COVID-19 easing as death tolls pass 2.2 million, cases hit 103 million

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Jan. 31 (UPI) — The coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 2.2 million lives and sickened at least 103 people worldwide, is subsiding from record levels as nations have enacted restrictions, including lockdowns, and are ramping up vaccinations.

On Jan. 20, there were a record 17,554 deaths reported, which was among 99,135 that died from Jan. 16-23, according to tracking by Worldometers.info. In the past week, the high was 16,624 Thursday with a weekly total of 97,720.

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Cases had already begun a decline early with deaths lagging a couple weeks.

On Jan. 8, there were a record 845,285 cases, which was among 4,886,927 infections the week of Jan. 1-9. In the past week, the high was 607,830 Thursday with a weekly total of 3,791,960.

Sine the first fatality was announced in Wuhan, China, on Jan. 11, 2020, the total death toll has climbed to 2,233,406. And the number of cases is 103,331,375 with the first infections, originally described as pneumonia of an unknown cause, reported on Dec. 31, 2019.

After starting in Mainland, China, the virus spread to Europe, then the Western Hemisphere with the virus now on every continent, including Antarctica.

After more than one year, the top three nations for most deaths are in the Western Hemisphere: the United States with 439,536, Brazil second with 223,971 and Mexico third with 158,074. In addition, the United States leads in cases, passing 26 million Saturday.

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Last week, Mexico overtook India, which is at 154,274, including 127 new fatalities Sunday. Mexico hadn’t reported its data yet Sunday.

Europe remains No. 1 in deaths at 702,354 so far Sunday and is about 300,000 behind North American in cases at 30,269,268.

Europe has five nations in the top 10: Britain at 106,158 in fifth, Italy sixth at 88,516, France seventh at 76,057, Russia eighth at 73,182 and Spain ninth at 58,319. Germany is 11th with 57,576 so far Sunday, which is 383 behind No. 10 Iran, which reported 70 Sunday.

Britain has reported at least 1,000 deaths for four days in a row through Saturday, including 1,725 Wednesday, which is behind the record of 1,820 Jan. 20. Until the surge at the start of the year, fatalities had last surpassed 1,000 with a record 1,166 on April 21. Sunday’s deaths were 587 and cases were 21,088.

Britain’s cases have stabilized from a peak of 68,053 Jan. 8 to 23,275 Saturday.

The kingdom is in the midst of a third nationwide lockdown.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged the sacrifices of people, especially parents.

In an open letter to parents and others, Johnson wrote: “While the past 12 months have been tough for all of us, the demands of this pandemic also brought out the very best in a great many people. And I’m particularly in awe of the way the parents, carers and guardians of children have risen to the unique challenges with which you have been faced.”

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Further, he noted: “Because you are staying at home you are playing a vital role in getting this awful virus back under control. You are buying time for our army of vaccinators to protect the vulnerable. You are paving the way back to normality and you are, quite literally, saving lives. And for that I cannot thank you enough.”

A total of 8,977,329 vaccinations had now taken place in Britain, and 491,053 have received both shots since the program began Dec. 8, according to government data. Britain has a population of 66.7 million.

Much of Italy has been under strong restrictions but on Monday, parts of the country, including the Lazio region around Rome and the Lombardia region around Milan, will be downgraded from medium-risk orange zones to lower-risk yellow zones. The regions of Puglia, Sardegna, Sicilia, Umbria and the autonomous province of Bolzano remain orange zones and no regions in Italy’s highest-risk red zones.

Italy, which at one time was the world’s epicenter, reported 237 deaths Sunday, compared with a record 993 Dec. 3 and 11,252 cases after record 40,896 on Nov. 13.

France is not in a nationwide lockdown but on Saturday the nation imposed new COVID-19 border restrictions with all but essential travel from outside the European Union banned and testing requirements on those from within the EU has been tightened.

Also, Prime Minister Jean Castex said the night curfew would be more tightly enforced and large shopping centers would be closed.

