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COVID-19 update: Infections rising in Africa, Americas; Beijing facing resurgence

Global cases of infection with the new coronavirus have reached nearly 8.2 million, and the death toll has crossed the 443,000 mark, according to Johns Hopkins University which compiles data on the pandemic.

Nearly four million people have so far recovered from the viral disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the epidemic is gaining speed in some parts of the world, including parts of Africa and the Americas, as more than 100,000 daily new cases are reported around the world.

The United States, which has reopened its economy, continues to see a spike in new cases of infection with a total tally of over 2.13 million cases and at least 116,905 deaths.

While Brazil, the world’s number two hotspot for the disease, sees record daily cases, officials there claim the outbreak has come under control.

And in China, the reemergence of the virus has prompted officials to raise the capital Beijing to a level two alert — the second-highest in a four-tier COVID-19 emergency response level system.

The following is the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic around the world:

WHO to give guidance on dexamethasone

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that it was moving to update its guidelines on treating severely affected people, with a widely available steroid, dexamethasone.

The drug cut death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital, according to the findings of a University of Oxford study.

The study suggests the drug should immediately become standard care in severely stricken patients.

Welcoming the “great news,” WHO said, “This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support.”

“WHO clinical guidance will be updated to reflect how and when the drug should be used in COVID-19,” said the UN agency.

“WHO will coordinate a meta-analysis to increase our overall understanding of this intervention,” it added.

Beijing cuts flights amid reemergence of virus

China’s National Health Commission reported another 31 confirmed cases of local transmission in Beijing, as of Tuesday

This pushed the cumulative infections since Thursday to 137 cases.

The number of infections in the city, the largest since early February, has prompted officials to reinstate some restrictions that had been relaxed in recent weeks.

Travelers wearing protective gear are seen at the departure hall of Beijing Capital International Airport, in Beijing, China June 17, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

As part of the restrictions, some 50% of the scheduled inbound flights and 40% of outbound flights at Beijing Capital International Airport have been or will likely be canceled on Wednesday.

Also, the movement of people in and out of the city is being strictly controlled.

Beijing’s roads and highways are, however, still open and companies and factories are still allowed to remain open.

New Zealand appoints military to oversee quarantine facilities

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed the defense force to oversee the country’s quarantine facilities and strengthen border requirements, after a slip up allowed two people with COVID-19 to move around the country.

The country, which managed to become one of the first nations to eliminate the epidemic last week, lost its COVID-free status when two women were detected with the infection on Tuesday.

They had reportedly been given permission to leave quarantine early on compassionate grounds after arriving from Britain.

Ardern said that an audit would be done to make sure all processes in place are followed and any changes needed can be made to further strengthen the border facilities.

“I cannot allow the gains we have all made to be squandered by processes that are not followed,” she said.

Brazil sees daily virus cases, official says crisis under control

Brazil registered a record 34,918 new cases on Tuesday.

The head of the office of the president’s chief of staff, known as Casa Civil, however, said in controversial remarks the same day that the government has managed the crisis.

The Latin American country also reported 1,282 related deaths since its last update on Monday.

The figure brings the registered fatalities to 45,241, according to the Health Ministry.

A helicopter-ambulance transfers a COVID-19 patient to hospital in Brazil, on June 8, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Walter Souza Braga Netto, who claimed the epidemic was under control, argued that Brazil’s deaths-per-million-people figure was better than that of Belgium, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy and France.

In the meantime, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne said that Brazil is a major concern.

“We are not seeing transmission slowing down” in Brazil, Etienne said, urging authorities to strengthen social distancing.

The country’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, however, has long opposed social distancing measures.

Mexico total cases pass 154,000

Mexico’s Health Ministry reported 4,599 new infections along with 730 additional fatalities on Tuesday.

 The figure pushed the total number of infections to over 154,860 and the total deaths to 18,310.

The government, however, says the true number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the official figure.

Kazakh parliament speaker gets COVID-19

The Speaker of the lower house of Kazakhstan’s Parliament, Nurlan Nigmatulin, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Last week, Nigmatulin met with Healthcare Minister Yelzhan Birtanov, who was also diagnosed with the disease and admitted to hospital.

The parliament’s press office says Nigmatulin’s case is asymptomatic.

Honduran president also infected

President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras has announced that he tested positive for COVID-19.

He said on Tuesday that doctors had advised him to rest and that he would “continue running the government.”

“As president of the nation and a responsible citizen, I want to communicate that during the weekend, I started to feel some discomfort and today I was diagnosed as having been infected with COVID-19,” Hernandez said in a televised speech.

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