The number of fatalities in Belgium from the new coronavirus crossed 20,000 on Sunday, health officials said, with more than half the deaths from retirement care homes.
The country, with a population of 11.5 million, has recorded 662,694 cases and 20,038 deaths since the pandemic broke out, the Sciensano public health institute said.
Belgium counts all deaths of people who have had a positive Covid-19 test among virus fatalities, giving it one of the world’s highest death rates with 1,725 per 100,000 people, according to an AFP tally.
During the first wave of the pandemic, Belgium also included people who died and may have had the virus but did not necessarily have a test.
Covid-19 vaccinations began in Belgium on January 5.
Virus deaths in retirement homes reached 10,270 on December 18, the authorities said. Amnesty International had the previous month alleged the authorities had “abandoned” care homes.
During the first wave of the pandemic, Sciensano reported more than 250 deaths a day with a peak of 322 on April 8.
The figures improved during summer but began rising again in October with 218 daily deaths recorded on November 10. The average number of deaths reported last week was 58 a day with about 1,780 infections.
More than 1.9 million people worldwide have now died from the virus, with new variants adding to soaring cases and prompting the re-introduction of restrictions on movement across the globe.
More than 99,000 coronavirus cases were recorded in the United States in the past 24 hours, a new daily record, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The country reported 99,660 new infections between 8:30 pm Tuesday and 8:30 pm Wednesday (0130 GMT), and 1,112 deaths, the tally by the Baltimore-based school showed a day after American’s went voted to choose their next president.
More than 9.4 million people have been infected and 233,000 have died in the US so far during the pandemic, by far the worst tolls in absolute terms globally.
The US has recorded more than 60,000 new cases every day for the last six days, peaking at a record 77,638 infections on Friday.
President Donald Trump, in a Fox News interview broadcast on Sunday, again defended his handling of the pandemic, claiming that the US was “the envy of the world” on testing. Referring to his early prediction that the virus would disappear, he said, “I’ll be right eventually.”
He again opposed any national mandate for mask-wearing, saying, “I want people to have a certain freedom.”
Critics are accusing President Jair Bolsonaro of manipulating the figures showing the spiralling coronavirus death toll in Brazil, after his government first stopped reporting the total number of fatalities and infections, and then released conflicting data.
Even as infections soar in Brazil, the latest epicenter in the pandemic, the health ministry has made a series of unusual moves on how it presents the numbers on COVID-19.
The ministry had been the most widely used source for nationwide virus statistics, which paint a grim picture of its impact on Brazil: officially, 37,134 deaths, the third-highest toll in the world, after the United States and Britain; and 707,412 infections, the second-highest caseload, after the US.
Last week, the ministry postponed its daily tally of infections and deaths by around two and a half hours, to just before 10:00 pm.
Critics accused the government of doing that to dodge negative coverage on “Jornal Nacional,” a popular evening news program on Globo TV, Brazil’s biggest broadcaster.
Bolsonaro himself appeared to confirm as much when asked about the delay.
“That’s the end of that story for ‘Jornal Nacional,'” the far-right president said.
Then the ministry stopped publishing the total number of deaths and infections, releasing only the figures for the past 24 hours for the country of 212 million people.
– ‘Statistical coup d’etat’ –
Things only got more muddled on Sunday, when the ministry released two different daily tolls, without initially explaining why or indicating which was correct.
It explained Monday that the previous day’s figures had been corrected because some data supplied by state health officials included duplicates.
It also said it had adopted a new methodology, with a new website, where victims will be counted under the day they died, rather than the day that posthumous testing confirmed a COVID-19 diagnosis.
“There are cases where lab results are for deaths that occurred weeks ago,” it said in a statement.
“The curve by date of death… helps understand the dynamic of the disease and how the authorities need to concentrate their efforts.”
It also moved the daily update back up to 6:00 pm.
But critics have been brutal.
“This is a statistical coup d’etat,” said newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, one of Brazil’s most-read, in a scathing editorial.
“Manipulating the number of dead in a pandemic is a crime,” said influential columnist Miriam Leitao in newspaper Globo.
Top media groups, including Folha and Globo, announced they were teaming up to release their own daily figures based on data collected directly from state health officials.
Already, their toll diverges from the official one, with 178 more deaths and 3,475 more infections.
Congress said it, too, would set up an independent count.
– ‘Totalitarian regime’ –
Brazil’s health ministry is currently run by an interim minister, whose two predecessors were ousted mid-pandemic after disagreements with Bolsonaro.
The president has famously compared the new coronavirus to a “little flu” and railed against stay-at-home measures to contain it, citing their economic toll.
Former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was fired by Bolsonaro in April, said the handling of the data shows “the government is more harmful than the virus.”
Criticism over the data confusion only increased when well-known businessman Carlos Wizard, who had been tapped to serve as a top adviser in the health ministry, said Friday that the government’s official figures to date were “fantastical and manipulated.”
That outraged state health officials who provide the underlying data. They accused the government of trying to make coronavirus victims “invisible.”
