Worldwide coronavirus deaths pass 2 million

Worldwide coronavirus deaths pass 2 million
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The world passed 2 million coronavirus deaths on Friday, a stunning toll that is continuing to rise as more contagious variants of the virus take hold.

The United States has had, by far, the most deaths and cases of any country in the world, at more than 390,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University. Brazil, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom follow. 

China reported its first death since May this week, as a World Health Organization (WHO) team arrived to investigate the origins of the pandemic there after previously expressing concerns that Beijing was hindering the probe.

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China has faced scrutiny over its level of transparency on the outbreak, and on the accuracy of its death and case numbers. 

New coronavirus variants are now leading to even faster spread of the virus, with strains discovered in the U.K. and South Africa provoking particular concern. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned on Friday that the U.K. variant could be the predominant strain in the U.S. by March. 

“The increased transmissibility of the … variant warrants universal and increased compliance with mitigation strategies, including distancing and masking,” the CDC warned. 

Vaccines provide some hope of taming the pandemic, but it will be several months before they are available on a widespread basis in the U.S., and possibly significantly longer in some other countries. 

Health officials are therefore urging people to continue wearing masks and distancing from others. 

"It's really important to remind people, both government as well as individuals, on the responsibilities and measures we need to practice for the rest of this year at least, because even as vaccines start protecting the most vulnerable, we're not going to achieve any levels of population immunity, herd immunity, in 2021," WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said this week.