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Pandemic may get ‘worse and worse and worse,’ WHO warns

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The raging coronavirus pandemic has the potential to get far worse if all nations do not adhere to basic health-care precautions, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday.

“Let me be blunt: too many countries are headed in the wrong direction. The virus remains public enemy number one,” Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva.

“If basics are not followed, the only way this pandemic is going to go, it is going to get worse and worse and worse. But it does not have to be this way.”

The United States has the largest total coronavirus caseload, followed by Brazil and India. As of 11:20 a.m. ET, the global coronavirus case total stood at 12,945,828, with 569,878 deaths as a result of the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

WATCH | No return to old normal for the foreseeable future, WHO says:

The World Health Organization says it is possible to control COVID-19 and get on with our lives but a return to the ‘old normal’ is a long way off. 2:12

Tedros said that “there will be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future.” Tedros said that while numerous countries, especially in Europe and Asia, have brought outbreaks under control, too many others are seeing virus trends move in the wrong direction.

He also chastised political leaders for mixed messages about outbreaks that damage trust, without referring to any politicians by name. Tedros called for countries to adopt a comprehensive strategy to curb the soaring caseloads in many countries, noting that about half of all the new cases are now coming from the Americas.

Still, he said there was a road map out of the pandemic and that it’s never too late to control its spread even in places with explosive transmission.

Florida records another significant spike in cases

The United States was grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world on Monday, as Florida shattered the national record on Sunday for a state’s largest single-day increase in new confirmed cases.

Subsequently on Monday, the state recorded more than 12,600 new COVID-19 cases, its second-highest daily total since the outbreak began, coinciding with the state’s attempt to revive tourism and attract visitors to the recently reopened Disney World.

Florida, Arizona, California and Texas have emerged as the new U.S. epicentres of the pandemic in recent weeks. Infections have risen rapidly in about 40 of the 50 states over the last two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis.

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Florida is quickly rising, with more than 500 new patients in the past 24 hours, raising to 8,000 the number in hospitals, according to a state agency. Across Florida, 47 hospitals reported their intensive care units (ICUs) were completely full, including eight hospitals in the Miami-Dade County hot spot.

No hospital ICUs were full in Orange County, where Disney World welcomed the public on Saturday for the first time since March. Guests must wear masks, undergo temperature checks and keep physically apart.

WATCH | Florida shatters COVID-19 case record as Disney World reopens:

Florida hits a new record in daily COVID-19 cases just as Disney World reopens and as U.S. officials insist they’re not losing the battle against COVID-19. 1:56

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday took swipes at health experts in his government leading the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, as his relationship further frayed with top infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci.

The Republican president, seeking re-election in November, has been increasingly critical of government health officials and their guidance as a steady rise in infections threatens the easing of shutdown restrictions across the country.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Trump should invoke the Defense Production Act to expand the capacity of labs to process tests for COVID-19, citing processing delays and supply shortages.

“The federal government has to step up now because it is becoming a national crisis,” de Blasio told a media briefing.


What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 11:20 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had 107,807 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 71,645 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,820.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’s very sorry he didn’t recuse himself from the government’s decision to award a contract to WE Charity to manage the Canada student service grant (CSSG) program.

He said his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions, and said he’s particularly sorry that the delay in the program caused by WE’s eventual decision to withdraw will harm students looking for ways to help in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau also said the federal government is extending its program to subsidize wages at companies hit hard by the pandemic until December. The Canada emergency wage subsidy (CEWS) is the heart of the government’s promise to help Canadians get back to work, even if has to be at a slower pace, as the pandemic wanes.


Here’s what’s happening around the world

Two experimental coronavirus vaccines jointly developed by German biotech firm BioNTech and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer have received “fast track” designation from the U.S. drug regulator, the companies said on Monday. The candidates, BNT162b1 and BNT162b2, are the most advanced of the at least four vaccines being assessed by the companies in ongoing trials in the United States and Germany.

Earlier this month, the companies said BNT162b1 showed potential against the virus and was found to be well tolerated in early-stage human trials. Early data from the German trial of BNT162b1 is expected to be released in July, the companies said.

Meanwhile, two WHO experts are part of a mission in China to trace the origin of the pandemic. The virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. Beijing had been reluctant to allow a probe but relented after scores of countries called on the WHO to conduct a thorough investigation.

Regarding the WHO experts in China, the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, said they would work with Chinese scientists and medical experts on “scientific co-operation on the new coronavirus tracing issue.”

