Ogun Relaxes Lockdown Measures, To Allow Religious Activities From June 19

Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, briefing journalists about the recent development of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state where 28 persons have been identified and quarantined.

 

The Ogun state government on Friday said it was adopting the federal government’s decision to relax curfew periods amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Curfew period in the state now falls between 10 pm and 4 am, as recommended by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

In a briefing on Friday, Governor Dapo Abiodun however said all other restrictions, guidelines, and measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state will remain in place.

The Governor also said engagement with religious leaders was still ongoing over how public religious activities can resume in the state.

 

Abiodun said his government will unveil guidelines on Friday to enable religious activities to restart on June 19.

“I indicated in my briefing last week that our Administration would engage religious leaders towards working out modalities on gradually lifting restrictions on religious activities,” Abiodun said.

“This was in accordance with the minimum recommendations of the COVID-19 PTF, subject to peculiarities of affected states. We therefore met with leading religious bodies, as we have always been inclusive, and we arrived at the following conclusions:

“(A) Subject to the review of the Sub-Committee (which includes some of the religious leaders earlier engaged) we set up, I will be unveiling on Friday, 12th June, 2020 some guidelines to enable the gradual opening of religious activities on Friday, 19th June.

 

“(B) A Joint Task Force (including religious leaders, government & security agencies) will be set up to monitor compliance with agreed guidelines, which would be regularly reviewed according to developments.

“(C) The afore-disclosed are despite the remarkable efforts of our Administration, as acknowledged by the religious leaders, who clearly understood the reality of the pandemic which is still very much with us.”

As of Friday evening, Ogun had recorded 329 cases of the novel coronavirus. While it has discharged 186 patients, 133 cases are still activities and 10 people have died.

Enugu Records Three New COVID-19 Cases With Travel History From Lagos, Rivers

A map of Enugu state in the south-east.
A map of Enugu state in the south-east.

 

The Enugu state government has confirmed three new cases of the novel coronavirus in the state.

In a statement on Saturday, the state’s Ministry of Health said all three cases have a travel history, two from Lagos state and one from Rivers.

The new cases bring the total number of COVID-19 cases recorded in Enugu to 30, with 16 discharged and one death.

“Two of the new cases are male patients admitted for other severe underlying conditions,” the statement signed by the state’s Commissioner for Health. Dr. Obi Emmanuel Ikechukwu, said.

They were being treated at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu when, on a high index of suspicion, were transferred to the hospital’s holding area while the State’s rapid response team was contacted for sample collection.

The other case is also a male patient who developed symptoms and contacted the COVID-19 emergency number.

He was assessed and subsequently invited for sample collection.

“Two of these cases hail from Nkanu West LGA of Enugu State and the other from Enugu North LGA,” the statement said.

“Two of them came into Enugu State from Lagos while the other person came in from Rivers State.”

Nigeria Records 328 New COVID-19 Cases, Total Infections Now 11,844

 

Nigeria has recorded 328 new cases of the COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 11, 844.

The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), announced this on Friday.

According to the agency’s report, 121 of the new cases were recorded in Lagos, 70 in the FCT, and 25 in Bauchi.

Other affected states were Rivers with 18 cases, Oyo with 16, 15 in Kaduna, 14 in Gombe, 13 in Edo and Ogun, eight in Jigawa, six in Enugu, five in Kano and two each in Ondo and Osun states.

 

However, the NCDC also noted that a total of 3,696 patients have now recovered from the virus and have subsequently been discharged from isolation centers, while 333 persons have died.

Nearly four months since Nigeria recorded its first case in the country, the figures have continued to rise with Lagos still the epicenter after a record 5,663 cases, closely followed by Kano State with 985 cases and the FCT with 862 cases.

With the latest figures, Nigeria is ranked third on the list of most infected African nations after South Africa and Egypt.

To curb further spread of the virus, the Federal Government had imposed a lockdown on the three majorly affected states at the time (Lagos, Ogun State and the FCT) in March.

Subsequently, other states began to impose varying degrees of curfews and governors eventually agreed on interstate lockdowns as they began to record new infections.

But weeks after the FG-Imposed lockdown, President Muhammadu Buhari announced again that there would be a gradual easing of the lockdown in order to allow economic activities resume as the country could not sustain an extended period of economic inactivity.

While essential workers and other levels of workers have been allowed to resume so far, the government has still appealed to those who can afford to stay at home, to do so.

