Global coronavirus infections soared past 25 million on Sunday, as countries around the world further tightened restrictions to try to stop the rampaging pandemic.
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 surge in India, home to 1.3 billion people, came as the government further eased lockdown restrictions on the weekend to help ease pressure on the reeling economy.
Even nations such as New Zealand and South Korea, which had previously brought their outbreaks largely under control, are now battling new clusters of infections.
On the other side of the world, Latin America — the worst-hit region — was still struggling with its first wave, with Covid-19 deaths in Brazil crossing 120,000, second only to the United States.
Brazil’s curve “has stabilised now, but at a very dangerous level: nearly 1,000 deaths and 40,000 cases per day,” said Christovam Barcellos, a researcher at public health institute Fiocruz.
“And Brazil still isn’t past the peak.”
Nearly 843,000 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.
‘Anti-corona’ rallies in Europe Despite the grim numbers, there has been steady opposition to lockdowns and social distancing measures in many parts of the world, often because of their crushing economic cost.
But resistance has also come from the extreme right and left of the political spectrum, as well as conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccine campaigners.
In Berlin on Saturday, around 18,000 people gathered to march against coronavirus restrictions — but police later stopped the rally because many were not respecting social distancing measures.
Protesters waved German flags and shouted slogans against Chancellor Angela Merkel often used by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Many carried placards promoting widely debunked conspiracy theories about vaccines, face masks and 5G communications.
Similar protests were held in London and Zurich, where some carried signs supporting the far-right QAnon movement, which promotes bizarre theories about Satan-worshipping cabals and “deep state” plots — without any credible evidence.
‘A big first step’ The pandemic has upended economies and societies around the world, and halted most large gatherings — from sport and music to religion and politics.
The Tour de France set off from the French Riviera on Saturday, two months later than planned and with the French sport minister not ruling out the cancellation of the event because of the coronavirus.
Under the Tour rules, a team with two positive tests in its entourage would be expelled. A virus testing cell will travel with the teams throughout the race.
The world’s top sport, culture and music events are struggling with the challenge of hosting spectators while reducing the risk of virus transmission.
But there was some cheer on Saturday in New York, once among the world’s biggest coronavirus hotspots.
Visitors raised their arms, clapped and lined up to get tickets as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art reopened its doors to the public in a festive atmosphere after a six-month closure.
Tracy-Ann Samuel, who came with her daughters aged four and nine, said she couldn’t wait to again be “surrounded by beautiful art”.
“It means that there is some semblance of normalcy,” Samuel said.
“The Met has been a part of New York history for over 150 years… So this is a big first step.”
The World Health Organization has recommended that children aged 12 and over now use masks in the same situations as adults, as the use of face coverings helps stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The health agency made the recommendation in a COVID-19 guidance document it published via its website on Friday.
It said children aged five years and under should not be required to wear masks, while children aged 6-11 should only wear masks under certain conditions, including the presence of widespread transmission in the area where the child resides and the child’s ability to safely and appropriately use a mask.
However, children aged 12 and over are required to wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, “in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.”
The WHO has said the world should be able to rein in the coronavirus pandemic in less than two years, even as the world’s death toll hit 800,000 and the number of confirmed cases continues to rise.
“We have a disadvantage of globalisation, closeness, connectedness, but an advantage of better technology, so we hope to finish this pandemic before less than two years,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Friday.
The number of deaths from the new coronavirus has surpassed 800,000 around the world, according to an AFP tally based on official sources at around 1100 GMT on Saturday.
In total, 800,004 fatalities have been recorded globally, out of 23,003,079 declared infections.
Latin America and the Caribbean is the region the most affected with 254,897 deaths. More than half of global fatalities have been reported in four countries: the United States with 175,416, Brazil with 113,358, Mexico 59,610 and India 55,794.
The number of deaths has doubled since June 6, and 100,000 have been recorded in the last 17 days alone.
The toll had reached 400,000 deaths around the world 147 days after the announcement of the first fatality in China, while it has taken 77 days to reach 800,000.
Latin America and the Caribbean, which have a total of 6,575,960 declared cases, reported 17,095 new deaths over the past seven days, slightly below the previous week.
Asia reported 8,501 new deaths over the week, Canada and the United States 6,964, Europe 2,550, Africa 2,227, the Middle East 2,188 and Oceania 99.
After Latin America, Europe has 212,533 deaths from 3,681,448 cases, ahead of Canada and the United States (184,516 deaths, 5,749,093 infections), Asia (86,288, 4,410,622) and the Middle East (33,930, 1,389,619).
Africa, with 27,319 fatalities out of 1,169,204 declared cases, is the least affected continent after Oceania (521 deaths, 27,133 cases).
The United States is the country with the most reported new deaths over the past week with 6,927, followed by Brazil (6,835), India (6,809), Mexico (3,702) and Colombia (2,076).
Belgium remains the country with the greatest number of deaths per capita, with 86 deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Peru (83), Spain (62), Britain (61) and Italy (59).
The world should be able to rein in the coronavirus pandemic in less than two years, the World Health Organization said on Friday, as millions of Lebanese wearily entered a new lockdown following a spike in coronavirus infections.
Western Europe was also enduring the kind of infection levels not seen in many months, particularly in Germany, France, Spain and Italy — sparking fears of a full-fledged second wave.
In the Spanish capital Madrid, officials recommended people in the most affected areas stay at home to help curb the spread as the country registered more than 8,000 new cases in 24 hours.
But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sought to draw favourable comparisons with the notorious flu pandemic of 1918.
“We have a disadvantage of globalisation, closeness, connectedness, but an advantage of better technology, so we hope to finish this pandemic before less than two years,” he told reporters.
By “utilising the available tools to the maximum and hoping that we can have additional tools like vaccines, I think we can finish it in a shorter time than the 1918 flu”, he said.
With no usable vaccine yet available, the most prominent tool governments have at their disposal is to confine their populations.
Lebanon is the latest country to reintroduce severe restrictions, beginning two weeks of measures on Friday including nighttime curfews to tamp down a rise in infections, which comes as the country is still dealing with the shock from a huge explosion in the capital Beirut that killed dozens earlier this month.
“What now? On top of this disaster, a coronavirus catastrophe?” said 55-year-old Roxane Moukarzel in Beirut.
The capital’s streets largely emptied of cars at the start of the curfew, but some locals were unenthusiastic.
“There’s no point in this lockdown,” said Samer Harmoush, running along the Beirut seafront. “Some shops are complying completely, while others aren’t at all.”
Officials fear Lebanon’s fragile health system would struggle to cope with a further spike in COVID-19 cases, especially after some hospitals near the port were damaged in the explosion.
‘We lead the world in deaths’ The Americas has borne the brunt of the virus in health terms, accounting for more than half of the world’s fatalities.
“We lead the world in deaths,” said Joe Biden while accepting the Democratic nomination for the US presidential election late on Thursday.
He said he would implement a national plan to fight the pandemic on his first day in office if elected in November.
“We’ll take the muzzle off our experts so the public gets the information they need and deserve — honest, unvarnished truth,” he said.
Further south, Latin American countries were counting the wider costs of the pandemic — the region not only suffering the most deaths, but also an expansion of criminal activity and rising poverty.
Without an effective political reaction, “at a regional level we can talk about a regression of up to 10 years in the levels of multidimensional poverty”, Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva of the UN Development Programme told AFP.
His warning came after World Bank President David Malpass said on Thursday that the virus may have driven as many as 100 million people back into extreme poverty.
‘No apres-ski’ Economies around the globe have been ravaged by the pandemic, which has infected more than 22 million and killed nearly 800,000 since it emerged in China late last year.
New financial figures laid bear the huge cost of the pandemic in Britain, where government debt soared past £2 trillion ($2.6 trillion) for the first time in the UK after a massive programme of state borrowing for furlough schemes and other measures designed to prop up the economy.
“Without that support things would have been far worse,” said finance minister Rishi Sunak.
Even Germany, famed for its financial prudence, was waking up to a new reality with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz conceding his country would need to continue borrowing at a high level next year to deal with the virus fallout.
Western European politicians are also beginning to ramp up restrictions to tackle infections that are rising to levels not seen for months.
While Spain has responded with confinement measures and Germany with updated travel guidelines, the UK is now watching clusters in northern England and suggesting some towns could soon face lockdown.
“To prevent a second peak and keep Covid-19 under control, we need robust, targeted intervention where we see a spike in cases,” said health secretary Matt Hancock in a statement.
Irish politicians, meanwhile, fell foul of their own updated rules this week.
Two politicians resigned after attending a restrictions-busting anniversary dinner of parliament’s own golf society that involved more than 80 guests, including lawmakers and a supreme court judge.
The virus thrives in confined areas where people are in close contact, meaning many sports have suffered mass cancellations.
One of Austria’s most virulent outbreaks was in a ski resort in the west — although the finger of blame was pointed at the socialising rather than the skiing in Ischgl, known as the “Ibiza of the Alps”.
With the ski season rapidly approaching, the region’s tourism association had a clear message: “There won’t be any apres-ski partying as we know it next season.”
A UN rights expert called Tuesday for governments to ban evictions until the COVID-19 pandemic ends, warning the number of people being expelled from their homes was rising globally.
Warning of an impending “tsunami” of evictions, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the United Nations’ top expert on the right to housing, stressed that “losing your home during this pandemic could mean losing your life”.
The independent expert, who is appointed by the UN but does not speak on its behalf, stressed that “the right to housing is central to any response to the pandemic”.
“But now we are seeing an acceleration in evictions and home demolitions.”
Rajagopal said that while some governments have implemented temporary bans on forced evictions, many people are continuing to lose their homes.
He pointed for instance to Kenya where more than 8,000 people were forcibly ejected from their homes in a single day in May, and Brazil where more than 2,000 families have been evicted amid the pandemic.
But he emphasised that the danger was global.
“Temporary bans in many countries have ended or are coming to an end, and this raises serious concerns that a tsunami of evictions may follow,” he warned.
“Governments must not allow people to become homeless during this pandemic because they lose their job and cannot pay their rent or mortgage.”
His comments came as activists and relief groups in the United States — the country hardest hit in the pandemic — scramble to avert seeing millions pushed into homelessness.
The Aspen Institute has estimated that more than 40 million people in the country could be at risk of eviction in coming months.
“Forced evictions are an outrageous violation of human rights,” Rajagopal said.
Long-dormant viruses brought back to life; the resurgence of deadly and disfiguring smallpox; a dengue or zika “season” in Europe.
These could be disaster movie storylines, but they are also serious and increasingly plausible scenarios of epidemics unleashed by global warming, scientists say.
The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the globe and claimed over 760,000 lives so far almost certainly came from a wild bat, highlighting the danger of humanity’s constant encroachment on the planet’s dwindling wild spaces.
But the expanding ecological footprint of our species could trigger epidemics in other ways too.
Climate change — already wreaking havoc with one degree Celsius of warming — is also emerging as a driver of infectious disease, whether by expanding the footprint of malaria- and dengue-carrying mosquitos, or defrosting prehistoric pathogens from the Siberian permafrost.
