- Russia outbreak tops 300k cases
- Brazil reports 17k+ cases in latest record jump
- Global COVID-19 case total nears 5 million
- Rolls Royce cuts 9,000 jobs, largest layoffs in 30+ years
- Afghanistan passes 8k cases
- UN claims Africa largely ‘spared’ by coronavirus
- Germany’s largest state reopens polls
- German government bars foreign takeovers of German health-care firms
- Spain makes mask wearing in enclosed spaces “compulsory”
- UK still working out quarantine guidelines for travelers
- Head of Japan’s virus advisory committee says 2nd wave possible before winter
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For much of the last week, our coverage of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has focused on two countries that have rapidly climbed the international rankings over the last 10 days, landing them in the top 5 worst-hit nations. They are: Russia and Brazil. After reporting ~15k cases for three straight days, Brazilian public health officials on Wednesday morning reported a staggering 17,408 new cases (case numbers are typically reported with a 24-hour delay, and don’t always reflect the true number of infections). The country has reported just below 300k cases, though some suspect the true number of infections might be as much as 4x the official number. The country has confirmed ~17,000 deaths as well.
Brazil’s outbreak has been exacerbated by President Jair Bolsonaro’s insistence that the virus is just “a little flu”, and that the only sensible approach is to simply let the disease run its course, Bolsonaro has said. Over the past 6 weeks, the Brazilian government has seen 2 health ministers resign. Meanwhile, across the country, businesses continue to reopen even as health-care systems in more-remote Amazonian states have been completely overwhelmed. Its Neighbors have closed their borders, fearing Brazilians might carry the illness across the border.
And last night, President Trump said the White House would consider banning all travelers from Brazil, after a visiting delegation from the country that included Bolsonaro nearly infected Trump and VP Pence with the virus.
Meanwhile, the total number of coronavirus cases in Russia passed 300,000 as 8,764 new novel coronavirus infections were reported on Wednesday, taking the nationwide total to 308,705. Amazingly, this was the smallest jump in new cases in 3 weeks.
A Russian woman wears a mask
However, Russia’s leaders believe that their lockdowns and other measures are starting to work, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin – who took 3 weeks off to battle the virus after being infected himself – advised that restrictions should be lifted carefully in the 17 regions where lockdowns have been imposed over the coming weeks.
Dr Melita Vujnovich, the WHO’s Russia representative, claimed the outbreak in Russia had entered a “stabilization phase.” Others fear the outbreak is much larger than counted given the country’s surprisingly low death toll, which edged up to 2,972 on Wednesday, with 135 new fatalities reported in the past 24 hours.
As of ~7amET, Johns Hopkins University had counted more than 4.9 million cases of COVID-19, and more than 323,000 deaths. More than 1.7 million people have recovered.
The number of new cases reported on the day has moved higher recently thanks to Russia and Brazil, which combined now account for ~25% of new cases.
In corporate news, Rolls-Royce is cutting 1/5th of its workforce as it braces for the aviation industry disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic to endure for several years.
The aircraft engine maker said it would cut at least 9,000 of its 52,000 jobs in what would be its largest headcount reduction in 30 years.
As the US and Europe continue to reopen with minimal blowback, internationally, the focus has shifted toward the developing world – particularly countries in the Middle East and South America.
For example, the Guardian reported Wednesday that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Afghanistan had passed 8,000, as roughly 50% of tests done in a day come back positive for the 2nd straight day. The total numbers are: 8,145 cases and a death toll of 187.
So far 25,700 suspected patients have been tested. The country received 250 RNA extraction kits from the WHO on Tuesday. The northern province of Balkh exceeded Kabul in number of deaths, with three of the latest Covid-19 deaths reported in the province. Balkh has so far recorded 27 deaths and 622 cases. Four of the new deaths were reported in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The western province of Herat recorded 59 new confirmed cases. Afghanistan’s first case was recorded in Herat, where migrants from Iran are believed to have introduced the virus.
Fortunately, in Africa, the utter devastation that experts feared would hammer Africa as the world’s poorest governments confronted the virus has yet to emerge (sorry, Bill). This low (speaking relatively) case number has “raised hopes that African countries may be spared the worst of the pandemic,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as he praised the “swift” response of African governments.
As Germany continues to reopen, open-air swimming pools have reopened Wednesday as virologists say they are confident chlorine in the water could kill the virus. Authorities in North-Rhine Westphalia – Germany’s largest state by population – have granted the 340 lidos in the region permission to reopen – so long as they abide by the new hygiene rules. In Berlin, swimming pools won’t reopen until next week, while other regions won’t allow them to reopen until June.
In other news, the German government gave itself new powers to block hostile foreign takeover bids for prized German health-care and pharmaceutical companies, a measure intended to protect the country’s supplies of essential health-care equipment and drugs.
After reporting fewer than 100 deaths yesterday, the Spanish government has published new compulsory guidelines on mask-wearing making the wearing of a mask while in an “enclosed space” mandatory for all people over the age of six. It also calls for masks to be worn outdoors anywhere the 2-meter social distancing protocols can’t be followed.
The British government, meanwhile, is still working on the details of how it will implement quarantine measures for people arriving in the country, according to Interior Minister Priti Patel.
“We are still developing measures, so we are not in the position to say ‘this is how it’s going to work’,” Patel said during an interview with LBC radio. “In terms of how this will work, we will be announcing this shortly,” she said, confirming only that the duration of quarantine would be 14 days.
While China continues to carry out mass testing and reimposed lockdowns in Wuhan and the northeastern province of Jilin, Indonesia on Wednesday reported 693 new cases, its largest daily jump yet, bringing its total to 19,189 – though Indonesia’s outbreak is suspected of being much larger due to the government’s initial refusal to acknowledge it. 21 additional deaths reported, taking the total to 1,242, while 4,575 people have recovered.
In Japan, infection levels have returned to their lows from late March, but the deputy head of the Japanese government’s advisory panel on the coronavirus, Shigeru Omi, warned a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that it is still possible to see a new wave of infections before winter comes.