Reducing interpersonal contacts and maintaining social distancing of up to 2-3meters is said to be one of the ways to curb the spread of the virus but that in itself has proven to be a difficult task for most Nigerians.

Other measures to stay safe include sneezing or coughing into your elbow, washing of hands regularly, use of alcohol-based sanitizers and wearing of face masks.

Read Also: Muslims In Abuja Gather To Pray As COVID-19 Restrictions Ease

While most businesses have been allowed to resume with strict adherence to the above measures, schools, cinemas, clubs and other places of mass social gatherings remain shut.

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has, however, allowed the reopening of worship centers.

While the PTF had said it does not recommend that people resume at places of worship, it noted that if they have to, they must adhere strictly to the guidelines, some of which include the mandatory use of face masks by worshippers and provision of handwashing spots at the entrances.

Also, the use of hand sanitizers with at least sixty per cent alcohol content and mandatory temperature checks was advised.

The PTF also mandated that facilities be structured in a way that physical distancing can be observed and as much as possible, congregants avoid activities such a hugging, shaking or kissing.

In addition, it noted that church/mosque volunteers (ushers, choir, security etc) that have underlying illnesses should not be allowed to serve, while the time for worship services should not be more than one hour.

Some Muslim faithful in Abuja could already been seen gathering for prayers on Friday as the restrictions get lifted.

President Muhammadu Buhari alongside the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu, and other government officials were also among those who attended Juma’at prayers – their first since the lockdown was imposed.

For schools, the government had stated last week that it is not ready to take the risk of resuming just yet.

The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, debunked reports that schools would open on June 8, adding that there would be no resumption “until we are sure that these children can go to school, return safely and not bring home with them, this COVID material”.

Coronavirus Could Weaken Africa’s Response To Climate Change – IMF  

A sign of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) hosting the 50th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is seen at the entrance of the headquarters, on August 2, 2019, in Geneva. PHOTO: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday warned that coronavirus could further weaken sub-Saharan Africa’s ability to adapt to climate change, as measures to contain the pandemic stretch limited resources.

A recent study on the impact of rising temperatures and extreme weather events on growth suggests sub-Saharan Africa — the region most vulnerable to climate change — will be hit 60 percent harder than the average for other emerging markets and developing economies.

Details of the analysis show that economic activity in the region can shrink by one percent in a month when that month’s average temperature is 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average.

The IMF, which released the study on Thursday, called on policymakers not to sideline responses to climate change in dealing with coronavirus.

“Containing and managing the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on already limited fiscal space and raising debt vulnerabilities in sub-Saharan Africa,” said the report, adding that coronavirus funding could also be used to “simultaneously address climate change”.

The IMF pointed to “intrinsic links” between viral outbreaks, environmental destruction and man-made pollution that weakens humans’ immune systems.

“Adaptation to climate change would also benefit other development areas, such as resilience to pandemics, and ultimately boost growth,” it added.

According to the report, adapting to climate change would cost sub-Saharan Africa between $30 and $50 billion (26.6-44.4 billion euros) per year for the next decade — the equivalent of around two to three percent of the region’s GDP.

The Fund said international support would be “paramount” but also noted that pre-emptive adaptation measures remained less costly than post-disaster relief.

Sub-Saharan Africa has so far lagged behind the global curve for coronavirus infections and deaths, although the number of cases continues to rise steadily across the region.

The continent has recorded more than 163,000 infections and at least 4,600 fatalities to date, according to an AFP tally.

But experts believe those figures could be underestimated due to inadequate testing.

There are also fears poor sanitation and weak healthcare systems could hamper any response to the full-blown outbreak.

AFP

Senegal To Ease COVID-19 Curfew After Angry Protests

A man carries a bucket filled with meat at a market in Dakar on May 23, 2020, as residents shops on the eve of the Islamic festivity of Korite. Korite marks the end Muslim Holy month of Ramadan. JOHN WESSELS / AFP

 

Senegal said Thursday it would ease an anti-coronavirus curfew and lift restrictions on inter-city travel following two nights of protests that were marked by violence.

Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye said the start of the 9:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew would be pushed back by two hours, to 11:00 pm.

“From today, transport restrictions across the country are being lifted, with the curfew being maintained from 11pm to 5am,” he said on state television.

“Gatherings in public or private places, restaurants, gyms, casinos will also benefit from these relaxation measures,” he said.

More than 70 people were arrested on Wednesday after demonstrations, focused on the curfew, broke out in several cities.

