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Surging cases bring new deaths milestone

China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-06-30 10:36
A healthcare worker pushes a stretcher towards a refrigerated truck at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US, April 8, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON-The coronavirus continues to ravage the world, with the death toll topping 500,000, swelled by the pandemic's tightening grip on the Americas. As cases surge there, Africa is emerging as a new focus of concern.

The half-million mark for global deaths from COVID-19 was passed on Sunday, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University in the United States. It logged the fatalities at 501,940, while the number of confirmed cases reached 10,146,971.

By Sunday, the United States had reported more than 2.5 million infections and at least 125,700 deaths. It remains the country worst hit by the pandemic.

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned on Sunday that the "window is closing" for the country to get its outbreak under control.

"Things are very different from two months ago," said Azar, speaking on CNN's State of the Union program. "So it is a very different situation, but this is a very, very serious situation and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control."

The television network reported that 36 states in the US are seeing a rise in coronavirus cases and only two-Connecticut and Rhode Island-are reporting declines. On Sunday, Arizona and Georgia hit new one-day highs in case numbers.

The pandemic has not reached its peak in the Americas, and the situation is "particularly intense" in Central and South America, Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Program, said last week.

Brazil on Sunday reported 552 new deaths, taking its death toll to 57,622. In the latest 24-hour period, 30,476 new infections were reported, taking the national count to 1,344,143, the Brazilian Health Ministry said in its daily report.

In Peru, the health ministry reported 3,430 new cases on Sunday, taking the tally to 279,419 with 9,317 deaths. The capital Lima sits in the hardest hit region.

However, the Peruvian government said the nation's outbreak had reached a plateau, enabling it to begin to reactivate the economy with virus preventive measures in place.

"The virus is hitting us very hard" in Latin America, Chilean Health Minister Enrique Paris said at a news conference on Sunday.

Clusters reemerge

In Europe, new clusters of cases-including at a Swiss nightclub and in the central English city of Leicester-showed that the virus was still circulating widely in the region, though not with the rapidly growing infection rate seen in parts of the US.

Data related to Italy's outbreak remained largely positive on Sunday, even as health officials in 11 parts of the country reported small, isolated outbreaks of the virus.

Nationally, the official tally confirmed 174 new cases of the coronavirus, and 22 additional deaths.

Poland and France, meanwhile, attempted a step toward normalcy at the weekend as they held elections that had been delayed by the virus.

Cases have also kept mounting in Africa. The number of confirmed cases across the continent reached 371,548 as of Sunday morning, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, or Africa CDC, said.

South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Ghana are among the African countries severely hit by COVID-19.

South Africa, the most-affected country in the region, on Sunday registered a total caseload of 138,134, of which 6,334 were reported over the previous 24 hours.

South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Sunday urged his compatriots to prepare for a further surge in cases during the winter season.

It is expected that every province will witness an increase in COVID-19 cases, the minister said, identifying Gauteng and Western Cape provinces as the most troublesome hot spots.

Egypt confirmed on Sunday 1,265 new infections, raising the country's total to 65,188. Daily rises in infections in Egypt have been surpassing 1,000 cases since May 28, with a record 1,774 set on June 19.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, on Friday urged Africans to brace themselves for a rise in the number of coronavirus cases after an easing in national lockdowns. He said the onset of the pandemic had been delayed in Africa, but that the numbers of cases and deaths are "increasing rapidly every day".

Andrew Cohen in New York, Xinhua and agencies contributed to this story.

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