World

US coronavirus cases cross 11m as Biden's team urges quick action

President-elect's advisers call on Congress to pass bipartisan financial relief even before he takes office

WASHINGTON: The number of coronavirus cases in the United States crossed the 11 million mark on Sunday reaching yet another grim milestone, according to a Reuters tally, as the third wave of Covid-19 infections surged across the country.

The pace of the pandemic has quickened, with one million more cases from just eight days ago when it hit 10 million, making it the fastest since the pandemic began.

This compares with the 10 days it took to get from nine million to 10 million and the 16 days it took to reach nine million from eight million cases.

The US, hardest-hit by the coronavirus, crossed 10 million cases on Nov 8 and has been reporting more than 100,000 daily cases for the past 11 days straight.

The latest seven-day average shows the US is reporting more than 144,000 daily cases and 1,120 daily deaths, the highest for any country in the world.

President-elect Joe Biden's top advisers called for urgent action to address the nation's "deeply alarming" Covid-19 epidemic on Sunday.

They warned that Republican President Donald Trump's transition delay could further jeopardise the battle against the rampaging virus, including vaccine distribution planning, and urged Congress to immediately pass bipartisan financial relief even before Mr Biden, a Democrat, takes office on Jan 20.

"We are in a very dangerous period," Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of Mr Biden's Covid-19 advisory board and director of the University of Minnesota's Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told NBC News.

Unless action is taken now, "we're going to see these numbers grow substantially", Dr Osterholm warned.

"Our future's in our hands."

Mr Ron Klain, Mr Biden's incoming White House chief of staff, on Sunday urged Congress to immediately pass Covid-19 relief legislation with new restrictions certain to take a toll.

"This could be a first example of bipartisan action post-election," Mr Klain told NBC.

He said Mr Biden has spoken to congressional Democratic leaders, but not to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has refused to publicly acknowledge Mr Biden as president-elect.

Mr Klain said there had been no formal contact between Mr Biden's advisory panel and the White House coronavirus task force.

"It's really important in the smooth handing over of the information," top US infectious disease expert and White House task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.

"It's almost like passing a baton in a race, you don't want to stop and give it to somebody, you just want to essentially keep going."

Mr Biden's team planned to meet this week with Pfizer, which last week released positive initial data on its experimental Covid-19 vaccine, and other drugmakers, Mr Klain said.

Former US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy, head of Mr Biden's Covid-19 team, told Fox News the coronavirus surge was "deeply alarming", but that a national lockdown was "a measure of last resort".

"The better way to think about these safety restrictions is more a dial that we turn up and down depending on severity" in a given area, he said. - REUTERS

WORLD