It was one year ago that Italy became the first country outside of Asia to confirm locally transmitted coronavirus infections.
On February 20, 2020, Italy confirmed its first COVID-19 infection in a 38-year-old man from Codogno.
Hours later, a 77-year-old roofer from Vo, in the Veneto region, died and became the first known fatality from a locally transmitted case in the West. Since then, the virus has circled the globe, infecting more than 111 million people and killing more than 2.4 million, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Pope Francis and Italian President Sergio Mattarella marked the anniversary Sunday by establishing the National Day of Health Care Personnel, an annual day to honor doctors, nurses and other medical providers.
Francis described the health care workers’ dedication as “a vaccine against individualism and selfishness″ that “demonstrates the most authentic desire that dwells in the heart of man — be near to those who have the most need and give of oneself for them.”
The anniversary comes as the United States closes in on half a million deaths from the coronavirus.
New York City, which faced a large outbreak shortly after Italy last year, says its vaccine supply is down to fewer than 1,000 first doses.
“Delayed shipments have put our entire vaccination effort at a standstill,” Avery Cohen, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio posted on Twitter Saturday.
The grim news is a result of the snowstorms across the U.S. that have crippled the transport of goods, including 6 million vaccine doses. The wintry weather conditions have also caused power outages at about 2,000 inoculation sites.
In Tanzania Sunday, John Magufuli, the country’s president, acknowledged that the East African nation was battling a coronavirus outbreak.
Tanzania had stopped reporting virus case and death numbers last spring, when 500 cases and 20 deaths had been recorded. The president had claimed the nation was “coronavirus-free” and stated falsely that the virus had been defeated by prayer.
The country is now seeing the deaths of a few government officials, including Seif Sharif Hamad, known as Maalim Seif, who died last week at the age of 77. The popular vice president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar had COVID-19, his political party said earlier.
On Saturday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization chief, called the denial in Tanzania “very concerning.” The WHO chief again urged the country to start reporting coronavirus cases and share its data.
“A number of Tanzanians travelling to neighboring countries and beyond have tested positive for COVID-19,” the WHO director-general said in a statement. “This underscores the need for Tanzania to take robust action both to safeguard their own people and protect populations in these countries and beyond.”
On Sunday, Magufuli encouraged Tanzanians to wear face masks, but only ones made in-country. Magufuli has repeatedly expressed concern about foreign-made goods, including vaccines.
Israelis who have received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine saw their risk of illness from the coronavirus drop 98.5% and their risk of hospitalization drop 98.9%, the country’s Health Ministry said Saturday.
The ministry’s findings come from data collected February 13 from a pool of about 1.7 million people who had received both shots by January 30, meaning their bodies had time to build up antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19.
Nearly half of Israel’s 9.3 million people have been inoculated, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that 95% of adults older than 50 should be vaccinated in the next two weeks.
Mexico’s deputy health minister says he has tested positive for Covid-19. Mexico reported 7,785 new COVID-19 cases Saturday. Germany announced 7,600.