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France reported 195 deaths Saturday after 932 on Nov. 13 that was the most since a record of 1,437 in April. In addition, there were 19,235 cases after a record 86,852 on Oct. 31

Russia announced 485 deaths and 18,539 cases after records of 635 fatalities and 29,935 infections on Dec. 4, ranking fourth overall in cases with 3,850,439.

Russia has developed its own vaccine, called Sputnik 5.

Spain doesn’t report data over the weekend with 513 deaths reported Friday with the record 996 and 38,118 cases after record 44,357 Jan. 21.

Although new infections have peaked, officials are bracing for a surge.

“We can expect that the strain detected in the UK will be the dominant one in Spain by the end of February or the first fortnight of March,” Fernando Simon, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts said Thursday at a news conference.

Spain doesn’t have national restrictions but several regions have tough restrictions, including a curfew, after easing the rules during the holidays.

Besides Europe, Latin America has been hard-hit, including Mexico and South America.

South America has five nations in the top 20: Colombia in 12th with 53,650, Argentina in 13th with 47,931, and Peru in 15th with 40,857.

Overall, the continent has reported 414,653 deaths and 15,839,303 cases.

On Saturday, Brazil reported 1,196 deaths for a total of 223,971 compared with a record of 1,554 on July 29. Cases were 57,498 after record 87,134 Jan. 7 in third place at 9,176,975.

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Earlier this month, researchers detected a COVID-19 variant in the Amazon city of Manaus, Brazil.

Nine children with coronavirus symptoms died in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory in the Amazonas state of Brazil, a health official reported.

“We are requesting the government to send help immediately,” Júnior Hekurari Yanomami, the President of the Yanomami and Ye’kuana District Council for Indigenous Health, said in a CNN report. “The health professionals we have inside the Yanomami territory are insufficient. The second wave is being harsh on us, it has spread throughout the whole territory.”

On week ago, Brazil began rolling out 2 million doses of vaccine made by AstraZeneca in India.

Last week, the Biden administration reinstated a ban on most non-U.S. travelers coming from Brazil as well as Britain, Ireland and the 26 countries that comprise the Schengen Area of Europe.

Also, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that Air Canada and WestJet had agreed to suspend travel to the Caribbean and Mexico. And there will be testing and three-day quarantine periods upon arrival in Canada.

The travel ban between Mexico, the United States and Canada for non-essential travel is in effect through Feb. 21. It’s been that way since March.

Cases and deaths have been surging in Brazil.

On Saturday, Mexico reported 1,495 deaths after record 1,803 Jan. 21. Cases were 15,337 after record 22,339 Jan. 21. Until Dec. 31, deaths had only surpassed 1,000 twice, both in the summer.

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Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is among those that contracted the virus but said Friday in a video message he is past the “critical stage” of his coronavirus infection and is recovering.

Regarding the vaccine, the president also said Mexico will receive 6 million vaccine doses in February and an additional 12 million in March. Mexico has an agreement to purchase 34.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot and more than 78 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India.

The nation has a population of 130 million with 15 million people over the age of 60.

Canada is 21st in the world with 20,016 deaths, including 141 Saturday as well as 4,255 cases. Canada set the record for deaths, 257 on Dec. 29, and cases, 11,383 on Jan. 3.

Canada has ordered 362 million doses of vaccine, which comes out to 9.6 per person, which is the most in the world, according to a Guardian analysis of the latest available data. The U.S. is at 3.7, the European Union at 3.5 and Britain at 5.5

So far, Canada has vaccinated 2.22 percent of the population with 1.1 million received, according to tracking by CTV. Canada has authorized the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

All but around 23,000 of the total deaths in North America are in Mexico, Canada and the U.S.

North America has the second-most deaths of the continents, 652,004, behind Europe, and the most cases, 30,5219,302.

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In Asia the death toll is 372,656, the fourth-most of the continents, and cases are 23,078,808, which ranks third.

China is now ranked 50th in the world with 4,636 behind Slovakia. China reported one death Tuesday and another a week ago after announcing only one since April 27, a new verification on May 17. China added 92 cases Sunday.

World Health Organization investigators have visited two hospitals at the center of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, on a mission to determine the origin of the virus.

