The coronavirus has claimed more than 1 million lives around the world, the latest dark ‘milestone’ for the worldwide pandemic first detected some 10 months ago, which continues to spread across several hotspots.

Infecting more than 33 million since first emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December, the global Covid-19 death toll surpassed the 1 million mark on Monday night, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

To date, the health crisis has spread to at least 188 nations since late last year, disrupting daily life for hundreds of millions of people and spurring draconian lockdown policies that have brought swathes of the world economy to a halt.

The U.S. continues to report the world’s highest case and fatality numbers, with some 7.1 million infections and over 205,000 deaths. India takes the number-two spot for cases, with more than 6 million, while Brazil has reported in excess of 142,000 deaths, putting it just behind the States for mortalities.

Europe is seeing what some have called a “second wave” of the virus, with the UK and France both reporting their highest-ever daily case tallies last week. Both countries had begun to lift sweeping economic shutdowns imposed during the peak of the first surge last spring, but are now considering new containment measures in light of the new spike in cases.

The news was met with a mournful statement from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which deemed the pandemic “one of the largest humanitarian catastrophes in recent times.”

Though the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Covid-19’s overall death toll may cross 2 million by the time vaccines are widely available for much of the global population, efforts to develop immunizations continue in several countries, including the U.S., the UK, Australia and China. Russia became the first nation to debut an inoculation against the deadly pathogen in August, dubbed ‘Sputnik V.’

According to the Russian Health Ministry, the new jab has been given to more than 5,000 volunteers with no reports of serious side effects. The final phase of trials for Sputnik V will see some 40,000 Muscovites vaccinated.

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“A million individual tragedies” – says IFRC

From Geneva, Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a statement on September 28, 2020:

“Today, we stand in grim solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of families that have lost loved ones. A million deaths represent 1 million individual tragedies and countless heartbreaks. They represent many, many thousands of orphans, of widows, of holes in families and community fabrics that will never be filled. They also represent countless health care workers and frontline responders, including many Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff, who have lost their lives.

“We know that this is just one more sad milestone in the tragedy that is COVID-19. This is without a doubt one of the largest humanitarian catastrophes in recent times. So today, we pause in grief. Yet we continue with our work.

“As we have all learned since the start of this pandemic, there is no quick fix. The best advice remains the same as it has been for months: we can lessen and even contain this virus when we adhere to basic public health measures. These include social distancing, the proper use of facemasks, good hand hygiene, and robust contact tracing. Where these and other measures are followed, we have seen, and will continue to see, progress.

“Equally important is ensuring that at-risk communities are engaged and listened to. Their beliefs, worries and fears need to be understood and acted upon. Trust between communities and authorities will be crucial to ending this pandemic. And of course, as we focus around the clock on responding to the outbreak in every corner of the world, we need to be planning for the support that millions of people will need to rebuild their lives even once this illness is finally defeated.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IFRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have reached tens of millions of people in nearly every country around the world with a range of services, including health care, water and sanitation, mental health support and community engagement activities.

UK, France record highest-ever daily rises 

The UK and France have both reported their highest-ever daily total of coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic, confirming that the ‘second wave’ of the deadly virus is well and truly in full swing.

The UK recorded some 6,634 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest daily figure yet. The country’s total Covid-19 tally has surpassed 400,000 cases, with nearly 42 thousand deaths.

The vast majority of the new cases – 5,632 – come from England, the official figures show. Scotland has reported 465 new patients, Wales 348 and Northern Ireland only 189. Some 40 people succumbed to the disease during the past 24 hours, bringing the nation’s total death toll above the 41,900 mark.

The new number is higher than the previous record, which was registered during the first peak of the virus spread in spring. It also constituted an increase of around 500 compared to yesterday’s total of 6,178.

The ‘record’ comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that up to 10,000 people are contracting the dreaded disease across the country every day.

“That’s too high but it is still much lower than in the peak,” he told Sky News on Thursday, adding that such numbers are still lower than the spring when it was estimated that around 100,000 people were catching it per day (though only a fraction of those were being found through testing).

According to Britain’s official coronavirus tally, there have been some 412,000 confirmed cases of the virus across the country since the beginning of the pandemic.

France reported its own daily coronavirus record. The number of new cases there jumped by 16,096 on Thursday, hundreds more than the previous maximum.

The apparent second surge in the coronavirus spread in Europe comes after the WHO reported a record weekly number of fresh cases worldwide. During the week ending September 20, as many as 1,998,897 new cases were registered around the globe.

Russia now testing Sputnik V vaccine on elderly and other high-risk groups as part of 3rd phase trial

Russia has started clinical trials of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine on volunteers from high-risk groups, including the elderly. The formula is currently in its final phase of tests, before planned mass distribution.

Developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute of Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, Sputnik V is the first registered Covid-19 vaccine in the world. It has already been through the first two phases of clinical trials and is due to be eventually tested on 40,000 Muscovites. Previous trial stages in the summer only accepted volunteers between the ages of 18 to 60, but the third phase will see a much broader cross-section of society.

“We do not expect any negative reaction from the elderly,” Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which has bankrolled the formula’s development, said. “My mother and father are 74 years old. They have also been vaccinated as part of the volunteer program and feel great.”

As part of the final trial phase, the 40,000 volunteers will be closely monitored by doctors, and through a unique app will be able to contact doctors to report any side effects.

On August 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the country had registered the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, due to be available to the public from January 2021. Before then, teachers and medical workers will be offered the formula.

The vaccine has been criticized by some Western countries for its supposed unsafe rapid development and improper testing. However, at the start of September, respected British medical journal the Lancet published a study prepared by the developers of the Sputnik V vaccine, showing it to be 100 percent effective, producing antibodies in all 76 participants of early-stage trials.

Death toll from Covid-19 could ‘very likely’ reach 2 MILLION before vaccine widely available, warns WHO

The coronavirus death toll could double to reach the two million mark before a vaccine comes into wide use, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) head of emergencies Mike Ryan has warned.

The current death toll could easily grow twofold without a “concerted” effort to make an effective vaccine widely available as soon as possible, Ryan said in a Friday news conference.

“Unle4ss we do it the number you speak about [2 million deaths] is not only imaginable, but sadly very likely,” he said.

The official also spoke about the ongoing increase in spread rates registered worldwide in the past few weeks after anti-coronavirus lockdowns were eased in many countries. Ryan cautioned against blaming the latest spike on young people, who have allegedly become the primary spreaders.

“I really hope we do not get into finger wagging: it is all because of the youth,” he said. “The last thing a young person needs is an old person pontificating and wagging the finger.”

The situation in Europe, where several countries, including France and the UK, reported the highest-ever daily rises in Covid-19 cases, remains very “worrying,” WHO officials have said, urging the authorities to do their best to try and halt the spread before the season of regular flu comes around.

“We are at the end of September and we have not even started our flu season yet, so what we are worried about is the possibility that these trends are going in the wrong direction,” said WHO’s technical lead on coronavirus, Maria Van Kerkhove.


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