In this Feb. 9, 2021, file photo, a WHO-China Joint Study Press Conference is held at the end of a WHO mission to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province.
 A DRAFT copy of a joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 concluded that the “transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario” for the emergence of the virus, according to the Associated Press.  

A lab leak of the virus to the public was deemed “extremely unlikely” by the joint investigation, the AP said.  

The study also revealed that minks and cats “are susceptible to the COVID virus, which suggests they could also be carriers.”  

A Geneva-based diplomat from a WHO-member country shared the study that “appeared to be a near-final version” with the AP on Monday but the news agency did not reveal the identity of the diplomat because the diplomat was not authorized to release the information before its publication.

A demonstrator holds a “Chinavirus” sign during a protest by supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro against the start of a 10-day period of increased restrictions, March 26, 2021.

The report is “based largely” on a visit that a team of international experts made earlier this year to Wuhan, the location in China were the coronavirus first emerged. 

Death toll  

Mexico has revised its coronavirus death toll figures, increasing the tally by 60% to make Mexico’s death count second only to the United States and overtaking Brazil as the place with the second highest death count.  

The new statistics are staggering as the Mexican population of 126 million is far below the populations of the U.S. and Brazil. 

The Mexican health ministry released the data Saturday that raised the country’s COVID death count to more than 321,000. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is more than 549,000, while Brazil’s is more than 312,000, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 

Public health analysts had warned that Mexico’s death count was likely higher than previous figures had indicated because the country’s healthcare system was overwhelmed by the pandemic, resulting in few available intensive care beds that led to many people dying at home whose deaths had not been included in the COVID count. The new numbers follow a government review of death certificates. 

US infections plateau 

While the United States’ vaccination campaign against COVID-19 is well under way, daily rates of infection remain high. 

Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top adviser on the pandemic, expressed concern Sunday that this could be the result of states lifting some restrictions too early — especially around Spring Break. 

“I think it is premature,” Fauci told CBS, speaking of some states lifting restrictions as vaccination rates rise, warning that there is “really a risk” of seeing a third epidemic wave.

Answering reporters’ questions Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden said he believes rates may be plateauing, instead of decreasing, because people are “letting their guard down.”  

Last Thursday, Biden pledged to put 200 million shots into arms in his first 100 days as president. On Sunday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Sunday that more than 51.5 million Americans have received at least one coronavirus shot and 93.6 million have received both of their shots.  

At the same time, the U.S. has been confirming roughly 60,000 new cases of the virus daily for the past few days. A plateau of cases at such a high number is concerning. 

“I remain deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic. The latest CDC data continue to suggest that recent declines in cases have leveled off at a very high number,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC. 

Earlier Sunday, Dr. Deborah Birx, who had served as the Trump White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, told CNN that she believes the U.S. death toll of 550,000 could have been much lower if officials in cities and states had taken more aggressive steps to mitigate the disease’s spread by learning lessons of the first surge. 

“There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge,” Birx said. “All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.” 

In Venezuela, opposition leader Juan Guaido announced on Twitter that he has tested positive for the virus and is currently in isolation.

The announcement follows news that the Facebook page of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been frozen, according to a spokesman for the social media giant, because the page contained misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Maduro violated Facebook policy when he posted a video without any medical evidence, promoting Carvativir, a drink made with the herb thyme, as a cure for the coronavirus, a Facebook spokesman told Reuters. He described the drink as a “miracle” medication capable of neutralizing the coronavirus without any side effects. 

Neighboring Brazil is averaging 2,500 deaths a day from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 

The South American nation is on pace to reach 4,000 deaths a day, six experts told the AP, a level that would rival the worst seen in the U.S., which has about one-third more people. The U.S. set a record of 4,477 deaths on January 12, 2021, according to Johns Hopkins data. 

“Four thousand deaths a day seems to be right around the corner,” Dr. José Antônio Curiati, a supervisor at Sao Paulo’s Hospital das Clinicas, the biggest hospital complex in Latin America, told the AP. 

President Jair Bolsonaro appeared on television last week to declare 2021 “as the year of the vaccine.” Brazil’s Supreme Court backed some states that have implemented nightly curfews, which the Bolsonaro administration fought, saying that only the federal government can impose such restrictions. 

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported late Sunday that there are more than 127 million global COVID-19 infections. 

–      VoaNews

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