COVID-19 subsides in Britain with 82 new deaths, lockdown to ease

By Allen Cone
A police officer in a mask outside King Edward VII hospital in London on Saturday. Britain's Prince Philip, is continuing recovering in the hospital after having a successful operation on his heart. Photo by Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE
A police officer in a mask outside King Edward VII hospital in London on Saturday. Britain's Prince Philip, is continuing recovering in the hospital after having a successful operation on his heart. Photo by Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE

March 7 (UPI) -- One year after COVID-19 struck Britain, the pandemic is diminishing, including an increase of 82 deaths Sunday, the first time it was under 100 since October after a peak of more than 1,800 two months ago with restrictions to be reduced Monday and vaccinations ramped up, much like elsewhere in Europe.

Since the first death was reported in Britain in mid-February 2019 and the nation quickly became an epicenter, the death toll has climbed to 124,501, fifth in the world behind the United States with 537,838, Brazil with 265,500, Mexico with 190,357 and India with 157,890, according to tracking by Cases are 4,218,520, which is fourth behind the United States with nearly 29 million, India with 11.2 million, Brazil with 10.9 million and Russia with 4.3 million.


In all the world totals are 2,603,249 deaths and 117,322,507 cases so far Sunday.


But the situation has clearly subsided in Britain.

Britain hit a peak of 1,823 deaths on Jan. 20 compared with a high of 1,168 during the first wave in on April 21.

Last week the high was 343 on Tuesday, with 158 Saturday and under triple digits Sunday.

During the past week through Saturday, there were 1,542 deaths compared with 3,752 from Jan. 16 to 23.

Cases also have plunged with a peak of 68,053 on Jan. 3 and a weekly total of 417,620 compared with 42,824 last week, including 5,177 Sunday. The high was 68,053 on Jan. 8.

These changes are occurring as England slowly eases out of a lockdown in four steps.

On Monday, Britain begins the "roadmap" out of the restrictions, including schools opening to more students. Students in secondary school and college are also being asked to wear face coverings in classrooms.

Recreation in outdoor public spaces will be allowed between two people.

By April 12, retailers, gyms and outdoor dining could reopen. All restrictions could be gone by June 21 if data support it.

Though Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is a return to "normalcy," he is urging caution.


Johnson said the government was being careful "so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far."

That includes being tested and getting vaccinated.

More than 57 million quick-results tests have been delivered to schools and colleges.

In Britain, 22.9 million doses have been administered, representing 34.26% of the population, according to tracking by Bloomberg. This compares with U.S. at 26.48%.

Britain was the first nation to vaccinate someone back in December with U.S.-based Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech. Other top vaccine makers are U.S.-based Moderna and AstraZeneca, developed with Oxford University in Britain.

Although Britain is far ahead of other European nations in vaccinations, London is lagging. Bloomberg's tracking has London at one-quarter of the population. Also, hospitalizations are four times the number when restrictions were lifted last summer.

"Now is not the time to take our foot off the pedal, risking a surge in infections or the spread of variants," Mayor Sadiq Khan told Bloomberg. "We still have some way to go."

Deaths and cases are subsiding elsewhere in Europe.

In the past week, there were 21,247 additional deaths with a total by end Sunday of 835,001, No. 1 in the world. In mid-January there were 84,779 new fatalities.


Cases have totaled 35,116,583, also No. 1 among the continents. In the past week, the growth was 1,035,036 compared with 1,635,308 in early January.

Six European nations are in the top 10 for most deaths. After Britain in fifth, Italy is sixth with 99,785, Russia seventh with 89,094, France eighth with 88,574, Germany ninth with 72,532 and Spain 10th with 71,138. Also, Poland is 16th with 45,285.

Italy has been dealing with a slight surge in cases despite restrictions and vaccination efforts with researchers attributing it to the spread of the variant that emerged in Britain.

In Italy, cases have climbed past 20,000 for four days in a row, including 20,765 Sunday. The last time it was above 20,000 was 23,476 on Dec. 31. The record was 40,896 on Nov. 13.

Deaths have continued a downward trend with 307 Saturday after a record 993 on Dec. 3.

France also has been dealing with the British variant as 60% of all new infections are linked to the variant, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Thursday.

"I am obviously not satisfied because it is still increasing, but it's clear that we're not -- at least not at this stage -- confronted with an exponential increase ... as some models predicted and as we experienced during the first two waves," the mayor said.