One of the centres of unrest was Touba, Senegal’s second largest city located around 200 kilometres (120 miles) east of the capital Dakar, and the seat of a politically powerful Sufi Muslim order, the Mouride Brotherhood.

Several police vehicles there were set ablaze and a coronavirus treatment centre and post office buildings were attacked, sources said.

READ ALSO: Armenia Hospitals Overwhelmed As COVID-19 Cases Surge

The Brotherhood’s leader, Serigne Mountakha Mbacke, appeared on television late Tuesday to urge protesters to go home and vowed to address the problems.

The curfew was imposed by President Macky Sall on March 23, and has been implemented in tandem with a ban on travel between Senegal’s regions.

Demands for an easing of restrictions have mounted in the face of the plight of many Senegalese who depend on day-by-day jobs.

Around 40 per cent of the population live below the threshold of poverty, according to a World Bank benchmark.

The West African state has recorded 3,932 cases of coronavirus, 45 of them fatalities, according to a toll compiled by AFP.

The figures are low compared to countries in Europe and the United States, although experts caution that, as elsewhere in Africa, Senegal is vulnerable to the pandemic because of its weak health system.

AFP

Armenia Hospitals Overwhelmed As COVID-19 Cases Surge

A hospital worker (C) wearing a protective face mask and outfit, speaks with two ambulance doctors wearing yellow protective suits at the Grigor Lusavorich Medical Centre in Yerevan on May 27, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. Karen MINASYAN / AFP.

 

Hospitals in Armenia can no longer cope with the number of coronavirus patients, the country’s prime minister warned on Thursday.

Nikol Pashinyan, who has himself tested positive, said there could be as many as 20,000 people infected but showing no symptoms in the country, which has so far registered 11,221 cases and 176 deaths.

The health ministry said an additional 68 patients who tested positive for the virus had died from other illnesses.

Last week, health officials warned that intensive care beds would soon be reserved for patients with the best chance of survival.

“I have got bad news,” Pashinyan said in a video statement on his Facebook page. “The epidemiological situation is worsening and medical facilities cannot timely hospitalise all the coronavirus patients who need (medical treatment).”

READ ALSO: Senegal To Ease COVID-19 Curfew After Angry Protests

Pashinyan has acknowledged his government failed to enforce anti-virus measures and denounced widespread quarantine violations.

Armenia has already lifted a state of emergency that was imposed in March to slow the spread of the virus.

Conspiracy theories and disinformation on social media undermined government efforts to fight the outbreak, according to analysts.

AFP

Finland Reaches COVID-19 Milestone, Records No New Cases

Pupils keep social distances before entering Eestinkallio primary school, as it re-opens after the lockdown due to the new coronavirus pandemic on May 14, 2020 in Espoo, Finland. ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO / AFP.

 

Health officials in Finland announced no new coronavirus infections on Thursday for the first time in more than three months.

“This is the first ‘zero day’ since February 26,” a spokesperson for the Institute for Health and Welfare told AFP.

However, one person died from the virus on Thursday, the institute said, bringing the death toll to 322 in the Nordic nation of 5.5 million people.

An estimated 5,800 of Finland’s 7,000 recorded COVID-19 cases have now recovered.

A total of 50 people remain in hospital, with seven in intensive care.

The virus’ reproduction rate has fallen in the last two weeks to between 0.75 and 0.80, officials said, adding that more than a third of hospital districts did not register a single case during the final week of May.

Since mid-May Finland’s government has begun lifting emergency restrictions that were imposed on 18 March.

READ ALSO: Armenia Hospitals Overwhelmed As COVID-19 Cases Surge

Schools were reopened for two weeks before the summer holidays began at the start of June, and earlier this week bars, restaurants, sports facilities and cultural institutions were allowed to reopen under social distancing regulations.

However, officials and the government have said they are braced for a second wave of infections later in the year, and have warned the public to continue following distancing advice and to self-isolate and seek testing if they experience any symptoms.

AFP

Prince Charles Spurred To Action After Bout With COVID-19

prince-charles
(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 04, 2020 Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales reacts during his visit to the London Transport Museum in London on March 4, 2020, to take part in celebrations to mark 20 years of the museum. Victoria Jones / POOL / AFP

 

Britain’s Prince Charles spoke of his experience of coronavirus, saying he was fortunate to have only mild symptoms and that he hopes the pandemic will refocus efforts on the environment.

“I was lucky in my case and got away with it quite lightly,” the 71-year-old heir to the throne told Sky News television in an interview broadcast on Thursday.

“I can so understand what other people have gone through. I feel particularly for those who’ve lost their loved ones but were unable to be with them at the time.

