FILE - In this March 26, 2020 file photo, coffins are lined up on the floor in the San Giuseppe church in Seriate, one of the…
FILE - Coffins are lined up on the floor in the San Giuseppe church in Seriate, one of the areas worst hit by coronavirus, near Bergamo, Italy, waiting to be taken to a crematorium, March 26, 2020.

Italy is poised to overtake Britain as the European country with the most COVID-19 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Italy has suffered 25,418 deaths since November 1, a larger toll than the one from April 2 to October 31, when it reported 25,463.

“Obviously there needs to be some reflection,” Guido Rasi, former executive director of the European Pharmaceutical Agency, told state TV after Italy reported a pandemic-high record of 993 deaths in one day. “This number of nearly 1,000 dead in 24 hours is much higher than the European average.”

Italy was 87 deaths behind Britain but has 6 million fewer people.

Delay seen as critical

Matteo Villa, a research fellow at the Institute for International Political Studies, a Milan think tank, told The Associated Press that Italy waited too long in September and October to impose restrictions and didn't reinforce its medical system sufficiently during the summertime lull.

“If you look at France and the U.K., you can see Italy did fare much worse,” he said. “And if you look at a comparable population with similar demographics, which is Germany, Italy did a lot worse.”

People sit at tables in Covent Garden, London, Dec. 12, 2020. Health Secretary Matt Hancock says infections are starting to rise in some areas after falling during a four-week national lockdown in England that ended Dec. 2.

Britain has also begun vaccinating people against the coronavirus.

In the United States, the first coronavirus vaccine will begin arriving early Monday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it for emergency use late Friday.

The chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine development program, Army General Gustave Perna, said at a news conference Saturday that shipping companies would begin delivering about 3 million doses of the vaccine made by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech to nearly 150 distribution centers, and an additional 450 or so facilities will get the vaccine by Wednesday.

Six nations on board

Mexico also approved the emergency use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine late Friday, bringing to six the number of countries that are using or plan to use it. Britain, Bahrain, Canada and Saudi Arabia have also approved the vaccine.

Mexican Assistant Health Secretary and epidemiologist Hugo Lopez-Gatell called the vaccine approval “a reason for hope.” Reuters reported Mexico had signed an agreement with Pfizer to acquire 34 million doses of the vaccine, with the first batch expected this month.

A makeshift altar honors the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Dec. 12, 2020. Mexico's Catholics were forced by the pandemic to abandon a religious pilgrimage in which millions visit the Basilica of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, the Virgin's feast day.

Mexico has recorded 1.2 million COVID-19 cases and 113,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The United States is nearing 300,000 fatalities from COVID-19, the world’s highest death toll, according to Johns Hopkins, and at 16 million cases it has the highest share of the world’s more than 71.6 million COVID infections.

Medical services delivery pact

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies signed an agreement, the Emergency Medical Team Initiative, on Friday to strengthen the delivery of emergency medical and health services during humanitarian crises.

"We are very committed to working together with WHO to provide quality emergency health services that communities desperately need in times of crisis,” said IFRC Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain.

India said early Saturday that it had recorded 30,000 new cases in the past 24 hours. The South Asian nation follows the U.S. in the number of COVID cases with 9.8 million infections. Brazil comes in third with more than 6 million.

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