The United Kingdom, Denmark, and Australia have all reported the highest daily COVID-19 case counts of the entire pandemic on Wednesday, a troubling sign that the world’s global health emergency is far from over.
The U.S. reported 144,372 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and 2,058 deaths, well below the record highs of January 2021, when the country was averaging over 200,000 new cases every day. But this week’s American cases are still a disturbing uptick considering how accessible vaccines against the disease have become.
Health officials around the world are on high alert over the appearance of the new omicron variant, which appears to be more transmissible, but the rise in cases across the world isn’t just about the new strain of COVID-19. In the UK, omicron is indeed on a path to becoming the dominant strain, but delta is still driving the surge in places like Australia.
The UK, with a population of 67 million, reported 78,610 new cases on Wednesday, surpassing the previous record of 68,053 on January 8, 2021. The UK recorded just 164 deaths from the disease, significantly lower than this past January when the country was averaging about 1,200 new deaths per day.
The UK’s top health official, chief medical officer Chris Whitty, warns that cases of omicron are doubling every two days and the worst is yet to come.
“I’m afraid we have to be realistic that records will be broken a lot over the next few weeks as the rates continue to go up,” Whitty said on Wednesday, according to the BBC.
The UK’s vaccination rate is currently 69.6% of the total population, higher than the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination rate of 61%, but lower than many other European countries like Spain (80.17%), Ireland (77.21%), and Italy (73.54%).
British health officials are urging anyone who’s eligible to get a COVID-19 booster shot to get them as soon as possible. There’s a wave coming. And you want to be as protected as possible.
Denmark, with a population of roughly 5.8 million, reported 8,773 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and nine deaths from the disease. The current wave of cases in Denmark is much higher than the last big wave in December of 2020, when the country was averaging about 3,500 new cases each day.
Denmark has a magnificently high COVID-19 vaccination rate of 77.32%, which makes the country’s surge in cases perhaps less concerning about severe disease and death. But not only is the data still early for omicron, there could very well be another new mutation and variant at any point.
Denmark’s current wave is being driven by the new omicron variant, announced new guidance this week in an effort to control the spread, according to the Guardian. Schools are closing early, nightclub hours are being restricted, and boosters shots for people aged 40+ are now available much earlier than planned.
Australia, which has a population of 25 million people, reported 2,820 cases on Wednesday, the highest of the entire pandemic. Australia has fared exceptionally well during the health crisis until relatively recently, despite draconian lockdowns in many parts of the country that were the only way to keep the virus at bay in places like Melbourne.
Australia also has high vaccination rates, which makes it an interesting case study for the spread of the virus. Roughly 75.4% of the entire population is fully vaccinated and scientists will likely be keeping a close eye on places like Australia and Denmark in the coming weeks to see just how the highly vaccinated do against the latest mutation.
The Rest of the World
Other countries like South Africa, South Korea, and France also recorded extremely high case numbers this week as the world descends into another disturbing wave of infections.
South Africa reported 26,389 new cases on Wednesday, but the positivity rate is a whopping 32%, according to Bloomberg News, meaning that only a tiny fraction of the number of cases in the community is likely being detected.
Worldwide, just 46.6% of the population is fully vaccinated. And if we want this pandemic to ever end, we’re going to need to get those numbers up. Get vaccinated, get boosted. Do whatever you can to get this nightmare behind us.