Germany has recorded more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, as public health officials expressed cautious optimism about a slowing infection rate.
The coronavirus causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) disease control centre said that 859 people died from the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities to 50,642.
“That is a distressing, incomprehensible number to me,” RKI chief Lothar Wieler said.
Nevertheless, he saw hopeful signs in the latest, lower figures on new infections that a partial lockdown introduced in November and tightened in December was starting to have the desired effect.
The RKI said it had registered 17,862 new cases since the previous day, bringing the total number of infections in the pandemic to more than 2.1mn.
Wieler said he saw a “slightly positive trend” in the numbers after several days in the last month with new infections above 20,000.
However he urged the government to maintain the current restrictions until Germany sees a “massive” drop in cases and deaths.
At the same press conference, Health Minister Jens Spahn called the figures “encouraging” but warned they were “still too high”.
He noted that several countries that had eased their lockdowns at the first sign of improvement “quickly saw a new flare-up”.
The RKI figures are based on people who died directly as a result of the illness caused by the virus and those who contracted Covid-19 but whose exact cause of death could not be confirmed.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have joined other European Union members in calling for the bloc’s drugs regulator to move quickly in approving AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency said last week it would review the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Britain’s Oxford University this month under an accelerated timeline.
The prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania said they supported calls already made by by Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece and Denmark for the vaccine to be approved.
“Precision of procedures matters. But so does speed. The delays cost lives,” the three Baltic state leaders each wrote on their Twitter feeds, calling for AstraZeneca and other authorities to deploy swiftly once approval was secured.
Lithuania said last week it would receive enough vaccines to inoculate 70% of its population by early July, a level that would achieve herd immunity and control the spread of the infection.
The schedule hinges on securing enough shots.
Italy reported 472 coronavirus-related deaths yesterday, against 521 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 13,633 from 14,078.
Italy has now registered 84,674 Covid-19 deaths since its outbreak came to light last February, the second-highest toll in Europe and the sixth-highest in the world.
The country has also reported 2.44mn cases to date.
Portugal’s daily death toll from the coronavirus reached a record high of 234 on Thursday, up from 221 reported a day before, bringing the total to 9,920 fatalities since the start of the pandemic, health authority DGS said.
The country of 10mn people, where hospitals are struggling to cope with a surge in infections that forced authorities to introduce tougher lockdown measures, also reported 13,987 new infections over the last 24 hours.
Denmark is registering a rise in infections with a more contagious coronavirus variant known as cluster B.1.1.7, first identified in Britain, despite seeing regular infections fall.
Denmark implemented hard lockdown measures in December following a rapid rise in new infections and the discovery of a new and more contagious variant, which authorities now expect to be the dominant one by mid-February.
A total of 464 people have been infected with the new variant since mid-November.
Denmark’s total confirmed infections stand at 193,038, and 1,941 people have died.
Also yesterday, Denmark halted all incoming flights from the United Arab Emirates due to potentially unreliable coronavirus tests in Dubai.
Sweden, which has spurned a lockdown throughout the pandemic, registered 4,214 new coronavirus cases yesterday, Health Agency statistics showed.
The country of 10mn inhabitants registered 84 new deaths, taking the total to 11,005.
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