The northern Pas-de-Calais will join Nice, Dunkirk and 62 towns and communes on the French Riviera as part of a weekend lockdown.

Cases in France, like Italy, have consistently been around 20,000, including 21,85 Sunday. The populations are similar with 65.3 million in France and 60.4 in Italy.

The record was 88,790 on Nov. 7. Deaths are down from a fall peak of 932 and a record 1,437 on April 15 to 130 on Sunday.

Italy has vaccinated 8.77% and France 8.46% of its population.

Last week, Russia moved past France into seventh. Russia reported 368 deaths and 10,595 cases Sunday.

On Friday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ended mandatory stay-at-home orders for people over 65 and with chronic illnesses. That was one of the Russian capital's last remaining coronavirus restrictions.

Russia has vaccinated 5.11% of its population with at least one dose of its Sputnik V vaccine.

Cases and deaths have been subsiding in Germany with 62 deaths and 6,533 cases Sunday.

Germany posted a single-day record of 1,244 deaths and 31,553 cases in December.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and state governors last week agreed to extend lockdown measures until March 28 though there is a roadmap for alleviating restrictions in areas with lower infections level.


Helge Braun, who is Merkel's chief of staff, told the Funke newspaper Germany could return to full normality in the summer under two conditions: vaccine manufacturers adhere to their delivery pledges and no new coronavirus mutation arises "that raises questions over the whole success of vaccination.''

Germany has vaccinated 8.82% of its population.

In Spain, lockdowns remain throughout except in Madrid, Extremadura and the Balearic and Canary Islands. Most governors are opposed to easing the restrictions.

On Monday, the worst-hit Catalonia allowed malls and stores up to 4,300 square feet in size to open at 30% capacity between Monday and Friday.

"We are on a good path, but we cannot be overconfident," Health Minister Carolina Darias said last week. "We are in the midst of the vaccination process, which is speeding up and it's important that everything goes well."

Spain's vaccination rate is 9.62%.

Spain, which doesn't report data on the weekend, announced 637 deaths Friday, compared with a winter peak of 766 Feb. 6 and a record 996 April 2. Friday's increase was 254. Cases reported were 6,654, behind the mark of 35,118 in January.

In Asia, India is the only nation in the top 10. On Sunday, it reported 100 deaths compared with a record 1,283 deaths. And cases, which peaked at 97,859, were down to 18,711 but the highest in two months.


India has only vaccinated 1.51% of its 1.4 billion people, but the nation's manufacturing of the doses are "India's gift'' to the world in combating the virus, Dr. Peter Hotez, a renowned physician-scientist in Houston, said.

"India's huge efforts in combating global pandemic is a story that's not really getting out in the world," Hotez said in a webinar.

In Asia, South Korea and Japan have recently begun vaccinating people.

Israel, which is considered part of Asia, has the highest vaccination rate of 95.35 doses administered for every 100 people. Its death toll is 5,891 with 801,575 cases in a nation of 9.2 million.

On Sunday, restaurants have reopened with indoor seating available only to so-called Green Pass holders, meaning people over 16 who are fully vaccinated. Also, event halls are reopening for Green Pass holders and up to1,500 people are allowed in stadiums and arenas.

"This is a great day," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on the terrace of a cafe in Jerusalem with Mayor Moshe Leon. "We are coming back to life."

Citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to enter the country at a cap starting at 1,000 per day.


Mainland China, where COVID-19 originated, has a 3.75% vaccination rate, using doses domestically developed and has given conditional approvals to a single-dose one. China has the world's largest population with 1.5 billion.

Asia has recorded 404,182 deaths and is fourth among the continents, and 25,549,517 cases, which is third.

China has reported only a few deaths since April and stands at 4,636 behind Jordan in 52nd. China added 13 cases Sunday.

South Korea's record is 40 deaths on Dec. 29 with two announced Sunday for a total of 1,634, as well as 416 cases, behind the mark of 1,241 on Dec. 25.

Japan has reported 8,227 deaths, including 49 reported on Sunday with the record 120. Cases are 1,064 with the record 7,882.

Japan, which is scheduled to host the Olympics in July, has extended its state of emergency since late December until March 21, which includes tight controls on the entry of foreign nationals.

At a news conference Friday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the country will "prevent a rebound [of COVID-19 cases] and make sure to be able to lift the declaration."

