Gulf Today

US virus toll nears 500,000 in a year; fresh In­dia curbs be­gin

- Health · Coronavirus (COVID-19) · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · India · Washington · United States of America · Australia · Joe Biden · Missouri · Kansas City · Kansas · Kansas City · Atlanta · Anthony Fauci · Union · Middle East · United Kingdom · South Africa · Brazil · United Arab Emirates · United Kingdom Department of Health · Philippines · New York City · U.S. Centers for Disease Control · Gaza City · Gaza Strip · Boris Johnson · England · Hong Kong · Johns Hopkins University · Hopkins · Joe · Ministry of Civil Aviation · Rodrigo Duterte · Manila · English · Carrie Lam

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.

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