WATCH | Epidemiologist responds to questions about evolving coronavirus pandemic:

Dr. Christopher Labos says Ontario’s move into Phase 3 carries risks, and early intervention on new cases is key to avoiding a surge in the coronavirus. 8:08

India reported another record surge of COVID-19 infections on Monday, adding 28,701 new cases over the previous 24 hours. Authorities in several cities are reinstating strict lockdowns after attempting to loosen things up to revive an ailing economy.

The new cases raised the national total to 878,254. The Health Ministry also reported another 500 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 23,174.

New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Pune are among the key Indian cities witnessing a surge in infections. Several states introduced weekend curfews and announced strict lockdowns in high-risk areas to slow down infections, including parts of the India-administered region of disputed Kashmir.

A health worker in Mumbai checks the temperature of a resident with an electronic thermometer during a check-up campaign for the coronavirus. (Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters)

Hong Kong has banned public gatherings of more than four people and required face coverings on public transport as the city battles an increase in COVID-19 cases. On Monday, 41 out of 52 coronavirus infections reported in Hong Kong were locally transmitted cases. Since July 6, Hong Kong has reported 250 new cases, with Monday’s tally being the highest since March.

The city will also increase testing to identify asymptomatic patients who are infected. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who announced the measures on Monday, also urged the private sector to put in place work-from-home arrangements for employees.

Walt Disney Co. is temporarily closing its Hong Kong Disneyland theme park from July 15 amid rising COVID-19 cases in the territory, the company said Monday.

Australia’s worst-hit Victoria state recorded only 177 new coronavirus cases on Monday, but a health official is warning the disease’s spread might yet worsen. The new cases were substantially down from 273 cases on Sunday and a record 288 on Friday.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said it was too early to say whether the lower count meant the spread was being contained. “It’s great it’s lower than our peak. But it may not be our peak yet,” Sutton said. “So I would like to see a week of decreasing numbers before I come and say I have greater confidence about the direction we’re going in.”

Melbourne, Australia’s second-most popular city, and a part of its surrounds in Victoria returned to lockdown last week in a bid to contain the disease spread. Australia has recorded around 10,000 COVID-19 cases and 108 deaths.

A Victoria state police officer works at a vehicle checkpoint along the Princes Freeway outside of Melbourne on Monday after the city went into lockdown. (James Ross/AAP/Reuters)

Authorities in Pakistan are banning open-air livestock markets in cities for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice,” to contain the spread of the coronavirus. However, people will be allowed to buy and sell sacrificial animals at the designated 700 markets, which will be set up on the outskirts of cities across the country. These markets will only remain open from dawn to dusk.

Monday’s move comes as Pakistan reported 69 more COVID-19 deaths, taking total fatalities to 5,266; Pakistan now has 251,625 confirmed cases. Eid-al Adha will be celebrated in Pakistan on July 31, subject to the sighting of the moon.

Kazakhstan will extend its second coronavirus lockdown by two weeks, until the end of July, and will once again offer financial aid to those who have lost their source of income, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Monday.

“There are first signs now that the situation is beginning to improve,” he said in a tweet. “The next two weeks are important for the full stabilization of the situation.”

WATCH | Sunday Scrum – Eliminating COVID too costly to society, health experts say:

Some public health and infectious disease experts are pressing for governments in Canada to shift to minimizing, not eradicating, COVID-19 while allowing society to resume functioning. 9:01

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Britons to wear face coverings in shops and other tight indoor spaces — but stopped short of making it mandatory. Critics have accused Johnson’s government of failing to offer clarity on the mask issue in the days since he began backtracking on previous advice suggesting such coverings were not necessary.

But Johnson said the scientific research is now showing that masks help stop the transmission of the virus. Speaking to reporters during a visit to the London Ambulance Service, Johnson said “face coverings do have a real value in confined spaces and I do think the public understand that.”

In Spain, a judge overturned a decision by the Catalan regional government to confine more than 140,000 people to only leaving their homes for work and other essential activities, arguing that only central authorities can issue a lockdown that restricts freedom of movement.

A health-care worker in Lleida, Spain, waits outside a field hospital set up for COVID-19 cases outside the CAP Prat de la Riba primary care centre. (Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images)

Regional Vice-President Pere Aragones has said that the Catalan government plans to appeal the judge’s decision. The outbreak in the rural area is connected to farm work and seasonal day workers, many of whom work and live in precarious conditions.

In South Africa, which accounts for more than 40 per cent of all the reported coronavirus cases in Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday that the country would reimpose a ban on alcohol sales to reduce the volume of people needing emergency care so hospitals have more beds to treat COVID-19 patients.

South Africa is also reinstating a nighttime curfew to reduce traffic accidents and has made it mandatory for all residents to wear face masks in public.

Published at Mon, 13 Jul 2020 11:14:02 +0000

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