People make their way through Times Square, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Manhattan, New York City, US, May 7, 2021. (EDUARDO MUNOZ / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON / BERLIN / MOSCOW – The United States will keep in place the public health emergency status of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing millions of Americans to still receive free tests, vaccines and treatments, two Biden administration officials said on Friday.
The possibility of a winter surge in COVID cases and the need for more time to transition out of the public health emergency to a private market were two factors that contributed to the decision not to end the emergency status in January, one of the officials said.
The public health emergency was initially declared in January 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began, and has been renewed each quarter since for 90 days. But the government in August began signaling it planned to let it expire in January.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has promised to give states 60 days' notice before letting the emergency expire, which would have been on Friday if it did not plan on renewing it again in January. The agency did not provide such notice, the second official said.
Health experts believe a surge in COVID-19 infections in the United States is likely this winter, one official said.
Germany is headed towards a surge in COVID-19 cases this winter, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Friday as he criticised four states' plans to relax isolation rules for infected people.
Fearing that infection numbers could rise, Lauterbach said: "Then we would have an even stronger wave than we already fear and we are on the eve of a more infectious variant."
Russia registered 5,554 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 21,489,074, said the official monitoring and response center on Friday.
The center said the nationwide death toll increased by 67 to 390,902, while the number of recoveries grew by 6,213 to 20,890,728.
Meanwhile, Moscow reported 925 new cases, taking its total to 3,239,177.