Covid raises low hopes for a quick end to the pandemic

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Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

The United States reported a daily record of Covid-19 deaths and Brazil’s death toll passed the grim threshold of 200,000 on Thursday as further outbreaks of the coronavirus dampened hopes for a respite from the pandemic anytime soon.

Sharp spikes in cases around the world have led authorities to impose a host of new lockdowns and other restrictions, even as dozens of countries roll out the first stages of vaccination campaigns hailed as light at the end of the tunnel.

China imposed emergency measures to tackle an outbreak in the northern city of Shijiazhuang, while Tokyo on Friday began a month-long state of emergency, calling on businesses in the Japanese capital to stop serving the alcohol at 7:00 p.m. and residents to stay at home after 8:00 p.m.

Canada and Lebanon have ordered overnight curfews, while the World Health Organization has warned that European countries must redouble their efforts to deal with a new, more contagious strain of the virus that has first emerged. times in England.

The plight of countries struggling to control the virus counts beyond their borders, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has said.

“The point is, no one is safe until we are all safe,” he said.

“The nature of this virus means that the world cannot be as strong as the weakest healthcare system. ”

The global epidemic shows no signs of slowing down, with nearly 1.9 million people dead worldwide and 87 million confirmed cases.

– Continuation of the horror show? –

The numbers continued to mount at an alarming rate in the United States, the country with the highest death toll in the world, at more than 360,000.

The United States has recorded a record 3,998 deaths in the past 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Brazil, the country with the second-highest death toll, meanwhile reported its second-highest number of daily deaths – 1,524 – on the verge of passing the 200,000 mark killed by the virus.

The situation is likely to worsen in Brazil before improving, warned Paulo Lotufo, epidemiologist at the University of Sao Paulo.

“I don’t even know how we’re going to spend January,” he told AFP.

“Many health workers are exhausted. People had to face enormous suffering. ”

Brazil now sees uncomfortable reminders of the worst days of the pandemic.

In the Amazon rainforest city of Manaus, the health care system is pushed back to the brink, echoing last April’s haunting scenes of mass graves and corpses piled into refrigerated trucks.

As authorities deployed refrigerated trucks a second time, a court on Saturday ordered the state government to shut down non-essential businesses for 15 days.

California has also deployed 166 refrigerated trailers for use as temporary morgues by overwhelmed hospitals, officials said.

– Distant fallout –

The pandemic crushed economic growth last year and France’s finance minister warned that the worst was yet to come.

“There will be more bankruptcies in 2021 than in 2020,” said Bruno Le Maire.

The minister in charge of the response to the pandemic of Japan meanwhile warned that Tokyo’s medical system was “strained”, a major concern for a city preparing to host the Olympic Games this summer.

The Australian city of Brisbane has called for a three-day lockdown after a worker at a quarantine hotel contracted the highly contagious UK strain of Covid-19.

In China, authorities moved quickly to contain a new cluster of cases in Shijiazhuang in northern Hebei province, closing schools, cutting travel links and implementing mass testing.

England has meanwhile announced it will introduce mandatory coronavirus testing for all international arrivals from the start of next week.

– British variety hits France –

France said it has confirmed 10 cases of the mutant British coronavirus strain – a worrying development which means the most infectious strain may already be circulating more widely in the country.

British border restrictions – which prevent most people from entering France, including tourists – will nonetheless remain in force “until further notice” to prevent new tension from setting in, said Prime Minister Jean Castex.

– “Catastrophic” impact –

Britain began its third lockdown on Wednesday despite being praised for a relatively rapid vaccine rollout.

“Unless we take the lockdown seriously, the impact on healthcare for the whole country could be catastrophic,” said Rupert Pearse, professor of intensive care medicine who works at the Royal London Hospital.

The surge in UK cases has not left elite sport intact, with Aston Villa becoming the fourth Premier League football club to confirm an outbreak.

strawberries-kjl-jhb / acb

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