Coronavirus update: Brazil’s COVID-19 deaths to pass 100,000

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Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll has continued to climb, expecting to reach beyond 100,000, as most cities reopen even though the pandemic has yet to peak.

Meanwhile, Britain’s medicines regulator seeks to recall up to 741,000 coronavirus test kits from the national test and trace programme over safety concerns.

This story will be regularly updated throughout Sunday.

Sunday’s key moments:

Brazil COVID-19 death toll to surpass 100,000

Brazil’s death toll from COVID-19 is expected to hit 100,000 on Saturday (local time) and continue to climb as most Brazilian cities reopen shops and dining even though the pandemic has yet to peak.

Brazil reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus at the end of February but is now confronting its most lethal disease outbreak since the Spanish flu a century ago.

The virus took three months to kill 50,000 people but just 50 days to kill the next 50,000.

Led by President Jair Bolsonaro, who has played down the gravity of the epidemic and fought lockdowns by local officials, Brazilians who protested nightly from their windows in the first months of the outbreak have met the grim milestone with a shrug.

“We should be living in despair, because this is a tragedy like a world war. But Brazil is under collective anaesthesia,” said a senior member of the Infectious Diseases Society.

Graves in Brazil
Mr Bolsonaro said he recovered from his own infection thanks to hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that remains unproven against the coronavirus.(AP: Felipe Dana)

He and other public health experts have raised the alarm that Brazil still has no coordinated plan to fight the pandemic, as many officials focus on “reopening,” which is likely to boost circulation and worsen the outbreak.

Two health ministers, both trained doctors, have resigned over differences with Mr Bolsonaro.

The acting minister is an army general who has abandoned the call for social distancing, which experts said is essential but the President opposes.

Mr Bolsonaro, who has called COVID-19 a “little flu,” said he recovered from his own infection thanks to hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that remains unproven against the coronavirus.

“We don’t know where it will stop, maybe at 150,000 or 200,000 deaths. Only time will show the full impact of COVID-19 here,” head of the Sao Paulo State University’s department of infectious diseases, Alexandre Naime said.

He said the only comparison may be diseases brought by colonisers, such as smallpox, that decimated indigenous populations when Europeans first arrived in the Americas.

UK orders recall of 741,000 coronavirus testing kits over safety concerns

Randox Laboratories, a Northern Ireland-based medical technology company, has been instructed by Britain’s medicines regulator to recall up to 741,000 coronavirus test kits from the national test and trace programme as a precautionary measure.

The Government had on July 15 instructed the programme, run by the National Health Service (NHS), to stop using the kits, citing concerns that they may not meet required safety standards.

The health ministry said the decision had been taken as a “precautionary” measure.

The risk to safety was low and test results from Randox kits have not been affected, it said.

Up to 741,000 unused Randox kits have been estimated to be in the system, either at warehouses, at care homes or at private homes. The ministry gave instructions on how to return them.

Randox said the recall was a “regulatory measure” that applied only to sample collection kits within the NHS programme. Private customers or kits were not affected, it said.

Ukraine closes checkpoints at Crimean border to control coronavirus

Ukraine’s Government has temporarily closed its border with Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, to prevent further spread of coronavirus.

All three crossing points between the mainland and Crimea, which is defined by Ukraine as an occupied territory, will be closed from August 9 to August 30, a Government statement said.

Only Crimean residents with Ukrainian citizenship will be allowed to enter Crimea.

Ukrainians who permanently live on the mainland will be able to return home during the three-week closure.

Ukraine has registered a steady daily increase in new coronavirus infections since the end of July. The number of confirmed cases rose by 1,489 in the last 24 hours.

The total number of cases is at 79,750, including 1,879 deaths.

Czechs record biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases since April 3

The Czech Republic has recorded its biggest daily rise in new coronavirus cases since April 3 due to local outbreaks in a number of regions.

The central European country of 10.7 million recorded 323 new cases on Friday (local time), Health Ministry data showed, bringing the total number of cases detected to 18,060.

Of those, 12,749 have recovered and 389 have died of COVID-19.

Health officials said the recent uptick in cases is due to local clusters and they said hospitalisations, at 116, are well below the peaks of over 400 as the Government sought to avoid a national lockdown again.

However, officials have cautioned that some measures taken to curb the illness are likely to return after the summer holidays when cities become more crowded again and the flu season arrives.

The rising number of cases in the Czech Republic prompted Norway this week to re-impose a 10-day quarantine for travellers from the country.

Children back to school in Gaza after five-month shutdown

Hundreds of thousands of children have walked through the streets of the Gaza Strip to return to classes after five months of shutdown.

Authorities said they were ready to close schools again if coronavirus cases spike.

Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus in Gaza City.
Health workers will sanitise Gaza’s 751 schools twice a day and outdoor breaks are banned.(AP: Adel Hana, file)

Gaza, mostly cut off from the world by an Israeli-led blockade, has not recorded any COVID-19 cases in the towns and refugee camps where around 2 million Palestinians live.

The territory’s Islamist Hamas-run education ministry shut down schools in March and students completed the remainder of the school year online in fear any outbreak would overwhelm the health system.

Health workers will sanitise Gaza’s 751 schools twice a day and children do not have to wear masks but must bring their own lunch and outdoor breaks are banned.

Plans were already in place to halt classes should the virus spread into Gaza’s densely-populated towns.

About 40 kilometres away in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which has reported a spike in COVID-19 cases, high school classes began this week but elementary schools remain closed.

West Bank health officials have reported 94 deaths and 13,600 cases, most of them in the last two months.


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