Covid-19 top developments: Beijing shuts schools; new Omicron sub-variant pushes cases up in South Africa

Covid-19 top developments: Beijing shuts schools; new Omicron sub-variant pushes cases up in South Africa

World News

Countries like South Africa and Taiwan have reported an increase in coronavirus cases as China continues to reel under a spike in infections. Meanwhile, several Latin American nations, South Korea and Ecuador have eased restrictions amid a decline in cases.

China Thursday reported 15,688 new cases, marking an increase from the previous day’s 11,367. Of the new cases, 5,659 were symptomatic, the National Health Commission said, while 10,029 were asymptomatic. On Wednesday, the country had reported 1,503 symptomatic cases. The rise in cases along with strict lockdown and testing rules have disturbed normal life in China’s biggest cities, Shanghai and Beijing.

In the United States, top medical adviser Anthony Fauci said that while the country was out of the “pandemic phase”, meaning that the US has transitioned to a more controlled stage, it does not mean that the pandemic is over.

Here are the top developments on Covid-19 from around the world:

🔴 In Beijing, which has already conducted three rounds of mass testing to prevent the spread of coronavirus, schools were ordered to shut down on Thursday. According to news agency AP, students make up 30 per cent of the new cases reported in the Chinese capital. No information has been provided yet on when the schools can reopen and whether they’d be allowed to conduct online classes. Moreover, the city also closed down several gyms, malls, cinema halls and apartments.

🔴 The Shanghai government Friday said that half of its residents, amounting to 12.38 million people, can now leave their homes as they are in “lower-risk areas”, after a month-long strict lockdown. Several foreign expats have left the city to escape the restrictions, while more are looking to leave, Reuters reported.

🔴 South Africa has been hit by a spate of infections, driven by a new sub-variant of Omicron, which scientists are calling BA.4. However, health experts have noted that it’s too early to say if the new sub-variant will be a “full-fledged wave”, as there has only been a slight increase in hospitalisations and no spike in deaths. The country is currently recording around 6,000 cases a day, while the count was in the hundreds till last week.

🔴 Taiwan is witnessing its worst outbreak since the onset of the pandemic, with 11,353 new cases and two deaths on Thursday. However, 99.7 per cent of its cases have mild to no symptoms. Taiwan in April had stepped away from the zero-Covid policy which China is implementing, and has asked those who test positive with mild symptoms to quarantine at home.

🔴 With declining cases, several Latin American nations have eased restrictions. From May 1, Colombians will no longer need to wear masks in public places like shopping malls and theatres. Brazil, Mexico, and El Salvador have also removed masks mandates, with the recent carnival parades in Rio de Janeiro, which see over 60,000 spectators, allowing entry without masks to vaccinated individuals.

🔴 South Korea, too, will be removing the mask mandate from next week as it continues to see over 50,000 daily cases, down from the mid-March peak of over 6.2 lakh cases. However, masks would still be required at events with over 50 attendees.

🔴 On Thursday, Ecuador lifted the mask mandates for both indoor and outdoor spaces, having achieved vaccination of 87 per cent of the 3 years and older population.

— with agencies inputs

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