With much of Europe well into its second spike in COVID-19 activity, death rates in some countries are on the rise, reaching levels seen in the pandemic's first peak.
Fatalities spike in a number of countries
Italy—one of the countries hit hardest in the earlier wave—passed 1 million cases today, and four of its regions are designated as red zones, where the tightest lockdown requirements are in place. Yesterday, Italy reported 580 deaths, the most since Apr 14, Reuters reported. Hospitalizations and deaths usually lag surges in infections by a few weeks.
The United Kingdom, which has Europe's highest fatality count, reported 532 deaths yesterday, Forbes reported, and has now crossed the 50,000-death threshold. The country is among a handful of European nations that ordered lockdown to curb the latest surges.
Belgium, also on lockdown, is reporting a slow decline in cases, but deaths continue to rise, averaging about 190 per day, the Brussels Times reported.
In other European developments:
- Doctors Without Borders (MSF) today issued an urgent appeal for medical and paramedical staff to help care for seniors in nursing homes, especially in the Paris region, due to staff shortages. MSF has been helping in 56 French nursing homes since April, and it said its latest appeal is geared toward preventing events during the first wave that prevented sick nursing home residents from being admitted to hospitals.
- Sweden today ordered its first restrictions on bars and restaurants, which ban the sale of alcohol past 10 pm starting on Nov 20, Fortune reported. The country is known for its more relaxed approach that relies on voluntary measures, but it is currently experiencing record daily high cases and rising hospitalizations.
- Russian officials said today that interim results from a trial of its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine suggest that it is 92% effective, according to Reuters. The analysis was conducted after 20 trial participants contracted the virus and comes in the wake of an announcement from Pfizer and BioNTech that its vaccine was 90% effective, based on a trial in which 94 infections were reported.
- The European Commission today signed its fourth contract for a COVID-19 vaccine, which would buy 200 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with an option of 100 million more.
Iran surge sets record; mixed picture in Americas
The Middle East's main COVID-19 hot spot, Iran, today reported a record single-day high of 11,780 cases, along with 462 more deaths, Reuters reported. The country is experiencing its third surge of COVID-19 activity.
At a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) briefing today, Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa, MD, PhD, MPH, said the situation in the America reflects a mixed picture, with cases rising in the United States, parts of Canada, and some Mexican states. He said Europe's surge should serve as a warning about what can happen when countries shift from total lockdowns to lifting all measures.
Barbosa also said 9 months of living with the virus has revealed some best practices, which include having surge medical teams on call for emergencies and adjusting the national response based on changing trends. PAHO recently updated its guidance on adjusting public health measures based on current COVID-19 contexts.
PAHO said yesterday that it has deployed 190,000 antigen tests to four countries in Latin America and is conducting training on how to implement the testing. The countries are Ecuador, El Salvador, Suriname, and Mexico.
In other global headlines:
- Vanuatu, a small island nation in the South Pacific, reported its first COVID-19 case of the pandemic, which involved a man returning from the United States who tested positive in quarantine screening, according to CNN.
- The global total today climbed to 51,926,961 cases, and 1,280,599 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.