Virus cases top nine million as WHO says pandemic ‘accelerating’
by Mohamad Ali Harissi with Isabelle Tourne in Paris
Global coronavirus infections topped nine million as the World Health Organization warned the pandemic was accelerating and Saudi Arabia announced it would scale back the hajj Islamic pilgrimage next month.
Europe has steadily eased its travel lockdowns in recent weeks, and France on Monday took its biggest step back to normality by allowing millions of children to return to school.
But many parts of the world, including Latin America and South Asia, are only beginning to feel the full force of the pandemic, while other regions are being hit with second waves.
“The pandemic is still accelerating,” the WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual health forum organised in the United Arab Emirates.
Tedros said the greatest threat was not the virus itself, which has now killed over 470,000 people, 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 is one of the leaders to have 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.
More than 50,000 people have been confirmed to have died from the virus in Brazil, with the true number believed to be far higher.
Brazil’s official death toll is second only to the United States, which has recorded 120,000 fatalities, and President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis has been widely criticised as erratic and chaotic.
Trump on Monday said the American toll could surpass 150,000, as two more members of his team that helped organise a controversial weekend rally for him in Oklahoma tested positive.
Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina are also coping with 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. (AFP)