New Zealand’s 100 days without virus transmission

By: AFP      Published: 11:05 AM, 9 Aug, 2020
New Zealand’s 100 days without virus transmission

New Zealand marked 100 days on Sunday with no recorded cases of the coronavirus in the community but health officials warned there was no room for complacency. 

There are still 23 active cases but all were detected at the border when entering the country and are being held in managed isolation facilities.

"Achieving 100 days without community transmission is a significant milestone, however, as we all know, we can't afford to be complacent," director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said. 

"We have seen overseas how quickly the virus can re-emerge and spread in places where it was previously under control, and we need to be prepared to quickly stamp out any future cases in New Zealand." 

New Zealand, with a population of five million, has won widespread praise for its effective handling of the coronavirus since closing its borders on March 19. 

The World Health Organization has hailed the country as an example to others for having "successfully eliminated community transmission". 

Since the first patient was diagnosed in February, there have been 1,219 confirmed cases of the virus in New Zealand with the last case of community transmission recorded on May 1.

As a result, New Zealanders are enjoying a near-normal, pre-coronavirus lifestyle with no social distancing and spectators allowed at sports and cultural events, but with the border strictly controlled and all arrivals required to spend 14 days in quarantine. 

The government has maintained the prospect of a second wave remains a possibility and is pushing for all households to keep emergency supply kits including masks.

Brazil surpasses 100,000 deaths

Brazil on Saturday surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths and three million cases of infection, crossing the grim milestone after President Jair Bolsonaro said he had a "clear conscience" on his response to the outbreak.

With 100,477 fatalities and 3,012,412 confirmed cases, the South American nation of 212 million people is the second hardest-hit country in the global pandemic, after the United States.

The health ministry reported 905 new deaths in the past 24 hours, as well as 49,970 fresh cases. 

But the official figures are most likely an undercount, with experts estimating that the total number of infections could be up to six times higher due to insufficient testing.

Brazil has seen 478 deaths per million people, a figure roughly equivalent to that of the United States (487), but lower than that of Spain (609) or Italy (583).

Senate speaker Davi Alcolumbre announced four days of mourning in Congress to pay tribute to the country's 100,000-plus virus victims.

The coronavirus outbreak in Brazil is showing no sign of slowing as it enters its sixth month.

The country's first confirmed COVID-19 case was identified in Sao Paulo on February 26, with the first death on March 12, also in the city.

Brazil marked 50,000 deaths a hundred days later, but then doubled that total in just half the time.

Infections have accelerated in recent weeks in the countryside as well as inland regions and areas where the virus was late arriving, particularly the country's south and center-west. 

In southeastern states such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, hardest-hit by the virus in absolute numbers, the situation has stabilized, while the virus' presence has declined in northern regions after reaching catastrophic levels in April and May.

- 'Arrogance' -

At Copacabana beach in Rio, activists from the NGO Rio de Paz released 1,000 red balloons Saturday while standing between 100 black crosses stuck in the sand, in a tribute to Brazilians who have died of coronavirus.

Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro's leftist nemesis, on Twitter denounced "the arrogance of a president who has chosen to describe this cruel virus as a little flu, defying science and even death, and who bears in his soul the responsibility for all the lives lost."

The contagion has cast a harsh light on Brazil's inequalities, with the virus wreaking particular havoc on the country's favelas and hitting black populations especially hard.

The country's indigenous Amazon populations have also been hard hit, with one of Brazil's leading chiefs, 71-year-old Aritana Yawalapiti, dying Wednesday of respiratory complications caused by COVID-19.

Bolsonaro's government, which has been criticized for managing the epidemic in a chaotic fashion, is on its third health minister since the virus reached the country.

The right-wing leader, who tested positive for the virus last month but has since recovered, said Thursday he had "a clear conscience" and had done "everything possible to save lives."

Bolsonaro also called the governors of states that took containment measures which he opposed for economic reasons "dictators."

Brazil resumed its national football championship on Saturday, three months behind schedule.

Kim sends aid to locked down city

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the distribution of aid to the border city of Kaesong after the area was locked down last month to fight the coronavirus, state media said Sunday.

Authorities raised the state of emergency to the maximum level for the city in July, saying they had discovered the country's first suspected virus case.

A train carrying goods arrived in the "totally blocked" city of Kaesong on Friday, the official KCNA news agency reported.

"The Supreme Leader has made sure that emergency measures were taken for supplying food and medicines right after the city was totally blocked and this time he saw to it that lots of rice and subsidy were sent to the city," it said.

Kim had been concerned "day and night" about people in Kaesong as they continue their "campaign for checking the spread of the malignant virus", the report added.

Last month, Pyongyang said a defector who had left for South Korea three years ago returned on July 19 by "illegally crossing" the heavily fortified border dividing the two countries.

The man showed symptoms of coronavirus and was put under "strict quarantine", authorities said, but the North has yet to confirm whether he tested positive.

If confirmed, it would be the first officially recognised case of COVID-19 in North Korea, where medical infrastructure is seen as woefully inadequate to deal with any epidemic.