December 30 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:57 AM ET, Fri December 31, 2021
39 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
3:59 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

US pediatric hospital admissions reach record high, CDC data shows

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Pediatric hospital admissions in the US are the highest they’ve ever been over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

On average, 378 children were admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 on any given day over the week that ended Dec. 28, according to data published Thursday from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

This is an increase of more than 66% from the previous week, and it breaks the previous record average of 342 children admitted to the hospital that was seen at the end of August and early September.

More than 76,000 children ages 17 and younger have been hospitalized with Covid-19 since August 2020.

Currently, 0.52 children are hospitalized with Covid-19 for every 100,000 children in the population. This breaks the previous record of 0.47 children hospitalized, set on Sept. 2. 

Pediatric hospital admissions are up by more than 50% in the past week in HHS regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9, which includes the East Coast, South and Southwest. 

4:05 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Daily Covid-19 cases top 189,000 in the UK, a new record

From CNN's Nada Bashir

A medical worker prepares to take a sample from a person at a coronavirus testing center in London on December 18.
A medical worker prepares to take a sample from a person at a coronavirus testing center in London on December 18. (Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom has, once again, registered a record-breaking number of new Covid-19 cases reported within a 24-hour period, with 189,213 cases reported Thursday. 

This latest increase surpassed Wednesday’s daily tally of new cases which stood at 183,037.  

Another 19,544 cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK as of Thursday, bringing the total Omicron case count to 229,666. 

“Data has shown that Omicron cases now constitute more than 90% of all community Covid-19 cases in England,” the Health and Security Agency said. 


4:14 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Canada's Ontario province will offer a fourth Covid-19 shot to vulnerable residents

From CNN’s Paula Newton

In a significant update to vaccine distribution, Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, will now offer a fourth shot of an mRNA vaccine to its most vulnerable residents three months after their third dose. 

This will apply to residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, elder care lodges and other congregate care settings.


3:55 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

South Africa eases Covid-19 restrictions following a decline in new cases

From CNN’s Ghazi Balkiz 

People walk in Sandton, Johannesburg, on December 15.
People walk in Sandton, Johannesburg, on December 15. (Luca Sola/AFP/Getty Images)

The South African government has announced that it will relax some Covid-19 restrictions with immediate effect following a decline in both new coronavirus cases and hospital admissions, adding that “all indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak” of the fourth wave. 

According to a government statement issued Thursday, the national curfew will now be lifted and alcohol establishments licensed to operate beyond 11 p.m. local time will revert back to their full license conditions.

Previously, under "Alert Level 1" regulations, a curfew had been in place from midnight until 4 a.m. local time, with the sale of alcohol not permitted during these hours. 

Under new guidance, public gatherings will also now be restricted to no more than 1,000 people indoors — as opposed to 750 people — with outdoor gatherings still limited to 2,000 people.

According to data from the South African Department of Health, a 29.7% decrease in the number of new cases was reported in the week ending Dec. 25, in comparison to the previous week. 

While data has shown a “marginal increase” in deaths across all provinces, the department of health has seen a decline in hospital admissions across the country, with the exception of the Western Cape.

“While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, there has been lower rates of hospitalization than in previous waves. This means that the country has spare capacity for admission of patients even for routine health services,” the government said in its statement. 

Despite the easing of some restrictions, the government has cautioned that the risk of an increase in infections remains high, owing to the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. 

In light of this, the wearing of masks in public places will continue to be enforced as a mandatory measure, and citizens are urged to continue observing public health protocols. 

“Vaccination remains the best defence against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. All people in South Africa who have not yet done so are encouraged to vaccinated as soon as possible,” the government statement continued. 

The announcement comes a week after the government outlined its new quarantine regulations, with those exposed to a positive coronavirus case no longer required to quarantine or test unless they develop symptoms. 

Those who have been exposed to a positive case, but remain asymptomatic, will instead be asked to practice “self-observation” for five to seven days to monitor for the development of symptoms.  

Contact tracing has also been halted in South Africa, with the exception of cluster outbreaks or self-contained settings. 

3:33 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Arkansas sets new single-day record for Covid-19 cases since start of pandemic 

From CNN’s Caroll Alvarado

Arkansas has set a new single-day record for Covid-19 cases since the pandemic started, with 4,978 residents testing positive in the last 24 hours, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Hutchinson said Thursday that he has directed the Department of Health to acquire 1.5 million at-home rapid tests to be made available for free to Arkansans.

