The raging COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating as confirmed cases worldwide have exceeded 90 million and a new variant genome has been detected in Japan.
PASSING 90-MLN MARK
The global case count reached 90,045,410, with a total of 1,931,571 deaths worldwide as of 3:22 p.m. local time (2022 GMT), according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
The United States has been the hardest-hit country worldwide both in terms of infections and fatalities with 22,293,281 cases and 373,588 deaths, accounting for 24 percent and over 19 percent of the global total respectively, followed by India with 10,450,284 cases, and Brazil with 8,075,998 cases but with the world's second largest death toll of 202,631.
Countries with more than 2 million cases also include Russia, Britain, France, Turkey, Italy and Spain, while other countries with over 50,000 deaths include India, Mexico, Britain, Italy, France, Russia, Iran and Spain, according to the CSSE tally.
Global cases hit 60 million on Nov. 25, surpassed 70 million on Dec. 11 and hit 80 million on Dec. 26. It took 16 days to climb from 60 million to 70 million, 15 days from 70 million to 80 million, and 15 days from 80 million to 90 million.
NEW COVID-19 VARIANTS
Japan's health ministry said on Sunday that four passengers who arrived at Tokyo's Haneda airport from Brazil earlier this month had been infected with a new variant of COVID-19.
The ministry said the four people, who arrived at Haneda airport on Jan. 2 from Amazonas, Brazil, tested positive after the airport quarantine.
Among them, a man in his 40s had been hospitalized due to breathing difficulty and a woman in her 30s had symptoms of throat pain and headaches, said the ministry. A male teenager had developed a fever while a female teenager had shown no symptoms.
Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases said there was no evidence so far that the new mutant strain was highly infectious though the variant showed some similarities to those reported in Britain and South Africa.
Besides, the variants earlier found in Britain and South Africa have spread to many countries during the past 24 hours.
As of Sunday, France confirmed 47 cases of the new COVID-19 variant detected in Britain after seven people were diagnosed with the mutated virus in Marseille, the country's second largest city, local authorities said.
Also on Sunday, Iran's Minister of Health and Medical Education Saeed Namaki confirmed four people infected with the new variant of the virus have been detected and placed under quarantine.
The new variants have also been spreading to India, Pakistan, New Zealand and Vietnam, among other nations.
VACCINATION STARTS IN MORE COUNTRIES
To contain the spread of COVID-19, various countries are launching their immunization programs.
Iran will start vaccinating those vulnerable against COVID-19 in the next two months, said Alireza Raisi, spokesman for the Iranian National Headquarters for Combating the Coronavirus.
Around 1.3 million people, including health staff and elderly people in nursing homes, will be inoculated at the first stage of the plan, Raisi added.
Israel has started vaccination for all teachers and other educational workers, the Ministry of Education said Sunday.
In the first phase, vaccination will go to the teachers who work as usual during the ongoing full lockdown in the country.
Jordan will start a nationwide immunization campaign from Jan. 13, Health Minister Nathir Obeidat said Sunday. Enditem