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Record surge of virus infections has WHO fearful of death spike


The World Health Organisation’s chief scientist has raised concern that the recent global increase in new COVID-19 infections will be followed by rising deaths that currently number about 5000 every day.

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Cases are surging, with nearly 20,000 infections reported in the UK on Thursday and Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Russia among countries reporting a record high number of new cases.

More than 38 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and nearly 1.1 million have died, according to a Reuters tally.

“Mortality increases always lag behind increasing cases by a couple of weeks,” Dr Soumya Swaminathan said during a WHO social media event.

“We are still losing approximately 5000 people a day…so we shouldn’t be complacent that death rates are coming down.”

European countries are extending restrictions well beyond social life to close schools, cancel surgeries and enlist legions of student medics as overwhelmed authorities face their nightmare scenario of a COVID-19 resurgence at the onset of winter.

The Czech Republic, which has Europe’s worst rate per capita, has shifted schools to distance learning and plans to call up thousands of medical students.

Hospitals are cutting non-urgent medical procedures to free up beds.

Poland is ramping up training for nurses and considering creating military field hospitals, Moscow is to move many students to online learning and Northern Ireland is closing schools for two weeks.

Major European economies such as Germany, Britain and France have so far resisted pressure to close schools, a move that during the spring lockdowns created hardship as many parents juggled child care and work from home.

In Germany, politicians are debating whether to extend the Christmas-New Year school break to reduce contagion, though critics say there is no evidence schools have been hot spots.

The Netherlands returned to partial lockdown on Wednesday, closing bars and restaurants, but kept schools open.

European infections have been running at an average of almost 100,000 a day – about a third of the global total – forcing governments to tighten restrictions while attempting to calibrate them to protect health without destroying livelihoods.

The United Kingdom, France, Russia and Spain accounted for more than half of Europe’s new cases in the week to October 11, according to the WHO.

India confirmed more than 63,000 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, an increase of more than 8000 from the previous day but still far fewer than it was reporting a month ago, when the virus was at its peak in the country.

The Health Ministry reported 63,509 new cases, raising India’s total to more than 7.2 million, second in the world behind the US.

The ministry also reported 730 fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 110,586.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities said they had carried out more than 4.2 million tests in the northern port city of Qingdao, with no new COVID-19 cases among the almost 2 million results received.

The city has reported a total of 12 cases, six with symptoms and six without, since the new outbreak was first spotted over the weekend at a hospital.

China on Wednesday reported 27 new cases, including 13 of local transmission and 14 brought from outside the country.

The local cases included seven that had been shifted to confirmed from asymptomatic.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether any of those involved cases reported in Qingdao.

China has reported a total of 4634 deaths among 85,611 confirmed cases of COVID-19.


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