News ID: 269570
Published: 0338 GMT May 29, 2020

Virus tolls surge in Americas as Europe reopens

Virus tolls surge in Americas as Europe reopens
Members of International Medical Corps (IMC) carry the body of a COVID-19 victim at a Ministry of Health Infectious Disease Unit in Juba, South Sudan.

The death toll from the coronavirus spiked again in the United States, and Latin America's pandemic crisis deepened, as Europe's reopening from lockdown grew bolder by the day.

Grim figures from the Americas were accompanied by the growing economic fallout, with the number of people filing unemployment claims in the US reaching 40 million, and Brazil shedding five million jobs, AFP reported.

But Europe pressed on with efforts to return to normality, with the English Premier League and Italy's Serie A unveiling plans to resume play.

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 360,419 people since the outbreak first emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Friday.

At least 5,826,680 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 2,370,400 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.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic cases or the most serious ones.

The US is the worst-hit country with 101,621 deaths from 1,721,926 cases. At least 399,991 people have been declared recovered.

Populations are learning to adjust to life with the long-term threat of infection as the virus continues its march around the globe and a vaccine remains elusive.

Pharmaceutical firm bosses expressed optimism a jab could be rolled out by year's end but warned of "daunting" challenges in producing the 15 billion doses needed to curb the pandemic.

Well over 100 labs around the world are scrambling to come up with a vaccine, including 10 candidates that have made it to the clinical trial stage.

"If things go well, and the stars are aligned, we will have enough evidence of safety and efficacy so that we can... have a vaccine around the end of October," said Pfizer boss Albert Bourla.


'Everything has changed'


The urgency was underlined by ballooning death tolls in South America, increasingly the new focus of the pandemic, where Brazil recorded more than 1,000 fatalities and a national one-day record for infections.

Chile also logged a record daily death toll Thursday and in Peru total fatalities topped 4,000.

With limited sanitation and little space for social distancing, millions of people in slums across the region cannot take basic precautions recommended by health authorities and have little to fall back on when lockdowns destroy jobs.

The economic toll on workers around the world was illustrated further with news that French car giant Renault plans to cut 15,000 jobs as part of a two billion euro cost-cutting drive.

British budget airline EasyJet also said it would axe up to 30 percent of its staff, and Japanese carmaker Nissan reported a huge $6.2 billion annual net loss.

Seeking to stem the bleeding, Europe has been carefully moving ahead with the lifting of restrictions on daily life, with France set to reopen restaurants and museums next week and Britain sending children back to school over the next two weeks.

"Freedom will be the rule and restrictions the exception," French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spaniards were revisiting old joys as life gets back on track – with people seen belting out tunes from classic movie "Grease" at a 1950s-themed drive-in theatre in Madrid.

Spain will allow 70 percent of the population to go to restaurants, swimming pools and shopping centers from next week.


Curbs return


But many countries that have seen success in curbing the virus since early outbreaks are now on alert for a second wave of infections, with South Korea and Sri Lanka showing renewed signs of caution.

South Korea – held up as a global model in how to stop the virus –has reimposed some social distancing rules after a series of new clusters emerged, many in the capital Seoul.

Museums, parks and art galleries were closed again from Friday for two weeks and companies urged to reintroduce flexible working practices. The numbers of children in Seoul schools will also be cut back.

And in Sri Lanka, some lockdown rules will be rolled out again from Sunday after more than 250 returnees from Kuwait were found to be infected.


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