The worldwide Covid-19 caseload crossed 55 million on Friday, taking the tally to 56,898,415, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Besides, the death toll from Covid-19 shot up to 1,360,381.
The United States remains the worst-hit country with 11,715,316 confirmed cases so far, including 252,535 fatalities.
But with coronavirus cases surging and people preparing to gather for Thanksgiving, the situation is likely to worsen. The nation’s testing system remains unable to keep pace with the virus, reports AP.
The delays are happening as the country braces for winter weather, flu season and holiday travel, all of which are expected to amplify the US outbreak.
Meanwhile, since Feb 2 when Brazil reported its first case, the caseload has swelled to 5,945,849 with 167,455 deaths.
Mexico became the fourth country to register over 100,000 COVID-19 deaths.
José Luis Alomía Zegarra, Mexico’s director of epidemiology, announced late Thursday that Mexico had 100,104 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, behind only the United States, Brazil and India.
On Friday, India’s coronavirus cases since the pandemic began crossed 9 million.
The country’s new daily cases have seen a steady decline for weeks now and the total number of cases represents 0.6 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population.
The Indian Health Ministry reported 45,882 new infections and 584 fatalities in the past 24 hours on Friday. The death toll is more than 132,000.
A second experimental COVID-19 vaccine from American company Moderna Inc yielded extraordinarily strong early results last week.
Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5 percent effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study. A week before that another US company Pfizer Inc announced its own vaccine looked 90 percent effective.
The University of Oxford expects to release data on the efficacy of its own candidate in the coming weeks, with the latest trial results published in The Lancet suggesting it produces a strong immune response in older adults.
Developed jointly with global pharma giant AstraZeneca, who have enlisted manufacturing partners in different parts of the world, the ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 vaccine is the one most likely to play a large role in any large or medium-scale vaccination effort in Bangladesh.
Health officials around the world are clashing over the use of certain drugs for COVID-19, leading to different treatment options for patients depending on where they live.
On Friday, a World Health Organization guidelines panel advised against using the antiviral remdesivir for hospitalised patients, saying there’s no evidence it improves survival or avoids the need for breathing machines.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said the government had taken all-out preparations to procure vaccines whenever one is ready.
Earlier this month, the government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Serum Institute of India Pvt Limited and Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd to get 30 million doses of SARS-Cov-2 AZD 1222 (Oxford/Astrazeneca Vaccine).
Covid situation in Bangladesh
Bangladesh recorded 30 more deaths in 24 hours until Thursday morning, raising the death toll to 6,305 with a mortality rate of 1.43 percent.
Besides, health authorities detected 2,364 new cases during the period, pushing the caseload to 441,159.
So far, 356,772 patients have recovered.
Also read: Ensure Covid vaccine for all countries at a time: PM
Bangladesh reported its first cases on March 8. The caseload reached the 300,000-mark on August 26. The first death was reported on March 18 and the death toll exceeded 6,000 on November 4.
Mobile court to ensure mask use
The prime minister has been warning of the second wave of Covid-19 cases in the winter months and urging people to wear masks, something the people seem reluctant to do.
The government has asked the administration to strengthen the mobile court operation and enforce laws to ensure the use of masks, also in the capital, to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bangladesh had enforced a months-long shutdown in the initial stage of the Covid-19 outbreak, which greatly helped it to keep the number of cases low.
But as the economic activities resumed, the people were found to ignore health guidelines and repeated pleas from the government have fallen on deaf ears.
Health experts say adhering to safety rules can help prevent another mass outbreak of the virus in Bangladesh.
Also read: Govt taken all-out preparation to procure Covid-19 vaccine: PM
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a major and rapid change in the fight against climate disruption.
"Major and rapid change is exactly what we need in the fight against climate disruption. Change that will make our planet more livable, sustainable and inclusive," the UN chief said on Wednesday in a pre-recorded video message for the Youth4Climate virtual event, which was convened by the government of Italy.
