U.S. President Joe Biden encouraged Democratic lawmakers to “act fast” on his $1.9-trillion COVID-19 rescue plan but also signalled he’s open to changes, including limiting the proposed $1,400 direct payments to Americans with lower income levels, which could draw Republican support.
Biden told lawmakers in private comments Wednesday that he’s “not married” to an absolute number for the overall package but wants them to “go big” on pandemic relief and “restore the soul of the country.”
“Look, we got a lot of people hurting in our country today,” Biden said on a private call with House Democrats. “We need to act. We need to act fast.”
On the direct payments, Biden said he doesn’t want to budge from the $1,400 promised to Americans. But he said he is willing to “target” the aid, which would mean lowering the income threshold to qualify.
“I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people,” he said.
Biden spoke with House Democrats and followed with a meeting of top Senate Democrats at the White House, deepening his public engagement with lawmakers on his American Rescue Plan. Together the virus and economic aid is his first legislative priority and a test of the administration’s ability to work with Congress to deliver.
Biden’s remarks to the Democratic House caucus were relayed by two people who requested anonymity to discuss the private conference call.
While Biden is trying to build bipartisan support from Republicans, he is also prepared to rely on the Democratic majority in Congress to push the package into law. Democrats moved ahead with preliminary steps, including a House budget vote Wednesday largely along party lines, to approve it on their own over Republicans objections.
A group of 10 Republican senators offered a $618-billion alternative with slimmer $1,000 direct payments and zero aid for states and cities, but Biden panned it as insufficient, though private talks with the Republicans continue.
At the start of his meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and 10 top Senate Democratic committee chairmen in the Oval Office, Biden sounded confident he could still win over Republican support.
“I think we’ll get some Republicans,” Biden said.
With a rising virus death toll and strained economy, the goal is to have COVID-19 relief approved by March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid measures expire. Money for vaccine distributions, direct payments to households, school reopenings and business aid are at stake.
As lawmakers in Congress begin drafting the details, Biden is taking care to politically back up his allies while also ensuring that the final product fulfils his promise for bold relief to a battered nation.
House Democrats were told on the call with the president that they could be flexible on some numbers and programs, but should not back down on the size or scope of the aid.
“We have to go big, not small,” Biden told the Democrats. “I’ve got your back, and you’ve got mine.”
As the White House reaches for a bipartisan bill, House and Senate Democrats have launched a lengthy budget process for approving Biden’s bill with or without Republican support.
“We want to do it bipartisan, but we must be strong,” Schumer said after the 90-minute session at the White House. Democrats are “working with our Republican friends, when we can.”
The swift action follows Tuesday’s outreach as Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen joined the Democratic senators for a private virtual meeting, both declaring the Republicans’ $618-billion offer was too small. Both Biden and Yellen recalled the lessons of the government response to the 2009 financial crisis, which some have since said was inadequate as conditions worsened.
Earlier in the week, Biden met with 10 Republican senators who were pitching their $618-billion alternative, and told them he won’t delay aid in hopes of winning GOP support even as talks continue.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell criticized the Democrats for pressing ahead largely on their own as the GOP senators try to provide bipartisan alternatives.
“They’ve chosen a totally partisan path,” McConnell said. “That’s unfortunate.”
The two sides are far apart. The cornerstone of the GOP plan is $160 billion for the health-care response — vaccine distribution, a “massive expansion” of testing, protective gear and money for rural hospitals, similar to what Biden has proposed for aid specific to the pandemic.
But from there, the two plans drastically diverge. Biden proposes $170 billion for schools, compared with $20 billion in the Republican plan. Republicans also would give nothing to states, money that Democrats argue is just as important, with $350 billion in Biden’s plan to keep police, fire and other workers on the job.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | B.C. announces ‘enhanced’ health and safety guidelines for schools:
As of 1:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had reported 792,310 cases of COVID-19 — with 47,714 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 20,485.
Health officials in British Columbia on Thursday announced new safety measures for schools. Wearing masks is now mandatory for both staff and students inside high schools and middle schools. Wearing masks indoors is still optional for the province’s elementary students.
Ontario reported 1,563 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 88 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 1,101, with 323 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units.
Students in Ontario regions hit hard by COVID-19 will begin returning to physical classrooms next week as the province said new infections were gradually declining and additional measures had been put in place to ensure schools would be safe. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Wednesday that students in 13 public health units, including Hamilton and Windsor, Ont., will resume in-person learning on Monday.
Students in Toronto, Peel Region and York Region will return to shuttered schools a week later, on Feb. 16.
In British Columbia, educators, parents and students are expecting to hear from the provincial health officer and education minister later Thursday about “enhanced health and safety guidelines” for K-12 schools. The province reported 414 new cases and 16 additional deaths related to COVID-19 on Wednesday.
In Quebec, health officials on Thursday reported 1,093 new cases of COVID-19 and 42 additional deaths. Hospitalizations decreased again to 1,070, with 175 COVID-19 patients reported to be in the province’s intensive care units.
Further east, Nova Scotia reported one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday.
The other Atlantic Canada provinces had not yet provided updated figures on Thursday, but on Wednesday Prince Edward Island recorded no new cases and Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases. New Brunswick, meanwhile, reported 14 new infections on Wednesday.
On the Prairies, Manitoba saw 126 new cases and three more deaths on Wednesday, while Saskatchewan reported 194 new infections and eight more deaths. Alberta announced 259 new infections and 11 more deaths.
There were no new cases reported in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
WATCH | COVID-19: Tackling vaccine hesitancy in diverse communities:
Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 1:15 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 104.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 58 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.2 million.
A top international Red Cross organization has announced a 100 million Swiss franc (almost $142 million Cdn) plan to help support the immunization of 500 million people worldwide against COVID-19 amid concerns about vast inequalities in the rollout of coronavirus vaccines between rich and poor countries.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, an umbrella organization of national groups, said the world’s 50 poorest countries have received only 0.1 per cent of the total vaccine doses that have been administered worldwide so far — with 70 per cent administered in the 50 richest countries.
The federation on Thursday warned such inequality “could potentially backfire to deadly and devastating effect” because areas of the globe that remain unvaccinated could allow the virus to spread and mutate. “Without equal distribution, even those who are vaccinated will not be safe,” federation secretary-general Jagan Chapagain said in a statement.
The plan involves rollout of national vaccination campaigns, steps to build trust in vaccines and efforts to “counteract misinformation about their efficacy,” the statement said. The initiative is to begin with 66 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and others are in talks with their respective governments.
In Africa, some 16 countries have shown interest in securing COVID-19 vaccines under an African Union (AU) initiative and the aim is to deliver allocations in the next three weeks, the head of a continental disease control body said on Thursday.
As wealthier nations push ahead with mass immunization, Africa is seeking to immunize 60 per cent of its 1.3 billion people in the next three years. Only a handful of African nations have begun giving doses.
The AU bloc initially secured 270 million doses from manufacturers for member states, then late last month said it would receive another 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
John Nkengasong, director of the AU’s Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the 16 countries had so far placed requests for the vaccines under the bloc’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), which started operation in mid-January.
“With respect to AVATT, 16 countries have now expressed their interest for a total 114 million doses of vaccines,” Nkengasong told a virtual news conference.
“Our hope is that in the next two to three weeks, they should be having their vaccines. But I cannot give you a specific date.”
Separately from the AU’s efforts, Africa is to receive about 600 million vaccine doses this year via the COVAX facility co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Though COVID-19 has not hit Africa as badly as some experts feared, wealth disparities, logistical difficulties and “vaccine nationalism” by richer nations may put the world’s poorest continent at a disadvantage.
In the Middle East, several nations were introducing new restrictions. In Saudi Arabia, where authorities already have banned travel to the kingdom from 20 countries, including the U.S., officials also ordered all weddings and parties suspended. It closed down all shopping malls, gyms and other locations for 10 days, as well as indoor dining. Authorities warned the new measures could be extended.
