Cases surpass the Olympics in China; South African Registry…

The number of infections among athletes and team members in Beijing for the Winter Olympics continues to rise ahead of the Games, with 16 additional cases reported on Sunday.

Germany’s finance minister said the government should be prepared to ease restrictions, with business groups expected to plan events, including trade fairs. In Turkey, the health minister said the virus had weakened, comparing the death rate to that of the flu.

More than 10% of members of Iran’s parliament have tested positive in the past two days, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Main developments

Omicron sub-variant probably not a threat: Gottlieb

Omicron’s subvariant, BA.2, appears to be more contagious, but data so far does not show that it is more dangerous or evades vaccine protection, Scott Gottlieb said, the former Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration.

At worst, the strain could slow the decline in Omicron infections in the United States, Pfizer board member Gottlieb told CBS. Confront the Nation. The subvariant has been found in small numbers in about half of the US states.

“I don’t think it really changes the narrative,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to create a huge wave of infection.”

Omicron and inflation weigh on UK business

Restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron variant have meant UK businesses have seen their slowest growth since the first quarter of 2021, according to at the Confederation of British Industry. Although many sectors are recovering from the depths of the crisis, the survey revealed that consumer services companies expect a further decline in activity.

These companies “will also face increasing pressure on household budgets as rising energy prices and, more broadly, rising inflation begin to bite,” the chief economist said. of the pressure group, Alpesh Paleja.

Germany urged to prepare for reopening

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said the government should prepare the ground for an easing of coronavirus restrictions. Although the peak of the current wave may still be weeks away, commercial sectors such as trade shows and events require a “planning horizon”, Lindner said in an interview with The Spiegel.

Recent measures have focused on reducing social contact and limiting access to public spaces for those who have not been vaccinated. The country reported 118,970 new infections on Sunday and the seven-day incidence rate hit a record 1,156.8 per 100,000 people.

Turkish minister says virus has weakened

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has urged citizens not to be afraid of Covid-19 anymore, saying death figures are no different from seasonal flu and related illnesses. “The disease is not as strong as before, don’t worry,” Koca said on Twitter. Daily reported infections hit a record high of 94,783 on January 28.

Hong Kong reports new cases

Hong Kong reported 81 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, including four imported cases and 15 with no known related source, according to a briefing from city health officials. More than 70 preliminary cases were also discovered. On Saturday, 120 cases were reported, including 34 imported due to flight arrivals.

Iranian lawmakers test positive

Thirty Iranian lawmakers, representing more than 10% of the country’s parliamentary seats, have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past two days, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. The country has seen a sharp rise in infections, reaching almost 11,000 new cases a day last week, up from around 1,402 a day in early January.

A Swiss minister calls for the reopening of the turbo

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset wants a “turbo” reopening of the Swiss economy next month, according to SonntagsZeitung. On Wednesday, Berset asked the Swiss Federal Council to lift the country’s Covid-19 restrictions – including the requirement to work from home and the requirement to present a vaccination certificate. The reopening process could begin as early as February 16, according to the report.

Infections rise ahead of Olympics

China reported another 34 Covid infections among people involved in the Winter Olympics on Sunday, including 16 athletes or team members, the Beijing Olympics organizing committee said. The number of infections among teams has increased since the first case was reported less than a week ago on January 24, with 19 new cases reported on Saturday.

There is also evidence that the virus has penetrated the “closed loop” system that Games organizers have in place to keep the pathogen out. There were 11 infections reported in the Beijing bubble on Sunday, including three athletes or team members. The other 23 cases were found among incoming air travelers involved in the Games.

Other infections come from a category of stakeholders that includes media, marketing staff, members of international federations, staff and family members.

The Philippine capital eases the brakes

The Philippines will ease movement restrictions in its capital from February 1 to 15 as the number of Covid cases has fallen from an all-time high. Outdoor businesses can operate at 70% capacity, while gyms and cinemas can open at half capacity in Metro Manila, which accounts for a third of the country’s economic output.

Daily infections fell to less than 18,000 on Saturday, from nearly 40,000 in mid-January.

Decline in critical cases in South Korea

South Korea has seen a further drop in the number of critical Covid-19 patients in its hospitals. Some 277 critical patients were reported on Sunday, up from 431 a week ago, according to data from Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency. Authorities have warned that the overall number of cases could still reach new records in the coming weeks.

UK extends vaccines to vulnerable children

The UK Health Service will begin to vaccinate children between 5 and 11 years old who are most at risk of Covid-19, from this week.

Children who are particularly vulnerable or who live with someone with a weakened immune system will be able to receive their first dose, according to an NHS statement. About 500,000 children will be eligible. SM/MC

— With help from Bryce Baschuk, Dominic Lau, Alice Gledhill, Mark Gurman, Adam Haigh, Alexander Weber, Joao Lima and Ugur Yilmaz.

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