More than 119.5 million people have contracted COVID-19, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Sunday. The United States tops the list as the place with the most infections at 29.4 million. Brazil and India follow the U.S. with 11.4 million and 11.3 million, respectively.
The U.S. appears to be on a path to stockpiling coronavirus vaccines, with plans to have enough doses for almost double the country’s population.
The U.S. has committed funding to several vaccine initiatives, including $2 billion to Covax, the international program designed to provide coronavirus vaccines wherever needed.
The U.S., Australia, India and Japan also agreed last week to a partnership to make 1 billion vaccines available across Asia by the end of 2022, India’s foreign secretary said at a news conference in New Dehli after a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and the leaders of the other countries.
The initiative is designed to attack the global vaccine shortage and counter China’s growing diplomatic campaign to distribute vaccines in Southeast Asia and globally.
Jordan’s health minister was resigned Saturday after at least seven COVID-19 patients died at a hospital in Salt, near Amman, due to a shortage of oxygen at the facility, state media reported.
Later Saturday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II visited the hospital where an angry mob had gathered.
China eases visitor entry
The competition to distribute vaccines worldwide escalated Saturday when China announced it would streamline the entry process for foreigners who want to visit mainland China from Hong Kong if they have received Chinese-manufactured coronavirus vaccines.
By imposing fewer paperwork obligations, China hopes to enhance the global appeal of its vaccines, which most Western countries have not yet approved. In addition, China has yet to approve the manufacture or distribution of foreign-made vaccines within the country.
Italy aims for 80% of shots by fall
In Italy, meanwhile, the special commissioner for the coronavirus said Saturday that the country planned vaccinate at least 80% of its population by September. Francesco Paolo Figliuolo disclosed a plan to put 500,000 shots in arms daily, according to a statement from the office of the Cabinet.
Nearly 2 million Italians, or about 4% of the population, have gotten two shots of vaccine, but fewer than 51 million Italians are eligible for inoculation. Italy is one of the countries hit hard by the coronavirus, with 3.2 million cases and more than 101,000 deaths so far, according to Johns Hopkins.
With increasing vaccine deliveries, from 15.7 million doses in the first quarter to 52.5 million doses from April to June, Italy plans to broadly expand the places where shots will be available, including military barracks, stores, gyms, schools and Catholic Church facilities.
In the meantime, most Italians face new restrictions beginning Monday as the government tries to stop a rise in case numbers. The restrictions include the closure of schools and nonessential shops in more than half of the country, including Rome and Milan.
There is good news in Corvo, the smallest island in the Azores off the Portuguese coast: 322 of its 400 residents have received a COVID-19 shot and herd immunity will likely be reached by the end of March.
"There's an atmosphere of celebration in Corvo," Dr. Antonio Salgado told the Lusa news agency. "From now on, we will feel safe."
Herd immunity is reached when enough people, usually 50% to 70% of a population, are immune to an infection. Corvo will have nearly 85% of its residents 16 and older vaccinated this month.