A couple holds each other at a COVID-19 intensive care unit of the la Timone hospital in Marseille, southern France on Dec 23, 2021. (DANIEL COLE / AP)
WASHINGTON / COPENHAGEN / JOHANNESBURG – The number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths has exceeded two million in Europe, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe said on Thursday.
The cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region has surpassed 218 million, and 2,003,081 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported.
"While this number is devastating, it represents a fraction of the overall deaths directly and indirectly associated with COVID-19, as the WHO's report on excess mortality during the pandemic has shown," the office said in a statement.
It noted that although the number of new infections is decreasing in the region, COVID-19 remains a lethal virus, particularly for unvaccinated and clinically vulnerable individuals.
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa gives a statement on the COVID-19 vaccination on the second day of a European Union African Union summit at The European Council Building in Brussels on Feb 18, 2022.
(JOHANNA GERON / POOL / AFP)
South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Wednesday reported 10,017 new COVID-19 cases, the first day since January the institute has reported more than 10,000 new infections.
Health authorities have warned South Africa may be entering a fifth wave of infections driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants.
South Africa has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent and only exited a fourth wave in January.
Experts had predicted a fifth wave could start during the southern hemisphere winter months, sometime in May or June.
Just under 50 percent of South Africa's adult population of roughly 40 million have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with 45 percent of adults fully vaccinated.
The pace of vaccinations has slowed in recent months, with officials warning that shots risk being discarded.
Meanwhile, international agencies and charitable foundations providing COVID-19 vaccines for Africa should order African-made vaccines, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told a global COVID-19 summit on Thursday.
Ramaphosa's comments came after South African pharmaceutical company Aspen said it could slash its capacity to produce a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured with drug substance from Johnson & Johnson after getting no orders.
After struggling early in the pandemic to secure COVID-19 vaccines as rich countries hoarded available doses, many African countries are now well-supplied with shots but have struggled to get them into arms. The challenges include hesitancy and logistics.
Ramaphosa told the summit co-hosted by the United States that African manufacturers must be supported to ensure developing capabilities on the continent were retained.
"International agencies that have had a lot of money donated to (them) for purchasing and procuring vaccines for developing economy countries are not buying vaccines from African vaccine manufacturers. Even for those vaccines that are destined for African countries," Ramaphosa said. "This immediately just devalues the whole process of local manufacturing."
"A number of African countries are now stepping up to produce vaccines for the 1.3 billion Africans, … vaccines produced in Africa must be procured in Africa for Africa's people."
Moderna Inc said on Friday Swiss drugs regulator Swissmedic had authorized the use of its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 to 11 years.
The approval is for the vaccine's two-dose series of 50 micro gram per dose, Moderna added.
US President Joe Biden speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, April 27, 2022. (SUSAN WALSH / AP)
Commemorating 1 million American lives lost to COVID-19, the highest in the world, US President Joe Biden on Thursday described the number as "a tragic milestone."
In a White House statement issued early in the morning, Biden said "Each an irreplaceable loss."
"Each leaving behind a family, a community, and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic," Biden said, urging the United States not to grow numb to such sorrow but to "remain vigilant against this pandemic."
Biden also called for efforts to "do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have with more testing, vaccines, and treatments than ever before."
"It's critical that Congress sustain these resources in the coming months," he added.
The latest data from Johns Hopkins University showed that the total number of COVID-19 cases reported across the United States has topped 82 million, also the highest in the world.
Meanwhile, Biden said at a summit the US will share technologies used to make COVID-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization and is working to expand rapid testing and antiviral treatments for hard-to-reach populations.
Speaking at the second global COVID-19 summit, Biden called on Congress to provide additional funds so that the US may contribute more to the global pandemic response.
"We are making available health technologies that are owned by the United States government, including stabilized spike protein that is used in many COVID-19 vaccines," Biden said in his opening speech.
The summit, jointly hosted by the United States, Belize, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal, is being held virtually on Thursday for countries to discuss efforts to end the pandemic and prepare for future health threats.