– ‘Ignorance is our enemy’ –
“In my darkest moments, I see a really horrible future for Homo sapiens because we are an animal, and when we extend our borders things will happen to us,” said Birgitta Evengard, a researcher in clinical microbiology at Umea University in Sweden.
“Our biggest enemy is our own ignorance,” she added. “Nature is full of microorganisms.”
Think of permafrost, a climate change time bomb spread across Russia, Canada and Alaska that contains three times the carbon that has been emitted since the start of industrialisation.
Even if humanity manages to cap global warming at under two degrees Celsius, the cornerstone goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the permafrost area will decrease by a quarter by 2100, according to the UN’s climate science panel, the IPCC.
And then there are the permafrost’s hidden treasures.
“Microorganisms can survive in frozen space for a long, long time,” said Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
– An Anthrax comeback? –
As ground thaws, once-frozen soil particles, organic material and microorganisms that had been locked away for millennia are carried toward the surface by water flows, he explained.
“That’s how thawing can spread these microorganisms into present day environments.”
There are already examples of ancient, long-frozen bugs coming to life.
“When you put a seed into soil that is then frozen for thousands of years, nothing happens,” said Jean-Michel Claverie, an emeritus professor of genomics at the School of Medicine of Aix-Marseille University in France.
“But when you warm the earth, the seed will be able to germinate,” he added. “That is similar to what happens with a virus.”
Claverie’s lab has successfully revived Siberian viruses that are at least 30,000 years old.
These reanimated bugs only attack amoebas, but tens of thousands of years ago there were certainly others that aimed higher up the food chain.
“Neanderthals, mammoths, woolly rhinos all got sick, and many died,” said Claverie. “Some of the viruses that caused their sicknesses are probably still in the soil.”
The number of bacteria and viruses lurking in the permafrost is incalculable, but the more important question is how dangerous they are.
And here, scientists disagree.
“Anthrax shows that bacteria can be resting in permafrost for hundreds of years and be revived,” said Evengard.
In 2016, a child in Siberia died from the disease, which had disappeared from the region at least 75 years earlier.
– Two-million-year-old pathogens –
This case has been attributed to the thawing of a long-buried carcass, but some experts counter that the animal remains in question may have been in shallow dirt and thus subject to periodic thawing.
Other pathogens — such as smallpox or the influenza strain that killed tens of millions in 1917 and 1918 — may also be present in the sub-Arctic region.
But they “have probably been inactivated”, Romanovsky concluded in a study published earlier this year.
For Claverie, however, the return of smallpox — officially declared eradicated 50 years ago — cannot be excluded. 18th- and 19th-century victims of the disease “buried in cemetaries in Siberia are totally preserved by the cold,” he noted.
In the unlikely event of a local epidemic, a vaccine is available.
The real danger, he added, lies in deeper strata where unknown pathogens that have not seen daylight for two million years or more may be exposed by global warming.
If there were no hosts for the bugs to infect there would not be a problem, but climate change — indirectly — has intervened here as well.
“With the industrial exploitation of the Arctic, all the risk factors are there — pathogens and the people to carry them,” Claverie said.
The revival of ancient bacteria or viruses remains speculative, but climate change has already boosted the spread of diseases that kill about half a million people every year: malaria, dengue, chikungunya, zika.
“Mosquitoes moving their range north are now able to overwinter in some temperate regions,” said Jeanne Fair, deputy group leader for biosecurity and public health at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
“They also have longer breeding periods.”
– ‘Climate change aperitif’ –
Native to southeast Asia, the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) — which carries dengue and chikungunya — arrived in southern Europe in the first decade of this century and has been moving rapidly north ever since, to Paris and beyond.
Meanwhile, another dengue-bearing mosquito, Aedes aegypti, has also appeared in Europe. Whichever species may be the culprit, the Europe Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has registered 40 cases of local transmission of dengue between 2010 and 2019.
“An increase in mean temperature could result in seasonal dengue transmission in southern Europe if A. aegypti infected with virus were to be established,” according to the Europe Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
As for malaria — a disease that once blighted southern Europe and the southern United States and for which an effective treatment exists — the risk of exposure depends in large part on social-economic conditions.
More than five billion people could be living in malaria-affected regions by 2050 if climate change continues unabated, but strong economic growth and social development could reduce that number to less than two billion, according to a study cited by the IPCC.
“Recent experience in southern Europe demonstrates how rapidly the disease may reappear if health services falter,” the IPCC said in 2013, alluding to a resurgence of cases in Greece in 2008.
In Africa — which saw 228 million cases of malaria in 2018, 94 percent of the world’s total — the disease vector is moving into new regions, notably the high-altitude plains of Ethiopia and Kenya.
For the moment, the signals for communicable tropical diseases “are worrying in terms of expanding vectors, not necessarily transmission,” said Cyril Caminade, an epidemiologist working on climate change at the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool.
“That said, we’re only tasting the aperitif of climate change so far,” he added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday urged people not to fear catching the novel coronavirus from food, after Chinese testers found traces on food and food packaging.
The virus was found Tuesday in the Chinese city of Shenzhen during a routine check on samples of frozen chicken wings imported from Brazil, city authorities said.
The authorities said they immediately screened people who had been in contact with the contaminated products, plus their relatives, and all the tests came back negative.
In China’s eastern Anhui province, the mayor of Wuhu announced Thursday that the virus had been discovered on the packaging of shrimp imported from Ecuador, which had been kept in a restaurant freezer.
The WHO said there was no need to panic — and there were no examples of the respiratory disease being transmitted through food.
“People are already scared enough and fearful enough in the COVID pandemic,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual press conference in Geneva.
