Masked patrons wait to order at a food stand inside Grand Central Market on July 13, 2022, in Los Angeles. (MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ / AP)
LOS ANGELES / BERLIN / WARSAW – The latest and most transmissible COVID-19 variant has been driving another surge of infections in the United States as the country's total caseload topped over 90 million on Thursday.
US COVID-19 case count rose to 90,066,295, with a total of 1,025,796 related deaths, as of Thursday afternoon, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.
The BA.5 subvariant currently makes up nearly 80 percent of COVID-19 infections in the United States, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The United States remains the nation worst hit by the pandemic, with the world's most cases and deaths.
US President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and is experiencing "mild symptoms," the White House said in a statement.
Biden, 79, is being treated with the antiviral Paxlovid and is fully vaccinated and twice boosted, the statement said.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha said Biden is tired, has a runny nose and a dry cough.
Jha told reporters at a White House briefing that being fully vaccinated and twice boosted would protect Biden from severe diseases of COVID-19. Taking antiviral Paxlovid will further lower the risks for severe results.
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Biden's diagnosis came amid another COVID-19 wave in the United States, which is driven by the BA.5 subvariant, now the dominant coronavirus strain in the country.
The most contagious subvariant currently makes up nearly 80 percent of COVID-19 infections in the United States, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Another subvariant, BA.4, accounted for 12.8 percent of new infections, CDC data showed.
The two subvariants make up over 90 percent of new infections in the United States.
Confirmed cases contracted by the two subvariants kept increasing since mid-May, CDC data showed.
The country is averaging about 126,000 new cases and 350 new deaths each day, according to the data.
A young man receives the Nuvaxovid vaccine against COVID-19 coronavirus, at the CIZ Tegel vaccination center in Berlin, on Feb 28, 2022. (TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP)
Germany registered 136,624 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, bringing the total count to over 30 million cases. Thursday's figure was around 16,000 less than a week ago, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has said.
However, experts believe that the number of unreported cases is high due to less testing. Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach estimated in June that the actual number of cases was probably around double of those reported to authorities.
Germany stopped providing its citizens with free PCR testing at the end of June. The country's official COVID-19 figures only include positive PCR tests.
"I would have liked to (keep PCR testing) free, but we could no longer afford it," Lauterbach said.
The upward trend in COVID-19 infections is also reflected in sick leave figures. Within one month, the number of people unable to turn up for work almost doubled to 123 per 10,000 insured persons at the beginning of June, according to Barmer Ersatzkasse, one of Germany's largest public insurers.
By the end of 2021, one in ten adults in Germany had been infected with COVID-19, according to a study by the RKI. "This relatively low infection rate after a pandemic duration of around two years can be seen as a success of the measures taken to contain the pandemic," it said.
The study calls for "continued focus on improving protection against SARS-CoV-2 through more vaccination, especially with booster vaccines."
Of the 69.4 million adults in Germany aged 18 and older, around 85 percent are vaccinated against COVID-19. Almost three in four people have received one booster shot, while just over 9 percent have received two booster doses, according to official figures.
A woman receives a vaccination certificate after receiving a booster shot against COVID-19, in Warsaw, Poland on Dec 7, 2021. (CZAREK SOKOLOWSKI / AP)
Poland will offer a fourth coronavirus vaccine dose to people aged 60-79 and those over 12 with compromised immune systems, the country's Health Minister Adam Niedzielski announced Thursday.
"From July 22, we will allow an additional vaccination for people in the 60-79 age group and people with immune deficiency who are over 12 years of age," Niedzielski was quoted by the Polish Press Agency (PAP) as saying at a press conference.
Around 12 million people out of the country's total population of 38 million have received the third dose so far, according to Niedzielski.
Till now, the fourth dose has been offered to those over 80.
Niedzielski expected daily new cases to reach 8,000-10,000 in the second half of August. "We assume the peak of hospitalization at about 3,000," Niedzielski said, adding that "this level will not trigger the need to change our policy."
Currently, daily new cases stand at around 3,000, which means a weekly growth rate of about 60 percent. However, Niedzielski noted that the circulating mutation is not as dangerous as previous strains.