The 13 million residents of Xi’an, China, began strict containment on Thursday due to a rebound in the Covid-19 epidemic one and a half months before the Beijing Winter Olympics, while Elsewhere in the world, the new Omicron variant continues to grow rapidly, resulting in further restrictions in Europe.
China is pursuing a “zero Covid” strategy which consists of doing everything to limit new cases as much as possible, generally limited to only a few dozen per day. The authorities have redoubled their vigilance as the opening of the Olympic Games approaches on February 4.
Thus, after the appearance of a hundred cases in the city, all the inhabitants of Xi’an must since Thursday midnight stay at home “unless there is a compelling reason”. Only one person per household is allowed to go out shopping every two days. All “non-essential” businesses have had to close. The inhabitants can no longer leave the city without authorization, and the entire population will be screened.
These drastic measures contrast with the low number of cases recorded in China, where Covid-19 has only infected just over 100,000 people since the start of the pandemic.
In the UK, a record 106,000 new cases were recorded for Wednesday alone. The country, among the hardest hit in the world (more than 147,500 dead), is trying to speed up vaccination. Almost a million booster doses are given every day.
Spain also recorded a daily record of more than 60,000 cases on Wednesday. Faced with this outbreak, the government will once again make it compulsory to wear a mask in the open air from Christmas.
New measures come into force Thursday in Sweden: teleworking must be privileged, and public events bringing together more than 500 people will require a vaccination pass.
“Omicron is becoming, or has already become, dominant in several countries including Denmark, Portugal and the UK, where numbers are doubling every one and a half to three days, resulting in unprecedented rates of transmission.” , said Dr Hans Kluge, WHO director for Europe.
– The illusion of reminders –
The boss of the organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned against the illusion that it is enough to administer booster doses to get out of the pandemic.
“Indiscriminate booster programs are likely to prolong the pandemic, rather than end it, by diverting available doses to countries that already have high vaccination rates, thus giving the virus more opportunities to spread. spread and mutate, ”he stressed.
In the United States, the awards ceremony for the Oscars of honor, held every year in Los Angeles and scheduled for next month, will be postponed due to the threat from Omicron. The 2022 edition of the Oscars has not yet been called into question and is still scheduled for March 27.
Omicron is already largely dominant (73% of new contaminations) in the United States.
– Less risk of hospitalization –
However, two British studies published on Wednesday show that infections with the Omicron variant are less likely to cause hospitalizations compared to the Delta variant, confirming a trend first seen in South Africa.
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These preliminary studies – one from Scotland, the other from England – were welcomed by experts, who were however cautious.
“This is good news with nuances,” said Scottish study co-author Jim McMenamin.
According to this study, the risk of hospitalization with Omicron is reduced by two-thirds compared to Delta. The English study finds a reduction of 40 to 45% in hospitalizations for one night or more.
Clinical data from the past few weeks suggests that Omicron is no more dangerous than its predecessors, including Delta. But scientists warn of an optical effect.
Because if Omicron is less dangerous, it is much more contagious. The consequences could therefore be serious at the collective level.
The number of cases, which seems to double every two to three days, could automatically lead to an increase in the number of hospitalized patients – in particular the unvaccinated and the so-called fragile people (very old, or immunocompromised for example) – and once again overwhelm health systems. Even considered for the moment as less lethal, the Omicron variant is thus likely to cause more deaths.
The pandemic has killed at least 5,368,777 million people worldwide since the end of 2019, according to a report established by AFP from official sources on Wednesday. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the actual toll could be two to three times higher.