World

WHO warns that 1st wave of coronavirus pandemic not over

As Brazil and India struggle with surging coronavirus cases, a top health expert is warning that the world is still very much in the middle of the outbreak, dampening hopes for a speedy global economic rebound and renewed international travel.

'We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up'

The world may see a second peak of the coronavirus, even within this first wave, says Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's emergencies program.  1:36

As Brazil and India struggle with surging coronavirus cases, a top health expert is warning that the world is still very much in the middle of the outbreak, dampening hopes for a speedy global economic rebound and renewed international travel.

"Right now, we're not in the second wave. We're right in the middle of the first wave globally," said Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization's executive director.

"We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up."

Ryan pointed to case loads in South America, South Asia and other parts of the world.

Worldwide, the virus has infected 5.5 million people, killing about 350,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Europe has had about 170,000 deaths and the U.S. has seen nearly 100,000. Experts say the tally understates the true toll of the disaster.

India sees record single-day jump 

India, with a population of over 1.3 billion, saw a record single-day jump in new cases for the seventh straight day. It reported 6,535 new infections Tuesday, raising its total to over 145,000, including close to 4,200 deaths.

The virus has taken hold in some of the country's poorest, most densely populated areas, underscoring the challenges authorities face in trying to contain a virus for which no vaccine or cure has been developed.

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

Passengers wearing personal protective equipment enter the airport in Mumbai after the government allowed domestic flight services to resume during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus on Monday. (Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters)

Despite this, India allowed domestic flights to resume Monday following a two-month hiatus, but at a fraction of normal traffic levels.

'Intense' transmission rates in Brazil

In Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has raged against state and local leaders enforcing stay-at-home measures, the WHO warned that before reopening the economy, authorities must have enough testing in place to control the spread of the virus.

Brazil has 375,000 coronavirus infections — second only to the 1.6 million cases in the U.S. — and has counted over 23,000 deaths, but many fear Brazil's true toll is much higher.

Ryan said Brazil's "intense" transmission rates mean it should keep some stay-at-home measures in place, regardless of the damage to the economy.

"You must continue to do everything you can," he said.

Volunteers help prepare food to be donated to residents of the Cidade de Deus Community in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

But Sao Paulo Gov. Joao Doria has ruled out a full lockdown in Brazil's largest state economy and plans to start loosening restrictions on June 1.

A U.S. travel ban was set to take effect Tuesday for foreigners coming from Brazil.

Russia has passed outbreak peak, Putin says

In Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the postponed military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in the Second World War will take place on June 24. Victory Day has become the most important holiday in Russia, marked every year on May 9 with a show of armed might in Red Square.

Putin said the country has passed the peak of the outbreak.

Russia reported a record one-day spike Tuesday of 174 deaths, bringing the country's confirmed death toll to over 3,800. Russia's coronavirus caseload surpassed 360,000 — the third-highest in the world — with almost 9,000 new infections registered.

The country's comparatively low mortality rate has raised questions among experts. Russian officials vehemently deny manipulating any figures and attribute the low numbers to the effectiveness of the country's lockdowns.

Travel industry struggling

The question of who can travel where and when remains a dilemma in many places.

Spain's foreign minister said that European Union members should collectively agree to open borders and determine which non-EU countries are safe for travel.

"We have to start working with our European partners to retake the freedom of movement in European territories," Arancha Gonzalez Laya told Cadena SER radio.

Spain is eager to welcome tourists to shore up an industry that accounts for 12 per cent of the country's GDP.

Aiming to entice travellers, Greek authorities will introduce cheaper tickets for sea travel from the mainland to Greek islands on June 1.

A waiter at the Raya restaurant serves patrons at the beginning of the delayed tourist season on Tuesday in Mykonos, Greece. After months of being on lockdown due to the coronavirus, Greece will begin to ease travel restrictions on movement between the mainland and the country's islands. (Byron Smith/Getty Images)

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia struck a deal to open their borders for 48 hours of travel without quarantines among their citizens starting Wednesday.

Indonesia said it will deploy 340,000 security forces in 25 cities to enforce health rules as the world's fourth-most populous nation prepares to reopen shopping centres and other businesses in the capital Jakarta on June 4.

"We want to get into a new normal and enter a new order," Indonesia's President Joko Widodo said after inspecting moves to reopen Jakarta's subway and a shopping mall in Bekasi.

South Korea began requiring people to wear masks on public transit and in taxis. The country is tracing dozens of infections linked to nightclubs and other venues as it prepares for 2.4 million students to return to school on Wednesday.

A child looks out from the sun roof of a car during a drive-in concert in a parking lot in Goyang, South Korea on Saturday amid social gathering concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

South Korea's Health Ministry said beginning in June, "high-risk" businesses such as bars, nightclubs, gyms, karaoke rooms and concert halls will be required to use QR codes to register customers so they can be found more easily when infections occur. Privacy watchdog group Jinbo Net called the move excessive.

"That's exactly how we step into a surveillance state," it said.

Meanwhile, seven public media outlets from the U.S., Europe, Canada, Japan and Australia said they will work to beat back "the proliferation, particularly on social networks, of fake news" about COVID-19.

The broadcasters include France Medias Monde, Deutsche Welle, the BBC World Service, NHK World, CBC Radio-Canada, ABC Australia and the U.S. Agency for Global Media, whose networks include Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

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