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COVID-19 deaths in Latin America surpass 1 million as outbreak worsens

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(Last Updated On: May 22, 2021)

The death toll from COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean passed 1 million people on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, with the pandemic worsening in the part of the world with the highest per capita death rate.

From the dusty highlands of Bolivia to the Brazilian metropolis of São Paulo, the pandemic has swamped underfunded healthcare systems after spreading fast across nations where many people survive hand-to-mouth and have been unable to enter lockdown.

In Peru, among the hardest hit nations in the region, COVID-19 patients have died in crowded hospital corridors of the capital Lima. Deep in the Amazon jungles of Brazil, many residents of the city of Manaus have died at home with no oxygen to fill damaged lungs, after supplies ran out there this year, Reuters reported.

With cases falling in Europe, Asia and North America, and flat in Africa, South America is the only region where new infections are rising rapidly on a per capita basis, according to Our World in Data. Although India is currently struggling through one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the pandemic.

On average in May, 31% of the COVID-19 deaths in the world have been in Latin America and the Caribbean – home to just 8.4% of the global population.

Doctors and epidemiologists say the coronavirus pandemic took unprepared governments by surprise last year and its impact has been worsened by leaders who downplayed its gravity and failed to secure timely vaccine supplies.

The top eight countries registering the most COVID-19 deaths per capita over the past week were all in Latin America, Reuters reported.

“Instead of preparing for the pandemic, we minimized the disease, saying the tropical heat would deactivate the virus,” said Dr. Francisco Moreno Sanchez, head of the COVID-19 program at one of Mexico’s main hospitals and a critic of the government’s vaccination plan.

“Unfortunately, we are among the most-affected regions, where the handling of the pandemic has been the most mistaken, and now we are suffering the consequences,” the epidemiologist told Reuters.

Brazil Hard Hit

With the death toll steadily mounting, grave diggers in several countries have been forced to expand cemeteries with row after row of new tombs. In a break with the region’s predominantly Catholic traditional culture, dead are often buried with few or no relatives there to say goodbye, Reuters reported.

Most of the deaths – more than 446,000 – have occurred in Brazil, which became a coronavirus epicenter this year with the second-deadliest outbreak outside the United States, though it appears likely to be surpassed soon by India.

Brazil recorded 2,215 new deaths from COVID-19 in 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Friday, pushing Latin America’s total to over 1 million COVID-19 fatalities.

COVID-19

Officials warn of possible 4th wave of COVID-19 in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

Afghanistan’s health officials on Tuesday warned of a possible 4th wave of COVID-19 in the county, adding that treatment possibilities have been minimized recently.

The Afghan-Japan hospital in Afghanistan, which was allocated for Coronavirus patients, has received 35 patients from Ghazni and Daikundi provinces recently, said officials.

“As we see the situation it [Coronavirus cases] increases day by day. We  registered samples, and now it has increased by 20%. Most patients are testing positive for Coronavirus,” said Zalmay Rashteen, head of the hospital.

Doctors at the Afghan-Japan hospital say that they face a serious shortage of money to stock and equip hospitals.

The doctors added they have not received their salaries for three months.

Doctors say that last year, during the 3rd wave of COVID-19, the virus spread and had many casualties.

They emphasize that a  4th wave would be difficult to contain, said Sahar, a doctor at the hospital.

The World Health Organization (WHO) meanwhile said that they had recorded 155,891 cases of COVID-19 in Afghanistan since the start of the pandemic.

The organization added that 7,249 out of 155,891 have died of the virus in Afghanistan.

“There is no medical equipment such as drugs and other (necessities) to fight the 4th wave of COVID-19 in Afghanistan,” said Qayamuddin, a doctor at the hospital.

This comes after the WHO said that 1.6 million doses of the vaccine in Afghanistan will expire if it is not used.

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China urges faster COVID-19 testing amid latest outbreak

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

China is demanding faster and more accessible COVID-19 testing services in its latest effort to reinforce a zero-tolerance policy against the virus, even when cities have already scrambled to test millions in just a few days amid outbreaks.

Frequent testing, and sometimes mass testing, is standard practice in China’s containment of domestically transmitted outbreaks in the past year, but health authorities say testing services remain unsatisfactory in parts of China amid flare-ups, Reuters reported.

“Small clusters and sporadic infections have occurred in some areas, exposing problems such as the unreasonable locations of nucleic acid testing agencies, inconvenient services and delays in the returning of results,” state media reported on Tuesday, citing the National Health Commission (NHC).

China is facing a new wave of infections involving nearly 200 locally transmitted symptomatic cases in 12 provincial areas since October 17. Many of the infected were from remote parts of northwest China without as much health resources as major cities.

NHC said testing agencies should provide 24-hour services to the public and strive to have results within six hours for those who volunteer to be tested, according to state media reports.

NHC said in September that cities with over 5 million people should have the capacity to test everyone within three days.

Since the new coronavirus was found in late 2019, mainland China has reported 96,840 confirmed cases with symptoms, including both local and imported infections, with fatalities totalling 4,636.

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China says 76% of population fully vaccinated against COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

China has given complete doses of COVID-19 vaccines to about 75.6% of its population as of Oct. 23, National Health Commission spokesperson Mi Feng said on Sunday.

Some 1.068 billion people have now been inoculated with the required dosages, out of a population of 1.412 billion, Mi told a news briefing.

The country administered 2.245 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Saturday, official data showed.

China is giving booster shots to adults whose last dose was at least six months earlier, with priority groups including essential workers, older people and those with weaker immune systems, Reuters reported.

Data showed antibodies elicited by vaccines, including the most-used shots from Sinovac and Sinopharm, declined within months.

Wang Huaqing, chief expert for the immunization program at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said China would not keep giving people booster shots after booster shots.

“We hope that an ideal vaccine works well with the full doses of immunization,” Wang told the briefing.

“Even if it needs to be strengthened later, the number of boosters is limited,” Wang said. “We hope in the future there will be better vaccines and better vaccination procedures to achieve solid protection among the public.”

China has largely contained the virus in most areas, and the sporadic local outbreaks are tiny compared with those seen in other countries.

However, Mi cautioned on Sunday there is increasing risk that China’s latest outbreak, involving over 100 infections in a week across 11 provincial areas, will spread further.

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