The US death toll from the coronavirus topped 500,000 yesterday, according to an NBC News tally — a milestone that underscores the grave threat the virus still poses even as more people are vaccinated.
The coronavirus has killed more than 2,462,000 people worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than a fifth of all deaths worldwide have occurred in the the US, which has less than five percent of the global population.
President Joe Biden last month warned that "well over" 600,000 people in the US could die from the virus.
"It's terrible. It is historic. We haven't seen anything even close to this for well over a hundred years, since the 1918 pandemic of influenza," Biden's chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci told NBC's "Meet The Press."
"It's something that is stunning when you look at the numbers, almost unbelievable, but it's true," Fauci added.
Meanwhile India, the world's second worst-hit nation in terms of infections, passed a bleak threshold yesterday by registering its 11 millionth case following a renewed rise in cases.
Fresh restrictions on gatherings came into force in the western state of Maharashtra, home to financial capital Mumbai, which has logged almost 52,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said he was "worried about the severity of a second wave if it hits the state."
The vast nation's inoculation drive is creeping slowly, and India's Serum Institute -- the world's biggest vaccine maker -- has urged other countries to be "patient," saying it has been told to prioritise the home market.
In the capital New Delhi, vegetable vendor Radhekrishna Negi spoke for many around the world, telling AFP: "I am fed up of corona."
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 61 million people have received at least one shot of vaccine in the United States, with some 18 million getting the full two doses.
Biden has made it a priority to get 100 million people vaccinated within the first 100 days of his administration.
In Australia, top officials Sunday were among a small group receiving the first vaccinations, a day before the program starts in earnest.
And in Gaza on Sunday, some 20,000 Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine doses arrived from the United Arab Emirates.
The jabs came via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, meaning they did not pass through Israel, which has maintained a tight blockade on Gaza since 2007.
Britain's government has vowed to offer a first dose to every adult by the end of July. More than 17 million people have now received at least a first vaccine dose -- one third of the adult UK population.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was set to start unwinding England's third lockdown yesterday as a quickening UK-wide inoculation drive relieves pressure on hard-hit hospitals.
Johnson was expected to confirm the reopening of all English schools on March 8 in the first big step towards restoring normal life, nearly a year after he imposed the first stay-at-home order.
In Hong Kong, leader Carrie Lam received a shot of the Chinese Sinovac drug after the financial hub last week fast-tracked its approval.
ITALY CASES RISING AGAIN
Coronavirus cases in Italy are on the rise again, in large part due to the more infectious British variant, a top virologist warned in a newspaper interview published Sunday.
His comments came as Italians in several cities ignored official appeals to stay at home to go out and enjoy the unusually mild weather over the weekend.
"Obviously, I'm worried," Massimo Galli, a specialist based at the Sacco de Milan hospital, told the Rome-based daily Il Messaggero.
"The resurgence in infections is due in large part to the English variant. To be honest, all the data is going in the direction of a rise in new cases," he added.
Although Italy's Higher Institute of Health (ISS) appealed to people on Friday to stay at home despite the forecast of milder weather, crowds packed the streets, parks and seafronts in several cities.
GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi yesterday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based Covid-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot's launch.
The British and French drugmakers aim to reach final testing in the second quarter, and if the results are conclusive, hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year.