The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the Covid-19 as ‘first wave’, not just seasonal.
Dr Margaret Harris, a spokesperson of WHO, came up with the information on Tuesday at a scheduled virtual press conference, reports UN news.
The UN health agency said the Covid-19 virus is likely not impacted by the changing seasons like other respiratory diseases.
It also urged to take measures for physical distancing to stop it from spreading.
“The season does not seem to be affecting the transmission of this virus,” said Harris.
“What is affecting the transmission is mass gatherings, it’s people coming together, and people not social distancing, not taking the precautions to ensure they are not in close contact,” she said.
On Tuesday, WHO reported that the number of confirmed cases globally stood at 16,301,736 with 650,069 deaths.
‘One big wave’
Dr Harris also pushed back on the perception that a respiratory illness might come and go in several waves.
“It’s going to be one big wave,” she said. “It’s going to go up and down a bit…the best thing is to flatten it and turn it into just something that is lapping at your feet. But at the moment, first, second, third wave, these things don’t really make sense and we’re not really defining it that way.”
Asked about WHO’s stance on charging for Covid-19 testing, the WHO official explained that this was a decision governed by countries alone.
“Now we do everything we can to encourage all countries to test, because testing is absolutely essential,” she said. “You don’t know where your outbreak is if you’re not testing people. We also encourage all countries to make access to testing wide and available”.
The Americas remains the epicenter by region, with more than 8.7 million cases, followed by Europe (3.2 million), South-East Asia (1.8 million), Eastern Mediterranean (1.5 million), Africa (712,920) and Western Pacific (291,993).
Dr Harris noted that the biggest outbreak “with the most intense, the highest numbers”, remained the US, where it is the middle of summer.
Brazil had also seen high infection rates, despite being an equatorial country, the WHO spokesperson said.
‘Later’ flu season in Global South
Dr Harris noted that winter was underway in countries in the global south, with samples tested, indicating “high” COVID infection rates but low influenza traces.
“Now the interesting thing is we are seeing from those samples, high levels of COVID, but we’re not seeing high levels of influenza at the moment. So, we’re expecting a later flu season in the southern hemisphere.”
However, influenza activity is currently at lower-than-expected levels, according to WHO’s latest global influenza update.
In temperate areas of the northern hemisphere, influenza activity has “returned to inter-seasonal levels”.
In Caribbean, Central American, South American, tropical African, Southern Asia and South East Asia countries, the WHO bulletin reported that there have been only sporadic or no cases detected.
Assessing the impact on countries finding themselves having to tackle both Covid-19 and influenza at the same time, the WHO spokesperson debated whether a “melange” of respiratory diseases might prove problematic.
“That would be a concern, because if you have an increase in respiratory illness when you already have a very high burden of respiratory illness, that puts even more pressure on the health system,” she said.
Indian capital Delhi has seen a significant improvement in the COVID-19 situation over the past few days as the recovery rate stands at nearly 90 percent.
Only 9 percent people are still infected, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Monday, reports Xinhua.
The rate of new cases has come down to below 5 percent.
Kejriwal also claimed that there has been a decline in the number of COVID-9 deaths as well.
According to the data released by the health ministry Tuesday morning, there are almost 11,000 active COVID-19 cases in Delhi, which is said to be an improvement of 910 compared to Monday.
Till Tuesday there have been a total of 116,372 COVID-19 cases in Delhi.
The central government's intervention too is lauded in overall COVID-19 improvement in Delhi.
In June, around 100 coronavirus patients used to die every day, but now it has come down to around 20 per day.
Earlier in June, for every 100 persons tested for COVID-19 around 35 tested positive, and this has come down to 5 percent now, added the chief minister.
The improvement in death rate has been quite significant, that is around 44 percent in early July compared with early June, say the Delhi health department officials.
The state's health department said the primary strategies that helped in containing COVID-19 were - aggressive testing and efficient management of not only the Containment Zones but also the Buffer Zones and the areas with isolated cases.
The COVID-19 testing in the capital city has gone up from 25,175 tests per million on June 27, to 50,435 tests per million. The number of Containment Zones has also gone from 315 on June 27 to 716.
In the second week of June, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had predicted that the capital would have more than 550,000 cases by July-end.
Only a couple of days later, India's Home (Internal Security) Minister Amit Shah took charge of Delhi spelling out a multi-pronged strategy to contain the then evolving COVID-19 situation.
On Shah's intervention and direction, aggressive Contact Tracing and Streamlining of Containment Zones was taken up, even as door-to-door serological surveys were carried out to get proper information about the spread of the virus. Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and resident welfare associations (RWAs) were roped in actively.
Praising Shah for his successful intervention, Sisodia was quoted as saying that for increasing COVID-19 testing, the Delhi government had sought the central government's help, and they helped with procuring rapid testing kits.
"Since then, testing has been increased by many times," he added.
More than 60 people were killed and dozens injured in a new spell of violence in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, the United Nations said on Sunday, reports AP.
About 500 armed men on Saturday attacked the village of Masteri, located 48 kilometers (30 miles) south of Genena, the provincial capital of West Darfur province, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan.
The clashes between the Masalit and other Arab tribes in the area started earlier Saturday and lasted until late Sunday, state-run SUNA news agency reported, citing unnamed sources.
Local authorities asked for military reinforcements to halt the clashes, the report said.
But the SUNA report did not provide a death toll, but said dozens of people were killed or wounded, and more than 60 wounded were taken by helicopter to Genena for treatment.
An unconfirmed number of houses were looted and burned in the village, along with half the local market, OCHA said.
The village borders Chad.
The attack prompted around 500 people to start a protest camp in front of the Masalit Sultan House, a settlement hosting about 4,200 internally displaced persons in Masteri, the UN agency said.
The protesters called for authorities to protect them from attacks.
Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow al-Bashir in April 2019.
A military-civilian government now rules the country until elections, possibly in late 2022.
Saturday’s attack was the latest in a series of attacks in the area.
OCHA documented at least seven clashes from July 19-26 which left dozens dead or wounded.
US diplomats have left the US consulate in south-western Chinese city of Chengdu, following Beijing's decision to close the mission.
China ordered the closing of the consulate on Friday in retaliation for a US order to close the Chinese Consulate in Houston, reports AP.
The tit-for-tat closings marked a significant escalation in tensions between the two countries over a range of issues, including trade, technology, security and human rights.
The American flag has been taken down at a US consulate in southwestern China, according to state media.
Besides, officials have vacated the premises under order of the Chinese government.
State broadcaster CCTV said on its social media account that the flag was lowered at 6:18am on Monday (local time) at the US mission in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan provine.
Police have closed off a two to three block area around the consulate, cutting off virtually any view of the property.
Vehicles could be seen moving in the distance behind multiple police lines.
Moving trucks arrived at the US consulate Sunday afternoon and left a few hours later. Late at night, flatbed trailers entered the complex. One later emerged carrying a large shipping container and a crane.
Before the area was closed, the impending closure of the consulate drew a steady stream of onlookers over the weekend as Chengdu, like Houston, found itself in the limelight of international politics.
People stopped to take selfies and photos, jamming a sidewalk busy with shoppers and families with strollers on a sunny day in the city of Chengdu. A little boy posed with a small Chinese flag before plainclothes police shooed him away as foreign media cameras zoomed in.
Police had shut the street and sidewalk in front of the consulate and set up metal barriers along the sidewalk on the other side of the tree-lined road.
Uniformed and plainclothes officers kept watch on both sides of the barriers after scattered incidents following the Chengdu announcement on Friday, including a man who set off firecrackers and hecklers who cursed at foreign media shooting video and photos of the scene.
A man who tired to unfurl a large placard late Sunday that he called an open letter to the Chinese government was quickly taken away.
Earlier, a bus left the consulate grounds and what appeared to be embassy staff spoke with plainclothes police before retreating back behind the property's solid black gates. It wasn’t clear who or what was on the bus.
Three medium-size trucks arrived and left a few hours later, and cars with diplomatic plates departed in between.
The US alleged that the Houston consulate was a nest of Chinese spies who tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. China said the allegations were “malicious slander.”
South Africa’s COVID-19 response is marred by corruption allegations around its historic 26 billion USD economic relief package, as the country with the world’s fifth highest number of COVID-19 cases braces for more.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a wide-ranging investigation into claims that unscrupulous officials and private companies are looting efforts to protect the country’s 57 million people.
“More so than at any other time, corruption puts our lives at risk,” he said in a national address Thursday night.
South Africa is seen as the best-prepared of any country in sub-Saharan Africa for COVID-19, but years of rampant corruption have weakened institutions, including the health system.
In October, the head of the government’s Special Investigating Unit said fraud, waste and abuse in health care siphoned off $2.3 billion a year.
The unit is already investigating more than 20 cases of corruption related to the COVID-19 relief money, spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said.
South Africa now has more than 434,000 confirmed virus cases — well over half of the continent’s total — and over 6,600 deaths, while a new report has suggested the real death toll could be higher.
Public hospitals struggle and some health workers are openly scared.
More than 5,000 of them have been infected.
While nurses and others plead for more protection, overpricing scams for badly needed supplies are on the rise.
After inflating face mask prices by up to 900%, companies Sicuro Safety and Hennox Supplies admitted guilt and were fined.
In South Africa's new virus epicenter, Gauteng province, a company supplying the government with PPE, Royal Bhaca, charged more than four times the regular price — or about $3.50 — per surgical mask. Sanitizer was almost twice the price, or $5 for a 500ml bottle, according to an investigation by The Sunday Independent newspaper.
Pandemic-related corruption has been reported across South Africa.