Coronavirus cases top 6m across planet

Updated Jun 01 2020

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People sit and drink at a restaurant terrace in Montmartre on May 31, 2020 in Paris, as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. — AFP
People sit and drink at a restaurant terrace in Montmartre on May 31, 2020 in Paris, as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. — AFP

BRASLIA: The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has topped six million as the disease spread rapidly across Latin America and political leaders feuded over how to deal with the pandemic.

Much of the world is moving at varying speeds to lift lockdowns that have wrecked economies and stripped millions of their jobs while Muslims in Jerusalem and other cities flocked to newly reopened mosques on Sunday.

But in Brazil — the epicentre of South America’s outbreak with nearly 500,000 confirmed cases, lagging only behind the US — disagreement among its leaders over lockdown measures has hampered efforts to slow the outbreak.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who says the economic fallout from stay-at-home orders will be worse than the virus, has berated governors and mayors for imposing what he calls “the tyranny of total quarantine”.

Even as his country surpassed France to have the world’s fourth-highest toll with nearly 30,000 deaths, the rightwing populist called for Brazil’s football season to resume.

In neighbouring Bolivia, the government is set to lift containment measures on Monday, but four of the country’s nine regions — including hardest-hit Santa Cruz de la Sierra — said they would defy the order and extend the restrictions.

Pope Francis prayed for the Amazon’s “particularly vulnerable” indigenous people on Sunday in his first address to the faithful on Saint Peter’s square in nearly three months.

The pope earlier said that “everything will be different” after the pandemic, which has killed nearly 370,000 people.

The crisis has further deepened inequality, cleaving the world’s workforce in two: those who have the ability to work from home, and those who do not.

Motorcycle taxi driver Thanapat Noidee, who shares a tiny hut in Bangkok with his wife and children, said his normal income of $31 a day has been halved.

“Without food donations, I’ll have to fight harder for my family to survive,” he said as Thailand’s parliament approved a record near-$60 billion economic stimulus.

Restrictions eased

In countries where the virus seems to have abated, there has been pressure to ease restrictions, despite the lack of a vaccine and experts warning of a possible second wave of infections.

In Britain, which recorded 960 new deaths on Saturday ahead of starting to lift its lockdown on Monday, senior advisers to the government warned that it was moving too quickly.

“Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England,” tweeted Jeremy Farrar, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

In Paris, parks opened on the weekend for the first time in months, ahead of restaurants, cafes and bars reopening on sidewalks and terraces on Tuesday.

Spain’s minority government said it would seek a final two-week extension for its lockdown, but it will need parliament’s support.

Bangladesh lifted its lockdown on Sunday, with millions heading back to work in densely populated cities even as the country logged record spikes in new deaths and infections.

“I tried to avoid crowds when I walked to my office. But social distancing is impossible in Dhaka’s footpaths,” banker Badrul Islam said.

In the United States, Washington DC and Los Angeles resumed outdoor dining, while New York City is on track to begin reopening from the week of June 8.

After largely lifting its restrictions, Iran passed the grim milestone of 150,000 virus deaths on Sunday, as the Middle East’s hardest-hit country struggles to contain a recent upward trend.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2020