Pfizer's Covid pill Paxlovid Scientists tasked by WHO with calculating the actual number of COVID-19 deaths between January 2020 and the end of last year estimated there were between 13.3 million and 16.6 million deaths that were either caused directly by the coronavirus or were somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, like people with cancer unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients. The figures are based on country-reported data and statistical modelling. WHO did not immediately break down the figures to distinguish between direct deaths from COVID-19 and others caused by the pandemic. “This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” said Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research. For example, Ko said, South Korea’s decision to invest heavily in public health after it suffered a severe outbreak of MERS allowed it to escape COVID-19 with a per-capita death rate around a 20th of that of the U.S. Accurate numbers on COVID-19 deaths have been problematic throughout the pandemic, as the figures are only a fraction of the devastation wrought by the virus, largely because of limited testing and differences in how countries count COVID-19 deaths. According to government figures reported to WHO and to a separate count kept by Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 6 million reported coronavirus deaths to date. Scientists at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington guessed there were more than 18 million COVID deaths from January 2020 to December 2021 in a recent study published in the journal Lancet, and a team led by Canadian researchers estimated there were more than 3 million uncounted coronavirus deaths in India alone. Also read: WHO says global COVID cases, deaths declined again last week Some countries, including India, have disputed WHO’s methodology for calculating COVID deaths, resisting the idea that there were many more deaths than officially counted. Earlier this week, the Indian government released new figures showing there were 474,806 more deaths in 2020 compared to the previous year, but did not say how many were tied to the pandemic. India did not release any death estimates for 2021, when the highly infectious delta variant swept through the country, killing many thousands. Yale’s Ko said better figures from WHO might also explain some lingering mysteries about the pandemic, like why Africa appears to have been one of the least affected by the virus, despite its low vaccination rates. “Were the mortality rates so low because we couldn’t count the deaths or was there some other factor to explain that?” he said, adding that the crush of deaths in rich countries like Britain and the U.S. proved that resources alone were insufficient to contain a global outbreak. Dr. Bharat Pankhania, a public health specialist at Britain’s University of Exeter, said we may never get close to the true toll of COVID-19, particularly in poor countries. “When you have a massive outbreak where people are dying in the streets because of a lack of oxygen, bodies were abandoned or people had to be cremated quickly because of cultural beliefs, we end up never knowing just how many people died,” he explained. Although Pankhania said the currently estimated COVID-19 death toll still pales in comparison to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic — when experts estimate up to 100 million people died — he said the fact that so many people died despite the advances of modern medicine, including vaccines, is shameful. He also warned the cost of COVID-19 could be far more damaging in the long term, given the increasing burden of long COVID. “With the Spanish flu, there was the flu and then there were some (lung) illnesses people suffered, but that was it,” he said. “There was not an enduring immunological condition that we’re seeing right now with COVID,” he said. “We do not know the extent to which people with long COVID will have their lives cut short and if they will have repeated infections that will cause them even more problems.”
Shanghai reports 1st deaths from current COVID-19 outbreak
Shanghai authorities on Monday reported the first COVID-19 deaths of the latest outbreak in China’s most populous and wealthiest city. All three who died were elderly, had underlying diseases such as diabetes and hypertension and had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus, city Health Commission inspector Wu Ganyu told journalists. Also read: Shanghai quarantine: 24-hour lights, no hot showers “After entering hospital, their conditions grew worse and they died after attempts to save them were unsuccessful," Wu said. The deaths raise to 4,641 the number of people China says have succumbed to the disease since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019. Most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents are being confined to their homes for a third week as China continues to employ a “zero-tolerance” strategy to curb the outbreak, demanding isolation of anyone possibly infected. China on Monday said 23,362 people had tested positive for the virus over the previous 24 hours, most of them showing no symptoms and almost all of them in Shanghai. The city has reported more than 300,000 cases since late March. Shanghai began easing restrictions last week, although officials have warned the city doesn't have its outbreak under control. Shanghai, which is home to China's biggest port and most important stock exchange, appeared unprepared for such a massive undertaking. Residents ran short of food and daily necessities while enduring lockdown conditions, and tens of thousands of people put under medical observation have been sequestered in crowded facilities where lights are always on, garbage bins overflow, food is inadequate and hot showers nonexistent. Anyone who tests positive but has few or no symptoms is required to spend one week in a quarantine facility. Concerns have risen about the economic impact of the government's hardline policy. Also read: COVID outbreak 'extremely grim' as Shanghai extends lockdown China’s economic growth edged up to a still-weak 4.8% over a year earlier in the first three months of 2022 as lockdowns cut production in major industrial cities. Official data showed growth accelerated from the previous quarter’s 4%. While the ruling Communist Party has urged more targeted prevention measures, local officials have routinely adopted stringent regulations, possibly for fear of being fired or penalized over outbreaks in their areas. In the city of Wenzhou, which has seen only a handful of cases, authorities have authorized rewards of up to 50,000 yuan ($7,800) for information about people who falsify their health status, online news site The Paper reported.