The kingdom also ordered cemeteries to ensure graveside funerals have a distance of 100 metres between them.
In Kuwait, authorities have ordered a two-week ban on foreigners arriving to the country beginning Sunday. Separately, officials have ordered most businesses closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Sunday for the next month. It closed health clubs, spas and gyms, as well as banned celebrations for its upcoming Feb. 25 National Day.
“Non-compliance and recklessness could take the country back to square one in its fight against the pandemic,” Kuwaiti Health Minister Dr. Basel Al Sabah said, according to the state-run KUNA news agency.
Qatar similarly announced new restrictions Wednesday on daily life, though not as severe as other countries. In Doha, the state-run Qatar News Agency quoted COVID-19 task force chairman Dr. Abdullatif al-Khal as warning that “a remarkable increase with an accelerated pace in the number of infections and the reproductive factor of the virus were recorded, which may be an early indicator of a possible second wave.”
In the Americas, Mexico reported a near-record 1,707 confirmed coronavirus deaths Wednesday, as the country runs out of vaccines.
The Health Department reported Mexico’s COVID-19 deaths now total 161,240, and confirmed infections rose by 12,153 to nearly 1.89 million. Estimates based on excess-death statistics suggest the real death toll is over 195,000.
Mexico approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine Tuesday, but has not yet signed a purchase contract and does not have a firm date for its first delivery. The government had hoped to get 400,000 doses by the end of February.
Mexico has received about 766,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and has administered about 686,000 shots, with much of the remainder set aside for second doses. The next Pfizer shipment is not expected until mid-February.
Meanwhile, the government website set up to register people for vaccines when they do arrive was overwhelmed and inoperable for a second straight day.
In the Asia-Pacific region, World Health Organization investigators looking for clues into the origin of the coronavirus in Wuhan said the Chinese side has provided a high level of co-operation but cautioned against expecting immediate results from the visit.
Along with the key Wuhan Institute of Virology, the WHO team that includes experts from 10 nations has visited hospitals, research institutes and a traditional market tied to the outbreak.
The team on Thursday spent two hours meeting with managers and residents at the Jiangxinyuan community administrative centre in Wuhan’s Hanyang District. Official statistics show there were at least 16 confirmed coronavirus cases in the community last year among nearly 10,000 people living there when the virus broke out.
Zoologist and team member Peter Daszak praised Wednesday’s meetings with staff at the Wuhan institute, including with its deputy director who worked with Daszak to track down the origins of SARS that originated in China and led to the 2003 outbreak.
Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals said the Serum Institute of India has delayed the first supplies of the vaccine for private sale, instead prioritizing government immunization campaigns.
Australia’s second-most populous city reintroduced coronavirus restrictions from Thursday after an Australian Open hotel quarantine worker tested positive for COVID-19, sending more than 500 tennis players and officials into isolation.
In Europe, the new head of Portugal’s COVID-19 vaccination task force is due to start work Thursday amid scandals over vaccine queue-jumping and frustration over a sluggish rollout similar to that seen in other European Union countries. Rear Adm. Henrique Gouveia e Melo is taking charge a day after his predecessor resigned.
Sweden said it will develop a digital vaccination certificate this summer to allow people who have been vaccinated to travel. Digitalization Minister Anders Ygeman said three authorities in Sweden had been asked to work on producing the certificate, and the plan is to co-ordinate it with the World Health Organization and the European Union.
On Wednesday, Denmark said it was joining forces with the country’s business community to develop a digital corona passport that would be ready for use later this year.
Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:35 a.m. ET
Canadians have re-elected a Liberal minority government – CBC.ca
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has won enough seats in this 44th general election to form another minority government — with voters signalling Monday they trust the incumbent to lead Canada through the next phase of the pandemic fight by handing him a third mandate with a strong plurality.
After a 36-day campaign and a $600-million election, the final seat tally doesn’t look very different from the composition of the House of Commons when it was dissolved in early August — prompting even more questions about why a vote was called during a fourth wave of the pandemic in the first place.
