Following first detection of the new Omicron strain in Georgia at the end of December, and following the New Year holidays, the epidemiological situation has deteriorated as expected.
So far, more than 1000 cases of Omicron have been registered in Georgian laboratories, however, health officials claim that in reality, the number of cases is 3 to 4 times higher. According to the National Center for Disease Control [NCDC], so far none of the patients infected with Omicron have needed resuscitation assistance.
The Interagency Coordination Council urged holidaymakers at Georgian ski resorts to observe Covid-related regulations, including wearing face masks and keeping to social distancing. Despite this, skiiers and snowboarders were this week still being allowed to enter gondolas in groups of up to 10 without wearing masks. As such, both Bakuriani and Gudauri have become hotbeds for the virus spread.
Tamar Gabunia, Deputy Health Minister, said that the NCDC has no intention of recommending postponement of the learning process, with in-class study to kick off at schools and kindergartens across Georgia from January 17. Parents can still choose to register their children for online learning if they wish (every Thursday until 6PM).
Georgia reported 5486 coronavirus cases, 2893 recoveries, and 46 deaths on Tuesday. Tbilisi recorded the highest number of 2985 cases, followed by the Adjara region with 569 cases, and the Imereti region with 563 cases.
5596 new cases were reported Wednesday, 2946 recoveries, and 47 deaths. Tbilisi recorded 3180 cases, followed by Adjara with 638, and Imereti with 563 cases.
There were 5326 new coronavirus cases, 3044 recoveries, and 48 deaths on Thursday. Tbilisi recorded 3148 new cases within 24 hours, followed by Adjara with 563 cases, and Imereti region with 437 cases.
The daily test-positivity rate now stands at 9.6%.
Georgia’s total case tally reached 979,235 since February 2020, among which 922,411 people recovered and 14,359 died.
The Cases Worldwide
On Monday, the US recorded more than one million Covid cases in 24 hours.
On Thursday, the UK reported 179,756 cases and 231 Covid-related deaths. A number of hospitals have declared “critical” incidents due to staff absence and rising pressures due to Covid.
Elsewhere, hospital numbers are also rising. France’s health minister Olivier Veran warned this week that January would be tough for hospitals, with France on Thursday reporting 261,000 new cases.
WHO said the number of global cases has increased by 71% in the last week, and in the Americas by 100%. It said that among severe cases worldwide, 90% were unvaccinated.
The Omicron variant is on track to infect more than half of Europeans, but it should not yet be seen as a flu-like endemic illness, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.
Europe saw more than 7 million newly-reported cases in the first week of 2022, more than doubling over a two-week period, WHO’s Europe director Hans Kluge told a news briefing.
“At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next 6-8 weeks,” Kluge said, referring to a research center at the University of Washington.
Fifty out of 53 countries in Europe and central Asia have logged cases of the more infectious variant, Kluge said.
Evidence, however, is emerging that Omicron is affecting the upper respiratory tract more than the lungs, causing milder symptoms than previous variants.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against describing the Omicron variant as mild, saying it is killing people around the world.
Recent studies suggest that Omicron is less likely to make people seriously ill than previous Covid variants, however, the record number of people catching it has left health systems under severe pressure, said WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The Vaccination Process
“Vaccinating everyone on the planet against Covid-19 regularly is not sustainable or affordable,” says UK vaccine scientist Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, who helped develop the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. He added the most at risk should be identified and prioritized instead.
He noted the vaccine rollout had gone “extremely well” in the UK, where booster jabs have been offered to all eligible adults, but other parts of the world were falling behind.
Prof Pollard told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It really is not affordable, sustainable or probably even needed to vaccinate everyone on the planet every four to six months.”
More than nine billion doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in around 197 countries worldwide.
Overall, China and India have administered the highest number of doses, with nearly three billion and 1.5 billion respectively. The US is third, with more than 500 million.
Early studies suggest the newly identified Omicron variant of coronavirus is better able to evade vaccine protection than previous strains, though vaccination still offers strong protection against serious illness and hospitalization.
A third ‘booster’ dose of a vaccine does appear to offer protection against infection from Omicron and at least 89 countries have begun booster vaccination programmes.
Worldwide, more than 100 possible vaccines are undergoing trials to test their efficacy and safety, reports the BBC.
By Ana Dumbadze