With more than two million lives now lost worldwide to Covid-19, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a global coordinated effort to end the pandemic and "save lives".
In a video statement on Friday, the UN Secretary-General said the absence of such an effort has only worsened the deadly impact of Covid. He also urged nations to share excess doses of vaccines, reports UN News.
“Behind this staggering number are names and faces: the smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one," Guterres said.
Also Read: Global coronavirus death toll hits 2 million
Solidarity, to save more souls
"In the memory of those two million souls, the world must act with far greater solidarity,” he said.
Since its discovery at the end of December 2019, Covid-19 has now spread to all corners of the world, with cases in 191 countries and regions. Deaths due to the disease reached the grim milestone of one million only in September.
In addition, the socio-economic impact of the pandemic has been massive, with countless jobs and livelihoods lost globally, and millions pushed into poverty and hunger.
Guterres went on to note that though safe and effective Covid vaccines are being rolled out, disparity continues between nations.
"Vaccines are reaching high income countries quickly, while the world’s poorest have none at all,” he said, adding that “some countries are pursuing side deals, even procuring beyond need".
The UN chief went on to note that while governments have a responsibility to protect their populations, “‘vaccinationalism’ is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery".
“Covid cannot be beaten in one country at a time,” he stressed. Guterres called on countries to commit now to sharing any excess doses of vaccines, to help urgently vaccinate health workers around the world and prevent health systems from collapsing.
He also reiterated the need to ensure full funding for the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT Accelerator) and its COVAX facility, to make vaccines available and affordable to all.
At the same time, the UN chief said that people must remember and practice “simple and proven” steps to keep each other safe: wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and hand washing.
"Our world can only get ahead of this virus one way – together. Global solidarity will save lives, protect people and help defeat this vicious virus”, added Guterres.
The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 2 million Friday, crossing the threshold amid a vaccine rollout so immense but so uneven that in some countries there is real hope of vanquishing the outbreak, while in other, less-developed parts of the world, it seems a far-off dream.
The numbing figure was reached just over a year after the coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The number of dead, compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the population of Brussels, Mecca, Minsk or Vienna.
“There’s been a terrible amount of death," said Dr Ashish Jha, a pandemic expert and dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health. At the same time, he said, "our scientific community has also done extraordinary work.”
In wealthy countries including the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada and Germany, millions of citizens have already been given some measure of protection with at least one dose of vaccine developed with revolutionary speed and quickly authorised for use.
But elsewhere, immunisation drives have barely gotten off the ground. Many experts are predicting another year of loss and hardship in places like Iran, India, Mexico and Brazil, which together account for about a quarter of the world's deaths.
“As a country, as a society, as citizens we haven’t understood,” lamented Israel Gomez, a Mexico City paramedic who spent months shuttling COVID-19 patients around by ambulance, desperately looking for vacant hospital beds. “We have not understood that this is not a game, that this really exists.”
A patient infected with COVID-19 is treated in one of the intensive care units (ICU) at the Severo Ochoa hospital in Leganes, outskirts of Madrid, Spain, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. Photo: AP
Mexico, a country of 130 million people that has suffered mightily from the virus, has received just 500,000 doses of vaccine and has put barely half of those into the arms of health care workers.
That’s in sharp contrast to the situation for its wealthier northern neighbor. Despite early delays, hundreds of thousands of people are rolling up their sleeves every day in the United States, where the virus has killed about 390,000, by far the highest toll of any country.
While vaccination drives in rich countries have been hamstrung by long lines, inadequate budgets and a patchwork of state and local approaches, the obstacles are far greater in poorer nations, which can have weak health systems, crumbling transportation networks, entrenched corruption and a lack of reliable electricity to keep vaccines cold enough.
Just getting supplies of the shots might be the biggest hurdle in such places.
The majority of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been snapped up by wealthy countries. COVAX, a UN-backed project to supply shots to developing parts of the world, has found itself short of vaccine, money and logistical help.
