New global alarm on virus spread and revivals | Daily News


New global alarm on virus spread and revivals

The spread of Covid-19 continues to be the major global concern with more than 12 million infected and over 500,000 deaths this week, and revivals of infections in Australia and Israel, where it had been controlled.

The United States continues to have the largest infections with 3,054.695 in midweek and close to 133,000 deaths. The US now has more than one-fourth of global infections, and there are increased warnings by medical experts that the infections could be much higher in the coming weeks. Many US states that ended the lockdowns before achieving safety over the spread in keeping with President Trump’s call to reopen the economy, are now moving to bring back social controls, including the wearing of masks. Midweek saw the coronavirus cases in the US jump above 60,000 in one day.

The US saw the fifth day in seven that new cases have increased by more than 50,000 a day since first crossing the milestone on July 1. In the southern and western states where the pandemic is widest spread, saw Texas report a record one-day increase of 10,028 new coronavirus cases, becoming the fourth state to experience a one-day rise of more than 10,000. Florida (7,347), California (6,090), Arizona (3,653), and Georgia (3,406). Arizona (a record 117) and California (111) reported the most fatalities from coronavirus in one day.

Brazil continues having the second highest spread of the disease with 1,713,160 infected and reports of 67,964 deaths, with many more believed to have died without proper recording,

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who is in a higher-risk group because of his age 65, has tested positive for coronavirus, after he took the test having developed symptoms, including high fever. He has repeatedly played down risks of what he has called the “little flu”, saying he would not be seriously affected, and has opposed lockdowns, which he says hurt the economy.

President Bolsonaro on Wednesday vetoed provisions of a law that obligated the federal government to provide drinking water, disinfectants, and a guarantee of hospital beds to indigenous communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuters reported.

The Brazil president’s office said those provisions in the law, approved by Congress, were “against the public interest” and “unconstitutional,” by creating expenses for the federal government without new sources of revenue to cover them. This is expected to very adversely affect the indigenous communities spread throughout Brazil.

India remains in the third position on infections, with the virus tally rising to 742,417 and 20,642 deaths. India saw the highest single-day surge in fresh infections this week.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is scheduled to chair a meeting of the Group of Ministers on the coronavirus situation in the country this week. Meanwhile, deaths due to COVID-19 crossed the 5,000 mark in Mumbai.

Kerala, Bengal, MP and Karnataka report the highest single-day spike in cases. With a jump of 301 coronavirus cases in Kerala on Wednesday, the state recorded the highest single-day rise in cases. West Bengal witnessed its highest jump in cases with 986 new infections in 24 hours, with 7,705 total active cases in the state. Karnataka was also among the states that registered a record rise in cases midweek with 2,062 testing positive for the virus and 54 fatalities. The total number of cases rose to 28,877 and the toll to 470 in the state. Madhya Pradesh reported 409 new cases with which the total number of cases rose to 16,036.

It is also reported that the UK government has “given up” on trying to eliminate the coronavirus, says a new report published today by Independent SAGE – Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies an independent group of scientists. They propose a new strategy aimed at the complete elimination of Covid-19. It would replace what the report calls the government’s “failing NHS Test and Trace system” with a locally controlled contract tracing and testing system that has more laboratory provision, as well as tighter lockdown measures and restriction of international and domestic travel.

The report also points out that the UK’s death toll has been one of the highest in the world but says it’s not too late to change that trajectory. “We believe that a clear strategy based on proven public health principles is now required to see us through the next 9 to 12 months,” says the report.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged that airborne transmission of the coronavirus cannot be ruled out in crowded, closed or poorly ventilated settings, after it was urged to do so in a letter signed by more than 200 scientists. The WHO has so far said that the virus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets and contact between people. But on Tuesday a WHO official acknowledged emerging evidence that the coronavirus can be spread through tiny particles suspended in the air. This is leading to new concerns about the moves to control the spread of the virus mainly adopted by Third World countries.

The new spread

Australia and Israel that had succeeded in control of the virus are now faced with another spread, leading to drastic action to bring the situation under control.

In Australia the border between the states of Victoria and New South Wales have been closed preventing the movement of people, unless for specific purposes. The country’s second-largest city, Melbourne, has begun a second lockdown in response to the spike in infections.

Its five million residents will be barred from leaving home for six weeks, except for essential reasons.

Police say they are setting up a “ring of steel” around the city, with “checkpoints anytime and anywhere” to enforce the measures.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to Melburnians’ resilience, stating “The rest of the country knows that the sacrifice that you’re going through right now is not just for you and your own family, but it’s for the broader Australian community”.

Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews announced the Melbourne lockdown was announced on Tuesday after the state saw 191 new infections, its highest daily number since the pandemic began. Wednesday’s figure was down to 134, but still much higher than numbers in the rest of the country.

Australia has recorded almost 9,000 cases and 106 deaths from the virus.

Israel and the West Bank are dealing with a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus, with measures to curb its spread and mitigate the economic ramifications of the crisis, by both the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities.

Israel confirmed 953 new cases of the coronavirus midweek, bringing the total to 33,175. Two people have died bringing the death toll to 344. Of the 14,516 active cases, 113 are in serious conditions with 39 people on ventilators.

The number of coronavirus patients almost tripled in Raanana in recent days, from 63 to 154. This is due in part to a high school graduation party, as 54 of the new cases are local students who attended an end-of-year party in a local club on June 26. Since then, close to a thousand tests have been conducted, with a 14.6% positive test rate. Out of 720 residents currently in quarantine, 200 are connected to the students.

