India becomes third hardest-hit country for virus cases

By: AFP      Published: 10:55 AM, 6 Jul, 2020
India becomes third hardest-hit country for virus cases
A view of the temporary coronavirus care centre in New Delhi.–AFP

India announced Monday that it has nearly 700,000 coronavirus cases, taking it past Russia to become the third-hardest-hit nation in the global pandemic.

The health ministry said 697,358 cases had now been recorded, a rise of 24,000 in 24 hours, while Russia has just over 681,000.

The United States and Brazil have the highest numbers of cases but India's tally is not expected to peak for several more weeks and experts predict the one million figure will be passed this month.

India has registered 19,963 deaths from the virus, a much lower number than many other badly hit countries.

India's major cities have been worst hit by the pandemic. New Delhi and Mumbai each have about 100,000 cases, with 3,000 dead in the capital and nearly 5,000 in Mumbai.

New Delhi has opened a new 10,000-bed temporary virus hospital while other cities are tightening restrictions on movement to head off a new surge in cases.

The Kerala state capital, Thiruvananthapuram imposed a new lockdown from Monday with public transport shut and only pharmacies allowed to open. The clampdown came after hundreds of new cases were reported across the state, which had been praised for its action to curtail the pandemic.

US adds 40,000 new virus cases

The United States recorded 39,379 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, a tally by Johns Hopkins University showed Sunday, as infections continue to trend up around the country.

The country's total number of cases now stands at 2,876,143.

The world's largest economy also recorded a further 234 fatalities, bringing the death toll to 129,891, the Baltimore-based institution's tracker showed at 8:30pm (0030 GMT Monday).

Sunday's tally comes after a string of surging daily new infections, including a high of 57,683 on Friday.

The lower number could be attributed to less reporting on the July 4th national holiday weekend.

The United States is the hardest-hit country in the global pandemic, both in caseload and deaths, and has struggled to respond to the devastation wrought by the virus.

Some mayors say their cities reopened too early and worry that their health care systems will soon become overwhelmed.

Australia to seal off virus-hit state

Australia will effectively seal off the state of Victoria from the rest of the country, authorities said Monday, announcing unprecedented measures to tackle a worrying surge in coronavirus cases.

For the first time since the pandemic began, the border between Australia's two most populous states -- Victoria and New South Wales - will be closed from midnight Tuesday, officials from both states said.

Victoria - home to more than 6.6 million people - announced a record 127 new cases Monday, as the virus spread through Melbourne, including a cluster in several densely populated apartment blocks.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews described the decision to close off the state as "the smart call, the right call at this time, given the significant challenges we face in containing this virus".

Plans to reopen Victoria's border with South Australia have already been put on ice.

After weeks of easing virus restrictions, Melbourne has seen a huge spike in community transmission, leading health officials to effectively shut off some neighbourhoods to the rest of the city until the end of July.

Sixteen of the new cases were detected in nine high-rise public housing towers, where 3,000 residents were locked in their homes on Saturday in Australia's strictest COVID-19 response to date.

So far, just 53 cases have been recorded in the buildings -- which are home to a large number of vulnerable migrants -- but there are concerns the virus could spread rapidly, with one health official likening the crowded conditions inside to "vertical cruise ships".

Cruise ships emerged as early coronavirus hotspots, with passengers and crew at high risk of infection -- often packed in small cabins.

Community leaders have raised concerns about the targeted nature of the "hard lockdown", which saw hundreds of police officers deployed with almost no warning that reportedly left some residents unable to stock up on essentials.

Andrews said food and toys had been delivered to families while mental health and other medical support was being provided as officials sought to test every resident over the coming days.

"This is a massive task and the message to everybody in the towers... (is) those staff -- thousands of them -- are doing the very, very best they can and they will continue to do everything they can to support those who are impacted by this lockdown," he said.

Australia has recorded more than 8,500 cases of COVID-19 and 105 deaths from the virus. 

The bulk of new daily cases are now being detected in Melbourne, while most other regions are enjoying relaxed restrictions after largely curbing the virus spread.

Chile crosses 10,000 virus deaths

Chile recorded 10,159 coronavirus deaths on Sunday, as President Sebastian Pinera announced a $1.5 billion aid package to help the middle class, which has been battered by the economic crisis.

The death toll is compiled weekly by the Department of Statistics and Health (DEIS) and is considered to be the most accurate for reporting COVID-19 deaths by test results or by symptoms.

According to Sunday's report, there were 7,057 deaths confirmed via swab test and 3,102 "probable" deaths diagnosed via symptoms.

The DEIS figure contrasts with the official daily report that on Sunday showed 6,308 deaths out of 295,532 cases since the first case was detected in Chile four months ago.

Virus hits Bolivian cabinet

Bolivian Health Minister Eidy Roca has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the third member of the cabinet to be infected in four days, interim President Jeanine Anez said on Sunday.

Anez expressed her support for Roca on Twitter as the country's rapidly worsening outbreak rose to 38,071 cases and 1,378 deaths.

The minister of the presidency, Yerko Nunez, has been hospitalized with a fever due to "complications from COVID-19," according to officials.

On Saturday, it was also reported that Mining Minister Jorge Fernando Oropeza had tested positive.

Roca's health is stable and she is "strictly complying with the safety protocol that includes isolation, medication and care," said a statement from her office.

Anez has been largely confined to the presidential residence from where she holds internet meetings.

"Most of the time she works from there and only comes (to the government palace) when her physical presence is necessary," deputy communication minister Isabel Fernandez said on Saturday.