The members of five mobile vaccination teams pose in front of their cars at the Robert Bosch hospital in Stuttgart, southern Germany, on December 27, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Coronavirus related deaths have almost trebled in Germany last month, amid a massive surge in COVID-19 cases that has left the health system in desperate need of assistance.

Health officials reported some 16,718 deaths from COVID-19, between December 2 and January 1, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.

The figure suggests that half of all coronavirus deaths in Germany were recorded in December.

The death toll in November was 6,155.

Over the last year, a total number of 33,071 COVID-19 related deaths have been recorded in the country.

The cases of infection also continued to surge across the country, taking the tally to 675,188 in December alone.

Only on Christmas Eve, Germany reported 32,195 cases, which is some 70 percent higher than what Chancellor Angela Merkel warned about, back in September.

She predicted some 19,000 cases of infection a day by Christmas.

A medical worker leaves a booth where people get COVID-19 vaccine at the Robert Bosch hospital in Stuttgart, southern Germany, on December 27, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The total number of infections also reached 1,719,737 by the end of December, nationwide.

This comes as Germany has been in lockdown since mid-December to curb the spread of the virus ahead of Christmas.

The massive surge has now prompted call for an extension of the current lockdown as the health system “desperately needs relief.”

A relief “can only be achieved through an extension of the contact restriction measures,” said head of the Marburger Bund doctors’ union, Susanne Johna, on Saturday.

“We won’t be able to get the situation under control otherwise,” she added.

The government will meet on Tuesday to discuss whether to toughen the lockdown curbs.

Meanwhile, the Merkel government has come under fire for failing to procure enough doses of vaccine ahead of time.

Germany has kicked off its vaccination, with some 131,626 people had been given their first dose of the vaccine by the end of December.

“I consider the current situation a gross failure,” said Frauke Zipp of the Leopoldina Academy of Sciences on Saturday.

Russia vaccinated 800,000 against COVID-19

In the meantime, Russia which began rolling out its Sputnik V vaccine in early December, has so far vaccinated more than 800,000 people.

More than 1.5 million vaccine doses have also been dispatched, according to Health Minister Mikhail Murashko.

Moscow has also started supplying the vaccine to other countries. It sent 300,000 doses of the vaccine to Argentina last week.

The country, with the world’s fourth higher number of coronavirus cases, reported 26,301 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking its total caseload to 3,212,637, on Saturday.

Health authorities said 447 people had died in the past 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 58,002.

UK daily cases top 57,000

The United Kingdom (UK) recorded a further 57,725 cases of infection on Saturday.

Britain reactivated emergency hospitals built at the start of the pandemic, early last year, and shut primary schools in London on Friday.

“Children’s education and wellbeing remains a national priority,” Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

“Moving further parts of London to remote education really is a last resort and a temporary solution,” he added.

World set to mark locked-down New Year’s Eve The world is to usher in the New Year late on Thursday, with pandemic controls muting celebrations for billions of people eager to bid virus-ridden 2020 farewell.

The nation is also facing a fast spread of a much more infectious variant of the coronavirus.

The new strain that was first emerged in Britain prompted dozens of countries to close their borders to Britain.

The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also under scrutiny for frequent reversals during the pandemic, including delaying lockdown during the first wave in March.

The Royal College of Nursing warned that the country does not have enough nurses to staff the new sites.

The Royal London Hospital also announced earlier that it was now in “disaster medicine mode” and unable to provide high standard critical care.

The country recorded 53,285 cases on Friday, and 613 new deaths.

The UK, one of the worst-hit countries in the world, has so far recorded 2,607,523 cases of COVID-19 and 74,682 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

India approves two vaccine as death toll nears 150,000

India, with second highest number of infections, has approved two COVID-19 vaccines on Saturday.

One vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had been given the green light on Friday said the information and broadcasting minister, Prakash Javadekar.

People walk past a placard pasted outside a government-run hospital where dry run or a mock drill for COVID-19 vaccine delivery is held in Hyderabad, January 2, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The other vaccine, known as COVAXIN, has been developed locally by Bharat Biotech and the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research.

Javadekar said two other vaccines were waiting to be approved.

“India is perhaps the only country where at least four vaccines are getting ready,” he said.

Two other vaccines, waiting to be approved are, Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D and Russia’s Sputnik V, which are both on trial in India.

“One was approved yesterday for emergency use, Serum’s Covishield.” said Javadekar.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was granted its first approval by Britain on Tuesday.

India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) is expected to announce the dosage and other details about the vaccines later on Tuesday.

The Asian country has reported more than 10.305,788 million cases of coronavirus and around 149,218 deaths.

New Delhi promised to vaccinate 300 million of its 1.35 billion people in the first six to eight months of this year.

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