The World Health Organisation has acknowledged the “emerging evidence” of airborne transmission of the coronavirus.
HOUSTON/GENEVA (REUTERS, AFP) – The world has surpassed 12 million cases of the coronavirus including over 547,000 deaths. The United States accounts for a quarter of the infections and is still setting daily records, and some other nations are struggling to keep a lid on new cases as they try to restart their economies.
The worldwide tally hit the 12-million mark on Wednesday night (July 8), according to data website Worldometer.
In the US, about two dozen states have reported alarming upswings of daily caseloads in the past two weeks, a sign that efforts to control the transmission of the virus have failed in large parts of the country.
There was a record of more than 60,000 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
This pushed the nationwide tally past 3 million, with the virus affecting nearly one of every 100 Americans. The fatalities from the sickness total about 134,000.
Despite the fast-rising numbers, President Donald Trump insisted the US was “in a good place”, shrugging off an assessment from top immunologist Anthony Fauci that “we are still knee deep in the first wave of Covid-19 infections.”
Mr Trump also formally started the withdrawal of the US from the World Health Organisation, making good on threats to deprive the body of its top funding source over its response to the coronavirus.
The United Nations body, meantime, acknowledged the “emerging evidence” of airborne transmission of the coronavirus, which an international group of scientists found can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air and infect people as they inhale.
This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain superspreading events in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants in some countries.
The WHO said it would put out a new scientific brief within days, as governments and health authorities across the world race to keep their infections rates under control.
In Brazil – the second-worst hit country with more than 1,6 million cases and over 66,000 deaths – President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for Covid-19, after months of downplaying the dangers of the sickness.
Mr Bolsonaro, who said he had experienced only mild symptoms so far, insisted his approach to the pandemic was correct. The far-right leader has consistently ignored containment measures such as social distancing.
Brazil accounts for the biggest share of infections in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the caseload has now surpassed three million.
Iran, billed as the Middle East’s deadliest hot spot, said on Wednesday that its deaths from the virus had surpassed 12,000.
Authorities are considering reimposing restrictive measures such as movement controls and school closure in Teheran, as the total cases in the country rises to more than 248,000.
In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that the country should slow down the return of its citizens from abroad amid a fresh outbreak in the second-most populous state of Victoria.
The border between Victoria and New South Wales, the busiest in the country, was closed and around 4.9 million residents in the Victorian capital of Melbourne returned to partial lockdown at midnight Wednesday following a spike in cases in the city.
The renewed lockdown will last for at least six weeks, closing down public places like cafes, restaurants and gyms, and confining residents to their homes except for essential business.
Mr Morrison said he would propose to slow down the return of Australian citizens and permanent residents by reducing the number of repatriation flights.
The two groups have been the only arrivals allowed since Australia closed its international border in March.
Victoria reported 134 new cases yesterday, well over the low single-digit daily increases of Australia’s other seven states and territories. Nationwide, there are more than 8,800 cases of Covid-19 and 106 deaths.
Indonesia reported its biggest single-day increase in new cases on Wednesday, with 1,853 infections. The total tally in the country now stands at 68,079, with 3,359 deaths.
In Hong Kong, there were fears of a renewed community spread after the city reported 24 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with 19 of them being local infections. This spike came after the city reported mostly imported cases for months.
Hong Kong has 1,324 infections so far, and seven deaths.
Meantime, Thailand expects to delay plans for so-called travel bubbles, given a resurgence in coronavirus infections in countries that had managed to contain the initial outbreak.
Thai authorities partially lifted a three-month ban on foreign visitors this month and had been planning to further boost tourism by creating travel bubbles later in the year with places like Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.
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