Udayavni Special

COVID-19: Risks complicate reopening as WHO warns 1st wave not over


PTI, May 26, 2020, 3:56 PM IST

Bangkok: The risks of reigniting coronavirus outbreaks are complicating efforts to fend off further misery for the many millions who have lost jobs, with a top health expert warning that the world is still in the midst of a “first wave” of the pandemic.

“Right now, we’re not in the second wave. We’re right in the middle of the first wave globally,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, a World Health Organization executive director.

“We’re still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up,” Ryan told reporters, pointing to South America, South Asia, and other areas where the number of infections is still on the rise.

Mindful of the risks, Americans settled for small processions and online tributes instead of parades Monday as they observed Memorial Day in the shadow of the pandemic.

A U.S. travel ban was due to take effect Tuesday for foreigners coming from Brazil, where the virus is raging through communities with no signs of abating. The ban, originally to take effect Thursday, was moved up. It does not apply to U.S. citizens.

Underscoring the challenge of containing outbreaks of a virus for which there is not yet a vaccine or proven treatment, India reported a record single-day jump in new cases for the seventh straight day. The country reported 6,535 new infections on Tuesday, raising its total to 145,380, including 4,167 deaths.

Most of India’s cases are concentrated in the western states of Maharashtra, home to the financial hub Mumbai, and Gujarat. The numbers have also climbed in some of India’s poorest states in the east as migrant workers stranded by lockdowns have returned to their native villages from India’s largest cities.

India has nonetheless been easing restrictions. Domestic flights resumed on Monday after a two-month hiatus, though at only a fraction of normal traffic levels.

Despite hopes that the so-called “first wave” of the pandemic may be waning, Ryan, the WHO official, warned that future “spikes” of outbreaks may mean the first wave is not over.

With infections surging in South America, the WHO warned Brazil’s leaders against reopening its economy before it can perform enough testing to control the spread of the pandemic.

“Intense” transmission rates mean Brazil should retain some stay-at-home measures despite the economic hardships, Ryan told reporters.

“In this kind of circumstances, there may be no alternative,” he said. “You must continue to do everything you can.”

The smaller, more subdued Memorial Day ceremonies in the U.S. honored the nation’s military dead and also remembered those lost to the virus.

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