The novel coronavirus has infected over 93 million people globally and claimed more than 2 million lives. Here are the updates for January 15:

A healthcare worker looks at the X-ray of a patient's lung as he updates the patient's relative in the receiving area for people who suspect they are infected with the new coronavirus, at the General Hospital in La Paz, Bolivia, on January 15, 2021.
A healthcare worker looks at the X-ray of a patient's lung as he updates the patient's relative in the receiving area for people who suspect they are infected with the new coronavirus, at the General Hospital in La Paz, Bolivia, on January 15, 2021. (AP)

Friday, January 15, 2021:

Global death toll from Covid-19 tops 2M amid vaccine rollout

The global death toll from Covid-19 has topped 2 million as vaccines developed at breakneck speed are being rolled out around the world in an all-out campaign to vanquish the threat.

The milestone was reached just over a year after the virus 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.

While the count is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and the many fatalities that were inaccurately attributed to other causes, especially early in the outbreak.

It took eight months for the death toll to hit the 1 million mark. It took less than four months after that to reach the next million.

“Behind this terrible number are names and faces — the smile that will now only be a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He said the toll “has been made worse by the absence of a global coordinated effort.”

World may never find patient zero, WHO says

The world may never find "patient zero" in its search for the origins of Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, World Health Organization's technical lead on the disease, has said.

A WHO-led team investigating the origins of the virus is to hold virtual meetings with its Chinese hosts in Wuhan, where the pandemic first emerged more than a year ago. 

The WHO director general said he wanted vaccination campaigns taking place in every nation across the globe within the next 100 days.

"I want to see vaccination under way in every country in the next 100 days so that health workers and those at high risk are protected first," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference in Geneva.

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Global vaccine rollout has suffered a major blow as Pfizer said it would delay shipments of the jabs in the next three to four weeks due to works at its key plant in Belgium.

Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine developed with Germany's BioNTech.

There will be "a significant increase" in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised. 

The European Commission also confirmed that promised doses for the first quarter will arrive within the period.

But European Union nations, which are desperately waiting for more doses to immunise their populations against the virus that has already claimed almost two million lives worldwide, expressed frustration.

Nigeria to receive 10 million vaccine doses in March

Nigerian Health Minister Osagie Ehanire has said the country receive 10 million doses of a virus vaccine in March.

The vaccines add to 100,000 expected doses of Pfizer vaccine, he said.

The statement did not specify which type of vaccine would be used for the 10 million doses.

It was also unclear whether the batch would be financed by the African Union or as part of COVAX, which links the World Health Organization with private partners to work for pooled procurement and equitable distribution.

Greece to hike fines for violation of virus restrictions

Greece’s prime minister has said the country’s retail sector might begin to gradually reopen next week, if scientists advising the government on the pandemic recommend it is safe to do so.

Speaking in parliament during a debate on the government’s handling of the pandemic, Kyriakos Mitsotakis also said fines for violating measures imposed to prevent the spread of the virus will increase to $604.45 (500 euros), from the current $362.67 (300 euros).

Mitsotakis said pressure on the country’s health system is beginning to ease, with more than 400 intensive care unit beds now free, allowing for restrictive measures to be gradually relaxed.

Turkey reports 8,314 new cases

Turkey has reported 8,314 new cases of the virus, continuing a downward trend from 8,962 the previous day, according to Health Ministry data.

Among the fresh cases were 921 symptomatic patients confirmed across the country, the data showed.

Turkey's overall case tally is around 2.37 million. The nationwide death toll hit 23,664, with 169 fatalities over the past day.

Turkey has so far vaccinated more than 500,000 people in the first two days of its nationwide rollout of shots developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd, Health Ministry data showed.

Spain reports record 40,197 cases

Spain has reported a record 40,197 cases, while the incidence of the disease as measured over the past 14 days hit a new high of 575 cases per 100,000 people, climbing from 522 cases the previous day, Health Ministry data showed.

The latest update brought the cumulative tally of infections to 2,252,164, while the death toll rose by 235 to 53,314.

French cumulative death toll rises to nearly 70,000

The cumulative death toll from the virus in France has risen by 636 to 69,949 as the country added a three-day batch of retirement home deaths to the tally, Health Ministry data showed.

France reported 280 deaths in hospitals, down from 282 on Thursday, and 356 deaths in retirement homes.

It also reported 21,271 new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours, from 21,228 on Thursday and 19,814 last Friday. 

UK records over 55,000 new cases

Britain has recorded 55,761 new cases, an increase on the 48,682 cases recorded the previous day, with the number of people receiving a first dose of the vaccination rising to 3.2 million, according to government data.

The reported number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test from the virus was 1,280, slightly higher than the 1,248 recorded the previous day.

Over 500,000 Turkish health workers get virus shots

More than 500,000 healthcare staff in Turkey have received the first doses of Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s Health Ministry said.

As of 1130 GMT (2:30 pm local time), the live count showed that nearly 520,000 people have been vaccinated.

On Thursday, Turkey started the mass coronavirus vaccination campaign with healthcare staff.

Russia's case tally passes 3.5 million

Russia's Covid-19 case tally has passed the 3.5 million mark as authorities confirmed 24,715 new infections in the last 24 hours, including 5,534 in Moscow.

Officials said 555 died overnight, taking the official death toll to 64,495 since the pandemic began.