“People should not fear food or food packaging or the processing or delivery of food.
“There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in the transmission of this virus.
“Our food, from a COVID perspective, is safe.”
Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, said the United Nations health agency was aware of the reports and understood that China was looking for the virus on food packaging.
“They’ve tested a few hundred thousand samples of looking at packaging and have found very, very few, less than 10 positive in doing that,” she said.
“We know that the virus can remain on surfaces for some time.
“If the virus is actually in food — and we have no examples of where this virus has been transmitted as a food-borne, whereas someone has consumed a food product — the viruses can be killed, like other viruses as well, if the meat is cooked.”
The WHO on Thursday urged countries to invest billions of dollars in searching for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments — calling it a snip compared to the vast economic cost of the coronavirus crisis.
The World Health Organization insisted it was a smarter bet than the trillions of dollars being thrown at handling the consequences of the global pandemic.
The UN agency’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pleaded for investment into the WHO-led ACT-Accelerator programme, which aims to share global research and development, manufacturing and procurement in a bid to beat COVID-19.
Citing the International Monetary Fund’s predictions of the pandemic wiping out $12 trillion over two years, he urged countries to spend on shared solutions.
“It’s the best economic stimulus the world can invest in,” Tedros told a virtual press conference.
Funding the ACT-Accelerator, with $31.3 billion needed immediately, “will cost a tiny fraction in comparison to the alternative, where economies retract further and require continued fiscal stimulus packages”.
He said spreading the risk and sharing the reward is a better bet than the option some countries have taken, of going it alone in backing one of the dozens of vaccines in development.
“Picking individual winners is an expensive, risky gamble,” he said,
“The development of vaccines is long, complex, risky and expensive The vast majority of vaccines in early development fail.”
Tedros said multiple vaccine candidates, of different types, were needed in order to identify the best one.
– Access to the winner –
Russia on Tuesday declared itself the first country to approve a vaccine, even though final stage testing involving more than 2,000 people was only due to start on Wednesday.
Bruce Aylward, who heads up the ACT-Accelerator, said the WHO was still awaiting more details from Moscow.
“We’re currently in conversation with Russia to get additional information, understand the status of that product, the trials that have been undertaken, and then what the next steps might be,” he said.
The WHO says 168 candidate vaccines are being worked on around the world, of which 28 have progressed to being tested on humans.
Nine of those 28 — not including the Russian vaccine — are in the ACT-Accelerator programme.
WHO access to medicines chief Mariangela Simao said that with so many vaccine candidates being worked on, backing just one or two could not be the best bet.
“We don’t know which one will be the front-runner, which one will actually prove to be safe and effective,” she said.
“We are encouraging countries to join a global facility, because you will have access to more candidates, and you have a better chance to have concrete access… to procure one of the successful candidates.”
The European Union said earlier Thursday that it has reserved up to 400 million doses of a potential new coronavirus vaccine being developed by US giant Johnson & Johnson.
On July 31, the European Commission said it had reserved 300 million doses of another potential vaccine being developed by French firm Sanofi.
– Eye of the storm? –
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 750,000 people and infected more than 20.6 million worldwide since it first emerged in China in December, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources.
WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan warned that only a small proportion of the global population had actually been exposed to the virus.
“This virus has a long way to burn, if we allow it,” he said.
“The vast majority of people remain susceptible to this infection.
“We may be in the eye of the storm and we don’t know it.”
Meanwhile, Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, said there were examples from some countries suggesting that an individual may have been reinfected the virus, but “its still not confirmed”.
She said experts would need to look for false positive or negative cases, immune response after infection, and sequencing.
Although none of the coronavirus vaccines under development has proved its efficacy yet in clinical trials, at least 5.7 billion doses have been pre-ordered around the world.
First shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine created by Western laboratories have often been snapped up by the United States.
Five vaccines — three Western and two Chinese — are in Phase 3 efficacy trials involving thousands of people.
In a surprise announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Tuesday that a vaccine dubbed “Sputnik V” — after the Soviet satellite — conferred “sustainable immunity” against the novel coronavirus.
As research laboratories around the world race to develop a vaccine, manufacturers have received financing to help them prepare to have millions of doses ready to administer in 2021 or even before the end of the year.
Oxford University, working with the Swedish-British pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca, hopes to have results by September while the US biotech company Moderna, partnering with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), is aiming for the end of the year, possibly November.
US: 700 million doses President Donald Trump has launched “Operation Warp Speed” in a bid to develop, manufacture and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine to all Americans by January 2021.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been directed to vaccine developers including nearly $500 million to Johnson & Johnson at the end of March.
The United States has allocated funding to more companies than other nation in the hope that one of them will come up with the vaccine to counter the highly contagious virus.
So far, Washington has handed out at a total of least 9.4 billion dollars to seven vaccine developers and signed manufacturing contracts with five of them to provide 700 million doses.
The companies involved are: Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Oxford/AztraZeneca, Novavax, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sanofi/GSK, Merck Sharp and Dohme.
Europe: 700 million doses Two vaccine developers — Oxford/AztraZeneca and Sanofi/GSK — have signed or are in advanced negotiations with the European Commission to provide a combined 700 million vaccine doses.
Britain, Japan, Brazil Britain, because of Brexit, is negotiating a separate pre-order of 250 million doses from four developers.
Japan is counting on 490 million doses from three suppliers including 250 million from Novavax of the United States.
Japanese pharmaceutical giant Takeda bought the rights to a Novavax vaccine for Japan, which has funded the research. It would be produced locally.
Brazil chose a similar model, ordering 100 million doses from AstraZeneca, and partnering with China’s Sinovac to produce 120 millions of “CoronaVac,” which is already undergoing testing with Brazilians.
