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US Reaches Another Grim Milestone in COVID-19 Pandemic

Epidemiologist Hilda Aleman reacts upon receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dec. 15, 2020.

The United States surpassed 300,000 recorded deaths from COVID-19 Monday — the same day the first American was vaccinated against the coronavirus that causes the disease.

The grim number comes about two weeks after millions of Americans defied warnings to avoid travel and gathered with family members for the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, by Monday afternoon 300,494 Americans have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The United States makes up nearly 1-in-5 deaths worldwide from COVID-19.

US Surpasses 300,000 COVID Deaths
The grim milestone was recorded on the same day the first Americans received vaccinations against the coronavirus

The U.S. also set a new record Monday with over 110,549 hospitalizations, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project.

Germany’s health minister has urged the European Union’s regulatory agency to quickly approve a new COVID-19 vaccine as the continent faces a new set of harsh lockdowns to stop the spread of the disease.

Health Minister Jens Spahn called on the European Medicines Agency late Tuesday to give final approval of the vaccine jointly developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech by Christmas Day. The vaccine is currently being distributed in Britain and the United States, after government regulators quickly approved its use after a thorough review process.

But EMA head Emer Cook said Monday regulators will not meet until December 29 to render a possible decision on approving the vaccine, insisting that regulators are working 24 hours a day to complete their evaluation of data from Pfizer’s large-scale clinical trials.

As Britain Rolls Out COVID-19 Vaccine, Pressure Grows on Europe To Approve Drug
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Spahn’s open plea was made more than a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel imposed a new set of restrictions set to take effect on Wednesday and run through January 10, to stop the sharp rise of COVID-19 cases in the country. Merkel and the country’s 16 regional governors agreed Sunday to close non-essential businesses and limit private gatherings to no more than five people.

The government is urging citizens to avoid Christmas shopping in the two days before most stores close and social distancing rules tighten.

Germany has been recording steadily higher confirmed cases and deaths in recent weeks. The Robert Koch Institute - the country's central disease control center - reported 16,362 new cases Monday, and 188 new deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 21,975. Last week, the daily death numbers rose to almost 600 cases in one day.

Germany has more than 1,357,261 total confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 22,637 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

London is also entering more stringent lockdown status this week due to a soaring rise of new cases in the British capital.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced Monday during a parliamentary address that London will be moved from the nation’s Tier 2 “high alert” status to the ultimate “Tier 3” status effective midnight Wednesday morning. Under the higher tier, all pubs, cafes and restaurants will be closed for takeout and delivery.

The tighter new restrictions for London comes amid a surge of new COVID-19 infection rates in Britain. Hancock told lawmakers a new variant of the coronavirus has been identified in southeast England that have been linked with 1,000 cases in the region.

In Japan, a new public opinion poll finds a majority in favor of outright cancelling next year’s Summer Olympic Games, which were scheduled to be held in July of this year but were postponed due to the pandemic. National broadcaster NHK found 32% supporting cancellation, with 31% favoring further postponement and just 27% backing holding the rescheduled Games as planned.

But Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told Agence France Presse in an exclusive interview that she sees “no circumstances” under which the rescheduled Olympics will be cancelled. Governor Koike said the fate of the Tokyo Games would impact future Olympics, including the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

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