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Nov. 26, 2021, 6:11 a.m. EST

Coronavirus tally: Global cases of COVID-19 top 260 million and WHO to meet and assess new South Africa variant

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By Ciara Linnane

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 260 million on Friday, while the death toll edged above 5.18 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University . The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 48.1 million cases and 775,797 deaths. The U.S. is still averaging more than 1,000 deaths a day, according to a New York Times tracker, and cases and hospitalizations are rising again. A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country's most populous province, Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced Thursday, the Associated Press reported. Currently identified as B.1.1.529, the new variant has been found in Botswana and Hong Kong in travelers from South Africa, he said. Now the U.K. government has banned flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries and will ask anyone who arrived from them recently to take a test, as scientists work to determine whether the new variant is resistant to the current vaccines. The World Health Organization's technical working group is to meet Friday to assess the new variant and may decide whether or not to give it a name from the Greek alphabet. India is second by cases after the U.S. at 34.6 million and has suffered 467,468 deaths. Brazil has second highest death toll at 613,642 and 22 million cases. In Europe, Russia has the most fatalities at 265,134 deaths, followed by the U.K. at 144,876.

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