China, Russia Clinical tests of two Chinese vaccine candidates — Sinovac and Sinopharm — are well underway but only a few international partnerships have been announced, the one with Brazil and a possible one with Indonesia.
Russia said 20 nations have pre-ordered one billion doses of Sputnik V and that with foreign partners it would be able to produce 500 million doses a year in five countries.
Developing countries The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), launched in 2017 by Norway, India, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, seeks to ensure that there is “equitable access” to future vaccines.
It has pre-ordered 300 million doses from AstraZeneca for dozens of developing countries in a partnership with The Vaccine Alliance (Gavi).
Billions of doses would be produced for Asia and elsewhere by the giant Serum Institute of India (SII), the largest vaccine producer in the world.
Novavax and AstraZeneca have separately signed agreements with SII to produce a billion doses each for India and low- and middle-income countries on the condition, of course, that they prove their efficacy in clinical trials.
Germany on Tuesday raised doubts over the quality and safety of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, stressing that drug approval is granted in the European Union only after full clinical trials.
“Patient safety is of the highest priority,” a health ministry spokeswoman told German newspaper network RND. “There is no known data on the quality, efficacy and safety of the Russian vaccine.”
Russia claimed Tuesday it has developed the world’s first vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus, despite mounting scepticism about its effectiveness as fears grow over a second wave of infections across the globe.
President Vladimir Putin said the vaccine was safe and that one of his own daughters had received the inoculation, dubbed “Sputnik” after the pioneering 1950s Soviet satellite.
“I know that it is quite effective, that it gives sustainable immunity,” Putin said of the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya research institute in coordination with Moscow’s defence ministry.
Russia’s health ministry said though clinical trials were not yet complete and final stage testing involving more than 2,000 people was to start only on Wednesday.
Western scientists have previously raised concerns about the speed of development of Russian vaccines, suggesting that researchers might be cutting corners.
The World Health Organization’s spokesman in Geneva Tarik Jasarevic said it was in “close contact” with Russian health authorities but that it was too soon for any WHO stamp of approval.
“Pre-qualification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all the required safety and efficacy data,” he said.
The World Health Organization said any WHO stamp of approval on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate would require a rigorous safety data review, after Russia announced Tuesday it had approved a vaccine.
President Vladimir Putin said Russia had become the first country to approve a vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the new coronavirus.
“We are in close contact with the Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO pre-qualification of the vaccine,” the United Nations health agency’s spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva at an online press briefing.
“Pre-qualification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all the required safety and efficacy data.”
Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya research institute in coordination with the country’s defence ministry.
A total of 165 candidate vaccines are being worked on around the world, according to the latest WHO overview produced on July 31.
Of those, 139 are still in pre-clinical evaluation, while the other 26 are in the various phases of being tested on humans, of which six are the furthest ahead, having reached Phase 3 of clinical evaluation.
The Gamaleya candidate being produced in Russia, which is among the 26 being tested on humans, is listed as being in Phase 1.
Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund which finances the vaccine project, said Phase 3 trials would start on Wednesday, industrial production was expected from September and that 20 countries had pre-ordered more than a billion doses.
‘Stamp of quality’ “Every country has national regulatory agencies that approve the use of vaccines or medicines on its territory,” Jasarevic explained.
“WHO has in place a process of pre-qualification for vaccines but also for medicines. Manufacturers ask to have the WHO pre-qualification because it is a sort of stamp of quality.
“To get this, there is a review and assessment of all required safety and efficacy data that are gathered through the clinical trials. WHO will do this for any candidate vaccine.”
The pandemic has seen an unprecedented mobilisation of funding and research to rush through a vaccine that can protect billions of people worldwide.
“We are encouraged by the speed by which several candidate vaccines have been developing and as we have been always saying, we hope some of these vaccines will prove to be safe and efficient,” said Jasarevic.
“Accelerating progress does not mean compromising on safety,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic chalked up another horrific milestone Monday as the world surpassed 20 million recorded cases of infection from the tiny killer that has upended life just about everywhere.
The number as of 2215 GMT was 20,002,577 cases, with 733,842 deaths recorded, according to an AFP tally of official sources.
In yet another staggering landmark, the death toll is expected to surpass 750,000 in a matter of days as the global health crisis that began late last year in China rages on.
As more things once unthinkable became harsh reality — having to wear a facemask in touristy spots in Paris, or reserve a spot on Copacabana beach in Rio via an app and then social distance on the sand — the World Health Organization urged people not to despair.
“Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering… But I want to be clear: there are green shoots of hope,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“It’s never too late to turn the outbreak around,” he said.
He gave examples of countries that had successfully clamped down on COVID-19, such as Rwanda and New Zealand, which said Monday it plans to open a virus-free “travel bubble” with the Cook Islands.
With much of the world caught in a cycle of dispiriting outbreaks and economically crushing lockdowns, all eyes are on the race for a vaccine.
A WHO overview said 165 candidate vaccines are being worked on around the world, with six reaching Phase 3 of clinical evaluation.
But the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan warned that a vaccine was “only part of the answer,” pointing to polio and measles as diseases with vaccines that have not been fully eradicated.
“You’ve got to be able to deliver that vaccine to a population that want and demand to have that vaccine,” he said.
– Europe feels the heat – Infections have been rising ominously in Western Europe, which has also been sweltering through a heatwave, with temperatures soaring above 35 degrees Celsius (95 F).
The blistering heat sent crowds flocking to beaches at the weekend despite health warnings about the risk of infection.
In the Paris region, people aged 11 and over are now required to wear masks in crowded areas and tourists hotspots.