As a result, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned it is highly unlikely that herd immunity — which would require at least 70% of the globe to be vaccinated — will be achieved this year. As the disaster has demonstrated, it is not enough to snuff out the virus in a few places.
“Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world,” Dr Soumya Swaminathan said this week.
Health experts fear, too, that if shots are not distributed widely and fast enough, it could give the virus time to mutate and defeat the vaccine — “my nightmare scenario,” as Jha put it.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the terrible number of deaths “has been made worse by the absence of a global coordinated effort.” He added: “Science has succeeded, but solidarity has failed.”
Meanwhile, in Wuhan, where the scourge was discovered in late 2019, a global team of researchers led by WHO arrived Thursday on a politically sensitive mission to investigate the origins of the virus, which is believed to have spread to humans from wild animals.
The Chinese city of 11 million people is bustling again, with few signs it was once the epicenter of the catastrophe, locked down for 76 days, with over 3,800 dead.
“We are not fearful or worried as we were in the past,” said Qin Qiong, a noodle shop owner. “We now live a normal life. I take the subway every day to come to work in the shop. ... Except for our customers, who have to wear masks, everything else is the same.”
It took eight months to hit 1 million dead but less than four months after that to reach the next million.
While the death toll is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real number of lives lost to is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and the many fatalities inaccurately attributed to other causes, especially early in the outbreak.
“What was never on the horizon is that so many of the deaths would be in the richest countries in the world,” said Dr. Bharat Pankhania, an infectious diseases expert at Britain’s University of Exeter. “That the world’s richest countries would mismanage so badly is just shocking.”
In rich and poor countries alike, the crisis has devastated economies, thrown multitudes out of work and plunged many into poverty.
In Europe, where more than a quarter of the world's deaths have taken place, strict lockdowns and curfews have been reimposed to beat back a resurgence of the virus, and a new variant that is believed to be more contagious is circulating in Britain and other countries, as well as the U.S.
Residents, some wearing masks, ride on a ferry in Wuhan on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The global death toll from COVID-19 has topped 2 million. Photo: AP
Even in many of the wealthiest countries, the vaccination drives have been slower than expected. France, with the second-largest economy in Europe and more than 69,000 known virus deaths, will need years, not months, to vaccinate its 53 million adults unless it sharply speeds up its rollout, hampered by shortages, red tape and considerable suspicion of the vaccines.
Still, in places like Poissy, a blue-collar town west of Paris, the first shots of the Pfizer formula were met with relief and a sense that there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
“We have been living inside for nearly a year. It’s not a life,” said Maurice Lachkar, a retired 78-year-old acupuncturist who was put on the priority list for vaccination because of his diabetes and his age. “If I catch the virus I am done.”
Maurice and his wife, Nicole, who also got vaccinated, said they might even allow themselves hugs with their two children and four grandchildren, whom they have seen from a socially safe distance only once or twice since the pandemic hit.
“It is going to be liberating,” he said.
Throughout the developing world, the images are strikingly similar: rows and rows of graves being dug, hospitals pushed to the limit and medical workers dying for lack of protective gear.
In Peru, which has the highest COVID-19 fatality rate in Latin America, hundreds of health care workers went on strike this week to demand better pay and working conditions in a country where 230 doctors have died of the disease. In Brazil, authorities in the Amazon rainforest's biggest city planned to transfer hundreds of patients out because of a dwindling supply of oxygen tanks that has resulted in some people dying at home.
In Honduras, anesthesiologist Dr. Cesar Umaña is treating 25 patients in their homes by phone because hospitals lack the capacity and equipment.
“This is complete chaos,” he said.
Norah O’Donnell has seen a lot during her career, including sexual assault in the military, the Las Vegas mass shooting, and interviews with world leaders. Yet, the CBS Evening News anchor says she’s “never covered a year in my entire journalistic career like this last year.”
From the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic and George Floyd protests around the world to the contested 2020 presidential election and last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol by insurgents, O’Donnell says “journalism is more important than ever.”