"No group is more effective in pushing leaders to change course than you," said Guterres. He urged young people to keep raising their voices in their schools, workplaces and online communities, bringing their ideas and "driving forward the ambition we need."
"When you march, the world follows," he said.
Noting that climate crisis is "the most pressing issue of our time," Guterres said that young people "are having a major impact."
The death toll from Covid-19 in the US surpassed 250,000 on Wednesday, according to the Centre for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
With the national caseload topping 11.4 million, the death toll across the United States rose to 250,029 as of today, according to the CSSE data.
New York State reported 34,173 fatalities, at the top of the U.S. state-level death toll list. Texas recorded the second most deaths, standing at 20,147. The states of California, Florida and New Jersey all confirmed more than 16,000 deaths, the tally showed.
States with more than 9,000 fatalities also include Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
The United States remains the worst hit by the pandemic, with the world's highest caseload and death toll, accounting for more than 18 percent of the global deaths.
The United States reached the grim milestone of 200,000 coronavirus deaths on Sept. 22 and the number climbed to a quarter of a million in nearly two months.
U.S. daily fatalities caused by COVID-19 hit 1,707 on Tuesday, the highest rise in coronavirus deaths in a single day since the country reported 1,774 daily deaths on May 14, the CSSE chart showed.
Furthermore, an updated model forecast by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington shows that a total of 438,941 Americans may have died of COVID-19 by March 1, 2021, based on current projection scenario.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to close public school buildings on Wednesday as the city has reached the threshold of 3 percent COVID-19 testing positivity rate on 7-day average.
Public school students in the largest U.S. city will transition to remote learning starting from tomorrow until further notice. The schedule of resuming in-person learning is still unknown.
Since the start of the fall semester, the United States has seen an upward trend in new cases on campus.
Experts warned students returning from college and those who travel for family gatherings during Thanksgiving holiday may lead to a new wave of coronavirus infections.
Also read: Coronavirus: US death toll tops 200,000
Pfizer says that more interim results from its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study suggest the shots are 95% effective and that the vaccine protects older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19.
The announcement, just a week after Pfizer first revealed promising preliminary results, comes as the company is preparing within days to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.
Pfizer initially had estimated its vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, was more than 90% effective after 94 infections had been counted. With Wednesday’s announcement, the company now has accumulated 170 infections in the study -- and said only eight of them occurred in volunteers who got the actual vaccine rather than a dummy shot. One of those eight developed severe disease, the company said.
The company has not yet released detailed data on its study, and results have not been analyzed by independent experts.
Pfizer said its vaccine was more than 94% effective in adults over age 65, though it is not clear how the company determined effectiveness in older adults, with only eight infections in the vaccinated group to analyze and no breakdown provided of those people’s ages.
Earlier this week Moderna, Inc. announced that its experimental vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective after an interim analysis of its late-stage study.
Pfizer says it now has the data on the vaccine’s safety needed to seek emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
The company didn’t disclose safety details but said no serious vaccine side effects have been reported, with the most common problem being fatigue after the second vaccine dose, affecting about 4% of participants.
The study has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the U.S. and five other countries. The trial will continue to collect safety and efficacy data on volunteers for two more years.
Pfizer and BioNTech said they expect to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
U.S. officials have said they hope to have about 20 million vaccine doses each from Moderna and Pfizer available for distribution in late December. The first shots will be offered to vulnerable groups like medical and nursing home workers, and people with serious health conditions.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s expected tour of a West Bank winery this week will be the first time a top American diplomat has visited an Israeli settlement, a parting gift from an administration that has taken unprecedented steps to support Israel’s claims to war-won territory.
The Psagot winery, established in part on land the Palestinians say was stolen from local residents, is part of a sprawling network of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that most of the international community views as a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace.
The award-winning winery, which offers tours and event spaces, is a focus of Israel’s efforts to promote tourism in the occupied territory and a potent symbol of its fight against campaigns to boycott or label products from the settlements.
