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Fears aired for trajectory in Americas

China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-03 11:06
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People stand in front of a shop amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 2, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

WHO urges solidarity for 'intense zones', with cases yet to peak in hard-hit states

WASHINGTON-The World Health Organization said on Monday that Central and South America have become "intense zones" of COVID-19 transmission, and solidarity and support are needed to help them overcome the pandemic.

"I would certainly characterize that Central and South America, in particular, have very much become the intense zones of transmission for this virus as we speak, and I don't believe that we have reached the peak in that transmission," Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, said in a news conference on Monday in Geneva.

"Five of the 10 countries worldwide reporting the highest new number of cases in the past 24 hours are in the Americas: Brazil, USA, Peru, Chile and Mexico," he said.

More than 6 million confirmed cases had been reported to the WHO globally as of Tuesday.

US cases had topped 1.8 million with more than 105,000 deaths by Tuesday morning, according to a tally kept by the Johns Hopkins University.

Brazil, now the second-worst hit after the US, had recorded 526,447 cases, while the death toll neared 30,000, the university tally showed.

Neighboring Peru on Monday reported 5,563 new cases and 128 more deaths, taking the total infections to 170,039 and deaths to 4,634.

Among the worst-hit areas, the capital Lima had registered 103,020 cases, followed by the west-central province of Callao, with 12,495 cases, the Health Ministry said.

Chile on Monday reported it has had 105,159 cases, and 1,113 deaths from the novel coronavirus. In the latest 24-hour period, 5,471 new cases were detected and 59 more patients died, the health authorities said.

A lockdown is in effect through June 5 in the capital Santiago and the metropolitan area, the epicenter of the country's outbreak.

"Clearly the situation in many South American countries is far from stable. There's been a rapid increase in cases and those systems are coming under increasing pressure and they need our support; they need our solidarity," Ryan said.

Many health experts have warned of a possible second wave of infections in the Americas if lockdowns are lifted hastily. The global debate over the pace of easing continued as some experts and scientists said there was no evidence to support an assertion by a high-profile Italian doctor that the virus causing COVID-19 has been losing potency.

'Clinically no longer exists'

Professor Alberto Zangrillo, head of intensive care at San Raffaele Hospital in Lombardy, the region that bore the brunt of Italy's epidemic, on Sunday told state television that the novel coronavirus "clinically no longer exists".

But WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove and several other experts on viruses and infectious diseases said Zangrillo's comments were not supported by scientific evidence.

Zangrillo, well known in Italy as the personal doctor of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, said his comments were backed up by a study conducted by fellow scientist Massimo Clementi, and that the study would be published next week.

Zangrillo said: "We have never said that the virus has changed; we said that the interaction between the virus and the host has definitely changed."

The study by Clementi, director of the microbiology and virology laboratory of San Raffaele, compared virus samples from patients at the Milan-based hospital in March with samples from patients with the disease in May.

"The result was unambiguous: an extremely significant difference between the viral load of patients admitted in March compared to" those admitted last month, he said.

Xinhua, agencies and Heng Weili in New York contributed to this story.

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