The novel coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 96.5 million people around the world with at least two million fatalities.
US fatalities cross 400,000 mark
The US coronavirus death toll has topped 400,000 as the country hardest hit by the pandemic struggled to meet the demand for vaccines to stem the spread of infection.
States including Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Carolina and Vermont have shown signs of vaccine supply strain and are asking for more doses of both approved vaccines, one from Pfizer-BioNTech and the other from Moderna.
The number of deaths has spiked since Christmas.
During the past three weeks, US coronavirus fatalities have totaled 63,793 compared with 52,715 deaths in the three weeks prior to Christmas, an increase of 21 percent, according to a Reuters analysis.
The daily Covid-19 death numbers crossed 4,000 for the first time on January 6.
Eighteen US states, including California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington reported their highest daily death numbers in January, according to the Reuters tally.
The number of coronavirus cases has risen across all US regions and on Tuesday crossed 24 million since the pandemic started.
While seriously ill patients are straining healthcare systems in parts of the country, especially in California, the national rate of hospitalisations has leveled off in the past two weeks and was near 124,000 on Tuesday.
Chinese capital steps up curbs amid new outbreak
China’s capital Beijing has said it will investigate all individuals who entered the city from abroad from December 10 and shut down a subway station after reporting the biggest daily jump in new Covid-19 cases in more than three weeks.
The measures come amid what has become the country’s most severe outbreak since March 2020 ahead of the key Chinese Lunar New Year holiday season, when hundreds of millions travel, raising fears of another major Covid-19 wave that could bring the country back into a debilitating standstill.
The National Health Commission said in a separate statement that a total of 103 new cases were reported on January 19, down from 118 a day earlier. Northeastern Jilin province reported 46 new cases, however, setting another record in daily cases, while Hebei province surrounding Beijing reported 19 new cases. Beijing reported seven new cases, matching the total reported on December 28.
The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 58 from 91 cases a day earlier.
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 88,557, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,635.
Mexico probes vaccine theft from hospital
Mexican authorities are investigating the theft of several coronavirus vaccines from a public hospital, the army said, underscoring the challenges of distributing the shots across the crime-plagued country.
Mexico, which has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls, has deployed the military to guard the vaccines and prevent them falling into criminals’ hands.
The army said that the stolen vaccines were under the control of a public health institution in a hospital in central Morelos state whose security is overseen by a private company.
Meanwhile, Mexico has confirmed 18,894 new coronavirus cases and 1,584 fatalities, according to health ministry data, bringing its totals to 1,668,396 infections and 142,832 deaths.
The real number of infections and deaths is likely significantly higher than the official count, the ministry has said, reflecting a lack of widespread testing.
Germany tightens shutdown
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany is extending its pandemic restrictions, including the closure of schools and stores, until mid-February amid concerns that new mutations of the coronavirus could trigger a fresh surge in cases.
Germany’s infection rate has stabilized in recent days, indicating that existing restrictions may have been effective in bringing down the numbers. On Tuesday, the country’s disease control center reported 11,369 newly confirmed infections and 989 deaths, for an overall death toll of 47,622.
“All our efforts to contain the spread of the virus face a serious threat,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, noting that experts have linked surging infections in Britain and Ireland to the appearance of a more contagious virus variant there.
“Now is the time to guard against the danger posed by this mutated virus,” she said.
While individual instances of new variants have been found in Germany, scientists have said it isn’t dominant yet, she added.
“There’s still time, so to speak, to contain the risk,” said Merkel.
In addition to extending the closure of restaurants, most stores and schools until February 14.