A team of World Health Organization scientists investigating the source of the coronavirus, that first emerged in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, visited a provincial disease control center Monday that was key in the early management of the COVID outbreak.
China did not release any details about the team’s visit to the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control. Team member Peter Daszak, however, told reporters it had been a “really good meeting, really important.”
Since the WHO team’s arrival last month, the scientists have also visited the Huanan Seafood Market that was linked to a cluster of COVID cases and at least one of the hospitals in Wuhan that treated some of the first patients.
The scientists want to know where the virus originated, in what animal, and how it made its way into humans, something that could take years to figure out.
The outbreak in China led to the worldwide COVID pandemic. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center said early Monday that there are nearly 103 million global COVID infections. More than 2 million people have died, Hopkins said.
The U.S. continues to have more cases than anyplace else at nearly 103 million. India follows with10.7 million infections and Brazil comes in third with 9.2 million cases.
The U.S. also has more deaths from the virus than any other nation with more than 441,000, followed by Brazil with more than 224,000 and Mexico with more than 158,000.
A leading U.S. epidemiologist said Sunday he believes the highly contagious and more deadly British strain of the COVID virus could become the dominant strain in the U.S. in the coming weeks, resulting in a surge of infections “like we have not yet seen in this country.”
Michael Osterholm, who served on President Joe Biden’s transition coronavirus advisory board, speaking on NBC’s "Meet The Press" Sunday, urged the Biden administration and U.S. municipalities to be diligent in inoculating Americans with the COVID vaccines ahead of the “hurricane” of the British variant.
In Jerusalem Sunday, thousands of black-clad, ultra-Orthodox Israelis ignored the country’s ban on large gatherings to attend two separate funerals for prominent rabbis. The densely packed crowds also ignored mask-wearing directives and social-distancing observations. Each funeral had a procession through the city’s streets. Israel has staged an aggressive vaccination program, but officials are concerned that the mass gatherings in Jerusalem Sunday could undo any progress and spark a COVID surge.
The European Union announced Sunday that British company AstraZeneca had agreed to send 9 million more doses of the vaccine to EU countries.
AstraZeneca will also deliver the doses a week earlier than planned, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter, calling the news a “step forward on vaccines.”
Step forward on vaccines.@AstraZeneca will deliver 9 million additional doses in the first quarter (40 million in total) compared to last week’s offer & will start deliveries one week earlier than scheduled.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) January 31, 2021
The company will also expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.
On the African continent, only a handful of countries have been able to begin vaccinating their populations. On Sunday, Ghana announced it planned to acquire 17.6 million doses of the vaccine by this summer, with the first batches arriving by March.
"Our aim is to vaccinate the entire population, with an initial target of 20 million people," President Nana Akufo-Addo said Sunday.
He also announced stricter measures against the virus, including banning large gatherings, as the country battles a second wave.