As of Wednesday, hospitalizations have not increased, according to Hutchinson, who said he’s focused on monitoring hospitalizations.

“That is the key statistic I look at every day when talking to our hospital administrators, where are we on our hospitalizations, because we know without a doubt there are cases are going to continue to increase. We haven’t reached the peak yet," he said.

Hutchinson added that the state does not plan to change its approach to in-person learning and each school district will be allowed to decide whether to mandate masks.


3:35 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

US Omicron cases could peak by late January, Fauci says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Health workers administer Covid-19 PCR tests at an outdoor testing site on December 28, in Stamford, Connecticut.
Health workers administer Covid-19 PCR tests at an outdoor testing site on December 28, in Stamford, Connecticut. (John Moore/Getty Images)

The Covid-19 case increase associated with the Omicron variant could peak in the US by the end of January, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNBC on Wednesday.

“It certainly peaked pretty quickly in South Africa, it went up almost vertically and turned around very quickly,” he said on CNBC. 

“I would imagine, given the size of our country, and the diversity of vaccination versus not vaccination, that it likely will be more than a couple of weeks, probably by the end of January, I would think,” Fauci added. 


3:55 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

Spain reports record-high daily new Covid-19 case count for third consecutive day

From CNN’s Al Goodman in Madrid 

Spain reported at least 161,688 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, setting a record for the third consecutive day for the highest number of new cases in a 24-hour reporting period, the country’s health ministry has confirmed. 

Wednesday’s figure was 100,760 — the first time Spain surpassed 100,000 cases in a day since the pandemic began — while Tuesday showed 99,671 new cases. 

According to government data, Spain's infection rate increased to 1,775 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days — up from Wednesday's figure of 1,508 cases per 100,000. 

Pressure on intensive care wards across Spain has also increased, according to official data, with 19.4% of intensive care unit beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. 

While cases are on the rise, Spanish officials say the nation’s high vaccination rate will provide some defense against the rapidly expanding Omicron variant.  

Data shows that 89.9% of Spaniards age 12 years and above — or 37.8 million people — have now been fully vaccinated, while 10.6 million have now received a booster shot.  

In addition, nearly 27% of children ages 5 to 11 have received a first shot since pediatric vaccinations began this month. 

2:16 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

2022 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show postponed due to Omicron surge

From CNN's Kiely Westhoff 

A dog competes in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden on February 11, 2020, in New York City.
A dog competes in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden on February 11, 2020, in New York City. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

The 2022 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will be postponed due to the surge of the Covid-19 variant Omicron in New York City, the Westminster Kennel Club president announced Wednesday. 

The club’s board of governors delayed the event, citing travel and event management disruptions from “the extraordinary spread of the Omicron variant,” according to a statement from President Chat Reynders. 

“The health and safety of all participants in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show are paramount,” the board of governors in an additional statement
“We appreciate the community’s continued interest and support as we delay the show to a time when we can safely convene.” 

The 146th annual show was originally scheduled to be held in its traditional venue, Madison Square Garden, in January. 

A new date will be selected for later in 2022 and will be released when it is confirmed, the board of governors’ statement said. 

In 2021, the 145th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was relocated to an outdoor venue at Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York, in June to mitigate Covid-19 spread.  

No spectators or vendors were permitted to attend the 2021 show due to the state's Covid-19 regulations, and all human participants were required to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of entry. 

2:07 p.m. ET, December 30, 2021

NYPD sickouts surpass previous peak levels in March 2020

From CNN's Mark Morales

NYPD cruisers are seen parked on October 29, in New York City.
NYPD cruisers are seen parked on October 29, in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The New York Police Department's top brass says the percent of sickouts has surpassed pre-pandemic peak levels of March 2020, and the department is taking actions including canceling days off and switching shifts to make sure staffing is at appropriate levels.

Twenty-one percent of the NYPD staff is out sick, compared to approximately 19% in March 2020 at its previous peak, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said at a news briefing Thursday.

“We’re at the highest levels that I’ve ever seen in my career,” Shea said.

The sickouts, however, are not expected to impact New Year’s Eve security plans for the truncated Times Square New Year's Eve celebration, police said. 

The security response, police say, will be like years past, which include revelers passing through magnetometers, explosive trace detection machines, and heavy weapons and canine detection teams.

Vaccine status will be checked first before going through security checkpoints, police said. Vaccines and masks are required for the event, they reminded attendees.

As of now, there are no specific credible threats to the celebration, the NYPD said.