In my new series of the 14 biggest stories that ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS is tracking, I dedicated my first column to the global spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
I discuss why it matters and how to pray. You can read it in full here.
In this article I want to take a deeper look into the variant that has taken the world by storm, as nations threaten more closures and sanctions around the world.
Yesterday, the U.S. reported more than 1 million new cases – 1,082,549 to be exact – according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“We're seeing a surge in patients again, unprecedented in this pandemic," says Dr. James Phillips, chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University Hospital.
This is the latest daily record, and the U.S. has hit numerous records over the past few weeks.
Maybe the daily numbers have anomalies.
Fine – the seven-day rolling average of new cases in the States is 480,273, higher than at any other time since the pandemic began.
Europe is also experiencing record surges in daily COVID cases.
“France has reported Europe's highest ever number of new daily Covid cases as countries across the continent struggle to contain the Omicron variant,” reports the BBC.
“But France, with its 179,807 cases on Tuesday, was not alone in breaking records, as Italy, Greece, Portugal and England all reported record highs too.”
“Australian COVID-19 cases soared to a pandemic record on Tuesday as the Omicron variant ripped through most of the country, driving up hospitalisation rates as the once-formidable testing regime buckled under lengthy wait times and stock shortages,” reported Reuters.
Officials in India report they are experiencing a “massive surge” in new cases.
China – not exactly known for accurate COVID reporting – is nevertheless reporting the biggest daily spike in new cases since the crisis began.
GO DEEPER: LEARN MORE ABOUT SOME COUNTRIES THAT ARE TURNING THE CORNER ON COVID
All that said, there is mounting evidence that Omicron is not nearly as deadly as feared.
And that some countries are turning the corner, seeing new caseloads beginning to drop.
Last month, the Omicron surge began on the continent of Africa.
“The number of new COVID-19 cases is currently doubling every five days, the shortest [period] reported this year,” the World Health Organization reported on Dec. 14.
However, WHO added that “while the speed of the spread is fast, deaths remain low and even dropped by 19% last week compared with the previous week.”
Some African countries are still seeing huge spikes in new cases.
The Ivory Coast is one example.
Yet South Africa is reporting that its massive COVID wave has crested and is now falling – and that they did not see a corresponding spike in COVID deaths.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the New York Times that while the seven-day average of hospitalizations of 9,000 per day represented an increase of about 14% from the previous week, by the same token the seven-day average of daily deaths stood at roughly 1,100 per day, which is a decrease of about 7%.
“This could be due to the fact that hospitalizations tend to lag behind cases by about two weeks,” Wallensky said, “but may also be due to early indications that we’ve seen from other countries like South Africa and United Kingdom of milder disease from Omicron, especially among the vaccinated and the boosted.”
WHO officials, however, are warning people not to draw quick conclusions that South Africa’s experience in recent weeks means that Omicron is definitively less deadly.
According to a report in Fortune magazine, “Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program said [in a press briefing] that not only was the South African population generally younger than in other places, but that a large number of South Africans had also carried antibodies from prior COVID-19 infections. That might confound attempts to determine whether the Omicron strain is innately less likely to cause severe disease than prior variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.