General

Brazil Passes Coronavirus Milestone; Europe Faces 2nd Outbreak

Brazil passed a grim milestone Saturday, reporting more than 150,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to the Brazilian Health Ministry. Brazil’s death toll was second to that of the United States, which stood at more than 214,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has downplayed how deadly the virus is, even as deaths mounted in Brazil and as he himself became infected.

“Life goes on. Brazil needs to produce,” he said on July 7 in Brasilia when he announced he was infected.

In the past six weeks, Brazilians have seen signs of hope: The viral curve has dropped, and the seven-day average number of deaths has been fewer than 600, the lowest level since early May.

But in Manaus, a city hit hard early in the pandemic that has since eased restrictions, an increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks has led to speculation of a possible second wave.

Europe

European countries are imposing a variety of new coronavirus containment measures as they confront a second wave of infections.

The World Health Organization reported Friday that nearly one-third of a record-high one-day total of 350,000 new cases worldwide were in Europe.

Record daily highs were reported Saturday in Portugal, the Netherlands, Poland and Russia.

The Czech Republic reported Friday that daily cases had reached a high for the fourth consecutive day. Italy, France, Germany and Ukraine also reported sharp increases Friday in new infections.

But it was Spain that again became the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak, reporting 7,000 new cases Friday, a significant increase from a one-day low of 134 cases in June.

The Spanish government declared a state of emergency Friday to reimpose a partial lockdown for several million people in and around Madrid after a regional court struck down the restrictions.

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a radio interview Friday that new restrictions in the British capital were “inevitable” as London experiences a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Khan said details of the new measures would be announced next week.

US case count stays high

The United States reported more than 58,000 new cases of coronavirus Saturday — the fourth day in a row that more than 50,000 new cases have been reported, according to Johns Hopkins.

Deaths in the U.S. continue to trend downward, but an average of 700 Americans still die every day of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Health experts caution that deaths usually rise weeks after cases climb.

Ominously, a new update from the University of Washington’s widely cited model projects the country’s daily death rate will more than triple by mid-January to 2,250, with an overall 395,000 fatalities by Feb. 1, 2021.

Canada is also fighting a second wave of cases, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to warn Friday that his country was at a tipping point. Most of the recent cases have been recorded in Ontario and Quebec, the two most populous provinces.

The Ontario government announced Friday that it would prohibit indoor dining in restaurants and would close gyms and theaters throughout the province.

On Saturday, India said it had recorded more than 73,000 new COVID cases in the previous 24 hours.

In a press briefing Friday from Geneva, WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan acknowledged that even as COVID-19 cases increase worldwide, “there are no new answers,” and he stressed that governments must ensure the most vulnerable people are protected.

More than 37 million people in all have been confirmed infected with the coronavirus worldwide and more than 1 million have died, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins.

COVAX cooperation

China said Friday that it was joining a World Health Organization international initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to the developing world.

Russia, the U.S. and previously China had said they were not joining the alliance to help two-thirds of world’s population receive the vaccines by 2022.

China’s reversal made it the largest country to participate in what is known as the COVAX deal.

“We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement.

Source: Voice of America