“That’s to me the most ghastly thing,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son contracted COVID-19 in March and has spent his isolation and recovery at the monarch’s sprawling Balmoral estate in northeast Scotland.

His wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, did not contract the virus, and self-isolated separately in case she developed symptoms.

The couple were seen last month at Balmoral, laying a wreath to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

He called the outbreak, which has officially claimed more than 40,000 lives in Britain “an unbelievably testing and challenging time”, which has forced people to reassess their lives.

Charles, a long-time campaigner on the environment, said his experience had made him even more determined to champion the cause, to improve life for everyone around the world.

READ ALSO: Armenia Hospitals Overwhelmed As COVID-19 Cases Surge

He said it was important to put “nature at the centre of everything”, warning that by destroying the environment, the risks to life increased.

“We should have been treating the planet as if it was a patient long ago,” he said.

“So, no self-respecting doctor would ever have let the situation… reach this stage before making an intervention hence the precautionary principle, which seems to me absolutely essential.”

AFP

UK Minister’s Illness Stirs Virtual Parliament Debate

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Business Secretary Alok Sharma wiping his brow as he makes a statement in the House of Commons in London on June 3, 2020, as lockdown measures ease during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. – Business Secretary Alok Sharma is self-isolating at home after becoming unwell in Parliament yesterday. Handout / PRU / AFP.

 

Britain’s business secretary was tested for the coronavirus Thursday and went into self-isolation after sweating through a speech in parliament that reinvigorated a debate on whether lawmakers were ending virtual sessions prematurely.

UK politicians have been fighting for days over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to end remote video conference sessions that began when the virus was still spreading fast in April.

Johnson is trying to coax frightened Britons to start taking their children back to school and resume some semblance of the old way of life because the virus — after officially claiming more than 40,000 lives — is now slowly fading.

But his efforts to get lawmakers back into the House of Commons have run into problems.

Many complained bitterly after having to stand in a long queue that twisted through the halls of parliament in order to take a socially distant vote on Tuesday.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma’s shaky appearance on Wednesday only added to their concern.

The 52-year-old mopped his forehead with a handkerchief and rubbed his face several times while trying to finish a speech at the podium.

READ ALSO: Armenia Hospitals Overwhelmed As COVID-19 Cases Surge

Several alarmed lawmakers later noted they had stood in the queue next to him during Tuesday’s vote.

Sharma’s spokeswoman said the minister was “feeling unwell” but did not specify if he had the virus.

“In line with guidance he has been tested for coronavirus and is returning home to self-isolate,” she said.

The House of Commons said a deep cleaning of the chamber has been performed as a precaution.

The main opposition Labour party’s business spokesman Toby Perkins said it was “ridiculous” for Sharma to show up to work sick.

“It was the height of irresponsibility for him to be in parliament sniffling, sweating and snorting from the despatch box,” he added.

Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Lisa Nandy said “reckless doesn’t even begin to describe” the government’s decision to end virtual parliament hearings.

Lawmakers will vote later Thursday on whether to allow those in the high-risk category or aged 70 and over to vote by proxy.

But government minister Brandon Lewis denied that Sharma’s illness supported the opposition’s case for homeworking parliament sessions.

“It is important for parliamentarians to be able to properly scrutinise legislation,” Lewis told the BBC.

A poll by YouGov showed that just 12 percent of UK respondents thought lawmakers should have to vote in person during the health crisis.

AFP

Spain To Reopen Borders With France, Portugal On June 22

A passenger wearing a face mask and gloves as a preventive measure pushes a trolley at the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport in Barajas on March 20, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.

 

Spain will reopen its land borders with France and Portugal on June 22, three months after they were closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, its tourism minister said Thursday.

“In the case of France and Portugal, I want to confirm that from June 22, the restrictions on mobility will be lifted,” Reyes Maroto said a foreign press briefing.

She added that “in principle”, the compulsory 14-day quarantine requirement “will also be dropped” for cross-border arrivals.

“This is very important because it will allow us to welcome back both French and Portuguese tourists,” the minister noted.

Spain closed its borders with France and Portugal on March 17, three days after imposing a nationwide lockdown to battle the virus which has infected more than 240,000 people and killed over 27,000.

Since May 15, almost all international arrivals have had to self-isolate for two weeks to prevent a resurgence of the epidemic.

That measure is to remain in place until July 1 for people flying in or arriving by boat.