China has been on high alert for another COVID-19 outbreak wave, ahead of the Lunar New Year, which is Feb. 12.

In India, the virus has been subsiding. The nation set a national-record 1,283 deaths this summer and cases peaks at 97,859 in September but dropped to 13,052 Sunday.

India dealt with the pandemic much better than other countries, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin Wales at their annual conference vial video link on Saturday night.

“With the ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of society’ approach, we were able to fight the pandemic much better than other countries,” Vardhan said in a statement by the health ministry.

Thirteen days after rolling out the vaccine program, India has inoculated 2.9 million frontline and healthcare workers. In all, there are 30 million essential workers. The nation also plans to vaccinate 300 million Indians by August of its total 14 billion population.

Far East nations, including Japan and South Korea, have generally controlled the pandemic.

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Japan reported a record 113 deaths Thursday and added 65 Sunday for a total of 5,766, including 13 on a cruise ship. Cases were 2,673 after a record 7,882 Jan. 7.

Japan’s state of emergency is set to expire Thursday and officials will decide whether to extend it another month.

The nation doesn’t plan to roll out its vaccination distribution until late February.

South Korea’s record is 40 deaths on Dec. 29 with six announced Sunday for a total of 1,420, as well as 355 cases, behind the mark of 1,241 Dec. 25.

The nation is extending its social distancing measures for another two weeks, which is after the Lunar New Year holiday, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a televised speech on Sunday. Takeout and delivery orders are allowed only after 9 p.m. at restaurants and spectators are banned at sporting events.

Israel, which has 4,768 deaths and is under lockdown, plans to deliver vaccines for 5,000 Palestinian health care professionals.

About 20 percent of the Israeli population, 1.7 million people, have already received both doses. More than 3 million people have received the first. Neither the West Bank nor Gaza has started vaccination programs.

A variant strain from South Africa, which is considered more contagious like one also in Britain, has been spotted throughout the world. The variant was first discovered in South Africa in October.

South Africa reported 318 deaths with the record 839 Jan. 19, as well as 5,297 cases for a total of 1,449,236, which is 14th in the world.

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Africa has 90,648 deaths, which increased by nearly 5,000 in one week, and 3,573,817 cases. Egypt is second on the continent with 9,263, including an additional 46 Saturday and Morocco third with 8,253, gaining 13.

With a population of 1.3 billion people, 270 vaccine doses have been secured, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, who also chairs the African Union, announced on Jan. 14.

“Getting sufficient vaccine supplies in Africa is somehow challenging because most of the companies manufacturing vaccines are based in rich countries. But efforts should be made to ensure Africa is not left behind in the global fight to combat COVID-19,” Tharcisse Mpunga, Rwandan state minister for primary health care, told Anadolu Agency.

“COVID-19 is affecting the whole world population. There is no reason for having vaccines distributed in Europe, the U.S., Canada, and not in Africa. The continent also needs its economy to recover, students to go back to school and above all to stop deaths.”

Oceania, with only 42.3 million people, has been in much better shape than other places with 1,076 deaths and 50,153 cases.

New Zealand’s deaths have remained at 25 since Sept. 16 and Australia’s toll stands at 909 with the last two deaths Nov. 30 and Dec. 29.

New Zealand reported one case Sunday, tallying 20 in one week, for a total of 2,303, and Australia was up six Sunday for 28,766, an increase of 40 in seven days.

On Sunday afternoon, Australia allowed quarantine-free travel for visitors from New Zealand.

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On Jan. 25, the Australian government previously suspended quarantine-free travel for New Zealanders arriving in Australia after a South African variant was detected in a woman after 14 days of quarantine in New Zealand.

New Zealand still has a 14-day quarantine for foreign travelers.

Also Sunday, Western Australia state ordered a five-day “full lockdown,” including the closure of schools, for Perth metropolitan area, the Peel region and the South West region after a hotel security guard tested positive for coronavirus.

“This is a very serious situation and each and every one of us has to do everything we personally can to help stop the spread in the community,” state premier Mark McGowan said Sunday.