May 26, 2020 09:51 UTC
  •  Global COVID-19 cases near 5.5mn mark, WHO warns of 2nd peak

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide now stands at 5,495,061, with 346,232 cases having resulted in loss of life, according to the latest figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The latest data also indicated that the United States continues to lead the world by far in the number of infections and deaths — 1,662,302 and 98,220 respectively as of late Monday — with Brazil overtaking Russia to become the country with the second-highest infections of 374,898.

Russia leads Europe in the number of cases, at 353,427, followed by the UK’s 262,547.

The UK holds the world’s second-highest number of fatalities from the contagion, at the roughly 37,000 mark.

As a growing number of countries are loosening restrictions amid declining numbers of infections, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that countries showing declining COVID-19 cases might face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on the measures to stop the epidemic.

“When we speak about a second wave, classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time,” said WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan during an online briefing.

Ryan said the world was still in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak. He said that, while cases were declining in many countries, they were still increasing in Central and South America, South Asia, and Africa.

“We need also to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time. We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now, it is going to keep going down,” the WHO official said.

The warning came as many European countries and US states have taken steps in recent weeks to lift lockdown measures that partially contained the spread of the virus but harshly impacted their economies.

WHO fears ‘silent epidemic’ in Africa without testing

Another WHO official, Samba Sow, expressed concern on Monday that Africa could face a “silent epidemic” if its leaders do not prioritize testing.

“My first point for Africa, my first concern, is that a lack of testing is leading to a silent epidemic in Africa. So we must continue to push leaders to prioritize testing,” Sow said.

According to a WHO modeling released earlier this month, the new coronavirus could kill 150,000 people in Africa in a year unless urgent action is taken.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said Africa is the region with the fewest diagnosed coronavirus cases, accounting for less than 1.5 percent of the global total and just 0.1 percent of deaths.

Tedros credited Africa’s past experience in dealing with other epidemics as helping it scale up its response to the coronavirus and saving it from the global impact so far. All African countries had preparedness plans in place, he said, although there were still “gaps and vulnerabilities.”

Palestinians easing COVID-19 limits in West Bank

Mosques, churches, and businesses in the Israeli-occupied West Bank are to reopen on Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced on Monday.

The Palestinian Authority declared a health emergency in March and imposed lockdowns following the first confirmed cases of the disease in the town of Bethlehem.

Shtayyeh said it was time to “cautiously return life to normal” now that infection rates had slowed.

The reopening of the houses of worship, shops, and factories will coincide with the last day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The Palestinian Health Ministry has confirmed 423 cases of the disease in the occupied West Bank as well as two deaths.

Syria eases curbs as new virus cases rise after expats return

Syria also announced on Monday that it would lift an overnight curfew on Tuesday and allow movement between governorates, easing coronavirus lockdown measures even as its Health Ministry reported the largest single-day jump in cases.

The ministry reported 20 new infections of the highly contagious disease on Monday, bringing the country’s tally to 106 cases and four deaths.

Syria has witnessed a surge in infections in recent days, which it has attributed to the return of Syrians from abroad. Damascus has also said that it will halt flights repatriating Syrians for the time being as it treats those that have recently returned.

Brazil surpasses US in daily death toll

Brazil’s daily coronavirus fatalities for Monday exceeded that of the United States for the first time, according to the Latin American country’s Health Ministry, which reported 807 deaths over the last 24 hours, compared with 620 confirmed fatalities in the United States.

Brazil’s total death toll now stands at 23,473 as of Monday.

The country now holds the world’s second-worst outbreak in the world after the US, with 376,669.