“Right now, given the improvement in the epidemic in Spain, there is a debate underway about whether we could bring forward the date for lifting this quarantine requirement,” she said.

READ ALSO: Armenia Hospitals Overwhelmed As COVID-19 Cases Surge

“If the conditions are right to lift the requirement before July 1, we will.”

The announcement came a day after Spanish lawmakers voted to extend the state of emergency a final time to June 21.

It was the sixth time the measure has been renewed, although with the epidemic well in hand, associated restrictions have been significantly eased over time.

Maroto said 6,000 German tourists would be able to travel to Spain’s Balearic Islands “in the second half of June” within the context of a pilot project between the archipelago’s regional government and the German tour operator TUI.

AFP

Cameroon Government Under Fire As COVID-19 Tally Rises

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 06, 2020 Some people wear masks as they walk by the entrance to the Yaounde General Hospital in Yaounde as Cameroon has confirmed its first case of the COVID-19 coronavirus, a French national who arrived in the capital Yaounde in February, the government said on today. AFP

 

Cameroon’s government faces mounting accusations that foot-dragging and incompetence have helped coronavirus gain a deadly grip.

In less than three months, the official case tally has risen to nearly 6,600, including 200 deaths — the third-highest number of infections of any country south of the Sahara.

Compared with Europe and America, this total is low, but experts warn of COVID-19’s ability to spread like wildfire in countries where health systems are weak and testing is poor.

Despite forecasts that cases would peak in June, schools and universities were suddenly told to reopen this week, prompting teachers and parents to warn that safety preparedness was nowhere near ready.

Cameroon on March 5 became the first central African country to register a case of the virus — a 58-year-old French national who had arrived in the capital Yaounde in February.

But it was not until two weeks later that the authorities set down restrictions for the country’s 25 million people.

READ ALSO: Armenia Hospitals Overwhelmed As COVID-19 Cases Surge

The opposition has repeatedly criticised what it says is the government’s failure to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously, as many other African countries imposed radical containment measures early on.

Albert Ze, an economist specialising in health issues, told AFP that management of the epidemic had been “disastrous.”

“We missed the opportunity to contain the virus at the very beginning,” he said.

President Paul Biya, who has been in power for nearly four decades, only appeared publicly on television on May 19, pressured by the opposition and the World Health Organization (WHO) after more than two months of silence.

– No lockdown –

“We are seeing a particularly significant progression of the epidemic — it’s extremely serious,” Eugene Sobngwi, vice chairman of the health ministry’s scientific council, told state television on May 24.

Cameroon could become “the laughing stock of the world,” he said.

Rebutting such worries, Health Minister Manaouda Malachie on Monday said the case figures “should not be a cause for alarm… so far the government has been in control of the situation”.

Ze accused the government of a lax response in key areas as the epidemic began to brew.

“Cameroon did not close its land, air and sea borders until March 18 — 12 days after the first ‘imported’ case, and weeks after many other African countries,” he said.

The government was also laid back in social distancing, limiting gatherings to 50 people while other countries on the continent set a maximum of 10.

No lockdown has ever been imposed in Cameroon, and restaurants, bars and nightclubs were only forced to close after 6pm.

And those restrictions, as well as rules for distancing on public transport, were not implemented until mid-March.

Despite the late response, the impact of those measures was “immediate — Cameroonians understood there was a major problem,” said Professor Yap Boum II, an epidemiologist and head of a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) research centre in Yaounde.

A month after the start of the epidemic, the authorities required wearing of facemasks, and this too helped strengthen awareness and tighten control over the virus, he said.

But on April 30 the government abruptly eased public transport restrictions and allowed bars, restaurants and nightclubs to reopen in the evenings.

In the public’s mind, the brakes were now off, said Boum.

The move “led to almost total relaxation of the population, as if this announcement sounded the end of the epidemic,” Boum said.

“We saw fewer and fewer people wearing masks, and more and more people in bars — and a month later we more than tripled” the number of cases and fatalities, he said.

– Back to school –

The reopening of schools and universities, another unexpected move, has been attacked as premature by teachers’ unions and parents, who have taken to social media to voice their fears.

The amount of equipment made available is “ridiculously small,” said Roger Kaffo, general secretary of the National Union of Secondary School Teachers, pointing out that the supply of 3,000 masks was not even one mask per teacher at secondary-school level.

Daniel Claude Abate, president of an association of small and medium-sized businesses and member of the ruling RDPC party, defended the government’s decision not to impose the toughest restrictions.

“We cannot afford to shut down our countries, with fragile economies, as others do,” he said.

