RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has announced that wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines will be mandatory in all indoor and outdoor events and activities from 07:00 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 30.
The Saudi Interior Ministry announced the reimposition of some coronavirus restrictions as the world recorded 6.55 million new cases of COVID-19 in one week, the highest weekly total since the pandemic began two years ago.
The World Health Organization said the delta and omicron variants were “twin threats” driving case numbers to record highs, leading to spikes in hospital admissions and deaths.
“I am highly concerned that omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” the UN agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“This will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers and health systems on the brink of collapse. The unvaccinated are many times more at risk of dying from either variant.”
Saudi Arabia recorded 744 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 554,665. At least one death had been recorded.Of the new cases, 187 were recorded in Riyadh, 155 in Makkah, 149 in Jeddah, 32 in Hofuf, 22 in Madinah, 22 in Al-Mubarraz, 18 in Al-Khobar, 16 in Arar, and 14 in Dammam.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 541,388 after 231 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,874 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 50.1 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.
People living in Saudi Arabia are being urged to follow the new protocols in order to avoid facing legal penalties for failing to adhere to the precautionary measures.
In the UAE, the number of new daily cases passed 2,000 on Wednesday for the first time since June. Daily infections hit a record near 4,000 during the peak tourism season last January, but by October they were down to below 100.
Worldwide, the number of cases increased by 37 percent to 6.55 million from Dec. 22-28 compared with the previous week — the highest since the WHO declared a pandemic in March 2020.
The surge, which is worst in Europe, is forcing governments to walk a tightrope between imposing restrictions designed to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed and the need to keep economies and societies open two years after the virus first emerged in late 2019. New Year celebrations in many countries have been canceled.
France registered a new daily record of more than 200,000 cases — more than double the number recorded on Christmas Day — and extended the closure of nightclubs into January.
In Denmark, which currently has the world’s highest rate of infection per person, there were a record 23,228 new infections, which authorities attributed in part to the large numbers of tests carried out after Christmas celebrations.
The US, where omicron is already overwhelming hospitals, recorded its highest seven-day average of new cases at 265,427.
Harvard epidemiologist and immunologist Michael Mina said the count was probably the “tip of the iceberg” because of a shortage of tests, with the true number of cases far higher.