US reports record 1m COVID-19 cases with peak still to come

The US has recorded more than one million new Covid cases, as officials warn the peak of a fast-spreading Omicron surge is still to come.

A record 1,080,211 cases were reported on Monday – the highest one-day tally of new cases anywhere in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The Omicron variant accounts for the majority of cases in the US.

The top US pandemic adviser, Anthony Fauci, has said the country is facing “almost a vertical increase” in cases.

He said the peak may be weeks away.

But, Dr Fauci said the example of South Africa – where Omicron first spread rapidly before subsiding – offered some hope.

Rates of death and hospital admissions in the US have been far lower in recent weeks than in previous infection spikes.

Some 8,652 people are reported to have died from the disease in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The previous US record of cases was 590,000, reported four days ago.

The highest number outside the US came during India’s Delta surge, when more than 414,188 people were confirmed as having the disease in May 2021.

Studies suggest that Omicron is milder than the previously dominant Delta variant, but fears remain that the sheer number of cases stemming from the highly infectious Omicron could overwhelm hospitals.

People catching Omicron are 50 per cent to 70 per cent less likely to need hospital care compared with previous variants, a major analysis says.

The UK Health Security Agency says its early findings are “encouraging” but the variant could still lead to large numbers of people in hospital.

The health secretary said it was “too early” to determine “next steps”.

The study also shows the jab’s ability to stop people catching Omicron starts to wane 10 weeks after a booster dose.

Protection against severe disease is likely to be far more robust.

The report comes hot on the heels of data from South Africa, Denmark, England and Scotland which all pointed to reduced severity.

The latest analysis is based on all cases of Omicron and Delta in the UK since the beginning of November, including 132 people admitted to hospital with the variant. There have also been 14 deaths of people within 28 days of catching Omicron. -BBC

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