China is trying to reassure. Authorities said on Thursday that the increase in coronavirus contaminations, particularly in Beijing, was “under control”, ruling out the risk of a further spread of the pandemic which has passed the 450,000 death mark worldwide, a toll that has doubled in a month and a half. But in the capital, thousands of residents were lining up on Thursday to be screened. The Chinese Ministry of Health has reported an additional 21 sick in the past 24 hours in the city of 21 million, bringing the number of cases since last week to 158.
Life had resumed an almost normal course after two months without any contamination. But the appearance a few days ago in the city of a new focus of infection has raised fears of a second wave of contamination. The local authorities have been engaged for a few days in a vast campaign to screen residents and disinfect restaurants. But the epidemic in the capital is “under control,” said chief epidemiologist of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Wu Zunyou.
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“People are afraid to go out”
Xinfadi’s wholesale market, the capital’s main source of fruit and vegetables, is believed to be the source of the new contamination. Thirty residential areas have been quarantined and all schools have been closed until further notice.
“We haven’t had many customers in recent days, people are afraid to go out,” the chef of a restaurant told Agence France-Presse, while he was lining up for a screening in front of a stadium in the east of the city. The municipality has called on residents to avoid non-essential travel, and has significantly reduced air connections. People living in areas classified as “medium or high risk” are prohibited from leaving the city.
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A vaccine before the end of 2020?
The World Health Organization said on Thursday it hoped “very optimistically” that hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine would be available by the end of the year, and two billion doses by 2021. But the vaccine, more than 200 of which are being studied around the world, is still to be developed. “If we are very lucky, there will be one or two candidates before the end of this year,” said WHO Scientific Director Soumya Swaminathan.
The pandemic is also hitting economies hard. In the United States, new claims for unemployment benefits amounted to 1.5 million last week, according to figures released Thursday. In Europe, a continent which is returning more and more to normal from a health point of view, the economic consequences require massive aid plans. The Bank of England announced on Thursday that it would further increase its asset buyback program by £ 100 billion to cope with an “exceptionally uncertain” economic environment.
As for the European Union, it must absolutely “act quickly and decisively” by agreeing before the end of July on its recovery plan of 750 billion euros, said Thursday Chancellor Angela Merkel. Spain for its part presented a plan of 4.2 billion euros to revive tourism, the pillar of its economy.
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12,000 dead in India
In Central and South Asia, where the pandemic, after taking a long time to settle, threatens to explode the number of sick and dead. Kabul governor, who estimates the number of people infected in the Afghan capital alone at one million, anticipates “a disaster”, citing “reports of an increase in suspicious deaths and of people burying bodies at night” . The worst seems to be happening in this war-ravaged country, despite official statistics that only count 27,000 patients for 500 deaths.
Pakistan has also had reassuring figures for Covid-19 for a long time. But the statistics have been racing in recent weeks. At Peshawar hospital, patients are sent home “almost daily” for lack of beds or oxygen, according to surgeon Samra Fakhar. This country with a deficient health system officially has 160,000 patients, but the government fears that they will be 1.2 million at the end of July. As for India, populated by 1.3 billion inhabitants, it currently has nearly 370,000 patients and 12,000 deaths, including 2,000 announced on Wednesday.
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20,000 new cases every day in the United States
According to Archie Clements, epidemiologist at Australian Curtin University, “South Asia is at an earlier level on the pandemic curve” compared to Latin America, and an “exponential” increase in the number of cases is to fear. But for now, Latin America and especially the Brazilian giant are showing the strongest growth: the second most affected country in the world behind the United States, Brazil has a total of 46,510 deaths, according to data that could be very far from reality. The country recorded 183,686 new cases in one week, from June 11 to 17, ahead of the United States (158,836), India (77,482), Chile (72,132) and Russia (59,644).
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The government claims, however, that the situation is under control and deconfinement is progressively continuing in most states. The situation is also confused in Russia, a country with more than 560,000 cases for less than 7,700 dead, where no less than 16 cities or regions have announced that they will not organize the military parades wanted on June 24 by President Vladimir Putin, and where the Federal Agency for Medical Surveillance revealed Thursday that nearly 500 caregivers have died from the virus since the start of the epidemic. The United States, for its part, which remains the most bereaved country in the world by the pandemic, with more than 117,000 deaths and more than 2.1 million cases diagnosed, were able to congratulate themselves on Wednesday for having counted less than 1 000 deaths daily for seven days in a row, an encouraging sign even if around 20,000 new cases continue to be detected every day.