WHO warns of “exponential increase” in pandemic and Europe is confined

The World Health Organization warned this Friday about the “exponential increase in covid-19 cases” as the second wave of the pandemic hit Europe, while in the United States the clinical tests of two vaccines were resumed.

“Too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in covid-19 cases and that is leading to hospitals and intensive care units operating near or above capacity,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a virtual press conference.

“And we are just in October,” he added, explaining that with the arrival of winter, the northern hemisphere was facing a crucial moment in the fight against the pandemic.

Across the planet, Covid-19 has infected about 42 million people and left 1.1 million dead, of which a fifth in the United States, the most mourning country in the world.

Meanwhile, several countries in Europe are reporting higher infection rates than during the first wave of the pandemic in March and April.

At this time and according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the evolution of the pandemic raises a “serious concern” in 23 countries of the 27 that make up the European Union (EU), as well as in United Kingdom.

Only Finland, Cyprus, Estonia and Greece are saved. A month ago, only seven European countries were on this red list.

New epicenter

Brussels and Wallonia, the French-speaking region of which Liège is a major city, are now the epicenters of the renewed crisis in Europe.

“We are losing. We are overwhelmed. We are bitter,” said Benoit Misset, head of the intensive care unit at Liège University Hospital, where several of his employees have to work despite having contracted COVID-19 themselves, so asymptomatic.

“It is a trench warfare”, with the difference that “they are not bombs, it is a virus” and “it is the virus that is in command, not us, not the politicians, not the scientists,” Misset told AFP.

France, which extended the curfew to 46 million people, on Friday exceeded the threshold of one million infections since the beginning of the epidemic, and the situation continues to deteriorate with more than 40,000 new cases registered in 24 hours.

The head of the group of public hospitals in Paris, warned that the second wave could be worse than the first, while the government extended the night curfew to cover more than two-thirds of the population.

For his part, the president of the Spanish government, the socialist Pedro Sánchez, estimated that the “real number” of infections in the country was more than three million, although just over one million have been officially registered.

Spain is one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic with more than 34,500 deaths, and several regional authorities have announced new measures.

The Madrid region banned family gatherings from midnight to 6 a.m. and cut the capacity of bars and restaurants by half.

In the UK, the worst-hit country in Europe with more than 44,000 confirmed deaths, a second general lockdown went into effect in Wales on Friday afternoon.

On Thursday, Ireland became the first European country to completely reconfine its population, for a period of six weeks, during which non-essential shops will be closed, but not schools.

Vaccine “free for all”

On the other side of the Atlantic, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden said that winning the November 3 election will order coronavirus vaccines to be free to all Americans.

“Once we have a safe and effective vaccine, it has to be free to everyone, regardless of whether people have health insurance or not,” Biden said in a speech presenting his pandemic response plan.

The United States is the most mourning country in the world, with more than 223,000 deaths and 8.4 million infections.

On the other hand, the US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson said it is preparing to resume the clinical trial of its experimental vaccine against covid-19, suspended last week after a volunteer fell ill.

In addition, the clinical trial of the vaccine being developed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the British University of Oxford also resumed in the United States.

The United States was the only country where the trial was still suspended after a participant fell ill six weeks ago.

Latin America is the worst hit region in the world with 387,586 deaths and more than 10.7 million infections.

Economic crisis

Data provider IHS Markit said that economic activity in the eurozone contracted in October for the first time since June.

Governments have been forced to dive in and help businesses that are being hit by a constant back and forth of closings and reopens.

Scandinavian airline SAS said Sweden and Denmark agreed to raise their bets to try to help them weather the crisis.

And the Eiffel Tower in Paris, one of the most visited sites in the world, is experiencing a collapse in the number of visitors, with an 80% reduction in ticket sales.

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