Amid the coronavirus, South Korea and the United States will scale back their springtime military exercise this week. The drills will not include outdoor maneuvers and a computer-simulated Combined Command Post Training is scheduled, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement Sunday.


In South America, four nations are in the top 15 for most deaths. Besides Brazil, Colombia is in 12th with 60,503, Argentina in 13th with 52,880 and Peru in 15th with 47,854. In all, the death toll is 481,476 and 18,629,799 cases on the continent.

Deaths and cases have been surging in Brazil, which accounts for about 10% of total fatalities and cases.

The nation, where a more contagious variant emerged, reported a record 1,840 deaths Wednesday with 1,054 added on Sunday and 1,498 on Saturday. Cases reported were 80,024 on Sunday and 67,777 on Saturday after 75,337 Friday and a record 87,134 on Jan. 7.

In one week, Brazil has added 21,836 deaths, which is much more than 12,067 in the United States.

Brazil's vaccination rate is 4.94% with a slow rollout among its 213.6 million population. President Jair Bolsonaro, who contracted the virus himself, has refused to be vaccinated.

Brazil has been distributing CoronaVac, which is manufactured in China, and signed a deal with Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech.

Bolsonaro also has downplayed the illness, calling it "a little flu."

"Stop all this fussing and whining. How long are you going to keep on crying?" Bolsonaro on Thursday asked supporters in the midwestern state of Goias, where nearly 9,000 people have died.


The Valor Econômico newspaper on Friday reported that senior health ministry officials believe the daily death toll was likely to "explode" to more than 3,000 in the next few weeks. Already hospitals' intensive care units are at capacity.

North America has the second-most deaths of the continents, 777,344, behind Europe, and the second-most cases with 34,093,972, around 1 million behind Europe.

All but around 27,000 of the total deaths in North America are in Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Like Brazil, deaths have been surging in Mexico.

On Sunday, Mexico reported 779 deaths after a record 1,803 on Jan. 21. Cases were 6,561 after the record 22,339 on Jan. 21. The high last week was 1,035 Wednesday.

Although Mexico was the first Latin American nation to begin administering vaccinations, the rate is low at 2.14% among its 129.9 million people.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been attempting to increase its vaccine supply from the United States.

After a virtual bilateral meeting Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden and Lopez Obrador didn't address vaccine supplies in a joint statement but said they "agreed to deepen cooperation on pandemic response."


Canada's vaccination rate is 6.18% as it also deals with supply issues of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech with Johnson & Johnson approved Friday and Astra-Zeneca the week before.

"We are doing everything we can to move as many doses as possible forward, from Q3 to Q2," Procurement Minister Anita Anand said in an interview Thursday with Bloomberg. "That's my goal because I want Canadians -- my family included -- to be able to go to an NHL hockey game."

Canada is 21st in the world with 22,239 deaths, including 26 on Sunday, as well as 2,488 cases in a nation with a population of 38 million. Canada set a record for deaths, 257, on Dec. 29, and cases, 11,383, on Jan. 3.

A travel ban has existed since March between Mexico, the United States and Canada for non-essential movement. The current ban lasts through March 21.

Oceania, with only 42.3 million people, has 1,093 deaths and 51,645 cases.

New Zealand's deaths remain at 26 with the last one reported on Feb. 16 and Australia's toll stands at 909 with the last two deaths occurring on Nov. 30 and Dec. 29.

New Zealand reported one case on Sunday and nine on Saturday, tallying 22 in one week, for a total of 2,399, and Australia was up seven Sunday for 29,037, an increase of about 60 in seven days.


Auckland, which is New Zealand's biggest city, on Sunday ended a seven-day lockdown imposed after a community cluster of the more contagious British coronavirus variant was found.

Italy has blocked 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia because the drugmaker has failed to meet European Union supply commitments and it's not a "vulnerable" nation.

Africa has reported 105,900 fatalities and 3,993,395 infections.

Of those totals, South Africa has 50,678 deaths, including 31 Sunday, and 1,521,068 cases with a gain of 862. Cases reached a high of 21,980 on Jan. 8 and deaths at 839 on Jan. 19.

Far behind are Egypt with 10,995 deaths and Morocco with 8,682.

A more contagious variant emerged in South Africa. Drugmakers are testing their vaccines against it.

South Africa has only vaccinated 0.17% of its population.

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