Sunday 09 August 2020
News ID: 81327
Publish Date: 02 August 2020 - 21:44
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) -- The UN health agency warned that the coronavirus pandemic would be lengthy and could lead to "response fatigue”, as the case count in South Africa topped half a million.
Six months after the World Health Organization declared a global emergency, the novel coronavirus has killed more than 680,000 people and infected more than 17.5 million, according to an AFP tally.
South Africa is by far the hardest hit country in Africa, accounting for more than half of diagnosed infections, although President Cyril Ramaphosa said the fatality rate is lower than the global average.
Health authorities had been expecting a surge in cases after the gradual loosening of a strict lockdown that was imposed at the end of March.
Nigeria on Saturday also announced it would ease a lockdown in the commercial capital Lagos, allowing churches and mosques to reopen next week.
An emergency WHO committee reviewing the pandemic "highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this COVID-19 outbreak, noting the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts”.
"WHO continues to assess the global risk level of COVID-19 to be very high,” it said in its latest statement.
The agency also said the effects of the pandemic "will be felt for decades to come”.
Mexico overtook Britain to become the third hardest hit country in virus deaths -- after Brazil and the United States -- with more than 46,600 fatal cases.
Although many Latin American countries have begun relaxing stay-at-home measures, the virus is still spreading quickly across much of the region, which has now recorded more than four million cases and almost 200,000 deaths.
Half of them are in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro said he believes "nearly everyone” will catch the virus eventually, after himself recovering from it.
The U.S., the hardest-hit country in the world, has now tallied more than 4.6 million cases and 154,319 deaths.
The outlook was bleak in Asia as well, where India and the Philippines reported record increases in new daily infections.
"We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19, and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action,” said an open letter signed by 80 Filipino medical associations.
Japan’s Okinawa declared a state of emergency after a record jump in cases on the islands -- many linked to U.S. military forces stationed there.

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