Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, imposed an overnight curfew on Sunday to stop the spread of coronavirus cases, with the number of infections in South Africa surpassing more than half a million.
Six months after the World Health Organization declared a global emergency, the virus has killed more than 685,000 people and infected more than 17.8 million since it emerged in China late last year.
New clusters have been reported in countries – like Australia – that had previously brought their outbreaks under control, forcing governments to reimpose lockdown measures to curb the spread despite concerns about more economic fallout.
The Australian state of Victoria on Sunday imposed sweeping new restrictions, including a curfew in Melbourne for the next six weeks, a ban on marriages and bringing schools and universities back online in the coming days.
“Failure to do this will see him drag on for months, months and months,” said Victoria frontman Daniel Andrews.
Despite a lockdown, Melbourne continued to report hundreds of new cases per day, even as other states in Australia reported zero or a small number of cases.
Many other parts of the world are struggling with much larger epidemics.
Health officials in South Africa who expected an increase in cases following the gradual release of a strict lockdown reported that infections had passed the half-million mark.
The country is by far the hardest-hit in Africa, accounting for more than half of diagnosed infections, although President Cyril Ramaphosa has said the death rate is below the global average.
Latin America and the Caribbean took a grim step on Sunday as deaths in the region soared by more than 200,000, with Brazil and Mexico accounting for nearly three-quarters of those deaths, according to an AFP tally compiled at from official sources.
Iran – battling the deadliest epidemic in the Middle East – also reported its highest number of day-to-day infections in nearly a month on Sunday, warning that most of its provinces have been affected by a resurgence of the disease.
With infections and deaths soaring, the United Nations health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), said the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be prolonged and warned of possible “fatigue. of the response ”.
“WHO continues to assess the global risk level of COVID-19 as very high,” the agency said, adding that the effects of the pandemic “will be felt for decades to come.”
– Vaccine race –
Mexico has overtaken Britain to become the third most affected country by the virus – after Brazil and the United States – with more than 46,600 fatal cases.
The United States, the worst-affected country in the world, has now had more than 4.6 million cases and 154,319 deaths.
The pandemic has sparked a vaccine race with several Chinese companies in the lead, while Russia has set a target date in September to roll out its own prophylaxis.
However, US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said his country was unlikely to use a vaccine developed in either country.
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.
Even as the vaccine race intensifies, the pandemic and the lockdowns to stop its spread have hammered the global economy.
France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all reported huge contractions in their economies for the April-June quarter, while Europe as a whole saw its gross domestic product drop by 12, 1%.
While many outbreaks on the continent have been largely brought under control, the number of cases in Switzerland has risen again in recent weeks, as Norway recorded its first death from the virus in two weeks.
Despite the resurgence of cases, Europe has seen protests against the coronavirus brakes.
Thousands of people demonstrated in Berlin over the weekend to demand “a day of freedom” from the restrictions, with some protesters calling the pandemic “the biggest conspiracy theory” – without offering any credible evidence.
The protests, in which many protesters did not wear masks or abide by social distancing rules, sparked calls for tougher penalties against those who breach safeguards against the spread of the coronavirus.
At least 45 police officers were injured and more than 130 people were arrested.
The pandemic has also continued to wreak havoc in the travel, sports, culture and tourism sectors, with more and more airlines announcing massive job cuts and shrinking major festivals and cultural events.
Latin America’s largest airline, the Brazilian-Chilean group LATAM, has said it will lay off at least 2,700 crew, and British Airways pilots overwhelmingly voted in favor of a deal reducing wages by 20%, with 270 jobs lost.
Austria’s month-long Salzburg Festival is celebrating its 100th anniversary, but now with a reduced program and strict security measures, including masks for spectators until they are seated and their 80,000 tickets – against the usual 230,000 – personalized to allow contact tracing.
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© 2020 AFP