In a sign of the devastation caused by the virus as the world races to launch a vaccine, Brazil reports 66,573 people have died from Covid-19 in March – more than double that. many casualties as the month of the country’s second deadliest pandemic, July 2020.
France has meanwhile become the latest European country to succumb to a very high case of the coronavirus, despite Macron’s repeated promises not to re-enforce national lockdowns.
The virus has killed more than 2.8 million people since emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019. And although the world is looking for a vaccine to end the upheaval that Covid-19 has brought, its rollout has begun swiftly in many countries. .
That includes Brazil, where health experts say the explosion of cases has been driven in part by a local variant of the virus known as P1, which can re-infect people who have the original strain and are believed to be more contagious.
“Never in Brazilian history have we seen a single incident kill so many people” in one month, said doctor Miguel Nicolelis, a former pandemic response coordinator for Brazil’s impoverished northeast.
With winter approaching in the southern hemisphere and the virus spreading rapidly, Brazil is facing “the perfect storm,” he told AFP.
“It is a threat not only to Brazil but also to the whole world.”
The surge in Brazil has overwhelmed hospitals and forced doctors to make painful decisions about who should provide life-saving care – prioritizing those most likely to survive.
“We are in a very tragic situation,” said epidemiologist Ethel Maciel.
In France, daily cases have more than doubled to around 40,000, and hospitals are overflowing in flashpoints such as Paris.
That ultimately forced Macron to back down and reimpose national restrictions he rejected in January.
“We got weeks of precious freedom,” he said in a national speech, but current action is “too limited at a time when the epidemic is accelerating”.
The existing limited lockdown in regions including Paris will be extended across the country from Saturday evening over the next four weeks, he said.
Schools will be closed for three or four weeks depending on age level – two of which are spring break.
In Italy, Prime Minister Mario Draghi has meanwhile extended restrictions to April 30, including the closure of restaurants and businesses.
And the Japanese minister in charge of the coronavirus response announced plans Thursday to designate sections of three regions – Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi – for special virus countermeasures from April 5 to May 5.
The move, which would allow local officials to close businesses early or face fines, came with increasing infections in three regions even as the Olympic torch crossed the country before the pending Olympics opened on July 23.
On the bright side, the number of vaccines available could increase.
Experts at World Health Organization said a provisional analysis found two Chinese vaccines, from the companies Sinovac and Sinopharm, showed “good safety and efficacy” – but more data is needed.
Other vaccine makers, US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, are pushing for plans to increase production, saying new data from the United States shows puncture 100 percent effective in children 12 to 15 years of age.
The US has delivered more vaccine doses than any other country, with nearly 150 million of the 600 million injections given worldwide.
But it has also suffered from more than 550,000 deaths – the highest toll in the world – and the coronavirus was the third leading cause of death in the US last year.
Several European countries have restricted access to
vaccine over blood clot reports, but the EU drug regulatory agency said it found no specific linking risk factor.
However, it is argued that a causal relationship is “possible” and that “further analysis is continuing.”
In a setback for other vaccine makers, some 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson single-use vaccine were damaged due to factory error, The New York Time reported – a blow to US companies’ efforts to rapidly increase production.
In China, which has largely defeated the virus, authorities announced a week-long lockdown on the city of Ruili, after six cases were detected near the Myanmar border – the country’s first move in months.
Greece meanwhile said it would reopen most retail stores and relax free time restrictions despite its high Covid numbers.
And Brisbane, Australia is lifting a three-day mini lockdown that was put in place to stop the outbreak from infecting 14 people.
With a pandemic devastating the global economy, World Trade Organization gave a note of hope, saying that global trade will increase by eight percent this year.
However, the importance of the pandemic war is lost on Harlock – a one-year-old German Shepherd who is happy to learn to sniff out Covid-19 in Rome.
“Sniffing,” says her trainer, Massimiliano Macera, quickly rewarding the furry pupil with a snack every time the nose meets the tube.
“Their job is to play,” Macera said of her dog. “These people are experts.”