Coronavirus infections have hit new daily highs in Japan, Germany, Denmark and Sweden as the US prepares to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine within days.
More than 68.96 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1,571,819 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
The number of new coronavirus infections in Japan’s capital has topped 600 in a day for the first time.
Experts on Tokyo’s virus task force say the surge in infections has placed an added burden on hospitals, making it difficult for many of them to carry out treatment for ordinary patients.
Tokyo reported 602 new cases on Thursday while the daily tally for the entire country was 2810.
Japan has reported 168,573 infections since the pandemic began, with 2465 deaths.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is urging residents to avoid non-essential outings, especially senior citizens and their families.
Meanwhile, Germany’s top disease control official described the situation as “extremely fragile” after the country recorded a new high in coronavirus cases on Thursday.
Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said that cases had plateaued for a spell but were now in fact rising further.
Hours earlier, his government health agency reported 23,679 new confirmed cases over a 24-hour period, the highest daily rise registered in Germany so far in the pandemic.
The RKI also said 440 more people had died after contracting the virus, after another grim record was set the previous day with 590 deaths.
Denmark said on Thursday it will expand lockdown measures announced earlier this week to more cities, placing almost 80 per cent of the population under the tight restrictions after registering its highest number of new daily infections yet.
“There is widespread infection throughout society and incipient pressure on the hospital system,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told reporters, adding a further rise in infections in the coming days is expected.
From Friday, a lockdown initially imposed this week on 38 towns and cities will be expanded to 69 municipalities.
The lockdown, which already includes the capital Copenhagen, has shut bars, restaurants and museums in response to signs of a rapid rise in infections.
Sweden, whose unorthodox pandemic strategy placed it in the global spotlight, registered a record 7935 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, Health Agency statistics showed.
The increase compared with a previous high of 7240 daily cases recorded on November 20.
Sweden registered 58 new deaths, taking the total to 7354.
Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours but lower than some larger European countries.
The United States’ daily death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 3000 for the first time, prompting pleas for people to scale back Christmas plans even with vaccines on the cusp of winning regulatory approval.
COVID-19 deaths reached 3253 on Wednesday, pushing up the US total since the start of the pandemic to 289,740, with a record 106,219 people hospitalised with the highly infectious respiratory disease.
A panel of independent medical experts was due to decide on Thursday whether to recommend to the US Food and Drug Administration a vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE for emergency use authorization.
FDA consent could come as early as Friday or Saturday, followed by the first US injections on Sunday or Monday, according to Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to President Donald Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine development program.