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AFP
September 22, 2020

Coronavirus toll set to surge in United Kingdom: US closes in on 200,000 virus deaths

World

AFP
September 22, 2020

Washington: The United States edged close to registering 200,000 Covid-19 deaths on Monday, the latest grim milestone for the country just weeks before voters decide if President Donald Trump stays in office.

According to a rolling tally by Johns Hopkins University, 199,531 Americans have died and 6.8 million have been confirmed infected. The US has had the world’s highest official death toll for months, ahead of Brazil and India, with 136,895 and 87,882 deaths respectively.

Overall, the US accounts for four percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of its coronavirus deaths, while its daily fatality rate relative to the overall population is four times greater than that of the European Union. Critics say the statistics expose the Trump administration’s failure to meet its sternest test ahead the November 3 election.

“A president’s first responsibility is to protect the American people. And he won’t. That is utterly disqualifying,” his Democratic rival Joe Biden said last week. Trump insisted on “Fox and Friends” on Monday that the United States was “rounding the corner with or without a vaccine.” But the president has high hope that the swift approval of a vaccine will boost his reelection chances.

“I would say that you’ll have (a vaccine) long before the end of the year, maybe by the end of October,” he told Fox, adding that his priority was “total safety — it’s number one.”

Trump has set even more ambitious goals, stating that by April of next year most Americans who want to be immunized will have a vaccine. Most experts argue that betting on vaccines is not a viable strategy. Without adhering to masks, distancing and contact-tracing, and without ramping up testing, tens of thousands more could still die before life returns to normal in the US.

“What we need to do is shift... towards a more screening approach that’s proactive to test asymptomatic individuals,” Harvard surgeon and health policy researcher Thomas Tsai told AFP.

It’s likely that the US actually crossed 200,000 deaths in July, said Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Institute, citing the excess mortality rate. The initial lack of tests led to an undercount of the virus’ toll.

Meanwhile, England is on track for about 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October and a surging death toll unless the public gets serious about preventive action, top UK advisers warned on Monday. Rates of infection in England are replicating the strong resurgence of Covid-19 seen in France and Spain, roughly doubling every seven days, government chief medical officer Chris Whitty told a media briefing. “We are seeing a rate of increase across the great majority of the country,” he said, urging the public to respect stricter guidelines on social distancing. “This is not someone else’s problem. It’s all of our problem.”