“There’s a thirst for information because there’s so much going on in the world,” O’Donnell said.
The Emmy-winning anchor credits her parents, who stressed education and the power of information -- reading newspapers, magazines and watching television news -- for her career path.
“They revered the truth. And so, I think that’s probably what led me into journalism, is that I believe information is power and the truth is powerful,” she said.
But the roots go deeper as O’Donnell, featured on the PBS series, “Finding Your Roots,” was surprised to learn from host Henry Louis Gates Jr. of her great grandmother’s exploits protecting worker’s rights in a test case under a new British law after her husband was killed in a mining accident. She helped take on Scottish company Holmes Oil, and was awarded workers compensation for his death in the first decision of its kind.
“We all wonder who we are, where we came from, what were our ancestors that we didn’t know,” she said.
Recently, O’Donnell spoke to The Associated Press. Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.
AP: As one of the most prominent woman in television news, do you see yourself as a role model for other young women?
O’DONNELL: Well, I hope that we’ve made a difference. This year, we’ve tried to cover the stories that people care most about and affect their lives. And we certainly saw since the beginning of the global pandemic, people were hungry for news about what is COVID-19, how is the coronavirus spread? We’ve essentially not only played the role of a news organization, I think we’ve played the role in some ways of a public health organization imparting real health news.
It was very important to me that we be there in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd to be there for his memorial to see and talk to people about why they were so outraged. ... We went to Houston for his funeral in Houston because this was a seminal moment in American history not to be eclipsed by a global pandemic, that this movement for racial justice in America should not be eclipsed even by a global pandemic.
AP: What are your thoughts on the connection some are drawing to the Capitol insurgency and the Floyd protests?
O’DONNELL: Given what we saw at the Capitol on Wednesday, immediately you had many people talk about the dissonance between the federal law enforcement and local law enforcement’s reaction to what were the Black Lives Matter protests and the pro-Trump supporters that stormed the US Capitol. The real scary threat of domestic terrorism by extremists and white nationalists. We saw those extremists descend on the U.S. Capitol. And the real journalistic exercise that we’re working through right now is why wasn’t the Capitol Police prepared? Why wasn’t the Justice Department that is in charge of federal law enforcement, why weren’t they prepared to protect the U.S. Capitol? But they did send out thousands of troops when the Black Lives Matter protests were here during the summer. Why was there that difference?
AP: Did you expect COVID-19 to be in the news for this much time?
O’DONNELL: It’s still leading for nearly a year, in fact, it’s worse than it was, much worse than when we started covering the pandemic. I mean, we were talking about in the beginning, hundreds of deaths a day. Now we have around 4,000 deaths a day. I don’t think any of us could have imagined that it would continue to spread so rapidly and so dangerously and without any leadership really from a federal perspective about containing this. Now we’re going to be covering (this story) for the next year because it’s going to be how to roll out the vaccine. And we’ve already seen that Operation Warp Speed is not warp speed. In fact, it’s quite slow.
Also read: Probe into Indian media's TRP journalism
AP: Tell me what you learned about your family on “Finding Your Roots”?
O’DONNELL: I guess the one story that particularly resonates with me is my mom’s mom, my grandmother, who I knew, who grew up in Northern Ireland, Protestant-controlled Northern Ireland. A Catholic who had to walk through barbed fence at the age of 12 to work every day in a linen factory. I have a 12-year old. I can’t imagine my 12-year old having to go to work every morning and not to school in order to support her eight brothers and sisters and her parents. And so those kinds of experiences sear something into someone. And the fact that my grandmother had enough courage to board a boat all by herself and sail across the Atlantic in her 20s to work in Queens, New York, and find work, always reminds me about the independent Irish spirit, the stubbornness and courageousness that my grandmother had in order to make a better life for her family. And for that, I’m always grateful.
Over 1.97 million people have died of Covid-19 globally as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. New infections have also set fresh highs, with the global tally surpassing 92 million.