These include the banks of the Seine River and more than 100 streets in the French capital.
Marion, a 24-year-old in central Paris, said the masks are “restrictive” but necessary “if we want to avoid a second wave.”
“Anything except a second lockdown,” she added.
Several French towns and cities have already introduced similar measures, as well as parts of Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain.
In Berlin, thousands of children returned to school on Monday after the summer break, sporting masks, which are compulsory in common areas like school courtyards.
Greece meanwhile announced a night curfew for restaurants and bars in some of its top tourist destinations after its number of new cases increased.
In Italy, the coronavirus spikes of its neighbours caused alarm.
“France, Spain and the Balkans… Italy is surrounded by contagions,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza lamented.
It was a different story in Pakistan, which allowed all restaurants and parks to reopen on Monday, after the country saw a drop in new cases over several weeks.
– Grim US, Brazil milestones – As of Monday evening, the United States — the world’s worst-hit country — had recorded 163,370 deaths and 5,085,821 cases of infection, according to the tracker at Johns Hopkins University.
As the caseload shot past five million on Sunday, President Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent in the presidential election, Joe Biden, tweeted that the number “boggles the mind and breaks the heart.”
The figure came as Trump was accused of flouting the constitution by unilaterally extending a virus relief package.
The package — announced by Trump on Saturday after talks between Republican and Democrat lawmakers hit a wall — was “absurdly unconstitutional,” senior Democrat Nancy Pelosi told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).
But with the world’s largest economy still struggling to dig itself out of an enormous hole, Democrats appeared skittish about any legal challenge to a relief package they see as seriously inadequate.
After the US, Brazil has the most cases, and over the weekend it became the second country to pass 100,000 fatalities.
President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the coronavirus threat, and after Brazil’s latest milestone, the country’s most widely viewed TV network Globo asked: “Has the president of the republic done his duty?”
The World Health Organization said Monday it had completed the groundwork in China to probe the origins of the new coronavirus — as it warned there might never be a “silver bullet” for COVID-19.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged governments and citizens to focus on known basic steps to suppress the pandemic, such as 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,” Tedros told a virtual press conference.
“However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment — and there might never be.
“The basics of public health” are most effective for now, Tedros added, saying that wearing a mask in particular was sending a “powerful message to those around you that we are all in this together”.
Infections are surging in some countries around the world, but Tedros insisted that however bad the situation was, past examples such as South Korea showed it could be turned around.
“When leaders step up and work intensely with their populations, this disease can be brought under control,” he said.
– China mission –
The novel coronavirus has killed nearly 690,000 people and infected at least 18.1 million since the outbreak emerged in Wuhan in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).
The WHO began pressing China in early May to invite in its experts to help investigate the animal origins of COVID-19.
The UN health agency sent an epidemiologist and an animal health specialist to Beijing on July 10 to lay the groundwork for a probe aimed at identifying how the virus entered the human species.
Their scoping mission is now complete, said Tedros.
“The WHO advance team that travelled to China has now concluded their mission,” he said.
Tedros said WHO and Chinese experts had agreed the terms of reference and a programme of work for a WHO-led international team of scientists and researchers from around the world.
“Epidemiological studies will begin in Wuhan to identify the potential source of infection of the early cases,” he said.
– Working backwards –
Scientists believe the killer virus jumped from animals to humans, possibly from a market in the city of Wuhan selling exotic animals for meat.
WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan paid tribute to the work already done by Chinese experts but stressed that the search for the disease’s origin would require much deeper study.
“There are gaps in the epidemiologic landscape, and what is required is going to be a much more extensive, retrospective epidemiologic study to look at those first cases and clusters in Wuhan and to fully understand the links between those cases,” he said.
From there, “we can then determine at what point, in Wuhan or elsewhere, the animal-species barrier was breached.”
Ryan said that without detailed investigations, the search would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
“The real trick is to go to the human clusters that occurred first and then to work your way back, systematically looking for that first signal” where the virus jumped species, the Irish epidemiologist said.
The World Health Organization on Saturday warned the coronavirus pandemic was likely to be “lengthy” after its emergency committee met to evaluate the crisis six months after sounding the international alarm.
The committee “highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this COVID-19 pandemic”, the WHO said in a statement, and warned of the risk of “response fatigue” given the socio-economic pressures on countries.
The panel gathered Friday for the fourth time over the coronavirus crisis, half a year on from its January 30 declaration of a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) — the WHO’s highest level of alarm.
“WHO continues to assess the global risk level of COVID-19 to be very high,” said its latest statement.
“The committee highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this COVID-19 pandemic, noting the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts.”
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 680,000 people and infected at least 17.6 million since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).
Unsurprisingly, the panel, comprising 18 members and 12 advisers, unanimously agreed that the pandemic still constituted a PHEIC.
Crisis fatigue warning Several countries around the world have imposed strict lockdowns in a bid to control the spread of the respiratory disease, plunging economies into sharp contraction.
The committee urged the WHO to provide nuanced, pragmatic guidance on COVID-19 reactions “to reduce the risk of response fatigue in the context of socio-economic pressures”.
Covid-19- vaccine The panel urged the WHO to support countries in preparing for the rollout of proven therapeutics and vaccines.
The committee also urged the agency to accelerate research into the remaining “critical unknowns” of the virus, such as the animal source and potential animal reservoirs.
It called for improved understanding of the epidemiology and severity of COVID-19, including its long-term health effects.
And the committee wanted more light shed on the dynamics of the virus, such as “modes of transmission, shedding, potential mutations; immunity and correlates of protection”.
The near six-hour gathering was hosted at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, with some participants joining via video-link.