As of 2:30 a.m. ET, Liberal candidates were leading or elected in 157 ridings, the exact same number of seats that party won in the 2019 contest.
It’s a reversal of fortunes for Trudeau. He launched this campaign with a sizeable lead in the polls — only to see his support crater days later as many voters expressed anger with his decision to call an election during this health crisis. Two middling debate performances by Trudeau and renewed questions about past scandals also put a Liberal victory in question.
But in the end, voters decided the Liberal team should continue to govern a country that, while battered and bruised by a health crisis, has also fared well on key pandemic metrics like death rates and vaccine coverage.
Trudeau called this election on Aug. 15, saying he wanted Canadians to weigh in on who should finish the fight against the pandemic and lead the country into a post-pandemic recovery. He promised a plan for child care, more aggressive climate action and a fix for Canada’s housing shortage.
In his victory speech in Montreal in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Trudeau said the result suggests Canadians are “sending us back to work with a clear mandate to get Canada through this pandemic and to brighter days ahead.
“The moment we face demands real, important change, and you have given this Parliament and this government clear direction.”
After a divisive campaign that saw a great deal of partisan sniping, Trudeau struck a more conciliatory tone on election night when he spoke directly to opposition leaders and those who didn’t vote for a Liberal candidate.
“I hear you when you say you just want to get back to the things you love and not worry about this pandemic or about an election,” he said. “Your members of Parliament of all stripes will have your back in this crisis and beyond. Canadians are able to get around any obstacle and that is exactly what we will continue to do.”
O’Toole’s moderate conservatism falls short at the polls
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has missed his chance to unseat a prime minister who has faced his fair share of challenges during six years in office. O’Toole ran on a plan to boost health care spending, shrink the deficit over 10 years and tighten ethics rules for politicians — a more moderate take on conservatism that ultimately fell short.
The Conservatives are on track to win in 122 ridings — just one more seat than the party won under former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Speaking to supporters in Oshawa, Ont., O’Toole said he had no plans to resign even though his party saw little if any growth in its vote share and seat count. He vowed to stay at the helm to take another swing at defeating Trudeau in the next election, which could come as soon as 2023.
“My family and I are resolute in continuing this journey for Canada,” O’Toole said. “If Justin Trudeau thinks he can threaten Canadians with another election in 18 months, the Conservative Party will be ready. Whenever that day comes, I will be ready to lead Canada’s Conservatives.
“We worked hard, we made progress, but the job is not done yet.”
WATCH: O’Toole suggests Trudeau will call another election
O’Toole reaffirmed his commitment to take the party to the centre of the political spectrum even as it faces challenges on its right flank from the People’s Party of Canada (PPC).
“We must continue this journey of welcoming more Canadians to take another look at this party,” he said.
With Trudeau and the Liberals committed to progressive policies such as child care and new housing supports, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh ran even further to the left, promising a dramatic expansion of the federal government through $200 billion in new spending commitments for promises such as national pharmacare.
Singh vows to continue fight to make ‘super wealthy’ pay fair share
But Singh was criticized for putting out a platform with few details on how any of this transformative change would be implemented.
When all the ballots are counted, it could prove to be a disappointing night for Singh, with the NDP poised to pick up only two more seats than it won after the last vote. Singh may have more clout in Parliament to look forward to, however — a minority Liberal government will have to depend on at least one opposition party to help it pass its legislation.
Like O’Toole, Singh signalled he has no intention of stepping down as leader despite an underwhelming performance.
WATCH: ‘You can count on New Democrats to continue fighting for you,’ says Singh
“Friends, I want you to know that our fight will continue. I also want you to know that we are going to keep on fighting to make sure that the super wealthy pay their fair share,” Singh said in his concession speech, referring to his signature election promise to make the “ultra rich” pay much more in taxes to help cover the cost of new social programs.
“To all of your struggling, we see you, we hear you,” Singh said.