To be precise, the Covid death toll and the total caseload stood at 1,976,509 and 92,091,033, respectively, as per the latest data released by the university.
The US remained the worst-hit country, with 384,604 deaths and 23,067,796 cases. In fact, according to an Associated Press report, Covid deaths in the US hit another one-day high at over 4,300, with the country’s attention focused largely on the fallout from the deadly uprising at the Capitol.
The North American nation’s overall death toll from Covid is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II, about 407,000.
Confirmed infections have topped 22.8 million. Arizona and California have been among the hardest-hit states. The country is now in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as vaccines are being rolled out.
Brazil has the world's second-highest Covid death toll, after the US, and is experiencing a second wave of outbreaks, with cases and deaths on the rise since December.
The country’s Covid death toll reached 205,964 on Wednesday, after 1,274 more people died of the novel coronavirus disease in 24 hours.
According to the Ministry of Health, in the same period, tests detected 60,899 new cases of infection, bringing the number of confirmed Covid cases in the country to 8,256,536.
It was the second day in a row to see more than 1,000 Covid deaths and more than 60,000 infections, after 1,110 deaths and 64,025 infections were registered on Tuesday.
Last week, Brazil set a new record with 87,843 daily cases and saw 1,524 deaths in a day, the second-highest number since the onset of the pandemic.
India's Covid tally rose to 10,495,147 on Wednesday, as 15,968 new cases were registered in the past 24 hours, said the latest data from the federal health ministry.
According to the data, the death toll mounted to 151,529 with 202 new deaths.
There are still 214,507 active cases in the country, while 10,129,111 people have been discharged from hospitals after medical treatment.
With 890 new Covid-19 patients detected in the past 24 hours, the total number of infections in the country rose to 524,910 until Wednesday.
As per the latest data, the daily infection rate dropped to 5.66 percent. The country recorded 8.29% infection on January 10, 7.52 percent on January 4, and 8.18 percent on January 1.
Also Read: UN chief for global cooperation for climate action, pandemic response
The country’s fatality number rose to 7,833 with 14 deaths in 24 hours. The death rate stands at 1.49 percent.
The country’s infection number reached the 500,000-mark on December 20. The first cases were reported on March 8. The death toll exceeded 7,000 on December 12.
Bangladesh has sequenced 304 genomes of Covid-19 so far and submitted the same to Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), Professor Dr Aftab Ali Shaikh, chairman of Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), told the media on Wednesday.
Also Read: Bangladesh submits 304 genome sequences of Covid-19
Different international organisations have praised Bangladeshi scientists for their achievements in genome sequencing of Covid-19 samples, Dr Aftab said.
However, when asked about a BCSIR scientist’s comment that a new Covid-19 strain – similar to the one recently found in the UK – was detected in Bangladesh, he said, “We are still working on it.”
Washington, Jan 14 (UNB) - State leaders around the U.S. are increasingly pushing for schools to reopen this winter — pressuring them, even — as teachers begin to gain access to the vaccine against the raging pandemic.
Ohio’s governor offered to give vaccinations to teachers at the start of February, provided their school districts agree to resume at least some in-person instruction by March 1. In Arizona, where teachers began receiving shots this week, the governor warned schools that he expects students back in the classroom despite objections from top education officials and the highest COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the nation over the past week.
“We will not be funding empty seats or allowing schools to remain in a perpetual state of closure,” said Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. “Children still need to learn, even in a pandemic.”
Leaders of Arizona’s major hospitals disagreed with the governor’s position, noting at a news conference Wednesday that the state is teetering on the brink of having to ration life-saving care.
“We understand that learning and bringing our children together is very important,” said Dr. Michael White of Valleywise Health. “But at this time with uncontrolled spread of the virus, we need to do things that we know will reduce the chance that the virus will spread and that is not gathering with people we don’t live with.”
The U.S. recorded an all-time, one-day high of 4,327 deaths on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The nation’s overall death toll from COVID-19 has topped 380,000, closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II. Confirmed infections have reached about 23 million.
