A handful of Asian countries that were later hit by outbreaks of Omicron variants are in different phases of their outbreaks, with South Korea seeing a possible peak.
In US developments, White House officials – bracing for a possible new spike in infections – have warned that current funding shortfalls could prevent the government from purchasing enough COVID-19 vaccine for the fourth doses for the general population.
High cases in Korea, Vietnam and Hong Kong
Two days ago, South Korea’s daily cases fell below 300,000 for the first time in 10 days, raising hopes among health officials that the country may be approaching its peak, which is expected between March 25 and April 1, according to the Herald of Korea.
Today the country surpassed 300,000 cases again as it began the process of gradually easing restrictions, such as raising the limit on private gatherings from six to eight. Additionally, officials are monitoring whether the BA.2 subvariant, which accounts for 26.3% of South Korea’s sequenced samples, will increase COVID levels.
Elsewhere, China’s continued push continues with the highest levels in over 2 years. Today, the country reported 4,594 new local cases, including 2,313 symptomatic infections. The region hardest hit by cases continues to be Jilin Province, where most infections are in Changchun and Jilin City.
About a quarter of asymptomatic cases come from Shanghai, where health officials are continuing block-by-block mass testing in a bid to detect and reduce the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, cases in Hong Kong appear to be declining from record daily levels in the first week of March, with 14,152 cases reported today, while Vietnam is still reporting cases at very high levels, with 131,709 more yesterday.
Not enough funds for 4th US doses
Without Congress passing a $15 billion COVID funding package, White House officials have said the federal government will not have enough funds to buy a fourth COVID-19 booster dose for every American. who wanted one.
While officials told the Washington Post that the Biden administration has the funds to purchase boosters for adults 65 and older and a first round of vaccines for children 5 and under — if approved — it cannot currently purchase fourth doses reminder for the general population.
The Centers for Disease Control COVID Data Tracker shows that 65.4% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 76.8% have received at least one dose of vaccine and 44.5% of fully vaccinated Americans have received one dose reminder.
US COVID-19 cases continue to be significantly lower than the Omicron surge. The country yesterday reported 44,101 new cases of COVID-19 and 1,472 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.
The 7-day average of daily new cases is 29,612, with 1,056 daily deaths, according to the New York Times tracker.
Pediatric COVID-19 cases are also down: according to the latest update from the American Academy of Pediatrics, 32,000 pediatric COVID-19 cases were reported for the week ending March 17. Children represent 18.3% of new cases in the United States.
CIDRAP journalist Stéphanie Soucheray contributed to this story.