US sets global record of 1 mn Covid cases in a single day

Washington DC: The United States recorded more than 1 million COVID-19 cases on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as the Omicron variant continues to spread at a blistering pace.

Johns Hopkins, which has been tracking case numbers since the start of the pandemic, also reported 1,688 deaths for the same period, a day after top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci said the country is experiencing "almost a vertical increase" in COVID-19 cases.

Fauci has warned there is still a danger of a surge in hospitalisations due to the surge in infections even as early data suggests the Omicron variant is less severe.

"The only difficulty is that if you have so many cases, even if the rate of hospitalisation is lower with Omicron than it is with Delta, there is still the danger that you will have a surging of hospitalisations that might stress the healthcare system," Fauci said in an interview on Sunday with CNN.

Fauci added that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will soon be coming out with a clarification on whether people with COVID-19 should test negative to leave isolation, after confusion last week over guidance that would let people leave after five days without symptoms.

The CDC had reduced the recommended isolation period for people with asymptomatic Covid to five days, down from 10. The policy does not require testing to confirm that a person is no longer infectious before they go back to work or socialise, causing some experts to raise questions.

Since the start of the pandemic, the US has recorded the most COVID-19 deaths with 826,064, followed by Brazil with 619,133, India with 481,893 and Russia with 311,353.

A winter storm that hit the mid-Atlantic on Monday combined with pandemic-caused shortages of airline workers to push flight cancellations to a holiday-season high, creating more frustration for travellers just trying to get home.

More than 3,000 US flights and about 4,700 worldwide were cancelled by late afternoon Monday on the East Coast, according to tracking service FlightAware. Another 12,500 flights were delayed, including 5,600 in the US.

Travellers could take hope from an improving weather forecast: Airlines had cancelled fewer than 400 US flights scheduled for Tuesday.

First, however, they had to contend with a winter storm that dumped several inches of snow on the District of Columbia, northern Virginia and central Maryland before quitting Monday afternoon.

The cancellations and delays just added to the despair felt over the weekend by holidays travellers trying to get home.

On social media, travellers complained about late cancellations, lost bags and long hold times to reach anybody in airline customer service. Some said they slept in airports and didn't know when they would get home.

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