Pompeo’s expected visit, reported by Israeli media but not officially confirmed, would mark a radical departure from past administrations, both Democratic and Republican, which frequently scolded Israel over settlement construction — to little effect.
President Donald Trump has already broken with his predecessors by recognizing contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and repudiating the decades-old U.S. position that settlements are inconsistent with international law. The administration has also recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the 1967 war, where Pompeo may also pay a visit.
Trump’s Mideast plan, which overwhelmingly favored Israel and was immediately rejected by the Palestinians, would have allowed Israel to annex nearly a third of the West Bank, including all of its settlements.
The visit to the winery — which released a blended red wine named for the secretary last year — would be yet another gift to Israel in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, even as neither Trump nor Pompeo have acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
The visit could also burnish Pompeo’s credentials with evangelical Christians and other supporters of Israel should he pursue a post-Trump political career.
The Falic family of Florida, owners of the ubiquitous chain of Duty Free Americas shops, is a major investor in the winery. An Associated Press investigation last year found that the family has donated at least $5.6 million to settler groups in the West Bank and east Jerusalem over the past decade. Since 2000, they have donated at least $1.7 million to pro-Israel politicians in the U.S., both Democrats and Republicans, including Trump.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. Since then, it has built some 130 settlements and dozens of smaller outposts, ranging from clusters of mobile homes on remote hilltops to fully developed towns. Over 460,000 Israeli settlers reside in the occupied West Bank and more than 220,000 live in annexed east Jerusalem.
The Palestinians say the settlements make it nearly impossible to create a viable state — which was one of the main goals of the settlers who established them.
The settlers, most of whom oppose a Palestinian state and view Jerusalem and the West Bank as the biblical and historical heart of Israel, say they are the scapegoats for a long-standing approach to solving the conflict that was never going to succeed.
“More important than where (Pompeo) is going to visit ... is the message,” said Oded Revivi, mayor of the Efrat settlement. “The message that he’s bringing with him is one of not falling into the trap that (former U.S. President) Jimmy Carter has set of treating us as second-class citizens, of seeing us as an obstacle to peace.”
The Palestinians say many of the settlements, including Psagot and its winery, were built on land stolen from private Palestinian owners. The residents of the nearby town of Al-Bireh — many of whom are American citizens — say the settlement gobbled up their land after Israel built a security fence around Psagot during the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in the early 2000s.
Kainat and Karema Quraan, two sisters from Al-Bireh, say they have documents showing they own a plot of land on which some of the vineyards and a winery building were established.
“Imagine that your own land, your property, that you lived off of and your ancestors lived off of, is taken like this by strangers, by force, and you can’t touch it,” Kainat said.
Yaakov Berg, the chief executive of the winery, did not respond to requests for comment.
Muneef Traish, an Al-Bireh city council member who has U.S. citizenship, has led a legal campaign for years on behalf of the community seeking the return of the confiscated lands. He said the settlers seized a total of 1,000 dunams (250 acres), 400 of which are being used by the winery.
Last November, the European Court of Justice ruled that European countries must label products originating in the settlements. The decision came after the Psagot winery, which produces 600,000 bottles a year and exports 70% of them, challenged an earlier ruling.
Israel lashed out at the decision to make the labels mandatory, saying it was unfair, discriminatory and would embolden the Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel.
A week after the ruling, Pompeo announced that the U.S. no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be a violation of international law, reversing four decades of American policy.
To express its gratitude, Psagot released a new wine called “Pompeo,” a blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot.
“The U.S. administration’s message is extremely important and strengthens our ongoing fight against the boycott and hypocrisy campaign,” Berg, the CEO of the winery, said at the time. “We will continue this just and moral struggle.”
A very different struggle is underway in Al-Bireh, where city councilman Traish and other residents plan to protest Pompeo’s visit to the encroaching settlement.
“We want to say to Pompeo that instead of asking Israel to return the land to American citizens, you are here to celebrate the occupation,” he said.