WHO warns of drawn out pandemic as South Africa cases top 500,000

A health worker walks between beds at a temporary field hospital set up by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Khayelitsha township near Cape Town, South Africa, July 21, 2020. Picture taken July 21, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 August 2020

WHO warns of drawn out pandemic as South Africa cases top 500,000

  • The coronavirus has killed more than 680,000 people and infected more than 17.5 million
  • Nigeria on Saturday announced it would ease a lockdown in the commercial capital Lagos

JOHANNESBURG: The UN health agency warned that the coronavirus pandemic would be lengthy and could lead to “response fatigue,” as the case count in South Africa topped half a million.
Six months after the World Health Organization declared a global emergency, the coronavirus has killed more than 680,000 people and infected more than 17.5 million, according to an AFP tally.
South Africa is by far the hardest hit country in Africa, accounting for more than half of diagnosed infections, although President Cyril Ramaphosa said the fatality rate is lower than the global average.
Health authorities had been expecting a surge in cases after the gradual loosening of a strict lockdown that was imposed at the end of March.
Nigeria on Saturday also announced it would ease a lockdown in the commercial capital Lagos, allowing churches and mosques to reopen next week.
An emergency WHO committee reviewing the pandemic “highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this COVID-19 outbreak, noting the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts.”
“WHO continues to assess the global risk level of COVID-19 to be very high,” it said in its latest statement.
The agency also said the effects of the pandemic “will be felt for decades to come.”
Mexico overtook Britain to become the third hardest hit country in virus deaths — after Brazil and the United States — with more than 46,600 fatal cases.
Although many Latin American countries have begun relaxing stay-at-home measures, the virus is still spreading quickly across much of the region, which has now recorded more than four million cases and almost 200,000 deaths.
Half of them are in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro said he believes “nearly everyone” will catch the virus eventually, after himself recovering from it.
The US, the hardest-hit country in the world, has now tallied more than 4.6 million cases and 154,319 deaths.

The outlook was bleak in Asia as well, where India and the Philippines reported record increases in new daily infections.
“We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19, and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action,” said an open letter signed by 80 Filipino medical associations.
Japan’s Okinawa declared a state of emergency after a record jump in cases on the islands — many linked to US military forces stationed there.
The pandemic has spurred a race for a vaccine with several Chinese companies at the forefront, while Russia has set a target date of September to roll out its own medicine.
However, US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said it was unlikely his country would use any vaccine developed in either nation.
“I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone,” he said.
As part of its “Operation Warp Speed,” the US government will pay pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and GSK up to $2.1 billion for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, the companies said.

France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all reported huge contractions in their economies for the April-June quarter, while Europe as a whole saw gross domestic product fall by 12.1 percent.
Daily case numbers in Switzerland have crept up again in recent weeks, while Norway recorded its first virus death in two weeks.
At least 36 crew members confined to a Norwegian cruise ship have tested positive for the new coronavirus, the operator Hurtigruten said on Saturday.
Despite the resurgence in cases, there have been demonstrations in Europe against the curbs.
Thousands protested in Berlin on Saturday urging “a day of freedom” from the restrictions, with some demonstrators dubbing the pandemic “the biggest conspiracy theory.”
In South Korea, the elderly leader of a secretive sect at the center of the country’s early coronavirus outbreak was arrested for allegedly hindering the government’s effort to contain the epidemic.
People linked to Lee Man-hee’s Shincheonji Church of Jesus accounted for more than half of the South’s coronavirus cases in February and March, but the country has since appeared to have brought the virus under control.
The pandemic has also continued to cause mayhem in the travel and tourism sectors, with more airlines announcing mass job cuts.
Latin America’s biggest airline, the Brazilian-Chilean group LATAM, said it would lay off least 2,700 crew, and British Airways pilots overwhelmingly voted to accept a deal cutting wages by 20 percent, with 270 jobs lost.


Indonesia keeps Bali closed to foreign tourists

Updated 17 min 8 sec ago

Indonesia keeps Bali closed to foreign tourists

  • As foreign visitors remain barred from entering the country, government plans to boost domestic tourism to keep hospitality sector afloat
  • COVID-19 has shattered Indonesia’s target to welcome 17 million foreign visitors this year, dealing a major blow to national revenue

JAKARTA: Indonesia will remain closed to foreign tourists at least until the end of the year, a senior minister announced during a meeting with the country’s business community on Thursday. 
As Indonesia still grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan said that all non-essential foreign visitors will remain barred from entering the country, while the government will try to boost domestic tourism to keep the hospitality sector afloat. 
“With regard to foreign tourists, I think we will not be welcoming them until the end of the year,” Pandjaitan said during the virtual forum with Indonesian businesspeople, shelving a plan laid out by the provincial government of the holiday island of Bali — Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination — to reopen for international visitors on Sept. 11. 
Pandjaitan’s remarks also ended speculation as to whether the central government would revoke a regulation issued by the justice minister in late March banning foreigners — except those arriving for essential, diplomatic and official purposes — from entering Indonesia amid ongoing efforts to contain the virus outbreak. 
Bali authorities were hoping for the regulation to be revoked ahead of the island’s plan to reopen to foreigners.  
Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana, head of the Bali Tourism Board, said industry players in Bali were ready for the Sept. 11 plan but acknowledged that the central government’s decision to keep foreign arrivals suspended “must be based on a more urgent reason.” 
“There could be a macro outlook behind Jakarta’s decision, and it could be for everyone’s greater good,” Adnyana told Arab News. 
According to Pandjaitan, Indonesian authorities will focus on promoting domestic tourism as Indonesians who were planning to go for holidays abroad, including those who were set to travel for Umrah, will be unable to do so this year so due to international travel restrictions.  
“There is plenty of money around. No one is going on the Umrah pilgrimage, and those who used to go to Singapore or Penang for medical treatment are not going anywhere either. These are people with money to spend, and we estimated there could be tens of trillions of rupiahs. We want them to spend the money here,” Pandjaitan said. 
According to Umrah tour operators, about 1 million Indonesians travel to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage each year, with many of them also visiting other sites in the region. 
The COVID-19 outbreak has shattered Indonesia’s target to welcome 17 million foreign visitors this year, dealing a major blow to its national revenue. 
According to Adnyana, tourism in Bali alone contributed 120 trillion to 150 trillion rupiahs ($10 billion) a year to the country’s coffers. 
He also expressed concerns that the pandemic may still affect the government’s plans to revive the industry through domestic tourism as many potential travelers may be unable to make trips to other parts of the country amid concerns of contracting the disease and internal restrictions imposed as part of the response to contain the virus.

On Friday, President Joko Widodo said in his 2021 budget speech before the parliament that 14.4 trillion rupiahs would be allocated for the tourism industry’s recovery with a focus on developing several main destinations: Lake Toba in North Sumatra; Borobudur Temple in Central Java; Mandalika in Lombok island; Labuan Bajo on the Flores island, which serves as a gateway to see the Komodo dragon on Komodo Island and Mount Kelimutu, which has three volcanic crater lakes of different colors; and Likupang Beach in North Sulawesi.