General

US Coronavirus Death Toll Inches Toward 200,000

The United States is approaching the milestone of 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus, experts monitoring the outbreak say.

By Monday evening, the U.S. had more than 6.8 million infections and 199,766 deaths — the most of any nation in either category — according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than three-quarters of all deaths in the United States are from people aged 65 or older.

A recent rise in cases in Southwestern and Midwestern U.S. is being attributed to the reopening of schools and colleges there.

In Europe, countries across the continent are imposing new restrictions as cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, grow.

Britain reported 4,368 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as the country nears a total of 400,000 cases.

Chris Witty, Britain’s chief medical officer, and Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, announced Monday during a nationally televised address that the country is “heading in the wrong direction” and has reached “a critical point” in its response.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that the country could face another round of strict restrictions if the public does not observe the new “rule of six” order issued earlier this month by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which limits the number of people taking part in most social gatherings to six.

In France, where cases have surged in recent weeks, health officials have opened new testing centers in Paris.

Italy announced Monday that it would make testing for COVID-19 compulsory for people traveling from Paris and some other parts of France.

Authorities in Spain’s capital, Madrid, began stopping people Monday from going in or out of neighborhoods that have been partially locked down to stop the spread of the virus.

The pandemic is also having an effect on the world’s refugees. A new survey released Monday by the Norwegian Refugee Council shows nearly 80% of people displaced by conflicts have lost a job or revenue since the beginning of the outbreak.

In a survey of more than 1,400 respondents across 14 countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq and Venezuela, the NRC found that some 70% said they had to cut the number of meals for their households, while 73% were less likely to send their children to school because of economic problems.

Vaccine race

The race to produce a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine has sustained another setback. Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported Sunday that late-stage human trials of an experimental vaccine in the United States have been paused due to concerns over a possible adverse side effect.

AZD1222, developed through a joint initiative by AstraZeneca and Britain’s University of Oxford, has been undergoing large-scale Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials in several nations, including the U.S., Britain, Brazil, South Africa and India.

But the Telegraph says testing was delayed twice in Britain after two volunteer participants were subsequently diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord.

The World Health Organization said Monday that 156 nations have now joined a global plan led by WHO to fairly distribute any future vaccines against COVID-19. However, it said the United States and China did not sign up.

Some successes

While worldwide cases of the coronavirus have topped 31 million, some countries are reporting progress in the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Monday lifted restrictions for the entire country except Auckland, after authorities posted no new cases.

New Zealand had gone over 100 days without any new COVID-19 cases until last month, when a new cluster broke out in the northern city, prompting Ardern to reimpose the strict nationwide restrictions first enacted back in March.

Auckland will continue to remain under some restrictions for the next two weeks, but officials have increased the number of people in gatherings from 10 to 100.

In Australia, Victoria state reported just 11 new cases on Monday, its smallest one-day jump since June 16. Victoria had been placed under a state of disaster last month due to a dramatic surge in new cases, especially in its capital, Melbourne, with the average number of cases topping 700 as recently as last month. Residents were placed under a strict curfew and were restricted to their homes except for work, shopping or medical care.

“This is a great day,” state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters Monday. He said he would not move up the timeline to begin easing the state of emergency.

Authorities have said they would lift some of the restrictions, including reopening child care facilities and resuming manufacturing and construction, on Sept. 27, but only if the average number of cases over a two-week period is under 50.

In South Asia, despite more than 5.4 million COVID-19 cases, including about 100,000 new infections and more than 1,000 deaths daily, India reopened the Taj Mahal to visitors on Monday.

India has 1.3 billion people and some of the world’s most crowded cities, but a strict lockdown in March devastated the economy and the lives of tens of millions of people.

The government has since eased restrictions, including on many train routes, domestic flights, markets and restaurants.

Schools resumed Monday on a voluntary basis for students ages 14 to 17, but many Indian states have said it is too soon to have children in the classroom.

India has also reported 87,882 deaths.

Source: Voice of America