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Homeland Security

Brazil Reports Record High Daily COVID-19 Cases

By VOA News June 17, 2020

China's capital imposed new coronavirus restrictions Wednesday to try to control an outbreak, while Brazil reported a record daily increase in confirmed cases and the United States saw the number of deaths in the country surpass those suffered in World War One.

Among the steps taken in Beijing were canceling dozens of domestic flights, requiring stricter social distancing efforts, and making those entering some residential areas undergo temperature checks and registration.

There have been at least 137 new cases in Beijing since late last week linked to a wholesale food center.

Brazilian health officials reported Tuesday 34,918 new confirmed cases during a 24-hour period. The country now has more than 900,000 total cases, trailing only the United States.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed the severity of the virus while urging businesses to reopen. His Chief of Staff Walter Braga Netto said Tuesday, "There is a crisis, we sympathize with bereaved families, but it is managed."

Pan American Health Organization Director Carissa Etienne said in a briefing Tuesday, "Brazil has 23% of all cases and 21% of all deaths in our region, and we are not seeing transmission slowing down. That is, the cases in almost all countries in Latin America, and a few in the Caribbean, are rising."

Peru has also been hit hard by the coronavirus, reporting Tuesday its death toll had surpassed 7,000 people.

And in Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernandez announced late Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The United States has more than 2.1 million confirmed cases and about 117,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Wednesday she assigned a top military leader to oversee "all quarantine and managed isolation facilities" after two citizens who arrived from Britain to visit a sick relative were allowed to leave quarantine without being tested, and later tested positive.

The development came more than three weeks after the country's previous positive test, and the prime minister said she could not allow New Zealand to squander the gains it has made in stopping the spread of the virus.

"This case represents an unacceptable failure of the system," Ardern told reporters. "It should never have happened, and it cannot be repeated."

Treating critically ill

As work continues in numerous labs around the world toward the creation of a coronavirus vaccine, the World Health Organization on Tuesday welcomed initial clinical results that showed the drug dexamethasone can help treat those who are critically ill with COVID-19.

A University of Oxford team gave the drug to more than 2,000 critically ill COVID-19 patients, reporting that among those who were so sick they needed a ventilator to breathe, the drug reduced deaths by 35 percent.

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In patients who needed less help, only oxygen to help them breathe better, the drug reduced deaths by about 20 percent. The researchers reported no benefit from the drug for patients who were mildly sick.

"It's exceptionally important in these cases that the drug is reserved for severely ill and critical patients who can benefit from this clearly," WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan said at a media briefing Wednesday in Geneva.

"It is one of the many breakthroughs we're going to need in order to effectively deal with COVID-19 and as such, we should celebrate that today but it's still just preliminary data. It's from one study," Ryan added.

New York progress

In the U.S., New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said there were 17 deaths reported on Tuesday, prompting him to declare it was one of the state's best days since the outbreak began.

"We have gone from the worst infection rate in the country, to the best infection rate in the country."

Cuomo didn't declare the crisis over, but said: "We climbed the mountain and we are on the other side."

The governor said New York City will move to a Phase 2 reopening on Monday, while other parts of the state are moving to Phase 3.

VOA's Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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