The global death toll from Covid-19 surpassed two million on Friday, with the World Health Organization (WHO) urging mass vaccinations as the pandemic progresses at a record pace.

Grim milestone: Global Covid-19 death toll passes two million

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by AFP bureaus

The global death toll from Covid-19 surpassed two million on Friday, with the World Health Organization (WHO) urging mass vaccinations as the pandemic progresses at a record pace.

As of 1825 GMT on Friday, at least 2,000,066 people worldwide had been confirmed dead of the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, according to an AFP tally.

The grim milestone came as US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said shipments of its vaccines would slow for a period in late January — a blow to fledgling campaigns to immunize people against the virus.

The WHO on Friday called for a worldwide acceleration in vaccine rollouts — as well as a ramp-up in efforts to study the sequencing of the virus, in order to tackle troubling new strains emerging around the world.

“I want to see vaccination under way in every country in the next 100 days so that health workers and those at high risk are protected first,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference in Geneva.

His call came as infections snowballed, with 724,000 new cases recorded on average per day globally over the past week, according to AFP’s tally — a record 10 percent increase on a week earlier.

While countries from Spain to Lebanon have announced record caseloads, the surge has been most marked in Latin America and the Caribbean, where confirmed cases leapt 26 percent this week.

US President-elect Joe Biden said Friday he would harness the full strength of the federal government in a vaccine blitz: creating thousands of immunization sites, deploying mobile clinics and expanding the public health workforce.

“You have my word: we will manage the hell out of this operation,” said Biden, five days before he assumes leadership of the world’s hardest-hit country, where the death toll is approaching 400,000.

– Pfizer delays to hit Europe –
In Europe, which has suffered more than 650,000 coronavirus deaths, there are concerns that delays to the Pfizer jabs could further slow a vaccine rollout that has already faced heavy criticism.

Pfizer, which jointly developed its vaccine with German company BioNTech, said EU countries could expect delayed deliveries in the coming weeks due to work being done at its plant in Belgium.

It promised that there would be “a significant increase” in shipments in March, and the European Commission said all vaccines ordered by the bloc for the first quarter would be delivered on time.

But ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden said in a joint letter that the situation was “unacceptable” and “decreases the credibility of the vaccination process”.

Many countries have meanwhile doubled down on restrictions as Covid-19 cases mount.

Portugal entered a fresh lockdown Friday, and new curbs on populations were announced from Italy to Brazil.

At the Meissen crematorium in Germany’s Saxony state, coffins were stacked up to three high, awaiting cremation.

Manager Joerg Schaldach said that anyone still questioning the severity of the pandemic should take a look at the bodies piling up.

– Warnings over Brazil –
Brazil’s northern Amazonas state announced a curfew from 7:00 pm to 6:00 am, with the health system in state capital Manaus at breaking point.

The city’s hospital intensive care units have been at 100 percent capacity for the past two weeks, while medical workers are battling a shortage of oxygen and other essential equipment.

Fear has been growing that a new strain of the virus found in Brazil could be more contagious, just like the variants recently found in Britain and South Africa.

Britain has banned all arrivals from South America and Portugal in a bid to prevent the new variant arriving, while also announcing Friday that all people arriving in the UK must show negative test results and quarantine.

– Airline woes –
Warnings from cash-strapped companies and governments about the economic fallout of the crisis are also piling up.

Italy said it was seeking to borrow an extra 32 billion euros, while senior French rail executive Christophe Fanichet said Eurostar was in “a very critical” state as the pandemic has reduced its service to just one London-Paris connection per day.

The UN aviation agency on Friday predicted “prolonged depressed demand” for air travel and more financial woes for airlines, following a year of fewer flights and big losses blamed on the pandemic.

Air travel plunged 60 percent in 2020 as nations closed borders and restricted travel to slow the spread of Covid-19, the International Civil Aviation Organization said in a report.

The pandemic has also slowed global migration by nearly 30 percent, with around two million fewer migrants between 2019 and 2020, according to a UN report released on Friday.

Agence France-Presse

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POLITIKO / Latest News

The politiko gene: Will Sandro Marcos run for political office?

This politiko scion could just one day rule his hometown.

Sandro Marcos seemed to be spending more time in his home province of Ilocos Norte, triggering rumors he might run for local office next year. The British-educated Sandro is the eldest of three sons of former Senator Bongbong Marcos and lawyer Liza Marcos.

In recent weeks, Sandro has been spotted mingling with residents, extending assistance to those in need, and even distributing face masks and other protective gear in the province. The young, smart and charismatic lad often wore a red polo shirt, the known political color of the Marcos family.

When he celebrated his 27th birthday, Sandro chose to spend his special day with the Ilocos residents. He took to Instagram to express his joy on his birthday and posted photos of his hometown visit.

“Can’t think of anything better than giving back to my home province on my birthday weekend ✌🏾” Sandro wrote on Instagram.

He is also grateful for people who made his birthday extra special. “Thank you to all of those who were kind enough to spend time with me throughout the weekend! As I told them, they are truly the reason as to why this weekend has filled me with joy and meaning!” he said.

In the event he joins politics, Sandro is backed up by a strong educational background. He holds a master’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He currently works as assistant of his uncle House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez.

Sandro also has a political pedigree as the Marcos family kept its hold on power in Ilocos Norte.

His grandparents are late President Ferdinand Marcos and former First Lady and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos. Sandro’s dad is a former senator, who is rumored to run for higher public office next year.

His aunt is Senator Imee Marcos, a former governor of Ilocos Norte. Sandro’s cousin is Ilocos Norte Government Matthew Marcos Manotoc, son of Senator Imee.

Temporary lang po ito, promise! Gov’t doing everything to control inflation: Palace

By Prince Golez

The government is taking all measures to tame inflation, Malacañang said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the comment after inflation in February spiked to 4.7 percent from 4.2 percent in January. It’s the fifth straight month of acceleration.

“We are intensifying efforts to ease inflation through immediate interventions, such as augmenting the supply of meat,” Roque said in a statement Saturday.

Roque cited “pro-active” measures the administration implemented to stabilize the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities such as the imposition of a price ceiling on selected pork and chicken products in Metro Manila; procurement of hogs from Visayas and Mindanao and ASF-free Luzon provinces; and provision of transport subsidy for pork coming from different ASF-free areas.

He also assured the public that the increase in inflation is temporary.

“Our economic managers see the upward inflation trend as temporary and concerned agencies in the Executive branch continue to check the prices of basic commodities while ensuring that prevailing rates are likewise fair to suppliers,” said Roque.

Palace mourns passing of ‘great educator, noted constitutionalist’ Fr. Joaquin Bernas

By Prince Golez

Malacañang has offered sympathies over the death of Father Joaquin Bernas, who was among the framers of the 1987 Constitution.

Father Bernas, 88, passed away early Saturday morning.

“We express our condolences to the friends and colleagues of Father Joaquin Bernas who died early morning [of] March 6, 2021,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

Roque said Father Bernas, who served as dean emeritus of the Ateneo Law School, left a legacy of legal excellence and passion for humanity and the rule of law to the nation. 

“A great Jesuit educator, he mentored generations of Filipino students, lawyers, legal academics and researchers,” according to the secretary.

“May his soul, through the mercy of God, rest in eternal peace and happiness,” he concluded.

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