The committee will reconvene in three months’ time.
Effects ‘felt for decades’ Going into the meeting, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic’s effects would be long-lasting.
“It’s sobering to think that six months ago, when you recommended I declare a PHEIC, there were less than 100 cases and no deaths outside China,” he said Friday.
“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come.”
The WHO has been sharply criticised for the length of time it took to declare an international emergency.
The United States, which accused the organisation of being too close to China, officially began its withdrawal from the organisation in July.
The agency has also been criticised for recommendations deemed late or contradictory, in particular on wearing masks, or the modes of transmission of the virus.
“Many scientific questions have been resolved; many remain to be answered,” Tedros said Friday.
“Most of the world’s people remain susceptible to this virus, even in areas that have experienced severe outbreaks.”
The EU announced Friday that it had struck a deal with French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi for 300 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine.
The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm which negotiated the agreement, said it would allow all 27 member countries to purchase the vaccine once it was proven to be safe and effective.
The announcement comes on the same day the US government said it would provide up to $2.1 billion to Sanofi and GSK for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, as the world continues to battle the pandemic.
As official data revealed coronavirus lockdowns had caused a devastating 12 percent economic contraction in the EU in the second quarter of 2020, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc was doing everything it could to help find a vaccine.
“We are in advanced discussions with several other companies,” she said in a statement, adding that Europe was investing in a “diversified portfolio of promising vaccines”.
“This increases our chances to obtain rapidly an effective remedy against the virus.”
Sanofi hopes to seek marketing authorisation from the European Medicines Agency for a vaccine in June next year.
The French government welcomed Friday’s announcement as a “decisive step”.
“This future contract will allow each EU member state to order the vaccine under good conditions once it has shown enough proof of its effectiveness and safety,” the French government said in a statement.
Six months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 17 million people, with global daily cases now approaching the 300,000 mark.
Europe overall has nearly 210,000 deaths from 3.2 million cases, and with infections rising again in several countries there are fears a “second wave” of the pandemic could be on the way.
The highly restrictive lockdowns enforced to deal with the pandemic earlier this year has caused economic turmoil and an effective vaccine may be the only long-term solution to the highly contagious respiratory disease.
Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al Adha to commemorate both the devotion of Abraham and the survival of Ishmael. This story is known as the Akedah in Judaism (Binding of Isaac) and originates in the Torah, the first book of Moses (Genesis, Ch. 22). The Quran refers to the Akedah as follows: 100 “O my Lord!
2020 date: 24 May (expected – may differ 1 day dependent on sighting of lunar cres…
Date: 1 Shawwal
Story behind Eid al-Adha
Eid al-Adha commemorates when God appeared to Abraham — known as Ibrahim to Muslims — in a dream and asked him to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience. As Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, God stopped him and gave him a sheep to kill in place of his son. Continue Reading »
Importance of Eid al-Adha
Eid ul-Adha is another important festival in the Muslim calendar. Some Muslims may regard this as the most important festival as it remembers the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son when ordered to by Allah . … A sheep or goat may be sacrificed as a reminder of Ibrahim’s obedience to Allah. Continue Reading »
Happenings at Eid al-Adha
At Eid al-Adha, many Muslims make a special effort to pray and listen to a sermon at a mosque. They also wear new clothes, visit family members and friends and may symbolically sacrifice an animal in an act known as qurbani. This represents the animal that Ibrahim sacrificed in the place of his son. Continue Reading »
Barika De Sallah
written by: Adigun Michael Olamide “Olamide Noble”
Prancing in front of a camera with its blond mane blowing in the wind, “007” is one of the thousands of goats being sold online as Muslims prepare for a key religious festival shaken this year by the coronavirus pandemic.
Millions of goats, sheep, and cattle are slaughtered annually at Eid al-Adha — the festival of sacrifice — one of two major holy days observed by Muslims across the world, including some 600 million in South Asia.
The pandemic has, however, badly hit India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which have shut or heavily restricted major markets, while fears about catching the virus are keeping customers away ahead of the main festival on Saturday.
“We were traumatised by the loss of two of my uncles to COVID-19 and didn’t want to sacrifice an animal,” Saddid Hossain told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.
“But we have to stay within our religious tradition, so we’d rather buy from an online cow seller.”
Faced with deserted markets, livestock breeders and traders have turned to websites, apps and social media to showcase their animals.
Fahad Zariwala promotes goats such as “007” from farms across India on his YouTube channel, which has more than 800,000 followers.
“I shoot a slow-motion video with beautiful music, and I make them (goats) popular,” said Zariwala, who is based in Mumbai.
Video beauty contest “They have a personality and are… mostly named after Bollywood movies and trending characters in Bollywood,” he told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).
Zariwala has seen a huge increase in viewers from Australia, Britain, the United States and the Middle East, which all have large South Asian diasporas.
One farm he promotes runs video beauty contests to tempt potential customers, who might buy the goats for their families in India, where there are 200 million Muslims.
PashuBajaar, which sells thousands of goats for Indian farmers, said online sales had jumped from a few dozen last year to more than 2,500 in the past three months.
“We’ve even received online orders for thousands for next year,” chief executive Sanjeev Kumar told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).
The animals are delivered to buyers in open-air vehicles, which can carry 10 to 15 of them.
In Muslim-majority Pakistan, home to 215 million people, dozens of apps and websites have sprung up.
Buyers can select an animal and have it delivered to their doorstep, slaughtered or donated to a charity.
Qurbani App chief executive Muhammad Ali Chaudhry said “orders have gone through the roof”.
Islamabad goat farmer Muhammad Naeem, meanwhile, said his digital transactions had jumped from 20 percent of sales to almost half.
