December 29 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news - CNN

Global cases of Covid-19 increased 11% during the week of December 20 to 26 compared to the previous week, while death numbers remained similar, according to the weekly epidemiological update from the World Health Organization (WHO), published Tuesday. 

This growth in cases follows "a gradual increase since October," WHO says, with just under 5 million cases reported. Overall, as of December 26, there have been over 278 million cases reported. 

The Americas region reported the largest new case increase, of 39%, followed by the African region, with a 7% increase. The European, Eastern Mediterranean, and Western Pacific regions all reported similar case numbers to the week before. The South-East Asia Region reported a decrease of 12% compared to the week before. 

The United States reported the highest number of new cases, followed by the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany. 

The number of deaths, over 44,000 in the past week, was similar to the number of deaths the week before. There have been just over 5.4 million deaths reported globally, as of December 26.

The highest number of new deaths was reported in the African region, a 72% increase from the week before. It is followed by the South-East Asia region, with a 9% increase, and the Americas region, 7%. The Western Pacific region had a number similar to the week before. There was a 12% decrease in deaths in the European region and a 7% decrease in deaths in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Looking at the Omicron variant, WHO says that "the overall risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron remains very high." 

It also notes consistent evidence showing the growth advantage of Omicron over Delta, the two to three days doubling time and "rapid increases in the incidence of cases is seen in a number of countries, including those where the variant has become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant, such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America."

WHO notes there has been a decline in cases in South Africa, where the variant was first identified.

It also says that although early data suggests a reduced risk of hospitalization, more data is needed to understand the clinical markers of severity and how severity may be impacted by previous infection and vaccination.

For tests, WHO says preliminary data suggests that PCR and antigen-based rapid tests do not appear to be impacted by Omicron. For treatments, it says that corticosteroids and interleukin 6 receptor blockers are expected to remain effective, however, monoclonal antibodies may be less able to neutralize Omicron. 

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