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Biden to Rejoin WHO as Global Death Toll Soars Past 2 Million, Countries Grapple with New Variants

HeadlineJan 20, 2021

As the global COVID-19 death toll topped 2 million this week, Joe Biden is expected to order the U.S. to rejoin the World Health Organization as he takes office today, reversing Trump’s decision to withdraw from the U.N. body last year.

Health experts are warning new variants of the coronavirus and issues with vaccine supplies are threatening countries’ recoveries from the current outbreaks. Officials in California and in Germany have said they may have identified two further variants. In Britain, health workers say they are completely overwhelmed as they battle a variant that has now been detected in some 60 countries and is believed to be much more infectious. This is a nurse at the Royal Hospital in London.

Carleen Kelly: “It’s scarier. It’s bigger. I was so naive the first time. I wasn’t convinced we were going to have a second wave at all. And the huge numbers that have just absolutely slammed us is just — I never thought it would be possible to have this many intensive care patients.”

The WHO warns global deaths from the pandemic are expected to top 100,000 per week “very soon.” This comes as an international review panel released a damning report laying out a series of failures by governments and public health organizations, including the WHO, in preparing for and responding to the pandemic. This is Helen Clark, co-chair of the panel and former prime minister of New Zealand.

Helen Clark: “It was still a month after an alarm was sounded in Wuhan that the international system sounded its highest alarm available, and that is the Public Health Emergency of International Concern. And even then, with COVID-19 spreading in many countries, the emergency was not felt strongly enough.”

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