But the rise in online sales has been accompanied by plunging prices.
Mumbai seller Walid Dawood Jat, who sold six goats online during India’s lockdown, said they fetched just half their usual prices.
“We used to sell goats at 500-600 rupees ($6.70-$8.00) per kilo,” he said, adding the price had fallen by half.
“Buyers haggle with us. They say they don’t have money, their income is down.”
In Dhaka’s biggest cattle market, livestock sales are down from 400,000 a week in previous years to 30,000.
“Last year many people came. We were very busy,” said trader Kalu Bepari — who travelled 245 kilometres (150 miles) to the bazaar with 13 bulls, but has only sold two “for a very cheap price”.
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 645,715 people since emerging in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Sunday.
At least 16,072,290 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 9,061,300 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 or the most serious cases.
On Saturday, 6,003 new deaths and 260,578 new cases were recorded worldwide. The countries with the newest deaths were Brazil with 1,211, followed by the United States with 1,067 and Mexico with 729.
The US is the worst-hit country with 146,463 deaths from 4,178,730 cases. At least 1,279,414 people have been declared recovered.
The next hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 86,449 deaths from 2,394,513 cases, the United Kingdom with 45,738 deaths from 298,681 cases, Mexico with 43,374 deaths from 385,036 cases and Italy with 35,102 deaths from 245,864 cases.
The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 85 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by the United Kingdom with 67, Spain 61, Italy 58, and Sweden 56.
China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 83,830 cases (46 new since Saturday), including 4,634 deaths and 78,908 recoveries.
Europe overall has 207,869 deaths from 3,061,857 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 182,511 deaths from 4,329,332 infections, while the United States and Canada have reported 155,381 deaths from 4,292,245 cases.
Asia has recorded 57,019 deaths from 2,456,523 cases, the Middle East 25,238 deaths from 1,087,157 cases, Africa 17,513 deaths from 829,127 cases, and Oceania 184 deaths from 16,057 cases.
Europe hit more than three million coronavirus cases on Thursday, while spiking infection numbers from Belgium to Tokyo and Melbourne led authorities to reimpose restrictions on citizens.
While EU lawmakers combed through a huge aid package for their economies, the UN called for a basic income for the world’s poorest to help slow the spread of the pandemic, and the Red Cross warned of “massive” new migration caused by the economic devastation.
The European continent now accounts for a fifth of the world’s more than 15 million cases and remains the hardest hit in terms of deaths, with 206,633 out of 627,307 worldwide.
A 750-billion-euro post-coronavirus recovery plan was hammered out at an EU summit this week, where fiscally-rigid nations butted heads with hard-hit countries like Spain and Italy that have called for huge aid grants.
EU chief Charles Michel said the total stimulus would eventually reach 1.8 trillion euros ($2.2 trillion).
“This moment, it’s my conviction, is pivotal in European history. We acted fast and with urgency,” Michel told the bloc’s parliament in Brussels.
“Europe’s response is greater than that of the United States or China,” he said.
Meanwhile, the UN warned that the world’s poorest also need help.
Funding of $199 billion per month would provide 2.7 billion people with a temporary basic income and the “means to buy food and pay for health and education expenses”, the UN Development Programme said.
“Bailouts and recovery plans cannot only focus on big markets and big business,” said UNDP administrator Achim Steiner.
UN projections have warned the virus could kill 1.67 million people in 30 low-income countries.
The knock-on effects will also be huge, warned Red Cross chief Jagan Chapagain.
“Many people who are losing livelihoods, once the borders start opening, will feel compelled to move,” he told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).
“We should not be surprised if there is a massive impact on migration in the coming months and years.”
– Plateaus and fresh spikes – By far the worst-hit country in the world with close to four million cases and more than 143,000 deaths, the United States reported some stabilisation of its outbreak.
New cases appear to be plateauing in hotspots like Arizona and Florida, even if officials warn that current levels would continue to strain hospitals.
But as the Americas continue to be ravaged by the pandemic, Bolivia announced it was delaying its general election by six weeks to October.
Elsewhere, there were signs that the virus can quickly re-emerge when lockdown measures are lifted.
Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong and the Japanese capital Tokyo all had early successes in containing outbreaks, but are now facing an upsurge, prompting new restrictions.
Anyone venturing out in Australia’s second-biggest city Melbourne will have to wear a mask. The same will be true in Belgium’s outdoor markets and busy areas from Saturday.
“These measures are not advice, they are orders,” Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said.
“Announcing a strengthening of the rules is a hard blow for our morale, but we’d prefer to take these measures today than to regret it tomorrow.”
South Africa’s Medical Research Council has reported a 60-percent increase in overall numbers of natural deaths in recent weeks, suggesting a much higher toll of coronavirus-related fatalities in Africa’s worst-hit nation.
– ‘Untrue, unacceptable’ – The politics around the virus continued, with WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus rejecting an allegation by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he owed his position to a deal with China.
Tedros said the claim was “untrue and unacceptable” and warned against the “politicisation of the pandemic”.
Meanwhile in France, while the number of foreign tourists in Paris, the world’s most visited city, has dwindled during a two-month lockdown, there has been a noticeable increase in home-grown visitors.
“Most clients are clearly French, with lots of families,” said a spokesman for catering firm Sodexo, adding that the chic Jules Verne restaurant on the Eiffel tower was booked solid every night in July.
There was also good news for basketball fans in China, who will be allowed back into stadiums from Sunday.
The Chinese Basketball Association on June 20 became the first league to return to action in China following a nearly five-month stoppage.
The production of a vaccine is now seen as key to ensuring a return to something close to normality.