Virus cases top 9m as WHO says pandemic ‘accelerating’

DUBAI • Global coronavirus infections topped nine million as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned the pandemic was accelerating.

Europe has steadily eased its travel lockdowns in recent weeks, and France on Monday took its biggest step back to normality by allowing millions of children to return to school.

But many parts of the world, including Latin America and South Asia, are only beginning to feel the full force of the pandemic, while other regions are being hit with second waves.

WHO’s DG Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the greatest threat was not the virus itself, which has now killed over 470,000 people (at press time), but “the lack of global solidarity and global leadership”.

“We cannot defeat this pandemic with a divided world,” he said. “The politicisation of the pandemic has exacerbated it.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is one of the leaders to have repeatedly played down the threat, comparing the virus to a “little flu” and arguing the economic impact of shutdowns is worse than the virus itself.

More than 50,000 people (at press time) have been confirmed to have died from the virus in Brazil, with the true number believed to be far higher.

Brazil’s official death toll is second only to the US, which has recorded 120,000 fatalities (at press time), and President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis has been widely criticised as erratic and chaotic.

Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina are also coping with crises — Mexico City being forced to delay plans for a broad reopening of the economy as the country’s death toll raced past 20,000.

With a vaccine still far away, the WHO has called for a rapid increase in production of the steroid dexamethasone, which has been shown to have life- saving potential. — AFP