Almost 40 countries have reported record single-day increases in coronavirus infections over the past week, around double the number that did so the previous week, according to a Reuters tally showing a pick-up in the pandemic in every region of the world.
The rate of cases has been increasing not only in countries like the United States, Brazil and India, which have dominated global headlines with large outbreaks, but in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Bolivia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Uzbekistan and Israel, among others.
Many countries, especially those where officials eased earlier social distancing lockdowns, are experiencing a second peak more than a month after recording their first.
“We will not be going back to the ‘old normal’. The pandemic has already changed the way we live our lives,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week.
“We’re asking everyone to treat the decisions about where they go, what they do and who they meet with as life-and-death decisions – because they are.”
The Reuters data, compiled from official reports, shows a steady rise in the number of countries reporting record daily increases in the virus that causes COVID-19 over the past month.
At least seven countries recorded such increases three weeks ago, rising to at least 13 countries two weeks ago to at least 20 countries last week and to 37 countries this week.
The true numbers of both cases and deaths are almost certainly underreported, particularly in countries with poorer health care systems, health experts and officials say.
For this report, the Reuters data was restricted to countries that provide regular daily numbers.
A surge in cases usually precedes a rise in deaths by a couple of weeks.
The United States remains at the top of the case list, this week passing more than 4 million cases and recording more than 1,000 deaths for four consecutive days. Brazil and India – which epidemiologists say is still likely months from hitting its peak – have also exceeded 1 million cases.
The data reveals a growing number of resurgent cases in countries across all regions.
In Australia, officials enforced a six-week partial lockdown and made face masks mandatory for residents in the country’s second-largest city, Melbourne, after a fresh outbreak.
Australia and Japan, which also posted a daily case record this week, both warned of a rise in infections among young people, many of whom celebrated the end of social restrictions at bars and parties.
In Mexico, which also posted a daily record this week and has the fourth-highest death toll of any country, officials warned that a downward trend in case numbers that began in mid-June – about the time the city began relaxing social distancing measures – could reverse.
Based on the rate of hospital admissions over the past week, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said, hospitalization levels by October could exceed those registered in June, the height of the pandemic.
“It is important to recognize that if we do not change the trend, there could be exponential growth,” she said.
In Europe, where the summer vacation season is in full swing, a new daily record figure in Spain is likely to deter tourists from visiting one of the continent’s most popular destinations.
In Africa, Kenya recorded a record high daily case number less than two weeks after reopening activity, including domestic passenger flights. President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had announced international flights would resume on August 1, has summoned officials to an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the surge in cases.
In the Middle East, Oman imposed new restrictions that begin on Saturday in addition to a two-week lockdown that will overlap the Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha after reporting a record number of cases.
At least 18 dead as Air India repatriation flight crashes on landing
At least 18 people were killed and dozens injured after an Air India Express passenger plane repatriating Indians stranded by the COVID-19 pandemic overshot the runway in heavy rain near the southern city of Kozhikode, officials said.
The Boeing-737 flight from Dubai to Calicut airport was carrying 190 passengers and crew, the civil aviation ministry said in a statement. Among them were 10 infants.
Television footage showed rescue workers moving around the wreckage in pouring rain. The aircraft lay split into at least two chunks after the plane’s fuselage sheared apart as it fell into a valley 30 feet below, authorities said.
“Unfortunately, 16 people have lost their lives. I offer my condolences to their next of kin and pray for speedy recovery of the injured,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a tweet.
Friday’s crash is the worst passenger aircraft accident in the country since 2010, when an Air India Express flight, also from Dubai, overshot the runway and slid down a hill while landing in the southern Indian city of Mangalore, killing 158 people.
Both Mangalore and Calicut have table-top runways that are located at an altitude and have steep drops at one or both ends of the runway.
Media reports suggested the plane skidded off the runway of Calicut international airport, crashing nose-first into the ground. Calicut is in the southern state of Kerala, home to a large number of Indians working in the Middle East.
Puri said rescue operations had been completed and all passengers had been removed from the aircraft. Police said earlier four people were stuck in the wreckage.
The civil aviation ministry said in a statement there was no fire on board.
India, which shut down all air travel in late March to try to contain the novel coronavirus, has restarted limited international air travel.
Air India Express AXB1344, was a government-operated repatriation flight for Indians previously unable to return home because of the travel restrictions.
TV visuals showed the aircraft’s nose smashed into a brick wall, with much of the middle of the plane pulverised.
Local TV news channels showed passengers, some of them lying motionless on stretchers, brought into a hospital surrounded by health workers wearing masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. “My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest,” he said.
15 dead, more than 50 missing in landslide in India
At least 15 people have been killed after a massive landslide destroyed a tea plantation workers’ settlement in India, local media reported.
