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August 20, 2020, 11.36 PM

Pope Francis said Wednesday that the pandemic is exacerbating inequalities between rich and poor, and called for universal vaccines not reserved just for the wealthiest.

Some governments have struck deals with companies, hoping to secure exclusive supplies of the vaccines when developed in hopes of ending the pandemic, which has now killed more than 780,000 people and infected over 22 million, according to an AFP tally.

Germany Thursday reported 1,707 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the highest daily toll since the peak of the pandemic in April.

The country has fared better than many European neighbors in suppressing the virus so far but like elsewhere, the number of cases has jumped significantly over the summer holidays.

Much of the rise has been blamed on returning holidaymakers as well as parties and family gatherings. Schools already resumed last week in parts of Germany.

Read also: France and the Netherlands Added to Mandatory UK Quarantine List

Faced with the surge in cases, Germany earlier this month introduced free, mandatory tests for anyone returning from areas deemed at high risk for Covid-19 infections.

And Chancellor Angela Merkel warned this week there could be no further relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.

France on Wednesday recorded new coronavirus cases at the fastest daily rate since May.

Almost 3,800 Covid-19 infections were confirmed in the past 24 hours, the health ministry's DGS public health division said.

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