Coronavirus tolls surge in Americas as Europe re-opens

The urgency to find a coronavirus vaccine is underlined by ballooning death tolls in South America. (AP)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Coronavirus tolls surge in Americas as Europe re-opens

  • Grim figures from the Americas accompanied by the growing economic fallout
  • Populations are learning to adjust to life with the long-term threat of infection

WASHINGTON: The death toll from the coronavirus spiked again in the United States, and Latin America’s pandemic crisis deepened, as Europe’s re-opening from lockdown grew bolder by the day.
Grim figures from the Americas were accompanied by the growing economic fallout, with the number of people filing unemployment claims in the US reaching 40 million, and Brazil shedding five million jobs.
But Europe pressed on with efforts to return to normality, with the English Premier League and Italy’s Serie A unveiling plans to resume play.
Populations are learning to adjust to life with the long-term threat of infection as the virus continues its march around the globe and a vaccine remains elusive.
Pharmaceutical firm bosses expressed optimism a jab could be rolled out by year’s end but warned of “daunting” challenges in producing the 15 billion doses needed to curb the pandemic.
Well over 100 labs around the world are scrambling to come up with a vaccine, including 10 candidates that have made it to the clinical trial stage.
“If things go well, and the stars are aligned, we will have enough evidence of safety and efficacy so that we can... have a vaccine around the end of October,” said Pfizer boss Albert Bourla.
The urgency was underlined by ballooning death tolls in South America, increasingly the new focus of the pandemic, where Brazil recorded more than 1,000 fatalities and a national one-day record for infections.
Chile also logged a record daily death toll Thursday and in Peru total fatalities topped 4,000.
With limited sanitation and little space for social distancing, millions of people in slums across the region cannot take basic precautions recommended by health authorities and have little to fall back on when lockdowns destroy jobs.
“We are construction workers, people who sell things, people who go out every day. With confinement everything has changed for most of us. We find ourselves without any work,” Oscar Gonzalez, a 43-year-old welder in the deprived Brisas del Sol area of Santiago, said.
Seeking to stem the bleeding, Europe has been carefully moving ahead with the lifting of restrictions on daily life, with France set to reopen bars, restaurants and museums next week and Britain sending children back to school over the next two weeks.
“Freedom will be the rule and restrictions the exception,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
Elsewhere in Europe, Spaniards were revisiting old joys as life gets back on track — with people seen belting out tunes from classic movie “Grease” at a 1950s-themed drive-in theater in Madrid.
“It gives you a real sense of freedom. We really wanted to get out of the house,” said 22-year-old Belen Perez.
Spain will allow 70 percent of the population to go to restaurants, swimming pools and shopping centers from next week.
Globally the death toll is nearing 360,000 and almost 5.8 million people have been confirmed as infected since the virus emerged in China late last year.
The United States has now seen over 101,000 deaths from the disease.
“To all of the families & friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy & love for everything that these great people stood for & represent. God be with you!” President Donald Trump tweeted.
The US capital Washington will slowly move into its phase one of reopening on Friday as more parts of the country open up the economy, sometimes against the advice of health experts.


France’s foreign ministry spoke to Turkish envoy to refute “inaccurate, bias” claims

Updated 40 min 35 sec ago

France’s foreign ministry spoke to Turkish envoy to refute “inaccurate, bias” claims

  • Turkey accused France of favoring eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar

PARIS: France’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it had spoken to Turkey’s envoy to refute “inaccurate and bias” claims he made during a hearing with French senators on Wednesday.

In the hearing ambassador Ismail Hakki Musa accused France of favoring eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar and said French warships had been aggressive during an incident with Turkish warships on the Mediterranean last month.
“We wanted to make the necessary clarifications with him regarding the reality of the facts, omissions and inaccurate and biased information that he brought up during this hearing” Foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement.
She added that the envoy had been reminded of “the unacceptable character of Turkish behavior.”

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