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Coronavirus Update: WHO calls on China to release more information on its COVID case surge to learn more about which variants are circulating

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The World Health Organization has called on China to release more information about its current wave of COVID infections after China said nearly 60,000 people have succumbed to the virus since early December, the Associated Press reported. 

The announcement of fatality numbers on Saturday came after weeks of complaints that China was not keeping experts abreast of what was happening.

The announcement “allows for a better understanding of the epidemiological situation,” said a WHO statement. Director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talked by phone with Health Minister Ma Xiaowei, it said.

“WHO requested that this type of detailed information continued to be shared with us and the public,” the agency said.

The National Health Commission said only deaths in hospitals were counted, which means anyone who died at home is not part of the tally. It gave no indication of when or whether it might release updated numbers. China has seen a wave of cases ever since the government ended stringent restrictions on movement in December.

The WHO is now analyzing the data, which covers early December to Jan. 12. So far, the epidemiology is similar to what has been seen in other countries, “a rapid and intense wave of disease caused by known sub-variants of omicron with higher clinical impact on older people and those with underlying conditions,” said the statement.

 The agency is hoping to get more information on the exact variants that are circulating. China has reported that two omicron sublineages, dubbed BA.5.2 and BF.7 are spreading but the WHO needs more sequences to be shared with open databases to get fully up to date.

See also: China reports first population drop in decades as birthrates plunge

Tens of thousands of people resumed travels in and out of China on Sunday as the country lifted almost all of its border restrictions, ending three years of strict pandemic controls. Some travelers expressed relief to be reunited with their families. Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

In the U.S., the seven-day average of new U.S. COVID cases stood at 59,121 on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker. That’s flat from two weeks ago and below the recent peak of 70,508 on Christmas Eve.

The daily average for hospitalizations was down 8% at 45,052. The average for deaths stood at 562, up 78% from two weeks ago to continue the recent trend.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said its real-time surveillance system has met the statistical criteria to prompt additional investigation into whether there is a risk of ischemic stroke in people ages 65 and older who received the Pfizer/BioNTech
PFE,
-3.16%

BNTX,
-1.40%

bivalent COVID vaccine. “Rapid-response investigation of the signal in the VSD (vaccine safety datalink) raised a question of whether people 65 and older who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent were more likely to have an ischemic stroke in the 21 days following vaccination compared with days 22-42 following vaccination,” the agency said in a statement. No such signal has been identified with the Moderna
MRNA,
+0.04%

bivalent vaccine, it added.

• Italian tennis player Camila Giorgi has denied allegations that she obtained a false COVID-19 vaccine certificate to allow her to travel, the AP reported. A doctor is under investigation in Italy for supplying false certificates and fake vaccines and Giorgi’s name was revealed in a long list of people implicated by an Italian newspaper. Giorgi is currently competing in the Australian Open.

Getting the flu can increase the risk of getting a second infection, including strep throat. WSJ’S Daniela Hernandez explains the science behind that, plus what it means for the rest of the winter and how we can protect ourselves from the tripledemic. Illustration: David Fang

• The New York State Department of Health is “exploring its options” after a state Supreme Court judge struck down a statewide mandate requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the AP reported separately. Judge Gerard Neri wrote in a ruling released Friday that Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and the health department overstepped their authority by mandating a vaccine that’s not included in state public health law, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported. The mandate is “null, void, and of no effect,” the judge said. He sided with Medical Professionals for Informed Consent, a group of medical workers impacted by the vaccination mandate.

Here’s what the numbers say:

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 667.3 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 6.7 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 101.7 million cases and 1,099,885 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 229.4 million people living in the U.S., equal to 69.1% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots.

So far, just 49.6 million Americans, equal to 15.9% of the overall population, have had the updated COVID booster that targets both the original virus and the omicron variants.

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