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Coronavirus digest: Italy death toll worst in Europe

December 14, 2020

Italy now has the most deaths of any European nation from the pandemic. In the US, Donald Trump has declined to become one of the first to receive the new vaccine. Follow DW for the latest.

Medical workers arrive to visit a home of a patient suspected to be suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to carry out a swab test
Image: Remo Casilli/REUTERS

Italy surpassed the UK for the most deaths of any European nation due to the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday.

The southern European country registered 484 deaths in one day, one of its lowest daily tallies in nearly one month, but it pushed their total number of deaths to 64,520. The UK has recorded 64,267 so far, according to John's Hopkins University.

Italy was the first European country to be hit by the pandemic. More than half of the deaths from the pandemic in the country occurred during the first surge.

Some restrictions were recently lifted in Italy, prompting police to close off popular sites including Rome's Trevi fountain.

"All the main information websites today are full of pictures of city centers awash with unacceptable large gatherings," Domenico Arcuri, Italy's special commissioner for the healthcare emergency, told TV program Che Tempo Che Fa. He added "we must avoid the third wave at all costs."

Rest of Europe

Germany recorded 16,362 new cases on Monday, an unusually high figure for the start of the week, when figures are usually low after reduced weekend testing.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for public solidarity on Monday, urging people to take the upcoming stricter lockdown seriously. The German government and heads of the 16 states agreed to impose harsher restrictions from Wednesday — the state of Saxony unilaterally went into an earlier lockdown on Monday.

Health Minister Jens Spahn complained about delays in approving the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine at the EU level in a series of tweets as both the UK and US start rolling out their own vaccine programs.

The Dutch government is set to decide on stricter measures to control the spread of the virus on Monday.

The country saw its highest jump in daily cases since the end of October, with nearly 10,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours.

All bars and restaurants have been closed since mid-October, and people were urged to work from home. Schools and shops have stayed open.

The meeting comes as Germany announces stricter measures that will be implemented starting Wednesday.

Lithuania — with one of the highest infection rates in Europe — will enter a tough lockdown beginning on Wednesday.

Only essential stores will remain open and education will move to distance-learning. Residents will only be allowed outside their home to go to work, see a doctor, go shopping or to go to a funeral.


Human rights group Amnesty International has severely criticized Pakistan's response to COVID-19 in its overcrowded and often unsanitary prisons.

Amnesty International worked with Justice Project Pakistan on the report, which said inmates saw an increased risk of infection and called for the release of certain prisoners.

"Prisoners remain dangerously exposed as the authorities not only failed to reduce overcrowding, they actually worsened it," said Rimmel Mohydin, South Asia regional campaigner for Amnesty International.


US President Donald Trump and other top US officials will be offered the recently approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine beginning on Monday.

The vaccine will be given to people who work in the federal government, but it was not clear how many officials would be eligible to receive the vaccine.

"Senior officials across all three branches of government will receive vaccinations pursuant to continuity of government protocols established in executive policy," said National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot. "The American people should have confidence that they are receiving the same safe and effective vaccine as senior officials of the United States government on the advice of public health professionals and national security leadership."

Soon afterwards, Trump, who has previously tested positive and been treated for the virus, nixed the plans.

He said in a post on Twitter: "people working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary."

He added that he was "not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time."

Brazil's vaccination plan, which was published on Saturday, has been harshly criticized by local media and it has confused epidemiologists.

Leading newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo said "enough shenanigans with the vaccine" in a front-page editorial and added "President Jair Bolsonaro's murderous stupidity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic has surpassed all limits."

Another daily newspaper, Estado de Sao Paulo, called the plan "lethal incompetence."

The Supreme Court required the government to present its plan on how it would provide vaccinations to its population of 212 million. The plan said it would hope to vaccinate more than 70% of the population, but did not say how it would reach that figure.

It also did not say how it would store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which must be held at -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit). The government is still working on negotiating the purchase of the vaccine.

A group of health experts listed on the plan said in a statement that they were not consulted on the final text of the plan.


Eswatini Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini died in an South African hospital on Sunday from COVID-19.

Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku confirmed Dlamini's death, two weeks after he tested positive. Dlamini became prime minister in October 2018. He was appointed by the king, who names all of the ministers and controls parliament in the country formerly known as Swaziland.

The country has reported over 6,700 cases and 127 deaths among it population of 1.2 million people.


New Zealand hopes to open a travel bubble with Australia by April next year, said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday.

New Zealand closed its borders in March, and has required all international arrivals, including Australians, to undergo two weeks of isolation.

Ardern said a key consideration was how to prevent border facilities being overrun if there was a major outbreak in Australia that forced thousands of New Zealanders to return home.

ab,kbd/aw (AP, AFP)