Fri, 03 Jul 2020

COVID-19 Infections Rise 684% in Afghanistan

Voice of America
01 Jun 2020, 22:05 GMT+10

COVID-19 infections in Afghanistan rose by 684% in May, the International Rescue Committee said in a statement Monday.

"The country's extremely low testing capacity means many more are going untested and undetected," according to the Committee.

Millions of Afghans were already facing food insecurity after decades of conflict and now the economic strain of the COVID pandemic "leaves Afghanistan on the brink of a humanitarian disaster," IRC said.

Russia reported 9,035 new COVID-19 infections Monday. Only the U.S. and Brazil have more cases than Russia.

South African schools were scheduled to open Monday, but those plans were canceled at the last minute. The health ministry had received pushback from teacher unions, school staff and governing boards about the opening date.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Twitter that there is a need for "transparency about the level of preparedness of each of the schools."

The White House announced Sunday that it has delivered two million doses of hydroxychloroquine, or HCQ, to Brazil to help the South American country in its fight against the coronavirus.

"HCQ will be used as a prophylactic to help defend Brazil's nurses, doctors, and healthcare professionals against the virus," the White House said in a statement Sunday. "It will also be used as a therapeutic to treat Brazilians who become infected."

HCQ is a widely used malaria drug. U.S. President Donald Trump, in a controversial move, has ignored his public health advisers and has pushed for the use of the drug in the fight against the coronavirus even though there is no hard evidence that the drug is effective against the virus.

Trump recently announced that he has taken a round of HCQ, even though he says he does not have the virus.

The White House statement also said the two countries have entered a joint "research effort that will include randomized controlled clinical trials. These trials will help further evaluate the safety and efficacy of HCQ for both prophylaxis and the early treatment of the coronavirus."

There are more infections in the U.S. and Brazil than anywhere else. The U.S. has 1.7 million cases while Brazil, which is emerging as the world's hotspot for the virus, has more than 514,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

U.S. health officials say they are bracing for a surge in coronavirus infections, following protests around the country over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

Some protesters wore masks, and some did not. Social distancing was non-existant.

The prime minister of Armenia has tested positive for the coronavirus. Nikol Pashinyan told Public Radio of Armenia that he and his family have tested positive, but all of them are asymptomatic.

Australia is continuing to ease coronavirus restrictions, allowing more people to gather in restaurants, public parks and other attractions.

Gatherings in the country's largest state, New South Wales, had been limited to 10 people. That limit has been increased to 50.

Museums, libraries and zoos are reopening.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he hopes the easing of restrictions will help the economy rebound which, like so many other global economies, has been hit hard by the pandemic.

But Morrison said another government stimulus package may be necessary.

About 90,000 mosques across Saudi Arabia opened for the first time in more than two months Sunday, but some restrictions remain in place.

Worshippers 15 years old and younger are not allowed inside, and the elderly are being encouraged to stay home to pray. Mecca, Islam's holiest city, remains closed, but Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque - Islam's holiest site outside Saudi Arabia - was open again Sunday for the first time since mid-March. All who enter must have their temperatures checked.

With the U.S. Atlantic hurricane season officially starting Monday, the Associated Press reports many counties across the southern U.S. still do not have complete plans on how to open up public shelters if a storm strikes during the coronavirus outbreak.

"Our biggest change to our hurricane plan is sheltering. How are we going to shelter those that have to evacuate? How are going to shelter those that are positive COVID patients? There are multiple ideas that we are considering right now," Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Greg Michel said.

Vice President Mike Pence said last week that the federal government is ready should there be the twin disaster of a hurricane and COVID-19.

The federal emergency plan includes urging people to stay in hotels. But some state officials say that may not be an option because of the current unemployment crisis caused by the pandemic.

U.S. forecasters expect this will be an unusually busy hurricane season with as many as six major storms hitting the U.S.

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