The coronavirus testing numbers that have guided much of the nation’s response to the pandemic are likely to be erratic over the next week or so, experts said Friday, as fewer people get tested during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and testing sites observe shorter hours.
The AP reports the result could be potential dips in reported infections that offer the illusion that the spread of the virus is easing when, in fact, the numbers say little about where the nation stands in fighting COVID-19.
The number of Americans who have tested positive passed 13 million Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“I just hope that people don’t misinterpret the numbers and think that there wasn’t a major surge as a result of Thanksgiving, and then end up making Christmas and Hanukkah and other travel plans,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a professor at George Washington University and an emergency physician.
A similar pattern unfolds on many weekends. Because some testing centers, labs and state offices are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, COVID case numbers often drop each Sunday and Monday, only to peak on Tuesday.
Dr Mark Rupp, professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, said the effect of Thanksgiving is likely to be a magnified version of the weekend figures.
Between 100,000 and 150,000 people will be able to return to work in Ireland over the next week or so as all shops, restaurants, gyms and pubs serving food reopen, business minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday.
The number of people claiming temporary coronavirus-related jobless benefits has risen by almost 150,000 since Ireland began to tighten Covid-19 curbs in September, two-thirds of them since the highest level of constraints were put in place on 21 October.
Varadkar, who is also deputy prime minister, encouraged people considering returning from abroad for Christmas not to travel unless it was essential, but said that if they did travel, they must follow the quarantine rules.
Germany records 1 million coronavirus cases
Germany, once a beacon of hope in Europe’s coronavirus nightmare, logged more than 1 million cases on Friday.
Until recently, Germany’s relative success in containing the virus had offered some sense of hope, with authorities putting in place some precautions that still allowed life to carry on almost as normal.
However, its measured approach has failed during the second wave, endangering the health of Europe’s biggest economy and weighing on the mood as the northern hemisphere heads into the winter holidays.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute recorded more than 22,000 new daily cases on Friday, pushing the overall total beyond the 1 million mark.
The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has soared from around 360 in early October to more than 3,500 last week.
More than 1,300 people were wrongly told they had coronavirus due to a lab error with the UK government’s Test and Trace service.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said 1,311 people who took a test from 19-23 November across the UK were incorrectly told they received a positive result. It said there was an issue with a batch of testing chemicals which meant their results were void.
A DHSC spokesman said: “Swift action is being taken to notify those affected and they are being asked to take another test, and to continue to self-isolate if they have symptoms. This laboratory error was an isolated incident and is being fully investigated to ensure this does not happen again.”
The DHSC did not comment on whether the error affected regional infection rate figures.
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In Victoria, Australia, it’s still mandatory to wear a mask while inside stores and other publicly accessible buildings and when social distancing is impossible. The state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, has published this reminder ahead of citizens weekend shop.
Hello, Matilda Boseley here with our ongoing coverage of Covid-19 news from around the world.
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This is the big news so far from today:
- Europe remains the centre of the pandemic, with an average of 236,900 new cases daily – far ahead of the US and Canada’s 174,000 a day. But the rise in infections has slowed for the second week in a row, falling back 10% with many countries in lockdown.
- The number of Covid-19 patients being treated in hospitals across the US nearly doubled in the past month, reaching 90,000 on Friday. The rate of hospitalisations – now at the highest level since the pandemic began – has reportedly pushed some hospitals beyond capacity.
- Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said he expected more than half of Canadians to receive a Covid-19 vaccine by next September after he came under criticism for saying the country would not be among the first to get doses.
- Belgium will allow shops to reopen from Tuesday, prime minister Alexander De Croo said, but the country’s semi-lockdown will remain in place to bring down coronavirus infections. “The situation in our country is improving … but it’s important to keep a lid on things,” De Croo said, warning that the Christmas and new year holidays would be “different” this year.
- Hospitals in England have been told to prepare for the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine in as little as 10 days’ time, with NHS workers expected to be at the front of the queue, the Guardian has learned.
- In Australia, the once Covid-19 ravaged state of Victoria has now recorded its 29th day of no Covid-19 infections or deaths. There are now no active cases in the state and the threshold for effective elimination has been met.
- Italy will ease coronavirus restrictions in five regions, including Lombardy, the country’s richest and most populous region, from Sunday. Lombardy, Piedmont and Calabria will be downgraded from red to orange zones, while Sicily and Liguria will be designated as yellow rather than orange zones.
- Another 827 Covid 19-related deaths were reported by Italy on Friday, the highest number so far of its second-wave coronavirus outbreak, and 28,352 new infections, the health ministry said. The rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy has slowed.
- Russia reported a record high of 27,543 new coronavirus infections, including 7,918 in the capital Moscow, bringing the national tally to 2,215,533. Authorities also reported 496 deaths related to Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 38,558.
- Iran reported a new daily record in coronavirus infections, as the country tightened its pandemic measures even further by all but closing government offices for an indefinite period. Iran recorded 14,051 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 922,397, and 406 deaths.
- In Cyprus, authorities in the war-divided island’s south have announced new curbs on movement including a nationwide nighttime curfew. While the government had decided to end local lockdowns across the island’s entire south-west, it will introduce a nationwide nighttime curfew as of 30 November.
- Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro said he will not take a coronavirus vaccine, the latest in a series of statements he has made expressing scepticism toward coronavirus vaccination programs. “I’m telling you, I’m not going to take it. It’s my right.” The country registered 34,130 coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours and 514 new deaths.
- AstraZeneca may begin another trial of its vaccine. The company, which is developing a treatment with Oxford University, is working with regulators to investigate a lower dosage of its vaccine that performed better than a full dosage.
- Public health authorities in Switzerland have advised the public against oom-pah brass bands this Christmas. “Singing together and playing wind instruments can increase the risk of infection,” the federal office of public health said. Bands are usually a common sight at Christmas events and parties across Switzerland.
- Denmark plans to exhume and burn 17 million mink slaughtered to curb the spread of a mutant strain of coronavirus. The decision comes after hundreds of dead mink, tipped into trenches at a military site in western Denmark, began rising from the grave as a result of gases from their decomposition.