Virus tolls surge in Americas as Europe re-opens

Published May 29, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

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.

Mexican Red Cross' paramedics rush a patient suspected of being infected with the novel COVID-19 coronavirus into Venados General Hospital, in Mexico City (AFP / PEDRO PARDO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Mexican Red Cross’ paramedics rush a patient suspected of being infected with the novel COVID-19 coronavirus into Venados General Hospital, in Mexico City (AFP / PEDRO PARDO / MANILA BULLETIN)

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.

‘Everything has changed’

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, told AFP.

The economic toll on workers around the world was illustrated further with news that French car giant Renault plans to cut 15,000 jobs as part of a two billion euro cost-cutting drive.

British budget airline EasyJet also said it would axe up to 30 percent of its staff, and Japanese carmaker Nissan reported a huge $6.2 billion annual net loss.

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 theatre 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 centres 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.