Sun, 06 Dec 2020

Total COVID Cases Across Globe Surpass 40 Million

Voice of America
20 Oct 2020, 16:05 GMT+10

The world has now surpassed 40 million confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, as surges of cases in Europe and the United States have led to more restrictions on residents.

According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, 40.2 million people have been infected with the virus as of Monday evening, and more than 1.1 million have died from COVID-19.

Ireland announced some of the strictest measures in Europe this fall to combat a surge in cases. The government told residents not to travel more than 5 kilometers from their home, closed nonessential retail businesses, and limited restaurants and pubs to takeout only.

Part of Germany's Bavaria region will go into a strict lockdown Tuesday. Officials in Berchtesgadener Land district announced Monday that residents will not be able to leave their homes without a valid reason for two weeks. Schools, restaurants and hotels will be closed to stop the spread of the virus.

Wales became the second nation in Britain to lock down large parts of its economy, even as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls to do the same throughout England. The Welsh government announced Monday it would close nonessential retail, hospitality and tourism businesses, beginning Friday.

Northern Ireland recently ordered new lockdown measures, closing schools for two weeks and shutting down many businesses, including bars and restaurants, for a month.

Poland's government said Monday it is transforming its National Stadium in Warsaw into a field hospital to handle the growing number of COVID-19 cases.

The European Commission on Monday launched a system across the EU to link national COVID-19 tracing apps, beginning with COVID-19 trackers in Germany, Italy and Ireland.

United States

In the United States, cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in almost every state, and an analysis by Reuters found the number of new cases in the past week rose 13% to more than 393,000, approaching levels last seen during a summer peak.

A Wisconsin judge on Monday reinstated an order from Gov. Tony Evers's administration limiting indoor public gatherings, including a 25% capacity limit on the number of people attending restaurants and bars.

"This critically important ruling will help us prevent the spread of this virus by restoring limits on public gatherings," Evers said in a statement.

The United States continues to lead the world in COVID-19 cases, with 8.2 million infections and more than 220,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

The World Health Organization on Monday said Europe and North America should follow the example of Asian countries and quarantine anyone who comes into contact with infected people.

Mike Ryan, the agency's top emergency expert, said the populations of Asian countries have shown "higher levels of trust" in their governments that have reduced the spread of the virus by isolating cases and quarantining contacts.

Across the globe

In Australia, the southern city of Melbourne is slowly coming out of three months of strict lockdown orders.

As of Monday, the city's 5 million residents can spend as much time away from home as they wish for exercising or school, and the distance they can travel away from home has been increased from 5 to 25 kilometers. Outdoor gatherings have an increased limit from five people to 10 from two households, while facilities such as skate parks, golf courses and tennis courts will reopen.

The relaxed rules come as the capital city of Victoria state reported just two new coronavirus cases on Sunday and no deaths. Authorities had reported more than 700 new daily infections at the peak of the resurgence in July.

In Israel, a veteran Palestinian negotiator and secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, was rushed Sunday to a Jerusalem hospital, where he has been placed on a ventilator to treat COVID-19. The 65-year-old Erekat, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month, underwent a lung transplant in the United States in 2017, which compromised his immune system and made him especially vulnerable to the virus.

A spokesperson at Hadassah Medical Center said Monday that Erekat "had a quiet night," but his condition eventually deteriorated and is "now defined as critical."

Another prominent person infected with COVID-19 is South African health minister Zweli Mkhize. Mkhize issued a statement Sunday that he and his wife tested positive for the virus the day before after experiencing mild symptoms. Mkhize's news comes days after South Africa officially surpassed 700,000 infections.

Iran reported 337 new COVID-19 deaths Monday, breaking the country's single-day death toll record of 279, set on Sunday.

U.S. firm Vaxart

As scientists around the world race to develop therapies and an eventual vaccine against the novel coronavirus, U.S.-based biotechnology firm Vaxart, one of the many companies working on the vaccine, is under federal investigation for allegedly exaggerating its involvement in the Trump administration's multibillion-dollar vaccine development program.

The company claimed in a news release in June that its experimental oral vaccine had been selected by Operation Warp Speed, which sent its shares skyrocketing from $3 to $17 a share. A hedge fund that partly controlled the company sold all its shares in Vaxart, reaping a $200 million profit.

But the government later revealed that Vaxart had not received any funding from Operation Warp Speed, and that its vaccine was only involved in preliminary studies on animals. The company is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department, and is also facing numerous lawsuits from shareholders.

Megan Duzor and Richard Green contributed to this report.

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