Covid-19: Infections top 5 million worldwide

PARIS, May 22 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Global infections from the novel
coronavirus passed five million as the pandemic played out
unevenly across the planet, with China eager to declare a victory,
Europe tentatively emerging from its shell and deaths still rising in
hotspots in Latin America.

The grim milestone comes after known cases of COVID-19 doubled in
just one month, with the death toll now topping 328,000 worldwide.

While many hard-hit European countries have significantly turned the
tide on new infections and fatalities, Latin America is in the grip of
an infection surge.

Brazil is leading the pack, logging the third-highest number of
cases in the world after the US and Russia.

Peru, Mexico and Chile have also seen steady increases in
infections, with nurses in Lima warning that the health system is on
the brink of collapse after cases and deaths tripled over the past
three weeks.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro continues to scorn
experts’ advice on curbing the contagion as he presses regional
governors to end stay-at-home measures.

And like US President Donald Trump, he has promoted the use of
anti-malaria drugs against the virus despite studies showing they have
no benefit and could have dangerous side effects.

Trump, for his part, insists the US is “Transitioning back to
Greatness” as states reopen at different speeds.

His optimism cut a sharp contrast with the bleak health situation in
the country, which leads the world in cases and deaths.

While daily death tolls are no longer on a steady incline, the
losses are still punishing with more than 1,500 additional fatalities
reported in 24 hours on Wednesday, bringing to the total number in the
US to more than 93,400.

On the economic front, the latest figures out of the US showed the
rate of unemployment slowing — but the total number of jobs lost
since mid-March stood at an eye-watering 38.6 million.

Trump, who is desperate to boost his political fortunes ahead of
November elections, has also doubled down on his finger-pointing at
China, who he blamed for “this mass Worldwide killing”.

Beijing tells a different story, with President Xi Jinping
determined to project a narrative of strength and success in reining
in the outbreak that first emerged in his country late last year
before wreaking havoc around the globe.

Though China has faced criticism of its initial handling of the
virus, the country has since brought domestic cases down to a trickle
and kept deaths at a far lower toll than in the worst-hit countries,
according to its official figures.

In the latest symbol of normalisation, on Thursday China opened its
biggest political event of the year — the Chinese People’s Political
Consultative Conference (CPPCC) — after months of delay over
coronavirus fears.

Analysts say the gathering will be a chance for the party to
reaffirm its narrative of beating the virus and coming to the aid of
other countries with masks and other medical shipments.

As governments pray for an end to the economic strangulation from
shutdowns, the race to develop a vaccine has been buoyed by
experiments on monkeys that offered hope that humans can develop
immunity to the virus.

The US also pumped an additional $1 billion into the British
pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca to help fund the production of a
vaccine.

In the meantime, many countries are testing ways to live with the
dangers in the interim.

In Spain, which is emerging from one of the world’s toughest
lockdowns, face masks have been made mandatory for anyone aged six and
over in public where social distancing is not possible.

With many other European countries also gradually awakening from
lockdowns, the economic collapse in the eurozone has “likely bottomed
out” with the rate of decline now easing as economies creak open,
according to a survey by IHS Markit.

Elsewhere, Cyprus bounded into its second stage of de-confinement
Thursday, lifting curfews and allowing outdoor restaurants, barber
shops and beaches to open on the Mediterranean island, though airports
and hotels remain closed.

In reopened cafes, customers were seated outdoors with spacing
between tables, while some ate with plastic face shields still on.

Yet some fear lockdowns are loosening too fast in places like
Tanzania, whose government announced it would resume university life
and sporting events on June 1 even as the US embassy warned virus was
spreading exponentially in the East African nation.

And in Asia, some experiments in adjusting to the new normal have
gone awry. Not everyone was amused in Singapore by a yellow robot dog
deployed to patrol a city park and monitor social distancing.

The remote-controlled hound uses cameras to estimate the number of
visitors and blasts out a message to remind joggers and walkers to
stand at least one metre apart. — NNN-AGENCIES