US virus toll nears 500,000 in a year; fresh India curbs begin
WASHINGTON: The United States stood on the brink of 500,000 Covid-related deaths on Monday, while the vaccination rollout picked up pace globally including with the first shots in Australia.
The US toll stood at 499,056 on Monday midmorning, according to Johns Hopkins University. Globally, the figure was approaching 2.5 million.
The catastrophic US toll comes as some signs of hope are emerging in the world’s hardest-hit country, with millions of people now vaccinated and winter’s massive spike in infections dropping. But deaths are still coming, and President Joe Biden last month warned that “well over” 600,000 people in the US could die from the virus.
A year into the pandemic, the running total of lives lost was about 498,000 — roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta.
The figure compiled by Johns Hopkins University surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined. “It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, said on CNN’S “State of the Union.”
Meanwhile India, the world’s second worst-hit nation in terms of infections, passed a bleak threshold on Monday by registering its 11 millionth case following a renewed rise in cases.
International travellers arriving at Indian airports from the Middle East, Europe and the UK have been advised by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to brace for longer wait times from tomorrow (Tuesday).
This is in view of more stringent rules being introduced at entry points to minimise the risk of importation of new, mutant strains of coronavirus. “All three variants of the virus, from the UK, South Africa and Brazil, have demonstrated increased transmissibility,” the Indian ministry warned.
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) recorded 2,150 new coronavirus cases on Monday. In addition to the new cases, 3,355 individuals have recovered and 15 patients passed away.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will maintain the current level of coronavirus restrictions in the capital Manila until mass vaccinations start, his spokesman said on Monday, despite calls to ease curbs and revive the country’s ailing economy.
The restrictions in Manila were set to end this month but will be extended until the mass vaccination drive is underway. The Philippines’ drug regulator gave emergency approval on Monday to the Chinese-made Sinovac coronavirus vaccine, with the first doses set to arrive this week — but health workers will not get the jab due to its comparatively low efficacy.
Fauci told CBS on Monday that “despite the fact that many people have been vaccinated — we certainly will likely, very likely be much beter off than than we are now — but it is conceivable that there will be enough virus in the community that in order to be extra safe, we may have to be wearing masks under certain circumstances.”
Ater America’s first Covid-19 death was announced in February last year, it took about three months to pass the 100,000 mark, during a first wave that hit New York particularly hard.
But as the outbreak surged across the country, the pace of deaths increased, with the toll jumping from 400,000 in just over a month ater a spike fueled in part by holiday gatherings.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 61 million people have received at least one shot of vaccine in the United States, with some 18 million geting the full two doses.
Biden has made it a priority to get 100 million people vaccinated within the first 100 days of his administration.
In Australia, top officials were among a small group receiving the first vaccinations, a day before the program starts in earnest.
And in Gaza, some 20,000 Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine doses arrived from the UAE.
Britain’s government has vowed to offer a first dose to every adult by the end of July. More than 17 million people have now received at least a first vaccine dose — one third of the adult UK population.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on Monday set to start unwinding England’s third lockdown as a quickening Uk-wide inoculation drive relieves pressure on hard-hit hospitals.
Johnson is expected to confirm the reopening of all English schools on March 8 in the first big step towards restoring normal life, nearly a year ater he imposed the first stay-at-home order.
Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of German pupils returned to schools and kindergartens for the first time in two months on Monday, despite fears of a third coronavirus wave fueled by the British variant.
In Hong Kong, leader Carrie Lam received a shot of the Chinese Sinovac drug ater the financial hub last week fast-tracked its approval.