Sunday, 24 September 2023

WHO expert warns first wave of pandemic not yet over

As confirmed coronavirus cases globally exceed 5.5 million, a top expert from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the world is still in the middle of the outbreak. The new warning dashes hopes of a speedy global economic recovery, even as many countries begin reopening certain sectors after two months of closure.

“Right now, we’re not in the second wave. We’re right in the middle of the first wave globally,” said WHO executive director Mike Ryan. “We’re still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up,” he added, citing rising cases in South Asia, South America and other parts of the world.

India, home to over 1.3 billion people, broke its own single-day record in new cases for the seventh straight day, reporting 6,535 infections in 24 hours. The figure has brought its total to more than 145,000 with nearly 4,200 deaths. The poor have been particularly vulnerable to the virus, posing challenges to authorities in containing a virus with no vaccine in densely populated areas.

Cases in India also appear to be concentrated in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, where the financial hub of Mumbai is located. The return of migrant workers previously stranded by the nationwide lockdown to their native villages has also caused a spike in new cases in the eastern parts of the country.

Despite the increasing infections, India has eased certain measures and allowed domestic flights to operate again on Monday, 26 May, albeit at much lower traffic levels.

Meanwhile, Brazil on Tuesday, 27 May, surpassed the single-day record in deaths of the United States, which by far is the worst-hit country in the world. The South American nation logged 807 deaths in the past 24 hours, while the US recorded 620 fatalities.

With over 375,000 confirmed cases, Brazil has the second highest number of cases in the world. Over 23,000 have died from the disease, although many fear Brazil’s true toll may be much higher. The US has also imposed a travel ban on foreigners coming from Brazil.

State and local leaders earned the ire of President Jair Bolsonaro, as they took it upon themselves to enforce stay-at-home measures, which Bolsonaro has long been critical of. However, Sao Paulo Governor João Doria has dismissed the idea of a full lockdown in the country’s largest state economy. Restrictions are set to ease starting 1 June.

For the case of Brazil with “intense” transmission rates, Ryan recommended the continued implementation of preventive measures, such as social distancing and isolation. He stressed that these should remain in place regardless of the damage to the economy.

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