The incident took place in Rajakkad in Idukki district of Kerala, India, early on Friday morning.
The Hindustan Times reported that around 50 others are feared trapped in a mound of slush and rock debris.
According to the report, so far, at least 16 people were rescued and taken to the hospital for treatment.
“It is a major tragedy. It is a hilly terrain and some roads connecting to the settlement were washed away in torrential rain. We have sought the Air Force help for airlifting the injured but we were told it will be difficult in inclement weather,” State Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan to the Times.
He added that a team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has arrived at the scene.
Meanwhile, local people said the area has been witnessing heavy rains over the last three days and power and communication networks in the area were disrupted due to this. This delayed the rescue work. Since the mishap took place in the early hours, many of those affected were in deep slumber due to which they couldn’t escape, they said.
“We have information that at least 84 people lived in the settlement. Most of them are from neighboring Tamil Nadu. And there was also a canteen to cater to their needs at the settlement,” Parthasarathy, a social worker from the area said quoted by the Hindustan Times.
He added that the death toll may rise up.
The place where the incident took place is about 25 kilometers away from hill resort Munnar which was ravaged by the 2018 flood.
The India Metrological Department (IMD) has declared a red alert in three districts, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Idukki, and orange alert in five other districts. Many rivers are in spate after a heavy downpour and the irrigation department said shutters of some dams, including Idukki, will be opened if the wet condition continued.
Lebanon’s president probes ‘possibility of external interference’
Lebanon’s president said on Friday an investigation into the biggest blast in Beirut’s history would examine whether “external interference” had a role, as residents tried to rebuild their shattered lives and homes after the explosion, Reuters reported.
The search for those missing intensified, as rescuers sifted rubble in a race to find anyone still alive after Tuesday’s explosion that killed 154, smashed up a swathe of the city and sent shockwaves around the region.
“The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act,” President Michel Aoun said in comments carried by local media and confirmed by his office.
He said it would also consider whether it was a result of negligence or an accident.
Aoun previously blamed negligence in the storage of highly explosive material for years at the port.
The United States has previously said it has not ruled out an attack.
Israel, which has fought several wars with Lebanon, has also previously denied it had any role.
Meanwhile, security forces fired teargas at a furious crowd in Beirut late on Thursday, as anger boiled over at the ruling elite, who have presided over a nation that faced economic collapse even before the deadly port blast injured 5,000 people.
The small crowd, some hurling stones, marked a return to the kind of protests that had become a feature of life in Beirut, as Lebanese watched their savings evaporate and currency disintegrate, while government decision-making floundered.
“There is no way we can rebuild this house. Where is the state?” Tony Abdou, an unemployed 60-year-old.
His family home is in Gemmayze, a district that lies a few hundred meters from the port warehouses where 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate was stored for years, a ticking time bomb near a densely populated area.
A security source and local media previously said the fire that caused the blast was ignited by warehouse welding work.
Volunteers outside swept up debris from the streets of Beirut, which still bears scars from the 1975-1990 civil war and has often witnessed big bombings and other unrest since then.
“Do we actually have a government here?” said taxi driver Nassim Abiaad, 66, whose cab was crushed by falling building wreckage just as he was about to get into the vehicle.
“There is no way to make money anymore,” he said.
The government has promised a full investigation.
State news agency NNA said 16 people were taken into custody. But for many Lebanese, the explosion was symptomatic of the years of neglect by the authorities while state corruption thrived, Reuters reported.
Officials have said the blast, whose seismic impact was recorded hundreds of kilometers away, might have caused losses amounting to $15 billion – a bill the country cannot pay when it has already defaulted on its mountain of national debt, exceeding 150 percent of economic output, and talks about a lifeline from the International Monetary Fund have stalled.
Hospitals, many heavily damaged as shockwaves ripped out windows and pulled down ceilings, have been overwhelmed by the number of casualties. Many were struggling to find enough foreign exchange to buy supplies before the explosion.
In the port area, rescue teams set up arc lights to work through the night in a dash to find those still missing, as families waited tensely, slowly losing hope of ever seeing loved ones again.
Some victims were hurled into the sea because of the explosive force.
A pressing challenge for the government is ensuring the nation has enough food, after the blast destroyed the country’s only major grain silo.
UN agencies were working to hand out food parcels and deliver medical supplies.
Offers of immediate aid have also poured in from Arab states, Western nations and beyond. But none, so far, address the bigger challenges facing a bankrupt nation.
French President Emmanuel Macron came to the city on Thursday with a cargo from France.
He promised to explain some “home truths” to the government, telling them they needed to root out corruption and deliver economic reforms.
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