The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting conflict-ridden and impoverished countries much worse this year than in 2020, with many facing higher caseloads and rising deaths, the deputy humanitarian chief for the United Nations said on Monday.
Ramesh Rajasingham said in a closed briefing to the UN Security Council on Monday that these surges are being fuelled by a lack of access to vaccines, an easing of public health measures, increased social mixing and the spread of the delta variant to at least 124 countries, including 17 fragile and conflict-affected nations. “We are arguably in one of the most dangerous periods for the poorest people on our planet,” he said.
In South America, Brazil recorded 18,999 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 578 deaths from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said on Monday.
Brazil has registered more than 19.7 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 550,502, according to ministry data.
In Southeast Asia, now a global epicentre for the virus, Thailand reported a record number of coronavirus cases on Monday, while Malaysia has notched up more than one million infections, as the virulent delta variant carves a deadly path through the region.
Thailand had 15,376 new coronavirus cases, a daily record for a second consecutive day in the nation of more than 66 million.
Malaysia, which has one of Southeast Asia’s highest per-capita infection rates, reported on Sunday 17,045 new cases, bringing the total to 1,013,438 and nearly 8,000 deaths, despite being under lockdown since June.
China reported the highest daily total of infections since January on Monday. Tens of thousands of people are under lockdown, and authorities are conducting mass testing of the population, standard practices in China that have generally been successful in controlling the spread of the virus.
In the U.S., Moderna is in talks with regulators to expand the size of an ongoing trial testing its COVID-19 vaccines in children between the ages of five and 11.
Meanwhile, government workers in states including New York and California will require all of its workers to get coronavirus vaccines or face regular COVID-19 testing.
Americans grappling with the long term effects of COVID-19 will have access to disability protections, President Joe Biden announced on Monday, saying the initiative is the first of its kind.
Lingering challenges from the coronavirus, such as breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain and fatigue could rise to the the level of a disability, he said.
The delta variant is the fastest and most formidable version of the COVID-19 virus the world has encountered, and it is upending assumptions about the disease even as nations open their economies, virologists and epidemiologists said Monday.
Indonesia easing some restrictions
Indonesia, the region’s most populous country, with more than 270 million people, has Southeast Asia’s biggest caseload. It has reported more than 3.1 million infections and 83,000 deaths.
In Pakistan, three million more doses of the Moderna vaccine from the United States were received on Monday under the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative, bringing the total COVAX doses to 8 million, according to UNICEF.
Pakistan has reported 100,8446 confirmed cases and 23,048 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The country, which successfully contained the coronavirus throughout 2020, is now experiencing its worst wave so far. It has recorded more than 106,000 infections and at least 524 deaths overall, with a fifth of those cases coming in just the last three days.
-From Reuters, last updated at 7:45 p.m. ET
What’s happening in Tokyo
Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics say 153 people accredited for the Games have tested positive for COVID-19 in Japan since July 1.
The total includes 19 athletes who tested positive in Japan from July 1 through Sunday. Some of those athletes are residents of the Olympic Village, where 16 people have tested positive.
Those people left the apartment blocks overlooking Tokyo Bay to stay in quarantine hotels.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:45 p.m. ET.
What’s happening around the world
As of Monday afternoon, more than 194.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a coronavirus database published by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.1 million.
In Europe, France reported on Monday that 952 people were in intensive care units with COVID-19, up by 66. At least 40 million people have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which amounts to nearly 60 per cent of the population, French President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet on Monday.
Britain reported its lowest daily total of new cases since July 4, adding to signs that a recent surge in infections driven by the delta variant may have passed its peak. The government also announced Monday it would expand a program of daily COVID-19 tests to reduce a wave of staff absences.
Greece said on Monday that children ages 12 to 15 could be vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s most populous state reported a rise in new cases despite a weeks-long stay-at-home order, while police vowed to crack down on any repeat of a wild anti-lockdown protest on the weekend.
In Africa, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation on Sunday night that a recent spike in coronavirus cases has passed its peak and that the daily number of new confirmed cases dropped 20 per cent last week. The government is allowing retail alcohol sales to resume from Monday through Thursday, while bars and restaurants will also be permitted to sell alcoholic beverages.
Schools have fully reopened, and social and religious gatherings are again allowed for a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. A nighttime curfew has been reduced and is now from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.
South Africa, which has a population of 60 million, has administered more than 6.3 million vaccine doses. The rate of inoculations needs to increase for the country to reach its target of having 67 per cent of the population fully vaccinated by February.
Algeria, meanwhile, will reimpose restrictions on gatherings to cope with a rapid spread of the more infectious delta variant of the coronavirus.
In the Middle East, Iran’s Health Ministry reported 268 additional COVID-19 related deaths on Sunday, along with 27,146 additional cases.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:24 p.m. ET
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