Global virus cases top 65 million as nations plan for vaccine

A view of the Intensive Care Unit treating COVID-19 coronavirus patients in the Gilberto Novaes Hospital in Brazil. AFP/Michael Dantas

PARIS - Global coronavirus infections passed 65 million on Friday and countries doubled down on restrictions, even as plans to roll out vaccines gathered pace.

Joe Biden said he would ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days when he takes over as president of the United States, the world's worst-hit country from a pandemic that has now killed more than 1.5 million people across the planet.

The US is among the countries posting all-time highs in daily deaths this week along with Italy, which is undergoing a dramatic resurgence after it largely tamped down its earlier outbreak by enforcing a strict lockdown in the spring.

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Biden also used the CNN interview to say he had asked the government's top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci to join his team and serve as a chief medical adviser.

The pandemic is showing little sign of slowing, with the daily global death toll in recent weeks reaching its highest rate since the virus emerged in China late last year.

However, the rapid development of several vaccines has provided respite from the dismal cycle of lockdowns and surging cases.

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Britain on Wednesday became the first Western country to approve a vaccine for general use, piling pressure on other countries to swiftly follow suit.

But Fauci said Britain had rushed its approval process.

"In all fairness to so many of my UK friends, you know, they kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile," he told CBS, although he later said he had not meant to imply "any sloppiness".

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Britain's regulator hit back on Friday, saying: "No vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that even if vaccines were quickly approved, the world would still be fighting the pandemic's aftershocks.

"Let's not fool ourselves. A vaccine cannot undo damage that will stretch across years, even decades to come," Guterres said while opening a special UN summit on the virus. 


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