Global death toll nears 2 million as WHO battles new virus strains
The worldwide death toll from coronavirus approached two million on Friday, with Europe topping 30 million infections and World Health Organization experts working on advice to fight new, more contagious strains of the disease.
The soaring number of fatalities -- 1,994,833 -- is matched by the spread of infections with Europe recording 30,003,905 cases, nearly a third of the worldwide total, according to an AFP tally based on official statistics.
Adding to the run of terrible milestones, Germany, Europe's biggest economy, hit two million infections.
Many countries are doubling down on virus restrictions, with vaccination drives still in their infancy.
Portugal entered a fresh lockdown Friday while Britain began requiring negative tests for entry, and fresh curbs on populations were announced from Brazil to Lebanon.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for a "significant" tightening of curbs to slow the infection rate as the European Union's most populous country added more than 22,000 new cases.
She said she wanted to bring forward crisis talks with regional leaders, participants at a meeting of her centre-right CDU party told AFP.
The virus could only be stopped with "significant additional measures" and people urgently needed to reduce social contact, Merkel reportedly said.
At the Meissen crematorium in Germany's Saxony state, coffins were stacked up to three high, or even stored in hallways, awaiting cremation.
Manager Joerg Schaldach, 57, said anyone still denying the severity of the pandemic should take a look at the bodies piling up.
"This is heavy work, so why don't the Covid-19 deniers come and do it," he said. "We have a disastrous situation here."