Wednesday, 24 June 2020 07:09

COVID-19 Pandemic Still Growing, WHO Says

The World Health Organization says the coronavirus pandemic is still growing even as countries start to ease lockdowns and other restrictions.

"The epidemic is now peaking or moving towards a peak in a number of large countries," WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said.

Several nations, including Germany, South Africa and India – which reports about 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day – are looking at reimposing lockdowns and preparing to treat an influx of new cases.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it took three months for the world to confirm its first 1 million cases, but just eight days for the most recent 1 million to be identified.

"The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself. It's the lack of global solidarity and global leadership," Tedros said without naming any specific country or leader he believes has failed.

Johns Hopkins University counts more than 9 million cases and 474,000 deaths.

The United States leads the world in both categories by far. Its top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told a congressional panel Tuesday there will be more testing, not less, even after President Donald Trump asked health officials to slow down testing.

The White House has said the president wasn't serious when he said more testing is the reason there are so many cases in the U.S. But Trump said Tuesday that he wasn't joking.

Fauci also said he is cautiously optimistic a coronavirus vaccine will be available as early as the end of 2020. But he has previously said even if a vaccine is ready, there is no guarantee it will work or give any long-term protection.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America said it is deeply concerned by reports that the White House is considering a significant reduction in the part the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plays in fighting COVID-19.

The society said CDC leadership in establishing guidance to stop the further spread of the coronavirus is urgently needed.

"The emphasis should not be on partisan politics," a society statement says. "All facets of our nation's response to COVID-19 must be strengthened, and weakening the CDC runs counter to that goal. CDC has unique expertise in multiple priority areas, including infection prevention and vaccine distribution."

Some reports say the White House is looking at overhauling the CDC because of what the news reports say is the administration's belief that the agency has failed to stem the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

There has been no comment from the White House or CDC on the reports.

In Brazil

A federal judge in Brazil has ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a face mask in public or pay a fine of nearly $400 a day.

The judge said Bolsonaro is violating local law in Brasilia aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Bolsonaro has so far refused to cover his mouth at large political rallies where he comes in close contact with voters and children.

Brazil has the world's second-highest number of cases after the United States. Bolsonaro has brushed off COVID-19 as just a "flu" and said called anyone worried about the virus is just being neurotic.

In Britain

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he "can't wait to go out to a pub or a restaurant" when restrictions are lifted next month but urged people that they are still obligated to behave responsibly.

"I think people need to go out, and I think they need to enjoy themselves and rediscover things that they haven't been able to do for a long time," Johnson said Tuesday.

Two women sit with take away drinks from a pub on the banks of the river Thames in London, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Millions of…
Two women sit with take away drinks from a pub on the banks of the river Thames in London, June 23, 2020.
Drinkers and diners will be required to stay at least one meter apart.

"I want to see bustle, I want to see activity, but let's be absolutely clear that I also want to see everybody being careful: Stay alert and follow the guidance," Johnson said. "We can't have, you know, great sort of writhing scenes in the beer gardens when the virus could be passed on."

British eateries, hotels and trademark pubs have been shuttered since March.

The European Union

The New York Times reports that European Union nations plan to stop U.S. citizens from crossing its borders because of what officials call the U.S. failure to control the virus.

The newspaper is basing its story on what it says are draft lists of who will be allowed to travel to the EU starting July 1. It says it confirmed the lists with two EU officials in Brussels, but the Times says none of the 27 EU members are obligated to adopt it.

It says travelers from Brazil and Russia would also be excluded. A final decision on the list is expected next week.

Elsewhere

Egypt says it plans to lift its nighttime coronavirus curfew starting Saturday, and officials in Saudi Arabia say they are limiting the number of hajj pilgrims this year to only a few thousand instead of the 2.5 million who usually visit Mecca in the last month of the Islamic calendar.

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan may have been put off until next year, but the International Olympic Committee has teamed up with the WHO to kick off a new program featuring athletes from across the world to encourage people to stay physically fit and mentally sharp to fight off COVID-19.

The athletes will appear in a series of public health announcements touting exercise and healthy diets and warning people against cigarettes and drinking.

"We are pleased to partner with the International Olympic Committee to spread important health messages that will save lives. Olympians will help us advocate for healthier populations to ensure that people are as resilient as our health systems must be to fight COVID-19," WHO chief Tedros said Tuesday.

According to the WHO, many COVID-19 victims had underlying health issues that make it harder to recover.

(VOA)

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