December 28 coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 0624 GMT (1424 HKT) December 29, 2021
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3:51 a.m. ET, December 28, 2021

Xi'an reports highest daily Covid-19 count for a Chinese city since Wuhan

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

Students and teachers queue up for COVID-19 nucleic acid testing at Northwestern Polytechnical University during a snowfall on December 25 2021 in Xi an, Shaanxi Province of China.
Students and teachers queue up for COVID-19 nucleic acid testing at Northwestern Polytechnical University during a snowfall on December 25 2021 in Xi an, Shaanxi Province of China. (VCG/Getty Images)

Northwestern China's Xi'an recorded 175 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on Monday — the highest daily infection count in a Chinese city since March 2020.

Xi'an has now recorded 810 locally transmitted cases since its cluster began on December 9, one of the worst localized outbreaks in China since Wuhan became the epicenter of the pandemic in 2019.

Xi'an, home to 13 million people, went into strict lockdown on December 23, closing public venues and transportation except essential services like supermarkets and hospitals.

It further tightened Covid control measures on Monday as local infections increased, requiring all residents to stay at home unless permitted to leave for mass testing.

Soldiers sent to help: State-run newspaper People's Daily said 150 military medics from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force were sent to Xi'an to assist in local hospitals on Monday, some with experience fighting the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan.

Official says outbreak is under control: While cases are expected to rise in the coming days, the Xi'an outbreak is under control, according to Wei Xiaoli of the city’s CDC. He told a Monday news conference that residents “don’t need to worry too much about the rapid increase of cases,” which have been uncovered by mass testing programs in the city.

According to the National Health Commission, China reported 182 locally-transmitted symptomatic cases on Monday — 180 of them in northwestern Shaanxi province, of which Xi'an is the capital.

One case each was found in southeastern Zhejiang province and southwestern Yunnan province.

Read more about the situation in Xi'an:

8:09 a.m. ET, December 28, 2021

More negative Covid results overturned in Australia testing bungle

From CNN's Angus Watson in Sydney

Health workers congregate ahead of the opening of the SydPath COVID-19 testing clinic at Bondi Beach on December 28, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Covid-19 testing clinics are at capacity in Sydney with increased demand and centres closing for public holidays.
Health workers congregate ahead of the opening of the SydPath COVID-19 testing clinic at Bondi Beach on December 28, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Covid-19 testing clinics are at capacity in Sydney with increased demand and centres closing for public holidays. (Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Hundreds of people who were told they did not have Covid-19 have now discovered they do, after a Sydney testing center admitted it sent out incorrect PCR results.

SydPath, operated by St. Vincent’s Hospital, said Tuesday 486 of 950 people who received negative results by SMS have had that result overturned.

On Monday SydPath said it sent negative results by SMS to 995 people tested on December 23 and 24 despite their PCR tests not having been processed. That number has since been revised to 950 people. 

The blunder was detected by the hospital as it investigated how a further 400 people swabbed on December 22 and 23 received a negative result despite being positive for Covid-19.

SydPath said Tuesday the mistake came from a human error, as the clinic “moved from an automated system to a manual system to expedite the release of negative test results.”

“Unfortunately during this manual process a simple data processing error was made which led to the wrong test results being released. We have reverted to our automated systems to ensure this type of error cannot happen again,” a SydPath statement read.

A surge in cases and a requirement for domestic travelers to gain a negative PCR result has strained the testing system in New South Wales (NSW).

On Tuesday, NSW recorded a further 6,062 cases and one death, while the state of Victoria recorded 2,737 cases and four deaths. 

There are currently 60 Covid-19 patients in ICU in NSW and 69 receiving active ICU treatment in Victoria.

11:53 p.m. ET, December 27, 2021

Omicron variant fills up children's hospitals

From CNN's Maggie Fox and Jen Christensen

A five-fold increase in pediatric admissions in New York City this month. Close to double the numbers admitted in Washington, DC. And nationwide, on average, pediatric hospitalizations are up 35% in just the past week.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant is teaming up with the busy holiday season to infect more children across the United States than ever before, and children's hospitals are bracing for it to get even worse.

"I think we are going to see more numbers now than we have ever seen," Dr. Stanley Spinner, who is chief medical officer and vice president at Texas Children's Pediatrics & Urgent Care in Houston, told CNN.
"Cases are continuing to rise between Christmas gatherings and we're going to continue to see more numbers this week from that," Spinner said in a telephone interview.
"Now we're going to have New Year's on top of that this coming weekend, with more people getting together — more exposures and then those numbers will continue to climb," he added.

Read more:

11:47 p.m. ET, December 27, 2021

CDC updates guidance for Covid-19 isolation and quarantine times

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday shortened the recommended times that people should isolate when they've tested positive for Covid-19 from 10 days to five days if they don't have symptoms — and if they wear a mask around others for at least five more days.

The CDC also shortened the recommended time for people to quarantine if they are exposed to the virus to a similar five days if they are vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated and boosted may not need to quarantine at all, the CDC said.

"Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to five days, if asymptomatic, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others," the CDC said in a statement.

People whose symptoms are getting better may also leave their homes after five days so long as their symptoms are improving, the CDC said. People who have a fever should stay home until the fever clears up, the CDC added.

Read more: