Global COVID-19 cases topped 100 million Tuesday as virus mutations continue to create new concerns, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. Although the U.S. makes up just over 4 per cent of the world’s population, the country remains the leader in recorded cases of the COVID-19, also identified as coronavirus, with more than 25 million infections. India ranks second with more than 10.6 million cases, and Brazil third with almost nine million, according to Johns Hopkins University. The death toll in the UK from the coronavirus pandemic passed 100,000 people on Tuesday as the government battled to speed up vaccination delivery and keep variants of the virus at bay.
The grim milestone comes at a time when the world surpassed two million deaths from Covid-19 on January 15. In the U.S., more than 423,000 Americans have died from the novel virus. The milestone comes less than three months after the world hit 50 million cases, and just over a year after the first case was diagnosed in the U.S.
The 100 million mark comes as countries around the world are struggling to adapt to emerging mutations of the virus and vaccine rollout has begun in some parts of the world.
The U.K variant, which spreads more easily and quickly than others, has been detected around the world, including in the U.S. and Canada. There is currently no solid evidence that it causes more severe illness or risk of death, according to the CDC, and current vaccines in the U.S. appear to be effective against the strain. But questions remain around the South African variant, which was first seen in early October, and has not yet been detected in the U.S.
Experts warn the actual death toll from the novel virus was likely higher due to people dying without a firm diagnosis. Additionally, the actual case count was likely higher because of how many people contracted the virus without receiving a positive test is unknown. At least one in 76 people around the world have contracted Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Mass vaccination campaigns were taking place around the world as one way to respond to the novel virus. Pharmaceutical companies are working to develop different vaccines that can be distributed efficiently and equitably to residents, all while racing against virus mutations.
Around 56 countries have begun vaccinating people for the coronavirus, administering at least 64 million doses. Israel leads the world on per capita vaccinations, inoculating 29% of its population with at least one dose. It is followed by the U.S., Denmark and the UK. But in other countries, residents have yet to have access to any vaccines, forcing them to rely solely on measures like social distancing and masking.
Every 7.7 seconds
A Reuters report said:
Almost 1.3% of the world’s population has now been infected with COVID-19. One person has been infected every 7.7 seconds, on average, since the start of the year. Around 668,250 cases have been reported each day over the same period, and the global fatality rate stands at 2.15%.
The worst affected countries – the U.S., India, Brazil, Russia and the United Kingdom – make up more than half all reported COVID-19 cases but represent 28% of the global population, according to a Reuters analysis.
The U.S. leads the world in the daily average number of new deaths reported, accounting for one in every five deaths reported worldwide each day. With just under 425,000 fatalities, the U.S. has reported almost twice as many deaths as Brazil, which has the second-highest death toll in the world.
As the worst affected region in the world, Europe is currently reporting a million new infections about every four days and has reported nearly 30 million since the pandemic began. Britain on Tuesday reached 100,000 deaths.
The Eastern European region, including countries like Russia, Poland and Ukraine, contribute to nearly 10% of all global COVID-19 cases.
Despite securing deals for vaccine supplies early on, many European countries are facing delays in shipments from both Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca Plc.
Asia and Africa
In India, the nation with the second-highest number of cases, infections are decreasing, with almost 13,700 new infections reported on average each day – around 15% of its peak.
As richer nations race ahead with mass vaccination campaigns, Africa is still scrambling to secure supplies as it grapples with concerns about more-infectious variants of the virus first identified in South Africa and Britain.
According to the Reuters tally, African countries have nearly 3.5 million cases and over 85,000 deaths.
The South African variant, also known as 501Y.V2, is 50% more infectious and has been detected in at least 20 countries.
U.S. President Joe Biden will impose a ban on most non-U.S. citizens entering the country who have recently been in South Africa starting Saturday in a bid to contain the spread of a new variant of COVID-19.
Australia and New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand have fared better than most other developed economies during the pandemic through swift border closures, lockdowns, strict hotel quarantine for travelers and widespread testing and social distancing.
Vaccine shortage in the U.S.
An AP report said:
An increasing number of COVID-19 vaccination sites around the U.S. are canceling appointments because of vaccine shortages in a rollout so rife with confusion that even the new CDC director admitted over the weekend that she does not know exactly how many shots are in the pipeline. States are waiting to find out their latest weekly allocation of vaccines. For days now, governors and top health officials have been complaining about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of how much is on the way so that they can plan accordingly.
California’s health department released to the public previously secret projections for future hospital intensive care unit capacity in the state, the key metric for lifting a stay-at-home order. Last week, state health officials told The Associated Press they were keeping all the data secret because it is complicated and might mislead the public. Coronavirus experts and open government advocates criticized the move, saying the public has the right to know what is behind decisions affecting their lives.
New Brazilian variant
U.S. officials say a new Brazilian variant of the coronavirus has made its first known appearance in the U.S. in a person who recently traveled from Brazil to Minnesota. State health officials said Monday that the Brazil P.1 variant was found in a specimen from a Minnesota resident who had recently been to Brazil. The patient lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and became ill during the first week of January. Viruses are constantly mutating, and new variants often emerge. Health officials are also worried about variants that were first reported in the U.K. and South Africa.
A moral dilemma
Ethicists say the U.S. has not faced such a stark moral calculus in generations. Everyone from the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions to communities of color and front-line workers are clamoring for the vaccine. And each group has a compelling argument for why it should get priority.
UK passes 100,000 COVID deaths
A Reuters report said:
The UK has the world’s fifth highest toll from COVID-19 and reported a further 1,631 deaths and 20,089 cases on Tuesday.
The 100,162 deaths are more than Britain’s civilian toll in World War Two and twice the number killed in the 1940-41 Blitz bombing campaign.
England, by far the most populous of the UK’s four nations, re-entered a national lockdown on January 5, which includes the closure of pubs, restaurants, non-essential shops and schools to most pupils. Further travel restrictions have been introduced.
Merkel: Pandemic shows German weaknesses
An AP report said:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel conceded that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted significant shortcomings in her country as she told the World Economic Forum on Tuesday that it has underlined the need for international cooperation on issues such as vaccines.
Germany has recently passed the threshold of 50,000 deaths, Europe’s fifth-highest toll. A lengthy second lockdown has slowly brought down the number of new cases in recent weeks.
Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus cases exceed 1 million
Media reports said:
Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed 1 million on Tuesday and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity.
Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 13,094 on Tuesday to bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468.
The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesian launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine. Health care workers, military, police, teachers and other at-risk populations are being prioritized for the vaccine in the world’s fourth most populous country.
The virus has killed more than 11,000 people in Indonesia since December 1, representing 40% of the total number of casualties since the outbreak started in early March.
Mexico passes 150,000 deaths from the coronavirus
A Reuters report said:
Mexico’s official death toll from the coronavirus passed 150,000 on Monday following a surge in infections in recent weeks that has stretched the health system in the capital to the limit and led to the president contracting COVID-19.
The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
Mexico has struggled to contain the pandemic and has the fourth-highest death toll worldwide. In the capital, Mexico City, families are struggling to buy or rent vital tanks of oxygen for relatives suffering from COVID-19.
On Sunday, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, 67, who has a history of heart problems and high blood pressure, said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was being treated for mild symptoms.
China reports decline in new COVID-19 cases
Another Reuters report said:
China reported a fall in new COVID-19 infections as the number of cases in two of the provinces particularly hard hit by the latest coronavirus wave fell to single digits, official data showed on Tuesday.
A total of 82 confirmed cases were reported in the mainland on January 25, the National Health Commission said in a statement, down from 124 cases a day earlier.
The Heilongjiang province reported 53 of the new cases. But Jilin and Hebei – two other northeastern Chinese provinces, which have seen cases surge in recent weeks – reported seven and five new cases, respectively.
Authorities in China have rolled out an aggressive package of countermeasures including home quarantines, travel curbs and mass testing this month in a bid to contain what has been the worst COVID-19 wave in the country since March 2020.
Most of the new cases during the current wave have been found in Jilin, Heilongjiang and Hebei, which surrounds Beijing. All three provinces have rolled out some of the most stringent measures to date in China as a result. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not count in its tally of confirmed cases, rose to 57 from 45 cases a day earlier.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 89,197. The death toll rose by one to 4,636, marking the first increase since January 13.
Xi calls for unity in fighting virus
Countries must cooperate more closely in fighting the challenges of the pandemic and climate change and in supporting a sustainable global economic recovery, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Monday in an address to the World Economic Forum.
“Humanity has only Earth and one future,” Xi said in remarks from Beijing to a virtual gathering that is taking place in lieu of the annual in-person meetings in Davos, Switzerland, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fighting the pandemic is the most urgent task facing the international community,” Xi said, in urging that countries cooperate to conquer the disease, which first was reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan just over a year ago.
“In particular, we should strengthen cooperation in vaccine research and development, production and distribution, so that vaccines can truly become a public good that are accessible and affordable to people in all countries,” he said.
Much of what the Chinese leader said was a reiteration of Beijing’s usual stance on issues such as closing the gap between wealthy and developing nations, and warning that countries should not meddle in other countries’ affairs.
While Xi did not mention recent U.S. policies directly, he did call for sticking to rules, embracing diversity and avoiding confrontations over trade and technology.
“A divided world cannot tackle the common challenges facing humanity, and confrontation will lead humanity to a dead end,” Xi said.
Xi said countries need to better coordinate their economic policies, avoid protectionism and other barriers to trade and cooperation to support a global economic recovery and ensure the stability of world financial systems.
“Despite trillions of dollars countries around the world rolled out in economic remedies, the momentum of the global economic recovery remains very unstable, and there is great uncertainty about the outlook,” Xi said.
Vaccine blame game at centre of Europe
A media report said:
In August, the European Commission (EC) announced that it had secured 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab, with an option for a further 100 million. With enough doses for 200 million people, the supply could have vaccinated roughly half of all EU citizens.
It brought the EC’s highly ambitious target of vaccinating 70 percent of all EU citizens by the summer, and even a revival of the tourism trade, into the realms of possibility.
The European Medicines Agency is expected to grant market authorization at the end of the week, meaning doses could be shipped out to the member states. But on Friday, AstraZeneca wrote to the EU executive saying it had supply chain problems and would not be able to fulfill its contractual obligations.
The news was a bitter blow to the commission, which has led negotiations in the EU joint vaccine procurement process, but especially for the bloc’s member states. National governments are now faced with the unenviable task of explaining to their voters why the promised vaccines are not coming.
Many EU countries bet on the AstraZeneca jab, foregoing its more expensive and difficult to store rivals. That made it an attractive proposition for poorer member states, and easier to get to more remote areas than those requiring complicated storage technology. They were waiting for the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite growing pressure from their voters.
Dissatisfaction with coronavirus restrictions is growing in Europe, with the Dutch rioting against a coronavirus curfew at the weekend.
Everyone in Europe is also aware that the vaccination rollout is lagging behind Britain’s. That is painful, after Brexit, but there was consolation in the thought that the race would soon be being run on more equal terms.
With some reports suggesting the AstraZeneca supplies could be 50 million lower than expected, that hope has been firmly dashed.
The fact that AstraZeneca had reported no such supply chain difficulties in supplying Britain also raised hackles. The 27 EU member states were furious, and looking for someone to blame.
The European Commission, which has loudly championed its role as the EU’s vaccine negotiator, was determined it would not be the scapegoat. So Brussels served up a sacrificial lamb to the member states in the form of AstraZeneca bosses.
After the CEO was told off by Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the company endured a meeting with the EU health commissioner and the officials from the EU 27.
The discussions were robust but, as the health commissioner said afterwards, “unsatisfactory,” and the pharmaceutical giant was summoned for another meeting with the national experts on Monday night. It was a triple humiliation for the company, which was publicly chastened and told to find all the necessary “flexibilities” to fulfill its contract.
The EU said it had invested in the future supplies of the vaccine and wanted a return on that investment.
The commission has used the coronavirus crisis to assertively stake out an EU-wide co-ordination role in the response to the pandemic. In truth, Brussels does not have the centralized powers necessary in health or the control of borders to contain the pandemic. It can recommend member states take a certain course of action, but the decision remains national.
That has not stopped some national governments from “Brussels-bashing” to avoid blame for their own failures in the slow vaccination rollout. Nor has it stopped the constant flood of commission social media messages, lionizing its role at the heart of a European response to the crisis.
The chat in Brussels is that there are two explanations for AstraZeneca’s failure to deliver. Either there are genuine production difficulties, which is feasible given that this is a complex vaccine, or something more sinister.
Although much of the UK stock is now made in Britain, the UK did rely on AstraZeneca’s EU plants for supplies last year. There are those in Brussels who think that AstraZeneca vaccines, paid for in advance and originally meant to build up the EU vaccine stock, have ended up in non-EU Britain.
Diplomatic sources admit they have no idea if this is true but, until AstraZeneca comes forward with a satisfactory explanation, the story continues to have legs in the Belgian capital.
The commission is calculating a system to keep tabs on EU-produced vaccines, and the possibility of blocking exports may just be enough to draw their attention away from the executive’s errors. It is a show of strength aimed at reassuring member states and citizens that this will never happen again, and an attempt to reassert some very publicly lost control.
EU proposes more travel restrictions to stop virus variants
An AP report said:
The European Union’s executive body proposed Monday that the bloc’s 27 nations impose more travel restrictions to counter the worrying spread of new coronavirus variants but make sure to keep goods and workers moving across EU borders.
The EC urged EU nations to reinforce testing and quarantine measures for travelers as virus mutations that are more transmissible threaten to overwhelm European hospitals with new cases.
More than 400,000 EU citizens have already died from the virus since the pandemic first hit Europe last year.
Among the new measures, which need to be approved by EU nations before taking effect, is the addition of a new “dark red” color to the EU’s weekly map of infections.
Since the discovery of the new virus variants, several EU countries have already reinforced their lockdown measures. Belgium has introduced a ban on all nonessential travels for its residents until March, while France could soon start a third lockdown if a stringent 12-hour daily curfew already in place cannot slow down the spread of new infections.
Insisting that all non-essential travel is “strongly discouraged,” the commission repeated the need to keep the single market functioning so workers and goods can continue to cross borders smoothly,
The commission also proposed that travelers from outside the EU should face mandatory coronavirus testing before they depart, tests once they arrive, mandatory quarantines for up to 14 days and hand over data for contact tracing.
EU demands that vaccine makers honor their commitments
Media reports said:
The EU on Tuesday warned pharmaceutical companies that have developed coronavirus vaccines with EU aid that it must get its shots on schedule, a day after the bloc threatened to impose export controls on vaccines produced within its borders.
The EU made it very clear that it is bent on getting all doses as quickly as their contracts provide for at a time when infections are surging, many hospitals are overwhelmed, and many of the 27 members states are struggling to get their vaccine rollout going at top speed.
The hardening of its position came days after it accused AstraZeneca of failing to guarantee the delivery of coronavirus vaccines without a valid explanation. It also had expressed displeasure over vaccine delivery delays from Pfizer-BioNTech. The Pfizer vaccine is already being rolled out in the EU, and the AstraZeneca one is expected to be approved this week.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum’s virtual event in Switzerland: The EU, which invested 2.7 billion euros in vaccine research and production for the drug companies, “means business”, reflecting the heavy pressure EU nations are under to roll out vaccines.
The EU has committed to buying 300 million AstraZeneca doses with option on 100 million extra shots. Late last week, the company said it was planning to reduce a first contingent of 80 million to 31 million. Pfizer has said it was delaying deliveries to Europe and Canada while it upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase production capacity.
And after two meetings and phone calls the level of distrust that has only grown between the EU and the Anglo-Swedish giant. “We see that doses are being delivered elsewhere and we know that we have signed an agreement,” said Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer. More talks with AstraZeneca are set for Wednesday.
That is why the EU is preparing a system of strict export controls on all coronavirus vaccines produced in the bloc — raising the specter that doses could have trouble leaving the EU until its own orders are fulfilled. The commission insists it is basically to monitor whether companies respect their commitments to the EU.
The biggest EU member state was firmly behind von der Leyen’s view — and batted away any suggestion the EU was looking for special treatment.
The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political clout of the world’s biggest trading bloc, is lagging badly behind countries like Israel and Britain in rolling out coronavirus vaccine shots for its health care workers and most vulnerable people.
The slow rollout, however, is hardly only the result of vaccine production issues. France’s rollout was delayed by logistical and administrative problems, including lengthy bureaucratic consent rules designed to allay fears of what authorities believed to be an unusually large number of French vaccine skeptics.
