New measures, new reports and highlights: an update on the latest developments in the Covid-19 pandemic around the world.
The situation in France
France crossed the threshold of 94,000 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday evening, Christmas Eve, a threshold never reached since the start of the epidemic in March 2020, according to figures published by Public Health France. 94,124 new cases were recorded in 24 hours, under the effect of the fifth wave which intensifies carried by the variant Omicron, much more contagious.
Over the past seven days, the average stood at 66,417 cases.
The previous record dates back to Thursday when more than 91,000 cases had been recorded. We have to go back to the peak of the 2nd wave, that is, November 2020, to find such levels (86.852). Thousands of French people rushed to pharmacies on Friday to get tested to hope to spend Christmas with their family. Pressure also continues to mount on critical care services, which have 3,254 patients against 3,208 on Tuesday, with 316 new admissions.
16,173 people are currently hospitalized against 16,060 the day before, with 1,398 new admissions. The number of deaths since the start of the epidemic has reached 122,462, 169 more than the day before. Since the start of the vaccination campaign in France, more than 52.6 million people have received at least one injection (i.e. 78.1% of the total population) and 51,585,838 people now have a complete vaccination schedule (i.e. 76 , 5% of the total population). And since the start of the booster campaign, 21,933,063 people have received an additional dose.
A Christmas marked by the pandemic
Several billion people celebrate Christmas on Saturday, festivities hampered for the second year in a row by the Covid-19 pandemic and in particular by the explosion of contaminations due to the very contagious variant Omicron. Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi blessing is scheduled from noon from St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. The 85-year-old Argentine pontiff presided over the traditional Christmas mass on Friday evening in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in front of some 2,000 masked people. He notably invited the faithful to « rediscover the little things in life » in a new plea for humility.
Ambassadors and representatives of other Christian denominations attended this ceremony celebrated in several languages in the presence of more than 200 priests, bishops and cardinals, also masked. A few dozen people who did not obtain a ticket followed the mass on giant screens installed in Saint-Pierre Square. In Bethlehem, a Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank, several hundred people gathered, despite the cold, in Manger Square to follow a parade of Palestinian scouts.
Airlines have had to cancel more than 2,300 flights around the world, including nearly a quarter in the United States, especially in the face of the Omicron variant which disrupts travel during the holidays. Millions of Americans have nevertheless crisscrossed their country, although the Omicron wave already exceeds the peak of the Delta variant, with 171,000 daily cases on average over seven days, and hospitals are saturated. The surge in infections put a chill on the festivities. Gatherings are generally easier than in 2020 even though the Netherlands is confined, Broadway canceled Christmas shows in New York and Spain and Greece reintroduced the mandatory mask outside.
The balance sheet in the world
The pandemic has made at least 5,385,564 dead worldwide since the end of 2019, according to a report established by AFP from official sources Friday at 11am GMT.
In absolute terms, the countries which have recorded the most deaths are the United States (815,423), Brazil (618,228), India (478,133) and Russia (302,369).
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, taking into account the excess mortality directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19, that the toll of the pandemic could be two to three times higher than that officially recorded.
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