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Biden marks 1 million Americans dead from COVID

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S. May 11, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Thursday commemorated the death of 1 million people in the Unites States from COVID-19, marking what he called “a tragic milestone” and urging Americans to “remain vigilant” amid the ongoing pandemic.

In a statement, Biden acknowledged the loss’ impact on families left behind and urged the country not to “grow numb to such sorrow,” noting “a nation forever changed.”

The United States on Wednesday recorded more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to a Reuters tally, crossing a once-unthinkable milestone about two years after the first cases upended everyday life. The loss represents about one death for every 327 Americans, or more than the entire population of San Francisco or Seattle.

Biden will mark the grim milestone by ordering flags to be flown at half-staff, said the White House, which will on Thursday also host a second global COVID Summit.

The Democratic president has urged Congress to fund billions more in COVID aid to continue fighting the virus as new variants emerge, but this week decoupled the request from separate Ukraine aid that is set to pass in the coming days.

“We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have with more testing, vaccines, and treatments than ever before,” Biden said on Thursday. “It’s critical that Congress sustain these resources in the coming months.”

U.S. lawmakers had reached a $10 billion deal but the additional tranche of funding has been delayed over various concerns.

Researchers are working on yet another booster shot as the virus continues to mutate, and health experts have said greater pandemic investment is needed now to thwart future outbreaks that could cause further havoc.

The precise toll of the pandemic may never be truly known. Some people who died while infected were never tested and are not represented in the data. Others, while having COVID-19, may have died for another reason such as a cancer, but were still counted.

Coronavirus

U.S. traffic deaths in 2021 jump to highest number since 2005

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traffic is pictured at twilight along 42nd St. in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. traffic deaths jumped 10.5% in 2021 to 42,915 – the highest number killed on American roads in a single-year since 2005, regulators said on Tuesday in a preliminary estimate.

The yearly increase is the highest reported since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began using its current traffic fatality tracking system in 1975.

The number of pedestrians killed jumped 13% to 7,342, hitting the highest number since 1981. The number of people on bicycles killed rose 5% to 985, the highest number since at least 1980, according to a NHTSA report.

“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

In January, USDOT released a strategy designed to cut the soaring number of traffic deaths on American roads.

Traffic deaths surged after pandemic lockdowns ended in 2020 as more drivers engaged in unsafe behavior.

“An increase in dangerous driving – speeding, distracted driving, drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, not buckling up – during the pandemic, combined with roads designed for speed instead of safety, has wiped out a decade and a half of progress in reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths,” the Governors Highway Safety Association said in a statement.

Traffic deaths in 2020 rose 6.8%. They are now up 18% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

NHTSA said the fatality rate in 2021 fell slightly to 1.33 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, down from 1.34 in 2020, which was the highest rate since 2007.

One factor for the big jump in 2020 was that drivers who remained on the roads engaged in riskier behavior, NHTSA said.

As U.S. roads became less crowded, some motorists perceived police were less likely to issue tickets because of COVID-19, experts say.

NHTSA research findings from 2020 indicating incidents of speeding and traveling without a seatbelt were higher than before the pandemic. In 2020, the number of crashes fell 22% to 5.25 million and those injured fell 17% to 2.28 million even as deaths rose.

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Coronavirus

U.S. traffic deaths jump 10.5% in 2021 to highest number since 2005

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on


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traffic is pictured at twilight along 42nd St. in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. traffic deaths jumped 10.5% in 2021 to 42,915 – the highest number killed on American roads in a single-year since 2005, U.S. regulators said Tuesday in its preliminary estimate.

The yearly increase is the highest reported since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began using its current traffic fatality tracking system in 1975.

“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

In January, USDOT released a strategy designed to cut the soaring number of traffic deaths on American roads.

Traffic deaths surged after coronavirus lockdowns ended in 2020 as more drivers engaged in unsafe behavior like speeding and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Traffic deaths in 2020 rose 6.8% and up 18% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

Forty four U.S. states and the District of Columbia all are projected to have an increase in traffic deaths.

NHTSA said the fatality rate in 2021 fell slightly to 1.33 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled down from 1.34 million in 2020, which was the highest rate since 2007.

One factor for the big jump in 2020 was that drivers who remained on the roads engaged in riskier behavior, NHTSA said.

