Pandemic might get worse: Fauci

Source: AFP Published: 2020/12/28 18:08:40

S.Africa hits 1 million cases, S.Korea sees new variant

About 300 children gather in Coronationville Secondary School as they wait for a food and goods distribution ahead of Christmas, led by grassroots charity Hunger Has No Religion, in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

South Africa logged its millionth case of COVID-19 and South Korea on Monday became the latest country to detect the new coronavirus variant, as the pandemic showed no signs of letting up.

Global infections have raced past 80 million with nearly 1.8 million deaths, even as vaccination drives gather pace in North America and Europe, with a top US expert warning that the pandemic might get even worse in the coming weeks.

The explosion of cases worldwide in recent weeks has prompted the return of many unpopular restrictions, including some lockdowns, and concerns have grown after the detection of a new virus variant which experts believe could be even more transmissible.

South Africa became the first African nation to log 1 ­million cases, official data showed on Sunday, as authorities ­considered reimposing restrictions to battle a second wave of infections driven by the new variant.

South Korea became the ­latest nation Monday to detect the variant, in three individuals of a London-based family who arrived in the country last week.

The new variant was first detected in Britain, and made its way to a number of other nations including Japan and Canada, prompting dozens of governments - including European nations - to impose travel restrictions on the UK.

Most European countries began their vaccination campaigns over the weekend, boosting hopes of an end to the pandemic.

Known coronavirus infections surged past 19 million in the US on Sunday, the worst-hit country in the world, adding a million cases in less than a week. 

The world's largest economy has added at least 1 million new cases per week since early November, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

While the US has also begun vaccinations, experts have said that because of the expected surge in cases over the Christmas holidays, the situation could get much worse.

Top US government scientist Anthony Fauci warned Sunday that the worst of the pandemic may be yet to come, driving the US to a "critical point" as holiday travel spreads the coronavirus.

About 2 million Americans have been vaccinated so far, well below the 20 million the Trump administration has promised by year end.

Fauci said he was "pretty confident" that by April, all higher-priority people would have been able to get vaccinated, clearing the way for the general population.

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