Spain, Canada say Omicron has peaked

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Iceland PM Katrin Jakobsdottir says she is hopeful that "normal life" can resume by mid-March.
Camera IconIceland PM Katrin Jakobsdottir says she is hopeful that "normal life" can resume by mid-March. Credit: AP

Health authorities in Spain and Canada say all indications point to the worst of the Omicron variant of coronavirus having passed while officials in Iceland prepare to relax pandemic restrictions.

There are optimistic signs that Spain has passed the peak of its latest coronavirus wave, the health minister said on Friday.

"Everything indicates that the curve of infections is falling," Health Minister Carolina Darias said.

"The decline in numbers is solidifying day by day."

The seven-day incidence rate topped out early last week and has fallen to its present level of 1335 per 100,000 residents.

Pressure on the health system has also eased.

In the past week, the number of COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds dropped from 15.2 per cent to 14.8 per cent.

About 22 per cent of intensive care units were occupied by COVID-19 cases, down from 23.3.

In the past two weeks, a total of 1.48 million infections have been logged.

Most of those infected show no or only mild symptoms of the disease.

Spain has a comparatively high vaccination rate, with more than 80 per cent having been jabbed twice and 43 per cent having received a third vaccination.

Multiple indicators suggest that Omicron infections have peaked in Canada, the country's chief public health officer Theresa Tam said on Friday.

She said daily case counts and test positivity rates across the country are falling but Canadians still need to be prudent as hospitalisations were continuing to rise.

The seven day average case count was down 28 per cent as of Wednesday compared to the previous week, Tam told reporters at a briefing.

"Getting to perhaps the peak is one thing but coming down the other side of the wave includes a lot of people could get infected, and some of them could potentially be infected with BA.2," Tam said, referring to a subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus variant that has been recorded in some European countries.

Canada has detected more than 100 cases of BA.2, which does not have the specific mutation seen with Omicron that can help to easily distinguish it from Delta.

The UK Health Security Agency said on Friday that the BA.2 subtype appeared to have a substantial growth advantage over the currently predominant BA.1 type.

Iceland's government announced on Friday that it is relaxing restrictions again considerably just two weeks after introducing a raft of new measures.

"Today we have good news," Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir said at a press conference in Reykjavik.

As of Saturday, 50 people will be allowed to gather again, up from a previous 10.

Clubs and pubs are allowed to reopen after being forced to close in mid-January.

At that time, the government had taken a stricter course due to concerns that the health system was coming under severe strain.

Now public life is loosening up again, especially as rules fall away in the leisure sector, for example with more people allowed to use swimming pools or gyms.

If everything goes according to plan, Jakobsdottir said "normal life" could hopefully resume by mid-March.

The government reviews possible relaxations at regular intervals and, as things stand, plans to lift almost all measures by then.

For now, however, coronavirus still has a firm grip on the island.

According to current figures, five per cent of the country's 360,000 inhabitants are currently in isolation or quarantine.

The incidence of infection, which Iceland reports for a 14-day period, is currently 4986 but the number of hospital admissions has recently declined.

with reporting from DPA

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