A succinct summation of the good, the bad, and the ugly in the global pandemic news this week. This brief pandemic update is featured every week at the End of History. Click on the links for deeper dives into the stories that tell what happened this week in the historic global pandemic of our generation.
Global leaders noted a 23% increase in new coronavirus cases in the Americas over the last week. They suggested the latest wave experienced in Europe could be a look at the future.
At the time of this post, the world has recorded 260.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 5.2 million deaths. Yesterday Germany, the United Kingdom, and Russia led the world in the most newly reported cases. Russia, Ukraine, and Poland led the world in the most deaths in the same 24 hours.
New South African Strain
This week’s greatest alarm in the pandemic involves a new strain of the virus discovered in South Africa. Scientists explained the new strain is behind a recent surge in new cases in South Africa’s largest province. South Africa surged from around 200 new cases a day to 2,465 yesterday. An effort to explain the dramatic surge led to the discovery of the new strain of the coronavirus in South Africa. An emergency meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) was held yesterday to discuss the new strain that consists of at least 30 mutations. Some scientists suggested the new strain is the most heavily mutated form of the virus we have seen yet.
The European Union moved to block travel from Southern Africa beginning today. Other nations are following suit to limit travel from South Africa and surrounding nations, including Britain, Singapore, Japan, and Israel. Israel’s Prime Minister warned the country was “on the threshold of an emergency situation” after the country identified its first case of the new strain. Hong Kong identified two cases of the new variant already within its borders from travelers arriving from South Africa. Markets around the world tumbled today on fears of the new coronavirus strain in South Africa.
Europe accounted for 60% of the world’s coronavirus deaths from November 15-21. The WHO warned Europe could see another 700,000 coronavirus deaths by March. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention marked Germany and Denmark to its highest risk level for travelers.
Protests swept across Europe at the beginning of the week as many nations returned to lockdown to fight the latest wave of the pandemic. Austria, Ireland, Switzerland, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Italy. Fed up protesters marched against lockdowns, vaccine passports, and other measures being implemented by governments across the continent. France deployed special forces to the island of Guadeloupe after the protests turned violent. Protests turned violent in the Netherlands. On Saturday, police in the city of Rotterdam opened fire on protesters after widespread looting and arson took shape.
In Germany, the country’s health minister said in the face of the latest coronavirus surge, everyone who has not yet caught the virus will contract it by the end of the winter. He added that many of those who are not vaccinated would die. Germany has experienced a 50% increase in the rate of new infections compared to two weeks ago. The surge in Germany has arrived despite a 68% vaccination rate across the country, raising alarms in highly vaccinated countries. Germany passed 100,000 total deaths from the coronavirus yesterday.
The Czech Republic again set new records for daily reported cases. The country’s infection rate rose to 1,061 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, almost twice as many as two weeks ago. Greece introduced new national restrictions as its COVID19 death rate has nearly doubled the European Union average.
France has witnessed a surge in new infections in the last two weeks, despite having a 75% vaccination rate. On Monday, the French Prime Minister tested positive. Responding to the growing frustrations and protests across the country, the government opted to approve a vaccination booster for all adults rather than new restrictions to combat the latest surge in France.
New cases increased by 8% and deaths by 9% in the US in the last week. The seven-day average in the US has increased 24% in the last two weeks. Despite the vaccines, more Americans have died from the pandemic in 2021 than in 2020.
COVID19 hospitalizations in Michigan rose 46% over the last two weeks. And 58% in New Hampshire. Those increase in new hospitalizations, combined with hospital staffing shortages, is leading to a healthcare system emergency as the systems in these states are once again pushed to the limit.
Coronavirus cases in children in the United States have risen by 32 percent from about two weeks ago. These cases accounted for about a quarter of the country’s caseload for the week.
The White House said 95% of federal employees have complied with the vaccine mandate.
Pandemic Headlines from Around the World This Week
- Singapore began easing pandemic restrictions this week.
- New cases per day in South Korea passed 4,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
- Iran announced the country reached 50% vaccination of its population. The government lifted some restrictions to celebrate that milestone. Iran began using its domestically produced vaccine in June.
- Despite huge festival gatherings in recent weeks, India reported the smallest rise of new infections in 1½ years.
- Kenya announced plans for a vaccine mandate next month.
- New Zealand announced its borders would remain closed to travelers for another five months.
- As wealthy countries surge forward with authorizing vaccine boosters, the WHO said poorer countries are unlikely to see booster programs in place any time soon.
- Israel began giving COVID shots to children ages 5-11.