Wizard later apologized to victims’ families over the remark, and withdrew his candidacy for the health ministry post after online protesters threatened to boycott his companies.
The government has become the butt of jokes for its approach to the numbers.
When it began putting the number of recovered patients in larger font than the number of dead on its website, one social media user snickered it was like describing Brazil’s humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup by saying, “Brazil scored one goal, with 52 percent ball possession and eight shots on goal.”
Others are less amused.
“Manipulating statistics is a move used by totalitarian regimes,” Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes wrote on Twitter.
The death toll from China’s new coronavirus epidemic jumped past 2,000 on Wednesday after 136 more people died, with the number of new cases falling for a second straight day, according to the National Health Commission.
This brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China to 74,185.
The death toll rose to 2,004, with most of the deaths in central Hubei province, where the virus first emerged in December before spiralling into a nationwide epidemic.
In its daily update, the National Health Commission reported 1,749 new cases of people infected with the virus nationwide, the lowest number of new cases this month.
The number of fatalities and new cases from China’s coronavirus outbreak soared on Thursday, with 242 more deaths and nearly 15,000 extra patients in hard-hit Hubei province as authorities changed their threshold for diagnosis.
At least 1,355 people have now died nationwide and nearly 60,000 have been infected after Hubei’s health commission reported the new numbers.
In its daily update, Hubei’s health commission confirmed another 14,840 new cases in the central province, where the outbreak emerged in December.
The huge jump came as local officials said they were changing the way they diagnose COVID-19 cases.
Three policemen and a villager died Thursday in rare violent clashes with Vietnam’s communist authorities over disputed land around a military-owned Hanoi airport.
Construction of the Mieu Mon facility has been a long-running sore for villagers who say it is being built on land illegally seized by the military.
Clashes erupted on Thursday before dawn when authorities attempting to erect a perimeter fence were met by residents armed with “grenades, petrol bombs and knives”, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.
The “social disorder” led to the “deaths of three policemen and one resident”, the statement said, adding other villagers were “arrested for serious violations of the law”.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the toll or verify the authorities’ version of events, disseminated with unusual speed in a country where secrecy and control normally trump transparency.
But a video widely circulated on Facebook by an activist at the scene appeared to show gunfire lighting up the dawn gloom around the village as several truckloads of security guards arrived.
Human Rights Watch urged Vietnam to launch an investigation that “gets to the bottom of what happened” and to provide unfettered access to the site for impartial observers including journalists, diplomats and UN officials.
Land disputes are common in Vietnam, where powerful individuals and companies often make claims on property.
The government strictly controls freedom of expression and the right to protest but flashpoints occur.
In 2017 villagers held more than a dozen police officers and officials, hostage, for several days at the airport site in a standoff that gripped the tightly-controlled country.
A jihadist attack on a military base in Kenya killed three people Sunday, including a US service member and two civilian defense contractors, the American military said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our teammates who lost their lives today,” General Stephen Townsend, the head of US Africa Command (Africom), said after jihadists from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group stormed a base in the Lamu region.
Two other Department of Defense personnel were wounded in the attack on Camp Simba, Africom added in a statement which gave no details on the identity of those killed.
The death toll from a massive car bomb in the Somali capital has risen to 81, a government spokesman said Monday, as rescue workers pursued their search for the missing.
The bombing Saturday at a busy intersection in Mogadishu was the country’s deadliest attack in two years.
No one has claimed responsibility, though President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed blamed Islamist group Al-Shabaab, which has regularly carried out car bombings and other attacks as part of its decade-long bid to topple the internationally-backed government.
“The overall number of the dead stands at 81 currently. Two more people died from their injuries,” Ismail Muktar, a spokesman for Somalia’s information ministry, told AFP Monday.
One of the new fatalities was among the injured who had been evacuated to Turkey via a Turkish military plane on Sunday, Muktar said.
Muktar said the death toll could climb further as rescue operations entered a third day.
Around two dozen people were listed as missing after the attack, but 12 have been located — five of them dead — and the rest remain unaccounted for, he said.
Some 125 people were injured in Saturday’s blast, a caseload that has overwhelmed health facilities in Mogadishu.
At least 16 of those killed were students from the capital’s private Banadir University, who had been travelling on a bus when the car bomb detonated.
The attack was the biggest to hit Somalia since a truck exploded in 2017 near a fuel tanker in Mogadishu, creating a fireball that killed over 500 people.
Al-Shabaab was blamed for that strike too, though it never formally claimed responsibility — as it often does not do when there is a large amount of civilian casualties.
The United States military said Sunday it had killed four “terrorists” in three airstrikes targeting Al-Shabaab.
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said two militants were killed and two vehicles destroyed in Qunyo Barrow, while two more militants were killed in Caliyoow Barrow.
The US regularly carries out airstrikes in Somalia, though the frequency of such operations has risen sharply this year.
In an April statement AFRICOM said it had killed more than 800 people in 110 strikes in Somalia since April 2017.