Greece may ease some restrictions from January 25

Greece could ease some restrictions in the retail sector next week after a nationwide lockdown helped contain a surge in Covid-19 infections, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

Mitsotakis' government imposed a strict lockdown, the second since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic, in early November following a spike in infections, mainly in northern Greece and the wider area of the capital Athens.

WHO-led team in China will start meetings online from quarantine

A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of Covid-19 are to begin virtual meetings with their Chinese hosts from a hotel in China's Wuhan, where the pandemic first emerged.

Their arrival at the city in central China on Thursday was disrupted by the absence of two members who failed coronovirus antibody tests in Singapore. One of the missing members has since passed a test and their travel to China is being arranged, according to China's foreign ministry.

"Team now undergoing the mandatory 14 days quarantine & being treated very well by our hosts. Work begins today, day 1, in teleconf. mtgs w/ China team," tweeted team member Peter Daszak, a zoologist.

France toughens testing rules for non-EU travellers

France has announced that people travelling from non-EU countries will no longer be able to get into the country by presenting a negative result from a quick, readily-available Covid-19 test.

The new rules, which come into force from January 18 and are set out in a French government document, say people will no longer be able to use antigen, or lateral flow, tests that can deliver results within minutes.

Those quicker tests have been heavily used by truck drivers transporting goods across the Channel between Britain and France.

For the past several weeks, France has been requiring people who enter France from Britain to prove they don't have Covid-19.

It was not immediately clear what impact the new testing rules would have on cross-Channel goods transport, which has already been affected by Britain's departure from the European Union.

Global Covid-19 deaths surpass 2 million 

The death toll from the novel coronavirus has crossed 2 million, according to tracking websites. 

The United States is leading the world in most deaths caused by the virus, followed by Brazil, India and Mexico. 

More than 93 million people have been infected by the virus. 

German virus cases top 2 million

Germany has recorded more than two million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, the Robert Koch Institute health agency said.

Europe's most populous country added another 22,368 cases over the past 24 hours, it said, bringing the total to 2,000,958.

It also reported another 1,113 fatalities from Covid-19, taking the overall death toll up to 44,994.

Denmark leads EU in vaccinations

Denmark continues to lead the EU in vaccinations against the novel coronavirus thanks to a swift and smooth roll-out, and even more people would have got the jab if it had more available doses.

So far, 2.2 percent of Denmark's population of 5.8 million has been vaccinated since the campaign began on December 27.

Unlike other countries which have, amid delivery concerns, set aside half their vaccine allotment to ensure patients get their second dose, the Scandinavian country has barrelled ahead and used up its first Pfizer-BioNTech doses.

"The government's clear position is that th e moment the vaccines touch Danish soil is the moment they have to be used," said Denmark's Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

Thailand has 188 new cases

Thailand has reported 188 new coronavirus cases, taking its total infections to 11,450.

There were no new deaths reported and 34 of the new cases were imported from abroad or found in quarantine, the country's COVID-19 taskforce said at a briefing. Thailand has recorded 69 coronavirus-related deaths since a year ago.

Mexico's coronavirus death toll rises to 137,916

Mexico has reported 16,468 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 999 more fatalities, according to the health ministry, bringing its total to 1,588,369 infections and 137,916 deaths.

The real number of infected people and deaths is likely significantly higher than the official count, the ministry has said, because of a lack of widespread testing.

The Latin American country has seen a spike in infections and fatalities following the Christmas and New Year holidays when families traditionally gather.

China reports 144 new mainland cases 

Mainland China reported 144 new virus cases, up from 138 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that 135 of the new cases were local infections, 90 of which were in Hebei province surrounding Beijing and another 43 in northeastern Heilongjiang province.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 66 from 78 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mainland China now stands at 87,988, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,635. 

Biden vows to speed up virus vaccinations

US President-elect Joe Biden said he will unveil his own plans to speed up inoculations.

In unveiling a $1.9 trillion plan for dealing with the pandemic, Biden said that “this will be on the most challenging operational efforts we have ever undertaken as a nation.”

He says that “we will have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated.”

UK records 1,248 new virus deaths, down from record level

Britain reported 1,248 new virus deaths within 28 days, down from a record high of more than 1,500 seen the previous day.

Official data also showed Britain has now administered 2,918,252 first doses of the virus vaccine, up by 278,943 on the previous day, and 437,977 second doses, up 9,745 on the previous day.

Hospital system in Brazil’s Manaus collapsing, oxygen lacking in virus surge – minister

The hospital system in the Amazon city of Manaus is collapsing from the second wave of the virus and it is running out of oxygen, Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said.

Speaking on a webcast with President Jair Bolsonaro at his side, Pazuello said the city's hospitals were short of medical staff as deaths surge again. 

Amazonas state has appealed to the United States to send a military transport plane with oxygen cylinders.

Australia on track to record zero cases for second straight day

Australia is on course to record its second straight day of zero local virus cases, helped by tougher restrictions on public movement and internal borders, but authorities continued to urge more people to get tested to track undetected cases.

Australia has been seeking to contain fresh virus outbreaks since last month with impacted regions placed under lockdown and masks made mandatory indoors but infection rates seem to have stabilised after low cases in recent days.

New South Wales (NSW), the country's most populous state, flagged it could ease restrictions soon if testing numbers rise as more tests could help trace all unknown infections.

Brazil registers 67,758 new virus cases, 1,131 new deaths

Brazil has had 67,758 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 1,131 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 8,324,294 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 207,095, according to ministry data, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies