WHO SAYS THE AMERICAS ARE NEW EPICENTRE

BRASILIA – The Americas have emerged as a new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says, as a United States study forecast deaths surging in Brazil and other Latin American countries through August.

FILE PHOTO: An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) dons personal protective equipment before going into Elmhurst Hospital during the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., April 20, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

“Now is not the time for countries to ease restrictions,” Carissa Etienne, WHO director for the Americas and head of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), said via videoconference.

The Americas have registered more than 2,4 million cases of the new coronavirus and more than 143 000 deaths from the resulting Covid-19 respiratory disease. Latin America has passed Europe and the United States in daily infections, she said.

“Our region has become the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Etienne said, as other PAHO directors warned there are “very tough” weeks ahead for the region and Brazil has a long way to go before it will see the pandemic end.

Also of concern to WHO officials are accelerating outbreaks in Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

As Brazil’s daily death rate became the world’s highest on Monday, a University of Washington study warned that the country’s total death toll could climb five-fold to 125 000 by early August.

One country in the region doing relatively well against Covid-19 is Cuba, where the university’s study forecasts a death toll of just 82 by August while testing continues to outpace the outbreak.

BORDER CLOSURES, PRE-TRAVEL TESTS ‘OF LITTLE USE’

BRUSSELS – Border closures do little to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the European Union’s public health agency says, as EU states weigh lifting some travel restrictions imposed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a report released on Tuesday that measures such as testing travellers before departure or temperature screening on arrival are also largely ineffective, though it confirmed that travelling facilitates the spread of the virus.

The ECDC said border closures had very negative effects on the economy and were effective only in delaying an epidemic at its beginning and in isolated regions.

“Available evidence does not support recommending border closures, which will cause significant secondary effects and societal and economic disruption in the EU,” which normally operates open borders among member states, the agency said.

The agency also said that forcing people to undergo a test before travelling may only be of limited value as the traveller may become infectious just before departure or during travel due to the virus’ two-week incubation period.

As for screening temperatures on arrival, it said, travellers may already be infectious but without a fever. – Nampa-Reuters

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