Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 100,000 on Monday, a year after it became the first country in Europe to go into lockdown to try to stop the spread of the virus.
Italy’s Health Ministry recorded 318 deaths Monday in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total of COVID-19 deaths to 100,103 and making it the seventh country in the world to surpass the marker, following the United States, Brazil, Mexico, India, Russia and Britain, according to a tally by Reuters. Italy has the second-highest death toll from the pandemic in Europe after Britain.
Earlier Monday, the Italian Health Ministry changed course and signed an order approving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 and older.
Even though Europe’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, fully approved the vaccine, the Italian government initially balked, as did Germany, at giving the vaccine to people older than 65 because of limited data on its efficacy within that age group. Germany has reversed course on its use, as well.
The doubts raised by some health officials prompted people to turn down the vaccine, resulting in doses going unused and slowing down the vaccination process throughout the continent.
Around the globe
Meanwhile, Britain reopened all its schools Monday for the first time since late 2020. The openings come as the country experiences some of its lowest coronavirus death tolls since October. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday called the reopening of schools in the nation “a crucial first step” in a “road map to freedom” from the coronavirus pandemic but added a warning against complacency.
In Israel, health officials celebrated the country’s 5 millionth coronavirus vaccination and extended its vaccination campaign to Palestinians working in Israel or its West Bank settlements. The country has faced criticism for not providing more doses to Palestinians in occupied territory.
Greek authorities say they have registered the country’s youngest COVID-19 victim so far — a 37-day-old baby boy. The infant had been in the hospital with the virus for the past three weeks after being brought in with a nasal infection and fever.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines for those who have been fully vaccinated, advising that they can gather without masks in small groups with others who have been inoculated, but that they should still wear masks in public.
U.S. students in Detroit, Michigan, returned to classrooms for in-person learning Monday for the first time in months, while officials in New York City announced that public high schools will reopen for in-person learning March 22.
The World Health Organization argued that so-called “vaccine passports” for COVID-19 should not be used for international travel because coronavirus vaccines are not easily available globally.
WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan told a press briefing on Monday there are “real practical and ethical considerations” for countries that are considering using vaccine passports and said the U.N. health agency advises against it for now.
Also on Monday, Vietnam launched its COVID-19 vaccination program, with its front-line health care workers and first responders receiving the first shots.
In Japan, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the country will speed up its vaccination program after a slow start thanks to vaccine and syringe shortages. Three weeks in, a little more than 46,500 front-line medical workers have received their shots. The elderly will be next in line.
The Reuters news agency reported that Suga promised to have enough of the shots to vaccinate the entire population by the start of the Summer Olympics in July.
The European Union has warned member states against buying Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, since the EU has not yet completed a review of it. Despite the warning, several nations have made moves to purchase the vaccine.
Early Monday, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported almost 117 million global coronavirus cases. The United States has more infections than any other country with 29 million, followed by India with 11.2 million and Brazil with 11 million.