South Korea's omicron deaths surge amid faltering response
South Korea reached another daily record in COVID-19 deaths on Thursday as health officials reported more than 621,000 new infections, underscoring a massive omicron surge that has been worse than feared and threatens to buckle an over-stretched hospital system. The 429 deaths reported in the latest 24 hours were nearly 140 more than the previous one-day record set on Tuesday. Fatalities may further rise in coming weeks considering the intervals between infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The 621,266 new coronavirus cases diagnosed by health workers were also a record daily jump, shattering Wednesday’s previous high of 400,624. That pushed the national caseload to over 8.2 million, with more than 7.4 million cases added since the start of February. Read: Pfizer asks US to allow 4th COVID vaccine dose for seniors The outbreak has been significantly bigger than what had been forecast by government health authorities, who maintain that omicron is nearing its peak. Officials have tried to calm public fears amid concerns about a faltering pandemic response, saying that omicron is no more deadly than seasonal influenza for vaccinated people and less dangerous than the delta strain that hit the country hard in December and early January. South Korea still has a much lower rate of COVID-19 deaths in relation to size of population than the United States or many European nations, which officials attribute to high vaccinations with more than 68% of the population having received booster shots. However, some experts say health officials clearly underestimated how the greater scale of outbreak would strain worn-out hospital workers who had just wiggled out of the delta surge. They criticize the government for sending the wrong message to the public by easing social distancing restrictions and effectively communicating that omicron is mild. Transmissions were probably worsened by an intense presidential campaign leading up to last week’s election, which also appeared to have reduced political capacity to maintain a stringent virus response. Lee Sang-won, a senior Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency official, said during a briefing that health authorities feel “apologetic” over the explosion of omicron cases that has been bigger than they expected. He said around 70,000 of the new cases reported Thursday were infections that were mistakenly omitted from Wednesday’s tally, and that the real daily increase would be around 550,000. Lee said the country’s recently revamped testing regime, now centered around rapid antigen tests to save laboratory tests for high-risk groups, is contributing to the rise in daily cases by casting a broader net to detect infections among the population. He added that a highly transmissible omicron subvariant known as BA.2 also seems to be driving up infections. About 26% of the country’s recent cases have been linked to BA.2, up from around 17% last month, Lee said. Read: COVID-19 cases more than double in China's growing outbreak Omicron has forced South Korea to abandon a stringent COVID-19 response based on mass laboratory tests, aggressive contact tracing and quarantines to focus limited medical resources on priority groups, including people 60 and older and those with preexisting medical conditions. Health officials have recently significantly eased quarantine restrictions and border controls and stopped requiring adults to show proof of vaccination or negative tests when entering potentially crowded spaces like restaurants so that more public and health workers could respond to rapidly expanding at-home treatments. Nearly 2 million virus carriers with mild or moderate symptoms have been asked to isolate at home to save hospital space.
Bangladesh logs 3 more Covid-19 deaths with 233 cases
Bangladesh reported three more Covid-linked deaths with 233 fresh cases in 24 hours till Sunday morning. The daily positivity rate has increased to 1.88 per cent from Saturday’s 1.77 per cent after testing 12,348 samples during the period, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). The fatalities and cases on Sunday were higher than Friday that witnessed three more Covid-linked deaths with 198 fresh cases. Read: Covid claims 3 more lives in Bangladesh, infects 198 others The latest numbers took the country’s total fatalities to 29,111 while the caseload to 19,49,486. Among the new deceased, two were women and one man. Two of the deaths were reported from Dhaka division while another from Rajshahi division. Meanwhile, the mortality rate remained unchanged at 1.49 per cent. The recovery rate rose to 95.46 per cent with the recovery of 1,417 more patients during the 24-hour period. On January 28, Bangladesh logged its previous highest daily positivity rate at 33.37 per cent reporting 15,440 cases and 20 deaths. Read: How will COVID end? Experts look to past epidemics for clues On December 9 last year, Bangladesh logged zero Covid-related death after nearly three weeks. The country reported first zero Covid-related death in a single day on November 20 last year along with 178 infections since the pandemic broke out in Bangladesh in March 2020. Besides, the country registered the highest daily caseload of 16,230 on July 28 last year, while the highest number of daily fatalities was 264 on August 10 last year.
Global Covid cases top 453 million
The overall number of Covid cases has surged past 453 million as Omicron infections keep rising across the world. According to Johns Hopkins University (JHU), the total case count mounted to 453,226,552 while the death toll from the virus reached 6,029,046 Friday morning. The US has recorded 79,454,930 cases so far and 965,466 people have died from the virus in the country, the university data shows. Also read: How will COVID end? Experts look to past epidemics for clues India's Covid-19 tally rose to 42,983,723 on Thursday, as 3,656 new cases were registered in 24 hours across the country, showed the federal health ministry's data. Besides, 255 more deaths were recorded since Tuesday morning, taking the death toll to 515,745. Meanwhile, Brazil, which has been experiencing a new wave of cases since January last year, registered 29,249,903 cases as of Thursday while its Covid death toll rose to 654,147 Situation in Bangladesh Bangladesh logged three more Covid-linked deaths with 327 fresh cases in 24 hours till Thursday morning amid a continuous downtrend in the positivity rate. The daily positivity rate slightly declined to 1.91 per cent from Wednesday’s 1.97 per cent after testing 17,093 samples during the period, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). On Wednesday, Bangladesh reported one Covid-linked death with 323 fresh cases. The fresh numbers took the country’s total fatalities to 29,100 and the caseload to 19,48,798. All the three deceased were men. Two of the deaths were reported from Dhaka division while one from Khulna division. Meanwhile, the mortality rate remained unchanged at 1.49 per cent. Also read: Covid claims three more lives in Bangladesh, new cases 327 However, the recovery rate rose to 95.20 per cent with the recovery of 2,479 more patients during the 24-hour period.