In Sweden, the number of new COVID-19 cases has increased dramatically in recent days to a record 17,320 infections confirmed in the past 24 hours alone, the country's Public Health Agency said on Wednesday.
This figure is 50 percent higher than the previous record set in late December last year, and pushed the cumulative number of cases in the country above 1.375 million, the agency said.
The Omicron coronavirus variant now dominates and almost every fifth PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test performed comes back positive, it said. In the past seven days, the Stockholm Capital Region reported the country's highest positive PCR test rate at 26 percent.
On Wednesday, Sweden's hospitals treated 826 COVID-19 patients, 38 percent more than a week earlier. Of them, 114 patients were in intensive care, and according to the agency, 75 percent were unvaccinated.
The Omicron surge coincides with rising influenza cases in the country, putting a serious strain on hospital wards, many of which are already running at full capacity.
"We have seen a doubling of infections," Johan Bratt, the Stockholm Region's chief medical officer, said in a press release on Tuesday. "Nearly 20,000 people were infected in one week and the virus is showing no signs of disappearing. This is really worrying."
The number of COVID-19 patients has increased considerably in Stockholm's hospitals, and Bratt said he expected the trend to continue "as it usually takes a couple of weeks between a person getting infected and the disease proving to be so serious that it requires hospitalization."
However, despite the dramatic increase in new cases, the number of deaths is considerably lower in Sweden than it was a year ago, when COVID-19 caused more than 100 deaths per day. Thirty-nine deaths were recorded in the previous 24-hour period, pushing the total number of deaths to 15,369, the Public Health Agency said-
According to the latest statistics released by the agency on Wednesday, 85.9 percent of those aged 12 and older have received at least one vaccine dose.
Portugal registered on Wednesday over 39,570 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a new record of daily infections, leading the total infections to 1,499,976 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Directorate-General for Health (DGS).
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said on Wednesday that part of the reason for the increase in infections was because "the levels of testing are five times higher than a year ago."
"This represents an effort on the part of the Portuguese and their ability to cooperate in controlling the pandemic," he added.
According to official data from Portuguese health authorities, 88 percent of the population has completed vaccination with two doses against COVID-19, and more than three million people have already taken the booster dose.
In Greece, despite a tightening of measures during the holiday season, cases have skyrocketed. The National Public Health Organization (EODY) confirmed on Tuesday 50,126 infections within 24 hours, an all-time high.
Turkey on Wednesday reported 66,467 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 9,718,861, according to its Health Ministry.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 143 to 83,075, while 29,316 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.
More than 57 million people have received their first doses of the vaccine, while over 51.75 million had their second doses. Turkey has so far administered over 134.19 million doses including third booster jabs. ■