Greens’ Paul loses but May poised for re-election
The Green vote collapsed and the party’s leader, Annamie Paul, finished a disappointing fourth in her Toronto Centre riding. For months, the party has been beset with internal squabbling and that hampered its electoral efforts.
But in the southwestern Ontario riding of Kitchener Centre, where the Liberal candidate dropped out amid allegations of harassment, Green candidate Mike Morrice was elected. The party’s former leader, Elizabeth May, was also re-elected in her B.C. riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands.
Speaking to reporters in Toronto, Paul said she was disappointed to finish so poorly.
“It is hard to lose. No one likes to lose but I’m so proud of the effort,” she said.
WATCH: ‘No one likes to lose,’ Green Party Leader Annamie Paul says
With more than 14.6 million votes counted so far, the Liberals have 32 per cent of the ballots cast, the Conservatives have about 34 per cent and the NDP has nearly 18 per cent of the vote share. The Green Party captured 2.3 per cent of the ballots cast so far, while the PPC has more than five per cent of all votes — a much better result than the 1.6 per cent of the national vote it fetched in the 2019 election.
PPC Leader Maxime Bernier — a libertarian who has long railed against government overreach — became a champion of the “no more lockdowns” crowd during the pandemic, routinely appearing at well-attended protests against public health measures.
He is also vehemently opposed to vaccine passports — a position that appears to have given the PPC a boost among unvaccinated voters. But the improved showing failed to produce any seats in Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system. Bernier finished a distant second in his riding of Beauce, which was easily won by the Conservative incumbent, Richard Lehoux.
“This is not just a political party. This is a movement. It is an ideological revolution that we are starting now,” Bernier told supporters in Saskatoon.
The Liberals owe their re-election to strong performances in the country’s two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec.
Toronto and its surrounding suburbs — colloquially known as “the 905” after its area code — proved to be a resilient Liberal fortress; the Conservatives failed to make any significant gains among GTA voters. Only one of the area’s many seats, Thornhill, elected a Conservative MP. However, with votes still left to be counted, Liberal cabinet minister Deb Schulte was also in a tough fight in her riding of King-Vaughan.
Bloc looks headed for loss of 3 seats in Quebec
In Quebec, where the separatist Bloc Québécois is poised to lose one of the 32 seats it held in the last Parliament, the Liberal brand also performed well — although the Liberals were hoping for more gains there to vault it into majority government territory.
Trudeau cruised to victory in his own riding of Papineau. Other cabinet ministers, including François-Philippe Champagne in Quebec’s Saint-Maurice-Champlain and Mona Fortier in Ontario’s Ottawa-Vanier, also posted lopsided victories and were easily re-elected.
But at least one Liberal cabinet minister from Ontario, Maryam Monsef, went down to defeat. Monsef was easily bested by Conservative candidate Michelle Ferreri in the eastern Ontario riding of Peterborough-Kawartha — a seat that, until tonight, had a 40-year record as an election bellwether.
Liberal cabinet minister Bernadette Jordan loses her N.S. seat
While voters have returned a Liberal government to Ottawa, results from Atlantic Canada’s 32 seats suggest O’Toole’s more centrist brand of conservatism resonated in the region.
Newfoundland and Labrador and the Maritimes have been a Liberal stronghold for the last two election cycles — the party swept every seat there in 2015 and dropped only five in 2019.
O’Toole, who has appointed a number of Maritimers to senior roles in the party, performed better than his recent predecessors in this region.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper was shut out of Atlantic Canada in 2015 while Scheer picked up only four seats in the 2019 contest.
Conservative candidates have been declared elected in seven of the region’s ridings. Conservative Rick Perkins has unseated Liberal incumbent Bernadette Jordan in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St Margarets. Jordan served as fisheries minister in Trudeau’s cabinet.
The Conservative candidate in Cumberland-Colchester, Stephen Ellis, easily picked off Liberal incumbent Lenore Zann.
PHOTOS | Voters queue to cast their vote:
Justin Trudeau projected to form Canada’s next government-CBC News projects
Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to for the next government, CBC News projected on Monday, after a tight election race.
