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Omicron cases receding in New York, major cities: Data

The US’ Omicron wave is beginning to recede in New York and other major cities, official data showed this week, even as Covid-19 hospitalisations, a lagging indicator, reached new highs. The trend of explosive rises in Omicron cases followed by equally fast declines follows similar patterns seen in Britain and in South Africa, where the variant was first reported in late November.

In New York city, the seven-day average of new daily cases has been falling since around January 2, when they peaked at 40,000 a day – an all-time record.

The figure stood at around 28,500 on January 10, still higher than anything seen in previous waves caused by other strains, an official tracker showed on Friday. Similar drops were visible in New York state, New Jersey and Chicago, the country’s third-largest city, as well as in the capital Washington.

But the nationwide average is still rising, with more than 750,000 cases per day, as infections continue to shoot up in most states.

Even as US President Joe Biden termed the current surge as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”, drawing a distinction between how it has affected those who have taken the jab and those who haven’t, the Supreme Court blocked the administration from enforcing a vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers in the country.

The court’s six conservative judges outnumbered the three liberal justices — and ruled against federal vaccine mandates, on the grounds that the federal executive branch did not have the authority to impose such a sweeping requirement.

India flight ban extended

Hong Kong extended social distancing measures and the city’s flight ban on eight countries to stem an outbreak of the infectious Omicron variant.

The Asian financial hub will extend its passenger flight ban on Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK and the US, until February 4, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said on Friday .

China further tightened its anti-pandemic measures in Beijing and across the country on Friday as scattered outbreaks continue. The city of Tianjin, about an hour from the capital, has ordered a third round of mass testing starting Saturday morning.

With inputs from Prashant Jha

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