US: The United States has passed 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, as a record-breaking wave of new infections forces authorities in Europe to reimpose lockdown restrictions.
The world’s most powerful nation hit the figure just 41 days before a Presidential election, and as the World Health Organization warned that new cases worldwide have risen to record highs.
US President Donald Trump — who faces a tough re-election fight and is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in the polls — said the 200,000 milestone was “a shame” and deflected blame onto China.
According to an AFP tally, worldwide more than 31 million people have been infected and nearly 963,000 have died from COVID-19 since the virus emerged in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The World Health Organization reported late Monday that almost two million infections were recorded around the globe in the single week to September 20.
The six percent increase versus the previous week is “the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic”, the UN health agency said.
In Europe, a surge forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce fresh steps to try to allay the rising death toll.
After months of brutal lockdown was eased, Spain’s Health Minister on Tuesday called on Madrid residents to limit their movements and social contact to the “essential”.
Some 850,000 people in part of the Madrid region are now again under lockdown.
Across Europe, hundreds of major events have been scaled back or cancelled.
The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Norway in December will also be scaled back.
Austria Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told AFP that fighting the pandemic remained “a very big challenge”, as his country extended mandatory mask wearing and re-instated some restrictions imposed earlier this year.
Saudi Arabia announced that it will gradually resume the year-round umrah pilgrimage for Muslims from October 4.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech at the United Nations on Tuesday boasted of Russia’s creation of the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, though it has not completed large-scale clinical trials. Putin in a video address to the General Assembly said that Russia was open to partnership with other countries over “the first vaccine in the world, Sputnik V.”
Nevertheless Russia has already vaccinated high-profile officials including the Defence Ministry Sergei Shoigu and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. Putin has said that one of his daughters was vaccinated, suffering only a mild reaction.