-- Massive COVID-19 waves magnified by the Omicron variant have been wreaking havoc worldwide, as the global caseload has surpassed the 300 million mark.
-- The sharp increase of new infections has created mounting pressure on the health care systems, and has once again disrupted the struggling economic recovery and people's daily life.
-- Experts and officials have been calling on the governments to take necessary measures, while appealing to people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The United States and multiple European countries have been once again stormed by a drastic resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the global caseload has surpassed the 300 million mark.
With new infections skyrocketing, the fresh COVID-19 surge in the United States and Europe has mainly been fueled by the Omicron variant. Factors including eased restrictions, more social gatherings and frequent personal movements during the holiday season have also played their respective roles.
As the resurgence has added uncertainty and unpredictability to the prospects for the tottering global social and economic recovery, the time is now ripe for governments to take necessary actions and stand in solidarity against the pandemic.
Massive COVID-19 waves magnified by the Omicron variant have been wreaking havoc across the globe. The number of global COVID-19 cases reached 300,002,021 as of 0250 GMT on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The United States remains the hardest-hit country by the pandemic worldwide, with its daily cases surpassing 1 million on Monday amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
The new wave came as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided to shorten the recommended time that people should isolate themselves following a positive test result from 10 days to five days if they do not show symptoms.
Across the Atlantic, Britain reported on Thursday another 179,756 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the national tally to 14,015,065. On Tuesday, the country's daily new cases exceeded 200,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
In France, 261,481 cases were registered on Thursday, much lower than the daily record that France set the day before. However, patients being treated in hospitals continue to rise, reaching 21,169, with 3,759 of them in intensive care.
Germany on Thursday registered 64,340 new cases, around 21,000 more than a week ago, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported, adding Omicron cases increased by 8,916 within one day to a total of 51,472.
Italy recorded 219,441 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, surpassing the 200,000 mark for the first time.
Greece, Croatia and Ireland have also reported record daily COVID-19 count while the Netherlands and neighboring Belgium have seen infection rates hiking significantly by 35 percent and 79 percent respectively.
What has brought a sense of relief is that the weekly death toll worldwide decreased by 10 percent last week compared to the previous week, according to the World Health Organization's weekly update on the pandemic situation.
The sharp increase of new infections has created mounting pressure on the health care systems, and has once again disrupted the struggling economic recovery and people's daily life, causing a labor shortage, thousands of flight cancellations, and the closure of businesses.
In the United States, medical and testing needs have surpassed what the government and the country could provide, and colleges and schools have chosen to resume online education or even call off classes.
Amid the Omicron surge, initial jobless claims in the country last week rose to 207,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Thursday.
In Britain, hospitals have switched to a "war footing" due to staff shortages caused by the resurgence of the pandemic, the government said. According to media reports, the hospitals have been calling back staff from holiday or those on leave to tackle the Omicron-fueled "healthcare crisis."
Poland's Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Wednesday that his country is preparing to increase the number of hospital beds reserved for COVID-19 patients from 31,000 to at least 40,000 -- or 60,000 in the worst-case scenario -- in light of the surging cases caused by the Omicron variant.
In Sweden, the Omicron surge coincides with rising influenza cases, putting a serious strain on hospital wards, many of which are already running at full capacity.
The number of COVID-19 patients has increased considerably in Stockholm's hospitals. Johan Bratt, the Stockholm Region's chief medical officer, said he expected the trend to continue "as it usually takes a couple of weeks between a person getting infected and the disease proving to be so serious that it requires hospitalization."
The Omicron variant has also dealt a blow to the economic recovery in Latin America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.
In Thailand, the Ministry of Public Health on Thursday raised its COVID-19 alert level from three to four in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
The spread of the Omicron variant in Thailand could have a more severe and prolonged impact than expected on the country's economic recovery, according to the Bank of Thailand.
CALL FOR ACTIONS
To avoid disastrous results of the pandemic resurgence, experts and officials have been calling on the governments to take necessary measures, while appealing to people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
"We are in a race with Omicron here, and anything that slows down the virus helps. Decreasing the overall rate of new cases will mean more people get boosted before they are infected," William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a recent article on The Guardian.
"But while vaccines are the most important part of the strategy to blunt Omicron's impact, they are not enough by themselves. We still need to support isolation for those infected, quarantine for those exposed, rapid tests to identify cases, and promote masking in public places. All of these need urgent support from the government," said Hanage.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran stressed the importance of vaccination, saying it helps prevent severe symptoms whereas an unvaccinated person, when infected, will likely need to be hospitalized.
German Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach called for further contact restrictions to fight the Omicron wave. Although current measures would work, "we will probably have to step it up again," he told public broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday.
Italy on Wednesday further tightened anti-coronavirus measures, mainly making vaccination mandatory for people aged 50 and above, in an effort to curb surging COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant.
"What we really need to see is vaccines that are going to help drive down transmission because that's how we get control over the pandemic," Katrina Pollock, who leads the COVID-19 vaccine project at the Imperial College London, said.
Pollock highlighted that the most important thing in tackling the pandemic in the long-term is international collaboration.
"As long as we continue to collaborate globally and to break down those doors with scientists, politicians and public health experts ... we will move a global population away from the bad situation that we're in now," she said.