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May 19, 2022, 7:32 a.m. EDT

White House holds COVID briefing led by new response coordinator Jha, after U.S. official death toll passes one million

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By Ciara Linnane

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The authors called for “whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches at the national level,” and for an independent global council to keep attention focused on pandemic preparedness long after COVID is no longer an emergency.

“New pandemic threats will emerge. The risks of not being better prepared for them are great, and inaction is hard to fathom,” they wrote.

Coronavirus Update:   MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• The head of the World Health Organization said  China’s extreme approach  to containing the coronavirus is unsustainable because of the highly infectious nature of the omicron variant, but that it’s up to every country to decide what policy to pursue, the Associated Press reported. At a media briefing on Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described China’s “zero-COVID” strategy as “not sustainable” after similar remarks  last week  drew sharp criticism from China. “We know the virus better and we have better tools, including vaccines, so that’s why the handling of the virus should actually be different from what we used to do at the start of the pandemic,” Tedros said. He added that the virus had changed significantly since it was first identified in Wuhan in late 2019, when China largely stopped its spread with lockdowns.

Don’t miss: It’s impossible to determine your personal COVID-19 risks and frustrating to try—but you can still take action

• North Korean leader Kim Jong Un again slammed his country’s response to its first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak as immature, accusing government officials of inadequacies and inertia as fever cases swept the country, state media reported on Wednesday as Reuters reported. North Korea reported 232,880 more people with fever symptoms, and six more deaths after country revealed the COVID outbreak last week. It did not say how many people had tested positive for COVID-19.

• Germany plans to spend another 830 million euros ($872 million) to buy new coronavirus vaccines that will allow the country to deal with a series of possible variants this fall, the health minister said Wednesday, according to an AP report. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that the government, via the European Union, already has ordered enough of the existing vaccines and of one that has been developed by Germany’s BioNTech SE /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +0.90% to counter the omicron variant. He said the new funding is earmarked for a vaccine being developed by Moderna Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA +3.87% to tackle both omicron and other variants.

• A man in western Japan who received 46.3 million yen ($358,000) in COVID-19 relief money from his town by mistake before gambling it all away is now contrite and wants to pay it back “little by little,” according to a person familiar with the case, Kyodo News reported. The 24-year-old resident of Abu in Yamaguchi Prefecture had earlier refused to return the money, and, according to this person, said he spent all the money in several overseas internet casinos.

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 524.9 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose above 6.28 million,  according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University .

The U.S. leads the world with 82.8 million cases and 1,000,317 fatalities.

The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker  shows that 220.7 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 66.5% of the total population. But just 102.4 million are boosted, equal to 46.4% of the vaccinated population.

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