Elections Canada showed the Liberals leading in 146 electoral districts with only a small fraction of votes counted.
MARKET REACTION: CAD/
KARL SCHAMOTTA, CHIEF MARKET STRATEGIST, CAMBRIDGE GLOBAL PAYMENTS
“This does look like a decisive win for the Liberals that essentially preserves the status quo and ensures that the fiscal spending plans that have supported the economy for the last year and half are likely to continue and continue to support growth.”
“The more supportive fiscal policy is, the more likely the Bank (of Canada) is able to move from tapering to rate hikes in the next year and a half, and certainly that is going to support the Canadian dollar.”
(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Denny Thomas)
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world Monday – CBC.ca
COVID-19 has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 flu pandemic did — approximately 675,000.
The U.S. population a century ago was just one-third of what it is today, meaning the flu cut a bigger, more lethal swath through the country. But the COVID-19 crisis is by any measure a colossal tragedy in its own right, especially given the incredible advances in scientific knowledge since then and the failure to take maximum advantage of the vaccines available this time.
“Big pockets of American society — and, worse, their leaders — have thrown this away,” said medical historian Dr. Howard Markel, of the University of Michigan, of the opportunity to vaccinate everyone eligible by now.
Like the 1918-19 influenza pandemic, the coronavirus may never entirely disappear from our midst. Instead, scientists hope it becomes a mild seasonal bug as human immunity strengthens through vaccination and repeated infection. That could take time.
“We hope it will be like getting a cold, but there’s no guarantee,” said Emory University biologist Rustom Antia, who suggests an optimistic scenario in which this could happen over a few years.
For now, the pandemic still has the United States and other parts of the world firmly in its jaws.
While a delta-fuelled surge in new infections may have peaked, U.S. deaths still are running at more than 1,900 a day on average, the highest level since early March, and the country’s overall death toll stood at just over 674,000 as of midday Monday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, though the real number is believed to be higher.
Winter may bring a new surge, with the University of Washington’s influential model projecting an additional 100,000 or so Americans will die of COVID-19 by Jan. 1, which would bring the overall U.S. toll to 776,000.
The 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed 50 million victims globally at a time when the world had one-quarter the population it does now. Global deaths from COVID-19 now stand at more than 4.6 million.
The 1918-19 flu’s death toll in the U.S. is a rough guess, given the incomplete records of the era and the poor scientific understanding of what caused the illness. The 675,000 figure comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before COVID-19, the 1918-19 flu was universally considered the worst pandemic disease in human history. It’s unclear if the current scourge ultimately will prove to be more deadly.
In many ways, the 1918-19 flu — which was wrongly named Spanish flu because it first received widespread news coverage in Spain — was worse.
Spread by the mobility of the First World War, it killed young, healthy adults in vast numbers. No vaccine existed to slow it, and there were no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections. And, of course, the world was much smaller.
Just under 64 per cent of the U.S. population has received as least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with state rates ranging from a high of approximately 77 per cent in Vermont and Massachusetts to lows around 46 to 49 per cent in Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia and Mississippi.
Globally, about 43 per cent of the population has received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data, with some African countries just beginning to administer first shots.
What’s happening across Canada
- Masks mandatory in indoor N.B. public spaces as province sees record new cases.
- Nova Scotia registers 55 new cases over Friday and the weekend.
What’s happening around the world
As of Monday, more than 228.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The reported global death toll stood at well over 4.6 million.
In Europe, Greece’s COVID-19 health advisory body has recommended expanding the country’s booster shot program to people aged 60 and older, care-home residents and health-care workers.
In Africa, authorities in Burundi have decided to suspend all social events except on Saturdays and Sundays as concerns grow about a rising number of COVID-19 infections.
In Asia-Pacific, New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, will remain in lockdown for at least two more weeks, although some restrictions will be eased from Tuesday.
In the Americas, the president of Costa Rica has warned that developing countries are at risk of sliding into instability without more pandemic aid from richer nations and the International Monetary Fund.
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