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World COVID-19 Infections Climb Towards 100 Million

Public funeral service workers descend a flight of stairs as they remove the body of Jose Bernardino Ferreira, 77, who died from complications related to COVID-19 in his home, in Manaus, Amazonas state, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. The number of people…

The world is steadily inching up to 100 million COVID cases. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Saturday there are more than 98 million global COVID infections and more than 2 million deaths.

“For the moment, the virus still has its hand in the game, but we still have our two best players: vaccination and spring,” Yves Van Laethema, a Belgian health ministry spokesperson said about COVID in his country.

Van Laethema said he is hoping spring’s warmer weather will help alleviate the recent uptick in Belgian hospital admissions.

Belgium has nearly 690,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 20,000 people have died.

Chinese authorities have partially locked down a section of a Hong Kong neighborhood. The Jordan district is one of Hong Kong’s most densely populated neighborhoods. Officials said Saturday they are testing everybody in the area, after the territory recorded 162 cases in January. Hong Kong has reported fewer than 10,000 coronavirus cases.

German health officials said Friday that although the country surpassed 50,000 deaths, its infection rate was slowing.

At a news conference in Berlin, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, said he saw a "slightly positive trend" in the numbers and credited the drop to a partial lockdown originally introduced in November and since tightened.

Also Friday, European countries were dealt another blow when AstraZeneca announced that initial deliveries of its vaccine to the region would not meet its projected targets.

A company statement said, "Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain." The statement did not give further details.

Europe is already struggling to roll out vaccines to its citizens after vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech announced a temporary shortfall in the supply of their vaccine in order to help a manufacturing site in Belgium to boost output.

In the United States, President Joe Biden signed executive orders aimed at providing financial and food security to families affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The orders boost food assistance, protect unemployment benefits for job seekers and lay the groundwork for federal employees and contractors to get a $15 minimum wage.

“We have to act now,” Biden said in remarks at the White House on Friday before he signed the orders.

Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief plan to Congress to help Americans suffering from the effects of the coronavirus, however it is not clear if the bill has enough support from lawmakers to pass. Congress passed a $900 billion relief bill in December and some Republican lawmakers have questioned whether there is a need for another large relief bill.

Also Friday, U.S. retailer Walmart said it was preparing to expand its vaccination program to seven more states, using its network of pharmacies.

The world’s largest retailer said it would start providing inoculations in Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas as well as in Chicago and Puerto Rico. The company is already providing vaccines to health care workers in New Mexico and Arkansas.

Vaccination efforts in the United States have run into numerous difficulties, including logistical hurdles, bureaucratic failures and a basic shortage of vaccines, which have led to residents across the U.S. seeing their vaccine appointments canceled.

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