Children in Israel will no longer have to go into quarantine due to exposure to a verified coronavirus carrier under the new “Testing and Learning” plan. The plan, announced on Thursday by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, will go into effect in a week. Under the plan, children will take home antigen tests twice a week on Sunday and Wednesday, Children with negative tests will continue to attend school, children who test positive will remain at home. Students will each receive three home antigen tests at regular intervals to offset the cost.
The world number of cases of the coronavirus broke the record for the daily tally of new infections, averaging more than 3 million cases a day between January 18 and January 19. The world average 3,095,971 daily cases were an increase of 17% over the previous week, according to the AFP news agency. The massive increase seems to be the result of the highly transmissible omicron variant, with the daily case tally increasing more than five times since the discovery of the variant.
An Egyptian journalist and news presenter announced live on air that he was sick with the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Youssef El-Husseiny, who is being criticized for endangering his colleagues, made the announcement while presenting the “Nine O’Clock” program on Egypt’s Channel One, The New Arab reported. “I am exhausted and ill and my condition is terrible,” he said, adding that he showed up to work because the program was commemorating prominent Egyptian journalist and talk-show host Wael el-Ebrashy, who died due to COVID-19 complications earlier this month. Critics called him “irresponsible” and “careless” and called upon him to apologize. He later retracted the announcement, saying that he just had a “bad case of the common cold.”
Statistics tallied by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the United States is emerging from the current wave of the coronavirus, which was exacerbated by the omicron variant. A weekly average of daily new cases peaked last week, at some 890,000 cases last week, according to the CDC’s official COVID-19 tracker. A decline in cases in states hit first and hardest by the latest wave are noticeable. Still, the number of total cases and the number of those hospitalized with the virus remains high. Other countries hit by a wave driven by the omicron variant, such as South Africa, Britain and France, have shown the same pattern.
Beijing, host next month of the Winter Olympics, reported its first locally transmitted case of the omicron variant on Saturday. China has been working to quell several coronavirus outbreaks throughout the country, some of them omicron, ahead of the start of the games on February 4. The case was discovered in Beijing’s Haidian district, where many tech company headquarters are located. Among the measures taken to combat the spread of the virus in all its variants are lockdowns, cancellation of domestic flights and shutting local factories.
Iran’s health ministry has reported its first deaths from the omicron coronavirus variant. The three deaths were announced on Saturday. There have been more than 132,000 deaths from the coronavirus in Iran in five waves since the start of the pandemic. More than 53 million of Iran’s population of about 85 million have received two vaccine doses, and 12.2 million have received three doses of a vaccine. Iran lifted some travel restrictions put in place to reduce the spread of the virus beginning this week.
A panel of judges in Australia upheld a government deportation order against tennis number 1 seed Novak Djokovic, because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. The order means that he will not be able to defend his Australian Open title as he attempts to win a record 21st Grand Slam title. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had canceled Djokovic’s visa on the grounds that Djokovic’s presence in Australia may be a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public and “may be counterproductive to efforts at vaccination by others in Australia.” His flight took off late Sunday night in Australia.
The COVAX program, a United Nations-backed initiative of the World Health Organization, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and other organizations, has now delivered 1 billion doses of vaccines against the coronavirus to poor countries who could not afford to secure them on their own, according to WHO. The billionth dose was part of a shipment of 1.1 million vaccine doses to Rwanda on Saturday. The doses have been sent to 144 countires. WHO in a statement criticized countires that have hoarded or stockpiled vaccine doses. The agency also said that 36 of the UN’s 194 member countries have vaccinated less than 10% of their population and 88 have vaccinated less than 40%.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized in Parliament for attending a ‘bring your own booze’ party held in the garden at the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street in London in May 2020, when the United Kingdom was under its first strict coronavirus lockdown. The apology did not extend to a resignation, despite opposition demands that he step down. Johnson is being publicly mocked for saying that he thought the gathering was a work event, and said that he only spent 25 minutes there. In retrospect, Johnson said, he should have shut down the event, which also was attended by his wife. An independent investigation is currently underway into more than one party held at the official Downing Street residence.
Israel’s Health Ministry advised people testing themselves for the coronavirus at home with a rapid antigen kit to swab their throat before swabbing their nose in order to more successfully detect the omicron variant. This is not in the manufacturer’s instructions and is contrary to the advice provided by the US Food and Drug Administration which said that swabing the throat incorrectly could be a safety risk. Omicron can be transmitted when it has infected someone’s throat and saliva and before it reaches an infected person’s nose.