The US on Thursday reported a daily record of COVID-19 deaths and Brazil’s toll passed the bleak milestone of 200,000, while China yesterday sealed off two cities, as new surges of COVID-19 dimmed hopes for respite from the pandemic any time soon.
Sharp rises in cases around the world have led authorities to impose a slew of new lockdowns and other restrictions, even as dozens of countries roll out the first stages of the vaccination campaigns hailed as the light at the end of the tunnel.
China has imposed lockdowns to tackle outbreaks in Hebei Province, while Tokyo began a month-long state of emergency yesterday, calling on businesses to stop serving alcohol by 7pm and residents to stay home after 8pm.
Hebei has seen 127 new COVID-19 cases, plus an additional 183 asymptomatic infections, in the past week, authorities said.
The vast majority were in Shijiazhuang, while nine confirmed cases were in the neighboring city of Xingtai.
Residents were banned from leaving unless absolutely necessary, Hebei authorities announced yesterday.
Canada and Lebanon have ordered nighttime curfews, while the WHO warned that European nations need to ramp up efforts to deal with a new, more contagious strain of the virus that first emerged in the UK.
The plight of countries struggling to control the virus matters beyond their borders, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“The fact is that no one is safe until we are all safe,” it said. “The nature of this virus means that the world can only be as strong as the weakest health system.”
The global outbreak shows no signs of abating, with nearly 1.9 million people known to have died worldwide and 87 million confirmed cases.
The numbers continued to pile up at an alarming rate in the US, the country with the world’s highest death toll, at more than 360,000.
The US registered a record 3,998 deaths over 24 hours, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Brazil, the country with the second-highest toll, reported its second-highest number of daily deaths — 1,524 — on its way to passing the mark of 200,000 people killed by the virus.
The situation stands to get a worse before it gets better, warned Paulo Lotufo, an epidemiologist at the University of Sao Paulo.
“I don’t even know how we’re going to get through January,” he said.
“A lot of health workers are exhausted. People have had to deal with a huge amount of suffering,” he added.
In the Amazon rainforest city of Manaus, the health system is again being pushed to the brink, echoing haunting scenes last April of mass graves and corpses piled in refrigerator trucks.
As the authorities again deployed refrigerator trucks, a court ordered the state government to shut nonessential businesses for 15 days.
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