Cuban doctor Janeth Blanco checks a Central American migrant at the so-called 'filter hotel', rented by the World Organization for Peace (WOFP) and the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM-UN) to host migrants top be quarantined amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, on June 18, 2020. June 20 commemorates the World Refugee Day.
AFP/Herika Martinez
Virus cases top nine million as WHO says pandemic 'accelerating'
Mohamad Ali Harissi (Agence France-Presse) - June 23, 2020 - 8:00am

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Global coronavirus infections topped nine million on Monday as the World Health Organization warned that the pandemic was accelerating and Saudi Arabia said it would allow a "very limited" number of pilgrims to the hajj next month.

France took its biggest step yet back to normality by allowing millions of children to return to school.

But despite Europe further easing lockdowns, cases are still rising around the world, especially in Latin America with Brazil now registering more than 50,000 deaths.

And there are fears of new clusters in Melbourne and Lisbon as well as renewed outbreaks in Beijing and other parts of Asia.

"The pandemic is still accelerating," WHO's director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual health forum organised by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Tedros said the greatest threat facing the world was not the virus itself, which has now killed over 465,000 people and infected nine million, but "the lack of global solidarity and global leadership." 

"We cannot defeat this pandemic with a divided world," he said. "The politicisation of the pandemic has exacerbated it."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the threat, comparing the virus to a "little flu" and arguing the economic impact of shutdowns is worse than the virus itself.

Brazil is the second worst-affected country behind the United States, where the number of deaths topped 120,000 on Monday and political infighting has prevented a unified policy. 

Mexico, Peru and Chile are also coping with severe crises — Mexico City being forced to delay plans for a broad reopening of the economy as the country's death toll raced past 20,000.

With a vaccine still far away, the WHO has called for a rapid increase in production of the steroid dexamethasone, which has been shown to have life-saving potential for critically ill patients.

'Very limited' hajj

Saudi Arabia announced it would allow a "very limited" number of pilgrims to its annual hajj ritual, which last year drew 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world.

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, represents a potentially major source of contagion. 

The authorities on Monday said a hajj only involving pilgrims already in the kingdom would be permitted.

In Europe, countries continued to ease their lockdown restrictions. 

Thousands of French danced and partied well into Monday for an annual music festival, in the first big blowout since the lockdown.

Revellers packed the streets of Paris, most shunning masks and social distancing, to enjoy concerts in cafes and on street corners. 

Although there were none of the usual extravaganzas, many felt the authorities were too lax.

"This is not what a gradual end to the lockdown looks like," said Dr Gilbert Deray.

"I understand that the Festival of Music is something of a liberation, but did we really have to have it this year?"

Swimming pools and cinemas also reopened on Monday while children up to the age of 15 returned to school, attendance once again becoming compulsory. 

But illustrating the persisting risks, Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa said restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people would be reimposed and cafes and shops ordered to close at 8:00 pm in Lisbon.

Australians were warned on Monday to avoid travelling to Melbourne, as the second-biggest city tightened restrictions over fears of an upsurge in cases.

China, Germany and Japan are also battling new outbreaks with some reintroducing containment measures.

The spike in infections increased nervousness in global markets, which mostly fell on Monday on news of a worrying jump in fresh cases in several US states including California, Texas and Florida. 

German airline group Lufthansa, meanwhile, says it has backup plans ready in case shareholders reject a nine-billion-euro ($10.1 billion) pandemic rescue plan agreed with the state.

Sports stars tumble

The sporting world has been reemerging from the darkness, although for every step forward it seems to take one back. 

Japan announced that up to 5,000 fans would be able to attend football and baseball games from July 10 but the presence of fans at other sporting events, notably in the Balkans, appears to have caused problems. 

Five players from Serbian club Red Star Belgrade tested positive for coronavirus after playing a match attended by 16,000 people, the club said on Monday. — with Isabelle Tourne in Paris

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 10, 2020 - 4:54pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

July 10, 2020 - 4:54pm

The Department of Health reports 1,233 new cases of the coronavirus disease, bringing the total infection count in the Philippines to 52,914.

There are 286 new recoveries and 42 more deaths. 

July 10, 2020 - 1:57pm

The Department of Foreign Affairs initiates coordination and exchanges of information with different jurisdictions across the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Africa and Middle East about COVID-19 vaccine developments.

"Based on the gathered information by the Department, collaboration with Philippine subsidiaries of vaccine developers, engagement with those overseas for conduct of clinical trials, utilization of multilateral efforts to ensure vaccine access, and bilateral cooperation are key efforts that must be pursued to ensure that a viable vaccine can be made available and accessible for Filipinos," the DFA says in a statement.

July 10, 2020 - 9:25am

The US posts 65,551 new coronavirus cases, a record for a 24-hour period, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The country, the hardest-hit in the world by the pandemic, has a total caseload of more than 3.1 million, with 133,195 deaths. 

The previous daily record was Tuesday, with more than 60,200 cases in one day. — AFP

July 10, 2020 - 7:20am

Bolivia's interim President Jeanine Anez announced on Thursday that she has tested positive for coronavirus.

"I've tested positive for COVID-19, I'm fine, I will work from isolation," she tweeted.

The 53-year-old said in a video on Twitter that she would remain in quarantine for 14 days before taking another test. — AFP

July 10, 2020 - 7:19am

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 550,910 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1900 GMT on Thursday. 

At least 12,123,290 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 6,461,200 are now considered recovered. 

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

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