As U.S. roads became less crowded, some motorists perceived police were less likely to issue tickets because of COVID-19, experts say.

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Shanghai hits prized ‘zero COVID’ status but lockdown lingers

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© Reuters. A man looks over the barriers of a closed street during lockdown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

2/3

By David Stanway and Martin Quin Pollard

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) -Shanghai achieved its long-awaited milestone of three consecutive days with no new COVID-19 cases outside quarantine zones on Tuesday but most residents will have to put up with confinement for a while longer before resuming more normal life.

For other cities in China that have been under lockdown, three days with no new cases in the community usually means “zero COVID” status and the beginning of the lifting of restrictions.

The commercial hub of 25 million set out on Monday its clearest timetable yet for exiting a lockdown now in its seventh week, but the plan was met with scepticism by many residents who have seen isolation extended time and again.

“Normality is very far away,” said one Shanghai resident still stuck at home.

Shanghai plans to resume outdoor activities in stages, with some shops reopening this week, but with most restrictions on movement remaining in place until May 21, after which public transport and other services will resume gradually.

By June, the lockdown should be lifted, but residents will still be asked to get tested frequently.

More people were allowed out of their homes this week, with some joggers and dog walkers spotted. One man was seen fishing in a Shanghai creek.

But tall fences remained around many residential compounds and there were almost no private cars on the streets, with most people still confined to their homes.

It was not clear how many shops re-opened this week but in one positive sign, delivery apps showed more options for people to order from on Tuesday.

A social media account run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper posted photographs on Monday evening that it said showed breakfast joints, restaurants and hairdressers opening up.

But one social media user described the post as “nonsense”.

“We have been locked in at home for two months … This story is meant for anyone else other than people in Shanghai.”

By Tuesday morning, the post had been deleted.

A video posted by another state-backed media outlet announced the reopening of a grocery store, showing about 10 members of staff in hazmat suits making heart shapes with their hands, but only two people who looked like shoppers.

A sign on the shop’s door said customers must present a negative COVID test and a pass showing they are allowed out of their home, among other requirements.

Overall, Shanghai reported fewer than 1,000 new cases for May 16, all in areas under the strictest controls.

INVESTMENT WARNING

China’s uncompromising “zero-COVID” policy has placed hundreds of millions of consumers and workers under various restrictions at a time when the rest of the world is lifting them to “live with the virus” even as infections spread.

Data this week showed the havoc wreaked on the economy by Shanghai’s lockdown and the curbs in dozens of other major cities, with retail sales and industrial output plunging at their fastest pace in more than two years in April.

The capital Beijing saw a 16% plunge in retail sales in April, the beginning of its current outbreak, according to Reuters calculations based on January-April data released on Tuesday. Property sales dropped 26%.

The American Chamber of Commerce warned that COVID controls would hamper foreign investment in China for years to come as travel curbs disrupt due diligence on projects. Big firms are also exploring alternatives for supply chains, it said.

China’s slowing economy will struggle to stage the kind of stunning recovery it achieved from the early depths of the pandemic two years ago, analysts and policy insiders say.

But China’s state planner said on Tuesday it would strengthen support for manufacturers, the service sector and small firms to mitigate COVID’s impact.

A meeting convened by China’s top political consultative body with tech executives was also being closely watched for signs of any easing of a regulatory crackdown on the sector that has weighed on growth.

Chinese shares closed higher on bets for looser regulatory scrutiny on the tech sector and Shanghai’s progress on COVID.

TIGHTENING IN BEIJING

Beijing’s latest daily case count was 52, with authorities discovering a few dozen new infections on an almost daily basis despite gradually tightening restrictions over the past three weeks or so.

Dine-in services are banned in the capital, some malls and other businesses are shut, public transport is curtailed and many residents have been advised to work from home.

Residents in some COVID-affected parts of Beijing’s Fengtai district were ordered not to leave their neighbourhoods, state television reported on Tuesday.

In Beijing’s largest district, Chaoyang, some compounds have closed side exits while main gates are manned by volunteers checking health credentials on the mobile app authorities use to track COVID.

Security personnel patrolled the banks of the Liangma canal, which has become a picnic spot in recent weeks for residents not allowed to go elsewhere. Signs had been put up asking people to “avoid crowds, gatherings and eating together”.

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