The global death toll from the coronavirus had reached 4 million, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday. The UN’s health agency called on governments to be cautious in lifting measures aimed at combating the pandemic.
“The world is at a perilous point in this pandemic,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the latest toll was an underestimate of the true number of deaths.
Ghebreyesus warned that sharp spikes were still occurring in some countries because of highly transmissible variants and because there was what he called a “shocking inequity” in access to vaccines.
“Variants are currently winning the race against vaccines because of inequitable vaccine production and distribution, which also threatens the global economic recovery,” he said.
WHO crisis manager Mike Ryan said during a press conference that he thought “it’s a moment for extreme caution right now.”
However, although the WHO noted an uptick in infections worldwide last week, it said the weekly count of COVID-19 deaths dropped 54,000, the lowest level since October.
Here is a rundown of other coronavirus news from around the world:
Even as Germany allows people from the UK, India, Nepal, Portugal and Russia to enter the country without restriction, Health Minister Jens Spahn said it is unlikely that coronavirus restrictions will be lifted soon.
On public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk radio, Spahn noted that everything depends on the vaccination rate. Nearly 90% of the elderly will soon be vaccinated. However, he noted, those under 60 still require some persuading to reach an 85% vaccination rate.
Germany’s public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said on Wednesday that 59% of new infections in the country were caused by the delta variant by the end of last month. It also said cases were on the rise.
Over the past 24 hours, the RKI has recorded 985 new infections. On the same day a week ago, the number was 808.
The UK has recorded more than 30,000 daily coronavirus infections for the first time since January.
The spike is being attributed to the spread of the delta variant, which is more transmissible than other forms of the virus.
Despite the increase, the government says it is still aiming to lift all remaining lockdown restrictions in England on July
Health Secretary Sajid Javid says cases could hit a daily high of 100,000 this summer — a level of infection that has not been seen in previous waves of the pandemic. The government is hoping that the high vaccination rate in the UK will help prevent hospitalizations and deaths, however.
France is seeing a renewed rise in coronavirus infections because of the delta variant, according to government spokesperson Gabriel Attal.
He said the variant was thought to have caused more than 40% of new infections, double the proportion last week.
Nonetheless, confirmed cases in the country remain relatively low at about 2,300 a day. During the March-April peak, there were more than 35,000 daily infections.
In the United States, the Denver Zoo will begin vaccinating some of its animals for COVID-19 as early as next week with primates and carnivores first on the list to get a jab.
The veterinary vaccine, which is formulated primarily for mammals, is being developed separately from those for human use.
Transmission is rare between humans and other species, but there have been several documented cases of COVID-19 in large cats, monkeys and certain rodent populations.
Turkmenistan is making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over. The secretive ex-Soviet state in Central Asia, which hasn’t officially reported any cases of the disease, has approved several coronavirus vaccines, including the Russian-made Sputnik V shot and CoronaVac from China.
Japan’s government is considering banning spectators from all events at this month’s Olympics, the Mainichi newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The paper said officials are concerned about the spread of the coronavirus.
Organizers have already banned overseas spectators and set a cap on domestic spectators at 50% of capacity, up to 10,000 people, to contain a lingering outbreak of infections.
The Mainichi, citing sources within the government, said stopping even local fans from attending was considered the least risky option.
New Zealand medical regulators have approved the use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine and the country is ready to buy 2 million doses. Earlier in the year, New Zealand approved the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. The country, which has been praised for its handling of the pandemic, will mainly use the German-developed jab to vaccinate the population of 5 million.
Australia is sending ventilators, 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and other medical supplies to Indonesia as the Asian country recorded a daily toll of more than 1,000 COVID-19-related deaths for the first time on Wednesday.
Indonesia has now registered almost 2.4 million confirmed infections, according to its Health Ministry. Its COVID-related death toll stands at 62,908.
AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters