US nears 6 million cases of coronavirus

The United States neared six million coronavirus cases on Sunday, nearly a quarter of the planet’s total, as nations around the world battle to contain the raging pandemic.

Global coronavirus infections soared past 25 million, as countries tightened restrictions to halt the health crisis that has upended life for most of humanity.

A million additional cases have been detected globally roughly every four days since mid-July, according to an AFP tally, with India on Sunday setting the record for the highest single-day rise in cases with 78,761.

The world’s hardest hit country, the United States, had recorded 5.99 million cases of infection as of 0030 GMT Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. And the death toll is just over 183,000.

The US hit five million cases three weeks ago, just 17 days after reaching four million, the tracker said.

The virus has hobbled the US economy, the world’s largest, and cast a shadow over President Donald Trump’s once-promising re-election prospects.

As Trump faces enormous pressure to curb the contagion, the head of the US Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, raised the possibility that a still-elusive vaccine might be given emergency approval before the end of trials designed to ensure its safety and effectiveness.

The virus has proven a tenacious foe even in nations such as New Zealand and South Korea, which had previously brought their outbreaks largely under control but are now battling new clusters of infections.

On the other side of the world, Latin America — the worst-hit region — is still struggling with its first wave, with Covid-19 deaths in Brazil crossing 120,000, second only to the United States.

Nearly 855,000 people have died of Covid-19 globally, and with no vaccine or effective treatment available yet, governments have been forced to resort to some form of social distancing and lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus.

Masks will become mandatory from Monday on public transport and flights in New Zealand, which went more than 100 days without local transmission before the current cluster emerged.

And tightened virus curbs kicked in on Sunday in South Korea, which is also battling fresh clusters — including in the greater Seoul region, home to half the country’s population.

In Iraq, thousands of Shiite pilgrims wearing gloves and masks flooded the holy city of Karbala to mark Ashura, in one of the largest Muslim gatherings since the pandemic began.

Typically, millions of Shiites from around the world flock to the shrine, but this year’s commemoration was subdued with employees spraying disinfectant mist, checking temperatures and enforcing social distancing.

“It stands out because there are so few people,” said Fadel Hakim, a blue medical mask cupping his chin. (AFP)

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