The Tel Aviv Municipality sent on Wednesday notices warning its residents about the increasing coronavirus infection rate.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently holding consultations with the Health Minister and head of the National Security Council to discuss declaring lockdowns in areas with a high rate of coronavirus infections.

Israeli Defence Minister and alternate prime minister in the current ruling coalition, has begun self-quarantine after possible contact with a Covid-19 patient.

The spread of coronavirus elsewhere is also causing much concern, with increasing fears of it affecting the economies and workforces of the affected countries.

Cases of coronavirus are surging in South Africa, a month after the country lifted most of the restrictions brought in with one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. On Thursday, authorities reported the country’s biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases, adding 8,728 confirmed infections and taking the total count to 168,061.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Iraq increased sevenfold in June, the International Rescue Committee said as it urged a redoubling of efforts to contain the spread of the disease in the country. By July 1 there had been 53,708 infections detected in the country, up from 6,868 on June 1. The Ministry of Health said that hospitals are almost at full capacity.

A fresh state of emergency was declared in Belgrade, with a number of restrictions restored after a new increase in coronavirus infections in the Serbian capital. Local authorities across the country had already declared emergencies in several other municipalities where a rise in coronavirus cases had threatened to disrupt the functioning of the health system.

The Philippines reported its highest single-day increase in coronavirus infections, with 1,531 new cases detected in the past 24 hours, bringing the national total to 40,336. The country’s Covid-19 death toll has reached 1,280, after 12 more deaths from the disease.

The European Commission gave conditional approval for the use of antiviral remdesivir in severe Covid-19 patients following an accelerated review process, making it the region’s first therapy to be authorised to treat the virus. The move comes just a week after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave its go-ahead for the drug, produced by Gilead Sciences.

Life in Russia is unlikely to return to normal until next February at the earliest, the country’s health minister said. Many restrictions have already been eased, but with thousands of new cases still being reported every day, and a death toll approaching 10,000, some measures remain in force, including a ban on international flights, extended on Thursday until August.

Hong Kong

Earlier this week the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s internet, was brought to Hong Kong, as part of the new national security law. The Hong Kong government has enabled police to censor online speech and force internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms.

Many residents, already anxious since the law took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the last year of protests. Charles Mok, a pro-democracy lawmaker who represents the technology sector, tweeted: “We are already behind the de facto firewall.”

Hong Kong is facing a dramatic decline of one of its most important advantages – a free and open internet – that sets it apart from mainland China where Facebook, Twitter, Google and most major foreign news sites are blocked.

The prospect of Beijing-style internet controls – where residents are monitored and punished for what they post online, while companies are forced to censor their platforms – is worrying for citizens, activists and businesses in Hong Kong.

The law gives authorities the power to demand individuals and service providers remove content, or access to content deemed threatening to national security. Noncompliance can result in fines and imprisonment for company staff or individuals. Police investigating national security cases can surveil communications and confiscate electronic devices.

After the new measures were announced late on Monday, Facebook, Microsoft, WhatsApp, Google, Twitter, Telegram and others said they would not process information requests from the government until they had reviewed the law. TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, said it was leaving Hong Kong altogether.

Experts say it is precisely because Hongkongers used digital tools so effectively against the Beijing-backed government that authorities are now targeting the online space. The movement that erupted last year managed to mobilise itself without leaders through platforms such as the LIHKG forum and messaging app Telegram – with a level of organisation that Beijing has tried to point to as evidence to claim the demonstrations are coordinated by foreign forces.

The situation in Hong Kong with the introduction of the new law has led to a major international disagreement and confrontation between the western democracies and China, and a large number of countries, especially in Asia, South Africa and Latin America who support the Chinese policies, and seek economic aid from China. The situation has hugely heated the anti-China rhetoric and moves by the US, and will be stronger in the coming months due to the US Presidential Election campaign, in keeping with candidate Donald Trump’s policies.

France: New PM

France’s new Prime Minister, Jean Castex, succeeds the popular Édouard Philippe as President Emmanuel Macron seeks a fresh start in presidential politics. The country faces a deep recession forecast to shrink its economy by 11%, wiping out any gains from the pro-business reforms he pushed through in the first three years of his term.

New PM Castex has made few major changes to the cabinet after President Macron gambled on a reshuffle to reboot his presidency and tighten his grip on government before seeking re-election in 2022.

The Élysée Palace had promised “new faces and talents”, but key ministers from the outgoing government stayed, including the centre-right Bruno Le Maire at economic affairs and finance and Jean-Yves Le Drian, a former Socialist, at foreign affairs. Health Minister Olivier Véran, who helped lead France’s response to the pandemic, also kept his job, as did Florence Parly at defence.

An MP from Macron’s centrist La République en Marche (LREM) party, Barbara Pompili, was promoted to the environment portfolio, a major priority for the last two years of Macron’s term, and a high-profile criminal defence lawyer was appointed to justice.

Analysts said Castex, a relatively unknown career bureaucrat and provincial mayor who successfully ran France’s exit from its coronavirus lockdown, would now need to move decisively to convince voters he was the right choice for the job.

Observers have said that by replacing Philippe with Castex, who also hails from the centre-right Les Républicains (LR) party, Macron had taken a high-stakes gamble on taking fuller control of government in the final two years of his presidency.

Macron’s party - LREM - failed to win a single major municipality in the local elections, with the Greens seizing control of several of France’s biggest cities, depriving the president of a powerful local power base before 2022. The most notable win was the former PM Philippe’s convincing victory in his Normandy bastion of Le Havre, from where he could emerge as a potential Macron rival in years to come.

The president’s entourage has hinted that he plans to announce the key policy lines of the remainder of his mandate in a televised address, probably on Bastille Day, July 14.

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