The worldwide death toll from coronavirus approached two million on Friday, with Europe topping 30 million infections and World Health Organisation experts working on advice to fight new, more contagious strains of the disease.
The soaring number of fatalities — 19,94,833 — is matched by the spread of infections with Europe recording 3,00,03,905 cases, nearly a third of the worldwide total, according to an AFP tally based on official statistics.
Adding to the run of terrible milestones, Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, hit two million infections.
At least 9,30,62,400 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 5,69,77,000 are now considered recovered.
These figures are based on daily tolls provided by health authorities in each country and excludes later re-evaluations by statistical organisations, as has happened in Russia, Spain and Britain.
On Thursday, 15,404 new deaths and 7,52,723 new cases were recorded worldwide.
Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were the United States with 3,882 new deaths, followed by the United Kingdom with 1,248 and Brazil with 1,131.
The United States remains the worst-affected country with 3,88,705 deaths from 2,33,14,238 cases. At least 62,98,082 people have been declared recovered.
After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 2,07,095 deaths from 83,24,294 cases, India with 1,51,918 deaths from 1,05,27,683 cases, Mexico with 1,37,916 deaths from 15,88,369 cases, and the United Kingdom with 86,015 deaths from 32,60,258 cases.
The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 175 fatalities per 1,00,000 inhabitants, followed by Slovenia with 149, Bosnia-Herzegovina with 134, Italy 134, and the Czech Republic 131.
Europe overall has 6,46,489 deaths from 3,00,14,839 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 5,42,333 deaths from 1,69,94,374 infections, and the United States and Canada 4,06,214 deaths from 2,40,01,284 cases.
Asia has reported 2,28,967 deaths from 1,45,10,781 cases, the Middle East 93,132 deaths from 43,30,451 cases, Africa 76,753 deaths from 31,79,230 cases, and Oceania 945 deaths from 31,443 cases.
Many countries are doubling down on virus restrictions, with vaccination drives still in their infancy.
Portugal entered a fresh lockdown Friday while Britain began requiring negative tests for entry, and fresh curbs on populations were announced from Brazil to Lebanon.
German chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for a ‘significant’ tightening of curbs to slow the infection rate as the European Union’s most populous country added more than 22,000 new cases.
She said she wanted to bring forward crisis talks with regional leaders, participants at a meeting of her centre-right CDU party said.
The virus could only be stopped with ‘significant additional measures’ and people urgently needed to reduce social contact, Merkel reportedly said.
At the Meissen crematorium in Germany’s Saxony state, coffins were stacked up to three high, or even stored in hallways, awaiting cremation.
Manager Joerg Schaldach, 57, said anyone still denying the severity of the pandemic should take a look at the bodies piling up.
‘This is heavy work, so why don’t the COVID-19 deniers come and do it,’ he said. ‘We have a disastrous situation here.’
Germany has fared better than many of its European neighbours in the pandemic, with France, Italy, Spain and Britain all recording more infections despite smaller populations.
Britain on Thursday said it would ban all arrivals from South American countries from Friday, over fears of importing a new coronavirus strain.
‘I’ve taken the urgent decision... following evidence of a new variant in Brazil,’ said transport secretary Grant Shapps.
The new strain, known as E484K, has raised alarm among researchers over its possible impact on immunity.
Partly over fears of new variants, France said it would impose a daily nationwide curfew at six pm starting Saturday and remaining in force for at least two weeks.
Most of France had already been under an eight pm curfew, with some areas, especially in the hard-hit east, already under the six pm limit.
Brazil’s northern Amazonas state also announced a curfew from seven pm to six am as the health system is pushed to breaking point in the state capital Manaus.
Global health experts were expected on Friday to issue recommendations to stem the spread of this variant and other new strains, which the WHO called ‘worrying’.
‘When you first met almost a year ago, just 557 cases of the disease we now call Covid-19 had been reported to the WHO,’ director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told Thursday’s emergency meeting in Geneva, which had been brought forward two weeks.
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