New Year arrives with US hitting 20 million COVID-19 cases

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States (US) marked the New Year on Friday by passing the extraordinary milestone of 20 million COVID-19 cases, after global celebrations welcoming in 2021 were largely muted by the pandemic.

The US has floundered in its efforts to quell the virus, which has already caused more than 347,000 deaths – by far the highest national death toll.

Worldwide hopes that COVID-19 vaccines will bring a rapid end to the pandemic in 2021 have been shaken by the slow start to the US vaccination programme, which has been beset by logistical problems and overstretched hospitals.

US Air Force Veteran Robert Aucoin, 78, receives a COVID-19 vaccine dose at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. THE REPUBLICAN/AP

Nearly 2.8 million people in the US have already received their first jabs, but the figure fell well behind the 20 million inoculations that US President Donald Trump’s administration promised by the end of 2020.

The desperate race to vaccinate is set to dominate the coming year, with the coronavirus already having killed at least 1.8 million people since emerging in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.