Record Covid deaths in Japan, pneumonia increases in Italy

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Just two days ago, the WHO warned of an increase in Covid deaths across the globe. We’ve taken a look at where those increases in Covid deaths are most pronounced, and whether is there more to come with the rapid spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants such as XBB.1.5.

Firstly, Japan’s record-breaking wave of Covid deaths continues. Japan’s eighth wave looked to have peaked a few days ago, but is now increasing once again.  The US, Hong Kong, Germany and Denmark are also seeing increases in Covid mortality over the past two weeks.

The uptick in Covid deaths across the globe can be seen in the chart below. It’s not a huge wave compared to previous winters, but it is steadily growing:


Japan’s record-breaking Covid figures for deaths have been rising for weeks. The latest wave seemed to peak a few days ago, but has now started to climb again:


Hong Kong’s latest Covid wave is producing a surge in deaths that is nearing the all-time high of March 2022:


Germany has also seen an uptick in Covid mortality over the past few days:


Fatalities from Covid are also increasing in Denmark:


The United States is seeing an increase in reported deaths from Covid-19:


Italy is also seeing an increase in Covid deaths, with Italian press reports of pneumonia making a comeback as a symptom of Covid:


The reports of the return of pneumonia as a Covid symptom in Italy come from, an Italian daily newspaper. report – “Hospitalizations in Italy are decreasing, but there are more pneumonia cases due to Covid”


Similar reports of Covid pneumonia have also come from China, where the term “white lung” is being searched for online. NTD reports on the searches for ‘White Lung’ in China:

NTD report: COVID Patients in China Developing ‘White Lung’ Syndrome


The SARS-CoV-2 variants being sequenced in Italy and China have an interesting correlation, with BF.7 appearing in both countries lists of common variants. BF.7 hasn’t been a particularly successful variant so far. It is shown in red in the global variant chart below. BF.7 peaked at about 5% of sequences globally and is barely visible on the chart.


BF.7 has reached a high of 11% of the share of SARS-CoV-2 sequences from Italy though. The prediction is for it to increase to 13% by January 2023.



BF.7 has seen some recent growth in Japan. It was found in at about 7.5% of sequences in late December 2022.


Hong Kong has seen some sharp spikes in BF.7 recently:


In China, BF.7 is reported to have been found in nearly 33% of recent sequences.  BF.7 may not as transmissible as the new recombinant variants such as XBB.*, but it looks like it might be more virulent.


Could BF.7 be the real reason that countries across the globe are suddenly reintroducing restrictions for travellers arriving from China?


UPDATE 1 – Case fatality rates increasing in many European countries. The chart below seems to suggest something of a step change in case fatality rates across Europe. It might just be a post new year recording blip, but worth keeping an eye on.


BF.7: Another contender for global domination

** This post was originally published on January 7, 2023 **