President-elect Joe Biden initially pledged to reopen a majority of the nation’s schools in his first 100 days but recently revised the goal to most of the country’s K-8 schools. He has said teachers should be eligible for vaccinations as soon as possible after those who are at highest risk.
Some states aren’t waiting, but the process can be scattershot.
Meika Mark, a ninth-grade English teacher in Orange County, New York, got vaccinated Tuesday at a hospital, using a link a friend texted her.
“It’s just word of mouth: ‘Here’s a link and hopefully you get a slot,’” said Mark, who contracted the virus in March and spent the rest of the school year teaching remotely. “I know of a woman who had her husband sit in front of a computer literally all day and just click the refresh button until an appointment came up.”
Mark, 34, is now doing some in-person teaching and is grateful for the added layer of protection.
High school band director Michael Crookston was among the first teachers to get a vaccination in Utah, which is among the earliest states to give priority to educators. Crookston has been in the classroom since the new school year began, despite having diabetes, which puts him at greater risk from the coronavirus.
“It’s been a thing I’ve been looking forward to, a little bit like Christmas,” said Crookston, who teaches at Davis High School, north of Salt Lake City, where he used a parent’s donation to buy 12 air filters for his band room. Students also wear face masks and use covers on their instruments.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has said he wants to vaccinate all teachers by the end of February.
Salt Lake City has been hit hard by the virus and was the only district in Utah to stay all-remote this school year. That has angered some GOP leaders, who have threatened to deny the city’s teachers the $1,500 bonuses promised to the state’s educators.
An estimated 10.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine, or about 3% of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is an increase of about 1 million from the day before, indicating the vaccination drive is picking up speed after a slow start.
But the U.S. is still well short of the hundreds of millions who experts say will need to be inoculated to vanquish the outbreak.
A report released Wednesday by the CDC adds to the evidence suggesting that children aren’t the main drivers of community transmission. It found that increases in reported cases among adults were not preceded by increases among children and teens. Young adults, it appears, may contribute more to the spread than children do.
Chicago began a phased-in reopening of its schools this week, with about 6,000 pre-kindergarten and special education students expected to return to classrooms and other grades set to follow in the coming weeks. Illinois teachers are not eligible for vaccines yet, but Chicago officials are providing virus tests on school grounds for staff.
Chicago teachers who were punished for refusing to show up for classes over COVID-19 concerns demonstrated Wednesday outside the school board president’s home. Roughly 150 employees were initially docked pay and locked out of the school system, meaning they can’t teach remotely either. District officials said late Wednesday the number dropped to 100 as employees returned to work or had a valid excuse.
“I don’t believe it’s safe to reopen the schools. I don’t believe it’s safe for my family, I live with an elderly mom. I don’t believe it is safe for the city’s children or their families,” said Kirstin Roberts, a pre-kindergarten teacher.
New York State expanded vaccine eligibility to teachers this week. But in New York City, the nation’s largest school district, with 1.1 million students, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that middle and high schools will remain closed indefinitely.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a $2 billion plan to pay for testing, protective equipment and other safety enhancements to reopen the lowest grades as soon as Feb. 16.
But educators said it is too soon to know when California’s 600,000 teachers can expect to be vaccinated. Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said vaccinations have to come first, then schools can talk about reopening.
“We cannot put our own lives, the lives of our students, and our communities at risk during what is clearly an escalating crisis in our state,” the union leader said.
California’s rollout of vaccines has been slower than anticipated, with the first phase, involving health care workers and nursing home residents, still underway.
On Wednesday, Chiefs of Change, a bipartisan group of school administrators, called on state and federal officials to make teachers and other school employees immediately eligible for vaccinations and provide more resources to conduct testing and contact tracing in school districts.
“Those individuals are very uncomfortable and they’re very scared about coming back into school, no matter how safe we make it,” said Robert Runcie, superintendent of public schools in Broward County, Florida.