Latin American virus cases top 5 million

Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed five million coronavirus cases on Monday as the World Health Organization warned there might never be a “silver bullet” for the pandemic.

Global infections passed 18 million, with Brazil driving the regional surge. South America’s largest country has recorded 2.75 million cases, and close to half the region’s 202,000 deaths.

Only the United States, with 4.7 million cases and more than 155,000 deaths, has been worse affected.

In the region’s second hardest-hit country, Peru, daily cases have almost doubled from 3,300 to 6,300 since bus and air travel resumed a month ago, according to official figures.

The world’s hope of ending the current cycle of outbreaks and lockdowns rests on a vaccine, but the WHO said governments and citizens should focus on what is known to work: testing, contact tracing, maintaining physical distance and wearing a mask.

“We all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference.

“However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment — and there might never be,” he said.

“For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control. Do it all.”

Despite months of economically crippling restrictions, the pandemic is gathering pace with the worldwide death toll nearing 700,000 and a White House adviser warning the virus is “extraordinarily widespread” in the United States.

(Robin Milliard with Carly Waters in Melbourne and AFP bureaus)

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