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)
Short Url
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.


US begins highest level Taiwan visit in decades

Updated 09 August 2020

US begins highest level Taiwan visit in decades

  • During the three-day visit Health Secretary Alex Azar will meet President Tsai Ing-wen
  • Under President Donald Trump, US relations with Taiwan have warmed dramatically

TAIPEI: A senior member of US President Donald Trump’s administration landed in Taiwan Sunday for Washington’s highest level visit since switching diplomatic recognition to China in 1979, a trip Beijing has condemned.
During the three-day visit Health Secretary Alex Azar will meet President Tsai Ing-wen, who advocates Taiwan being recognized as a sovereign nation and is loathed by China’s leaders.
Azar is the most senior US cabinet member to visit Taiwan in decades and his visit comes as relations between the world’s two biggest economic powers plunge to historic lows.
In recent days, Trump has ordered sweeping restrictions on popular Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat and the US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on Hong Kong’s leader over a tough law that curbs dissent.
Washington has billed the Taiwan trip as an opportunity to learn from the island’s fight against the coronavirus and to celebrate its progressive values.
“This trip is a recognition of Taiwan’s success in combating COVID-19 and a testament to the shared beliefs that open and democratic societies are best equipped to combating disease threats like COVID-19,” a health and human services department official told reporters ahead of the visit.
But Beijing balks at any recognition of self-ruled Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory and vows to one day seize, by force if necessary.
It has described Azar’s visit as a threat to “peace and stability,” while China’s defense minister warned against Washington making any “dangerous moves.”
As well as meeting Tsai, Azar will hold talks with his counterpart Chen Shih-chung and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
He will also meet coronavirus experts and give a speech to public health students as well as alumni of a training program with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Taiwan has become a poster child for defeating the coronavirus thanks to a well-honed track and tracing program as well as firm border controls.
Despite its proximity and economic links to China it has recorded fewer than 500 infections and seven deaths.
In contrast the US has recorded the most deaths in the world with more than 160,000 fatalities.
As public disapproval has grown for his handling of the epidemic, Trump has pivoted from his previous focus on striking a trade deal with China to blaming the country for the coronavirus crisis.
The two countries have clashed on a range of issues, from trade to espionage allegations and Beijing’s human rights record such as the mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims and the political crackdown in Hong Kong.
Washington remains the leading arms supplier to Taiwan but has historically been cautious in holding official contacts with it.
Under Trump, relations with Taiwan have warmed dramatically and he has approved a number of major military sales, including F-16 fighter jets.
The last cabinet minister to visit Taiwan was in 2014 when the then head of the Environmental Protection Agency led a delegation.