KUWAIT: The health ministry said yesterday 6,454 more people tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 24 hours - an all-time daily high - taking the country's total caseload to 514,826 cases. Some 5,198 more people recovered from the virus, taking total recoveries to 464,853, the ministry's spokesman Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad said, adding the recovery to positive case ratio stands at 90.3 percent.

One fatality linked to the coronavirus raised the country's death toll from the pandemic to 2,489, while 408 people are hospitalized with the virus, 73 of whom are in intensive care units, Dr Sanad told KUNA. Some 31,583 swab tests were conducted over the past day, taking total tests to 6,750,065.

Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of people in England who tested positive for COVID-19 in January previously had the virus or suspected they had it, a large long-running infection survey revealed yesterday. The finding, in the latest report on coronavirus transmission by Imperial College London, is seen as further evidence of the Omicron variant's ability to dodge the immune systems of those previously infected with the virus.

As part of its regular assessment, Imperial received around 100,000 valid swap tests self-administered by a random sample of people across England between Jan 5 and 20. Approximately 4,000 showed a positive result, and nearly 3,600 of those individuals specified whether or not they had had COVID before. Around 65 percent of those respondents had previously tested positive, while a further 7.5 percent said they suspected they had caught the virus previously but had not received a confirmatory test.

"Past infection was associated with high risk of reinfection with Omicron," the study's authors noted in its abstract. However Paul Elliott, who directs the Imperial study, noted not all these cases could be confirmed as reinfections because some could be residual illness, meaning a person had tested positive twice for the same infection. But the numbers reporting reinfections in the study are markedly higher than those published by the UK Health Security Agency, a public health protection body.

Its latest figures show 11 percent of all English cases were reinfections. The UKHSA said yesterday it would begin including reinfections data on the government's rolling coronavirus data dashboard from the end of the month. A reinfection is defined as a person testing positive twice at least 90 days apart. The Imperial survey also confirmed Omicron, which has swept the UK since late November, is now responsible for nearly all new infections in England.

Positive cases among its randomly selected sample were three times higher in the January sampling period than the previous month, it found. "We observed unprecedented levels of infection with SARS-CoV-2 in England in January 2022 and almost complete replacement of Delta by Omicron," the report said. However, the study detected that the prevalence of the virus among adults was starting to decline.

England today will lift the last of various virus curbs reimposed last month as Omicron surged nationwide, including the requirement to wear masks in most settings. A so-called COVID pass system for nightclubs will also be scrapped, as the country returns to its lowest level of restrictions of any stage of the pandemic.

The risk level related to the Omicron variant remains very high, the WHO said late Tuesday, with the numbers of new COVID-19 cases hitting another record high last week. "Over 21 million new cases were reported, representing the highest number of weekly cases recorded since the beginning of the pandemic," the World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological coronavirus update.

The UN health agency said the number of new infections increased by five percent in the week to Sunday - compared to the 20 percent rise registered the week before. "A slower increase in case incidence was observed at the global level," the WHO said. Nearly 50,000 new deaths were also reported, it added - a similar figure to the week before.

The report said Omicron continued to increase its dominance globally over the other variants of concern. "The current global epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 is characterized by the dominance of the Omicron variant on a global scale, continued decline in the prevalence of the Delta variant, and very low-level circulation of Alpha, Beta and Gamma variants," the WHO said.

"Countries that experienced a rapid rise in Omicron cases in November and December 2021 have been or are beginning to see declines in cases. However, "based on the currently available evidence, the overall risk related to the Omicron variant remains very high". The WHO said that of samples collected in the last 30 days that have been sequenced and uploaded to the GISAID global science initiative, Omicron accounted for 89.1 percent. Delta - previously the world's dominant variant - now makes up 10.7 percent. - Agencies