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Covid-19 news: Falling cases in UK suggests omicron wave has peaked

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Sign up to read our regular email newslettersThe latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemicBy Michael Le Page, Clare Wilson, Jessica Hamzelou, Sam Wong, Graham Lawton, Adam Vaughan, Conrad Quilty-Harper, Jason Arunn Murugesu and Layal LiverpoolStewards check covid-19 passes at a football match in Manchester, EnglandAFP via Getty ImagesStewards check covid-19 passes at a football match in Manchester, EnglandAFP via Getty ImagesA fall in coronavirus cases and plateau in hospital admissions across the UK is ‘cautiously good news’ A fall in new coronavirus cases in the UK suggests the wave triggered by the highly-transmissible omicron variant may have passed its peak. A total of 1834 people died within 28 days of a positive test result in the seven days to Sunday, a 41.6 per cent increase on the previous week.“Hospital admissions are still relatively high, albeit there is some evidence that maybe they’re plateauing or possibly even going down in London, which is cautiously good news,” said Tildesley.“Looking at it from a UK point of view, there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel,” David Nabarro, a World Health Organization special envoy for covid-19 told Sky News. is a BBC documentary, which investigates what the high covid-19 death rates in ethnic minority patients reveal about health inequality in the UK.Panorama: The Race for a Vaccine is a BBC documentary about the inside story of the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against covid-19.Race Against the Virus: Hunt for a Vaccine is a Channel 4 documentary which tells the story of the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of the scientists on the frontline.The New York Times is assessing the progress in development of potential drug treatments for covid-19, and ranking them for effectiveness and safety.Humans of COVID-19 is a project highlighting the experiences of key workers on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus in the UK, through social media.Belly Mujinga: Searching for the Truth is a BBC Panorama investigation of the death of transport worker Belly Mujinga from covid-19, following reports she had been coughed and spat on by a customer at London’s Victoria Station.Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it and ways to manage its mental health toll.COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened, and How to Stop the Next One by Debora Mackenzie is about how the pandemic happened and why it will happen again if we don’t do things differently in future.The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. Teaching unions are demanding better protections against the virus, including high-quality face masks for staff and carbon dioxide monitors.Fans watch a football match in Seville, SpainGetty Images EuropeFans watch a football match in Seville, SpainGetty Images EuropeThe coronavirus pandemic is rapidly moving toward becoming endemic, according to the European Medicines AgencyAs cases of coronavirus continue to soar around the world, the status of the coronavirus outbreak is rapidly moving from pandemic to endemic, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).“Nobody knows exactly when we’ll be at the end of the tunnel, but we’ll [get] there,” EMA head of biological health threats and vaccine strategy Marco Cavaleri told journalists at a press briefing on 11 January. Commuters wait on the platform at Auber RER train station in Paris, FranceNathan Laine/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesCommuters wait on the platform at Auber RER train station in Paris, FranceNathan Laine/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesMore than 50 per cent of people in Europe will be infected by the omicron variant within the next 6 to 8 weeks, warns WHOMost people in Europe will become infected with the omicron variant in the next 6 to 8 weeks if the trend in case rates continues, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.The region saw 7 million new cases of covid-19 in the first week of 2022 – a figure that had more than doubled over a two-week period, WHO regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told journalists at a press briefing on Tuesday. “At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50 per cent of the population in the region will be infected with omicron in the next 6 to 8 weeks.”Other coronavirus newsOver 176,000 people in the UK have had covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate since the start of pandemic, according to the nation’s Office for National Statistics, The Guardian reports.The 176,035 figure is higher than the UK government’s official count, which currently stands at 173,509. Over 1.2 million cases have been recorded in the last seven days, and 142,224 cases were reported yesterday alone.The US recorded 1.35 million cases of coronavirus infections on Monday – the highest daily total for any country in the world since the pandemic began, according to a tally by news agency Reuters. There were also over 20,000 covid-19 patients in hospital yesterday – the country’s highest figure since late May. Italy also reported a record number of new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row. The highly-infectious omicron variant is currently sweeping through Europe, and France yesterday recorded 271,686 covid-19 infections, a national record.Normal life will be made harder for unvaccinated people in France, French president Emmanuel Macron told Le Parisien yesterday.“We need to tell them, from 15 January, you will no longer be able to go to the restaurant. A panel advising the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will now decide whether to recommend booster shots in this age group.Two years of covid-19: What we’ve learned during the pandemic so far A soldier administers a vaccination at the Army Reserve Centre in Poole, England.Finnbarr Webster/Getty ImagesA soldier administers a vaccination at the Army Reserve Centre in Poole, England.Finnbarr Webster/Getty ImagesOur daily covid-19 update will resume on 4 JanuaryImmunity offered by vaccines wanes more quickly with omicron, finds UK studyThe protection conferred by booster vaccines against the omicron variant begins to wane within 10 weeks, according to a briefing released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).Based on an analysis of 147,597 delta and 68,489 omicron cases, the agency found that the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are less effective against omicron than delta. The difference is somewhat larger than suggested by a study published by Imperial College London on Wednesday, which reported a 15 to 20 per cent lower risk.However, modelling suggests that the severity of omicron would need to be around 90 per cent lower to avoid similar levels of hospital admissions to previous waves, according to minutes from a meeting of the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies on Monday.“What we have got now is a really fine balance between something that looks like a lower risk of hospitalisation – which is great news – but equally a highly transmissible variant and one that we know evades some of our immune defences, so it is a very balanced position,” Jenny Harris, chief executive of UKHSA, told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.The UK recorded 119,789 new cases of covid-19 yesterday, setting another record. The Office for National Statistics estimates that 1.4 million people in the UK had the virus in the week ending 16 December, the highest number since comparable figures began in autumn 2020.Other coronavirus newsHealthcare workers in the US who have tested positive for covid-19 but do not have symptoms can stop isolating after seven days instead of 10, if they test negative for the virus, under new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Italy has banned public new year’s eve celebrations as well as all concerts and open air events until 31 January, aiming to curb a rise in infections driven by the omicron variant. Mask wearing will also be compulsory in outdoor public places under new rules.Australia will cut the interval between second doses and booster shots from 5 months to 4 from 4 January, and then to 3 months on 31 January.The year of coronavirus variants: How alpha, delta and omicron brought new waves of disease across the world in 2021.Cuba’s homegrown vaccines: Four months ago, hospitals in Cuba collapsed because of skyrocketing covid-19, but locally made vaccines have succeeded in bringing the outbreak under control.Vaccine hesitancy: It is more important than ever for the UK to reach out to communities where concerns over vaccination are more common, such as pregnant women and some ethnic groups, reports Jason Arunn Murugesu.See previous updates from November to December 2021, September to October 2021, July to September 2021, June to July 2021, May 2021, April-March 2021, February 2021, January 2021, November/December 2020, and March to November 2020.More on these topics:

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