The Netherlands had to scramble to get ready for the hard-to-handle Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with its requirement for deep freezing. While about 10% of the U.K. population has gotten at least one dose, that figure hovers around 2% overall or lower in a great many EU nations.
A French government official, who demanded anonymity in line with government policy, said the nation is now expecting less than a third of planned deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine this quarter — 4.6 million doses, instead of 15.8 million.
The official shrugged off the Pfizer delays, but said the AstraZeneca delays “are much more important” and have “higher stakes” because of the sharply reduced volume over the whole quarter.
The European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine Friday and its approval is hotly anticipated. The AstraZeneca vaccine is already being used in Britain and has been approved for emergency use by half a dozen countries, including India, Pakistan, Argentina and Mexico.
The EU has signed six vaccine contracts for more than 2 billion doses, but only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use so far.
Another media report said:
The EU has threatened to limit exports of coronavirus vaccines to other countries. It comes after British-based drugs firm AstraZeneca said EU countries would receive millions fewer jabs than they ordered. The row comes amid growing EU concerns about falling behind in the race to vaccinate its population.
EU officials issued the warning after AstraZeneca, which manufactures COVID-19 jabs in the UK, last week informed Brussels that it would be delivering “considerably” fewer jabs in the coming weeks than the bloc has ordered due to production problems.
In response, the EU’s health commissioner Stella Kyriakides indicated that Brussels would consider placing export limits on coronavirus vaccines, which are manufactured within the EU.
That includes the Pfizer vaccine, which is manufactured in Belgium and which has been crucial in the UK’s vaccination efforts.
In response the UK’s vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that while supplies of the vaccine are “tight,” he was confident the UK would receive enough doses to meet its target of vaccinating 15 million people by mid-February.
Germany’s health minister supported EU proposals to introduce restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday as tensions grew with AstraZeneca and Pfizer over sudden supply cuts just a month after the bloc started vaccinating citizens.
Don’t stop vaccines crossing the borders, Boris Johnson tells EU
The Telegraph said:
Boris Johnson has urged the EU not to put “restrictions on the vaccines or their ingredients across borders,” as he warned: “the virus knows no borders”.
Yesterday Brussels threatened to block EU vaccine exports to non-EU countries, after AstraZeneca revealed that it would not be able to fulfill its contractual obligations as originally hoped.
Johnson said he has “total confidence” in the UK’s supply of vaccines.
Speaking from Downing Street, the UK PM added: “Obviously we expect and hope that our EU friends will honor all contracts…and we continue to work with friends and partners in the EU, and indeed around the world.
‘We will not accept this’: EU attacks Boris Johnson after losing full diplomatic status in UK
The controversy has increased with another row related to BREXIT.
The EU has attacked Boris Johnson’s government after it lost its full diplomatic status in the UK.
Josep Borrell, the EC’s foreign affairs chief, said that of the EU’s 143 delegations worldwide, the UK is the only government to have demoted its status.
“We will not accept this,” he said at a press conference on Monday.
The spat came after Joao Vale de Almeida, the EU’s first ambassador in London since the Brexit, was not given the same status as ambassadors sent by national governments.
Addressing the row at a European Commission foreign affairs council, Borrell said: “It’s not a friendly signal… the first one the UK has sent to us immediately after leaving the EU [when the transition period ended on 31 December].
“If things have to continue like this, there are no good prospects.
“We do not ask for something new or any special treatment. The status of the EU is recognized by countries and international organizations around the world, and we expect the UK to treat EU delegations accordingly and without delay.”
The UK Foreign Office spokesman said: “The EU, its delegation and staff will receive the privileges and immunities necessary to enable them to carry out their work in the UK effectively.”
However, Brussels said the EU’s 143 delegations and staff in other parts of the world had been accorded a status equivalent to countries’ embassies under the Vienna Convention, which governs the rules of international diplomacy.
The Vienna Convention grants diplomats immunity from detention, criminal jurisdiction and taxation.
But the PA quoted Whitehall sources as saying international organizations were offered “very similar privileges and immunities” to diplomatic missions sent by foreign governments.
The UK is continuing to negotiate with the EU over the long-term arrangements for the delegation.