Even so, “there should have been surveillance policy measures” to track the virus, he said, conceding the government had made “some mistakes.”

AFP

Brazil To Test COVID-19 Vaccine Developed In UK

A government health worker shows a Covid-19 test at the Roli Madeira riverside community in the southwest of Marajo Island, in the state of Para, Brazil, on June 1, 2020. TARSO SARRAF / AFP

 

 

Researchers in hard-hit Brazil on Wednesday said they would begin testing a coronavirus vaccine developed in Britain, while across the Atlantic European nations began reopening borders in a bid to emerge from months of devastation caused by the disease.

Authorities in Brazil — the latest frontline of the pandemic, with deaths and infections on the rise — imposed fresh restrictions in the country’s northeast after reporting “extremely high” numbers of cases.

Concern over the spread of the coronavirus in Latin America has increased even as the health crisis has eased in other regions of the world.

“The Americas continues to account for the most cases,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing in Geneva.

The UN body also said it would resume trials of hydroxychloroquine a week after halting them following a study in The Lancet medical journal that suggested the drug could harm COVID-19 patients.

The U-turn came after The Lancet itself cast doubt on the study after it was widely contested by scientists.

Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday suggested that taking hydroxychloroquine shortly after being exposed to COVID-19 does not help prevent infection in a statistically meaningful way, however.

The WHO has been holding clinical trials to find a treatment for COVID-19, which has killed more than 382,000 people and wrought vast economic damage since emerging in China late last year.

– Focus on Americas –

“For several weeks, the number of cases reported each day in the Americas has been more than the rest of the world put together,” Tedros said.

“We are especially worried about Central and South America, where many countries are witnessing accelerating epidemics.”

Chile’s government said it was extending a three-week shutdown of the capital Santiago and its population of seven million as the death toll there reached a new daily record.

Health officials said 87 people had died in the previous 24 hours, and nearly 5,000 new infections were recorded. Chile has now registered more than 113,000 infections and 1,275 deaths.

– Cautious reopening –

But outside of Latin America nations are cautiously reopening schools, beaches and businesses after months of quarantine, even as some still face rising numbers of cases.

European nations among the hardest hit by the outbreak have mostly flattened out infection curves. They have turned to the tricky task of balancing economic recovery against the risk of a second wave of cases.

Germany will plough 130 billion euros ($146 billion) into a stimulus package to kick-start an economy severely hit by the pandemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced.

Berlin will also ease its blanket travel warning for European nations from June 15.

Italy — the first country badly hit in Europe — opened its borders to European travellers Wednesday, hoping tourism will revive its recession-hit economy three months after its shutdown.

But with health experts warning over reopening too quickly, some fear foreign visitors may be reluctant to travel.

“I don’t think we’ll see any foreign tourists really until the end of August or even September,” said Mimmo Burgio, a cafe owner near Rome’s Colosseum. “Who’s going to come?”

Austria announced it would scrap virus controls on all land borders, except for Italy.

Belgium will reopen its borders to travellers from the EU, Britain, and members of Europe’s passport-free travel zone on June 15.

But Britain — with the second-highest death rate in the world after the US at nearly 40,000 fatalities — is still advising against non-essential travel.

– Vaccine testing –

The race to find a vaccine meanwhile gathered pace.

Europe’s four largest economies — France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands — are forming an alliance to speed up the production of a vaccine on European soil, Dutch officials said.

Brazil said it would begin testing a vaccine being developed by Oxford University next week, the first country outside Britain to take part in the study.

The vaccine will be tested in Brazil on 2,000 health services volunteers, said the Federal University of Sao Paulo, coordinating the study.

Testing a vaccine in Brazil “is very important because we are in the acceleration phase of the epidemiological curve,” the university’s president Soraya Smaili told AFP.

Authorities imposed curfews across a vast swathe of the Brazilian state of Bahia in the country’s hard-hit northwest.

“It is necessary and urgent to impose greater restrictions, after recording extremely high (infection) rates,” in the area, said Bahia governor Rui Costa.

Brazil has the world’s second-highest COVID-19 caseload after the United States, with more than half a million cases and 31,000 deaths.

In Africa, which has so far escaped the worst of the pandemic, police in Senegal arrested more than 70 people after protests tinged by violence broke out in several cities.

Crowds demanded a nighttime coronavirus curfew, imposed by President Macky Sall on March 23, be lifted.

The country has recorded nearly 4,000 cases of coronavirus, 45 of them fatalities.