Covid-19 Live Updates: Cases, Vaccines and the Latest News

Credit…Tom Nicholson/Reuters

As the Asia-Pacific region struggles with its first Omicron surge, it appears that Europe may be heading for a second jump, just as countries on both continents have rapidly lifted most pandemic restrictions.

Global cases, which bottomed out in early March, are rising again, driven by high caseloads in Asia and Europe, according to a New York Times database. Cases per capita in Europe were already far higher than any other region in the world when they began creeping up again recently.

Parts of Asia are enduring their worst outbreaks ever as the Omicron variant continues its first sweep through the continent. The situation is especially dire in China, an outlier that remains committed to stamping out the virus, as well as New Zealand and South Korea, countries that like others around Asia have moved on from what had been some of the world’s strictest Covid rules.

In Europe, some are bracing for what could be another Omicron wave, with cases on the rise again in France, Britain, Italy and elsewhere and again approaching record levels in Germany. And the war in Ukraine has prompted fears that another outbreak could explode there at any time.

This comes weeks after many European countries thought they were free of the worst of Covid and raced to lift restrictions in February and March.

On Tuesday, the Netherlands announced it would drop most of its remaining pandemic restrictions, including its mask mandate, on March 23. Cases there have just started declining after surges in February and March, according to Our World in Data.

Austria, the first Western democracy to impose a general Covid vaccine mandate, abandoned the requirement last week. Caseloads have now surged to record levels there, according to Our World in Data.

Dr. Eric Topol, the founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said that loosening restrictions in Europe may have contributed to a spike in cases. Other factors could include waning vaccine immunity and the rapid spread of a more contagious Omicron subvariant, BA.2, he said.

Dr. Topol said Europe’s worst periods throughout the pandemic have been a harbinger of what was to come in the United States.

“Every time we followed suit within a matter of weeks,” he said.

While caseloads in the United States have declined drastically since their record highs in mid-January, according to a New York Times database, Dr. Topol said one indicator that will be closely watched for an early sign of a new spike will be wastewater sewage data.

Because people excrete the virus through their stool, wastewater can be used to predict where the coronavirus is or will be prevalent and if a new variant is circulating.

About 38 percent of active U.S. wastewater sampling sites reported an increase in coronavirus levels from Feb. 24 to March 10, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s wastewater data tracker, which surveys 688 wastewater sites across the country.

Dr. Jay Varma, an epidemiologist who was a senior health adviser to former Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, warned that people should be prepared for another wave of cases and not let their guard down.

“We have to plan for the worst and hope for the best, like hurricane season,” he said.

Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.

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