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COVID infections are rising again as the Omicron variant emerges in nearly 20 countries

November 30, 2021, 8:53 PM UTC

With the recent emergence of the Omicron variant sparking fresh fears of COVID around the world, and the scientific community racing to understand the implications of the new highly-mutated coronavirus strain, there’s new urgency in the numbers—vaccination rates and daily new infections—that reflect the status of the global pandemic.

With cases due to the Omicron variant being detected in a growing number of countries—nearly 20 so far—the picture gives cause for some concern. As of Nov. 29, around 572,000 new COVID cases are reported per day around the globe, up 14% over the level two weeks ago according to New York Times data. 

While Europe, several weeks into its “fourth wave,” remains a virus hotspot, along with Russia and the U.S., new cases have increased strikingly in South Africa, the country where the Omicron variant was first identified, up 432% over the level two weeks ago. (South Africa is still reporting far fewer cases per capita than the U.S., countries in Europe, and Australia). In the same period new cases have also increased significantly in France (175%), Spain (112%), and Portugal (107%). New cases reported daily in the U.S. over the past two weeks have risen 10%.

Meanwhile, vaccination rates remain far off-target around the globe. A number of African countries that struggled to access vaccines for much of the pandemic, are especially vulnerable when it comes to the emergence of Omicron, which the WHO last week quickly labelled a “variant of concern.” While vaccination rates vary across the continent, overall just 7.2% of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID according to Our World in Data, which collects information from local governments.

Globally, roughly 43% of the world’s population has been fully vaccinated; in high-income countries, the rate is 68%. Currently, roughly 58% of both Europe and the U.S.’s populations have been fully vaccinated.

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