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LATIN AMERICA | 07-07-2020 23:58

Latin America & Caribbean surpasses three million Covid-19 cases

The region is the current epicentre of the global pandemic, with 3,023,813 cases and nearly 140,000 deaths – almost half of them in Brazil, the hardest hit country in the world after the United States.

Latin America and the Caribbean on Tuesday surpassed three million novel coronavirus cases, more than half of those in Brazil, according to an AFP tally.

The region is the current epicentre of the global pandemic, with 3,023,813 cases and nearly 140,000 deaths – almost half of them in Brazil, the hardest hit country in the world after the United States.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who at 65 is in the highest-risk age category, insisted he was feeling "perfectly well" and took off his face mask during a TV interview announcing his test for the virus had come back positive.

The Brazilian leader repeated his mantra that the "collateral effects" of the virus should not be worse than the illness itself.

Since the beginning of the virus outbreak, Bolsonaro has minimised the risks of what he initially called "a little flu" while resisting wearing a mask in public.

After Brazil's region-leading 66,000 deaths, Mexico has the second-highest number of fatalities with more than 31,000, and more than 261,000 cases.

Peru has more cases at nearly 310,000, but fewer deaths at 10,952. It has shown no sign of easing its lockdown measures.

Chile has also surpassed 300,000 cases, and the death toll is at more than 6,400. Authorities are looking to lift their anti-virus restrictions if the numbers continue to trend downward.

Argentina has recorded more than more than 83,000 cases, with 1,644 fatalities to date.

On Tuesday, the UN health agency meanwhile acknowledged that there was "emerging evidence" of airborne transmission of Covid-19, which has infected nearly 11.7 million people around the globe and caused more than 539,000 deaths.

'Chaotic and incoherent'

In Washington, a senior US official said the United States had informed UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres of the United States' intention to leave the World Health Organisation, effective July 6, 2021.

US President Donald Trump has been critical of the WHO's pandemic response, accusing it of bias toward China and ignoring early signs of human-to-human transmission of the deadly virus.

The United States is the largest financial contributor to the WHO – which leads the fight on global maladies from polio and measles to mental health – providing US$400 million annually.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said Tuesday he would immediately reverse the decision and keep the US in the WHO if he defeats Trump in November.

Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, criticised the Trump administration's move.

"To call Trump's response to Covid chaotic and incoherent doesn't do it justice," Menendez said. 

"This won't protect American lives or interests – it leaves Americans sick & America alone."

Critics say Trump is seeking to deflect criticism from his own handling of the pandemic, which has killed nearly 131,000 people in the United States, by far the highest death toll of any nation.

Officials have said hospitals in some parts of the country are in danger of being overwhelmed, with many states hit particularly hard after they eased virus restrictions.

The United States, the country hardest hit by the coronavirus, on Tuesday posted 60,209 new cases, a record for a 24-hour period, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Texas –one of the new US hotspots– on Tuesday registered a new daily case total of 10,028, making it the third state after New York and Florida to hit the grim milestone.

Top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has warned the country is still "knee-deep" in the first coronavirus wave.

But Trump pounced on that comment Tuesday, saying the United States was "in a good place" and adding: "I disagree with him."

– TIMES/AFP

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