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Iran Press TV

Latin America passes 250K COVID-19 death toll amid warning of poverty surge

Iran Press TV

Friday, 21 August 2020 10:44 AM

The number of coronavirus fatalities across Latin America has surpassed the 250,000 mark as the pandemic continues to overwhelm the region that has become the world's worst-hit so far.

This is while the US continues to lead the world by far both in the number of total infections and deaths from the outbreak -- 5,575,386 and 174,283, respectively -- followed by Brazil and India, according to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The bleak development came on Thursday as the health ministry in Brazil -- the region's largest and most populous nation -- reported 1,204 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours.

The country is combating the second largest outbreak in the world – only behind the United States – and has so far registered over 112,000 fatalities from the pandemic.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, however, has undermined the severity of the outbreak and rejected the need for social distancing, drawing sharp criticism from health experts over his handling of the predicament.

This is while the region has reported more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths over the past week, as daily infections continue to climb in Argentina, Colombia and Peru.

Record surge in Europe

Moreover, major Western European countries are also suffering from increasing infections rates as France, the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain have all reported major surges of coronavirus caseloads in recent days.

France sets new post-lockdown daily infection record

France registered on Thursday 4,711 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, marking a post-lockdown record -- a level last seen during the height of the outbreak in the nation – though the number of those hospitalized from the virus decreased.

During lockdown, France marked a peak of 7,578 infections per day on March 31. Since then, however, there have been only a few days when the number of new daily cases climbed above the 4,500 mark -- all in the first half of April.

According the French health ministry's coronavirus testing records, the percentage of positive tests was increasing and stood at 3.3% in the week of August 11-17, compared to 2.1 percent in the first week of August, and more than double the 1.5 percent seen in the last 10 days of July.

Italy marks highest number of infections since May

Italy, meanwhile, has registered its highest number of COVID-19 cases since May 23, with its health ministry reporting on Thursday 845 new cases over the precious day.

The new high came after the ministry confirmed 642 infections on Wednesday, pointing to an upward curve. However, it only reported six fatalities from the virus over the past 24 hours, bringing the country's overall death toll to 35,418 amid a total of 256,118 cases.

The highest number of latest infections were reported in the northern Veneto and Lombardy regions --with 159 and 154 cases, respectively -- and 115 recorded in Rome's Lazio region.

"We are not in as bad a position as France and Spain, but the current situation is not satisfactory," said Professor Massimo Galli, who leads the infectious diseases department at Milan's prestigious Sacco hospital, as quoted by the local La Repubblica daily. "The end of confinement has resulted in an excessive feeling of false security."

Spain's emergencies chief admits virus fight not going well

This is while Spain – one of the world's worst-hit by the pandemic – recorded on Wednesday night 7,039 new coronavirus cases since Tuesday, bringing the nation's total number of infections so far to 377,906.

As the country's official data registers 130 virus cases per 100,000 people – a figure much higher than those of its EU neighbours – its health ministry's Emergencies Director Fernando Simon warned on Thursday that "things are not going well" in Spain's battle to contain the COVID-19 infections amid a renewed surging trend.

Fernando further urged social media influencers during a press conference to help make young people, in particular, aware of the ongoing danger of contamination, saying: "Nobody should be in any doubt, things are not going well... We cannot let the situation elude us again."

In the past week, Spain has seen 122 new virus-linked deaths, compared with only 12 in the final week of July, for an official total fatality toll of 28,813.

Germany records highest COVID-19 infections since April

Furthermore, Germany also declared on Thursday that it has registered 1,707 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, reflecting the highest number of infection in nearly four months.

The latest increase takes the country's total number of cases since the advent of the pandemic to 228,621, with 10 more people reported to have died from the disease and bringing its overall death toll to 9,253.

Germany has been widely regarded as a model for containing the virus in Europe, due in part to an early, aggressive, test and trace policy. However, an upsurge in infections has been observed in the nation in recent weeks, similar to the trend seen in most European Union countries.

According to German public health agency, Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which compiles the country's COVID-19 statistics, the number of new daily cases has been rising since July 20.

It put the country's seven-day cumulative infection rate at 9.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which stands in sharp comparison with the 7.0 cases registered on August 12.

"This development is very concerning and increasing in dynamic. A further worsening of the situation must be avoided," RKI emphasized in its daily report.

UK infections rise sharply amid lockdown fears in Birmingham

As the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in Britain climbed by 27 percent in one week -- marking its highest level since mid-June -- police and officials in the UK's second largest city of Birmingham warned the public to act now to avert a city-wide lockdown.

The city, which has a population of more than one million, has recorded a surge to 30 cases per 100,000 -- up from 22.4 the week before and 12 at the start of the month – according to its director of public health.

Birmingham city council further described the rise as "extremely concerning" as its leader, Ian Ward, called on the city to pull together to prevent a return to the "dark days" of lockdown. It also urged residents to adhere to social distancing and avoid gatherings.

The development came as other regions across Britain -- including Oldham in Lancashire -- also raised the alarm over stricter measures to contain the virus outbreaks as Scotland reported 77 new infections, the highest number over a 24-hour period in nearly three months.

Across the UK, 6,616 people tested positive for the virus in August 6-12 even though the number of tests dropped by two percent, staying broadly steady at nearly 1.2 million -- half the weekly capacity of almost 2.4 million tests.

Among other British areas recording weekly jumps include Manchester -- up from 37.8 to 49.0, Salford -- up from 24.3 to 36.7, and Bury -- up from 25.1 to 33.0, all in the north-west.

COVID-19 may prompt 100mn surge in poverty: World Bank chief

Meanwhile, World Bank President David Malpass warned on Thursday that the pandemic may have driven as many as 100 million people across the globe back into extreme poverty.

Malpass had previously estimated that 60 million people would fall into severe poverty as the result of the contagion, but his latest estimate puts the deterioration at 70 to 100 million, saying: "That number could go higher" if the pandemic continues to persist.

He further pointed out that the deterioration is due to a combination of the destruction of jobs during the outbreak as well as supply issues that make access to food more difficult, noting: "All of this contributes to pushing people back into extreme poverty the longer the economic crisis persists."

The situation makes it "imperative" that creditors reduce the amount of debt held by poor countries at risk, going beyond the commitment to suspend debt payments, Malpass also stated in an interview with AFP on Thursday.

"The debt vulnerabilities are high, and the imperative of getting light at the end of the tunnel so that new investors can come in is substantial," Malpass added, underlining that even so, more countries will be obliged to restructure their debt.

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