US surpasses 180,000 virus deaths

US surpasses 180,000 virus deaths

The United States passed the grim milestone of 180,000 coronavirus deaths Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University's real-time tracker.

The US added 931 new virus deaths in 24 hours, the Baltimore-based university reported at 8:30 pm (0030 GMT Friday), bringing the total death toll to 180,527.

An additional 42,859 new cases brought the overall caseload to 5,860,397. The US is by far the hardest-hit country in the world in terms of both number of cases and deaths.

At least 2,101,326 have recovered from the virus in the country.

The number of new Covid-19 cases in the US has dropped in recent weeks, but the country is far from out of the woods, with case numbers varying vastly by region.

South American countries mull reopening borders

Foreign ministers from nine South American countries held talks Thursday to examine reopening borders in the region, closed for months over the coronavirus pandemic, Chile's Foreign Minister Andres Allamand said.

He said ministers from the nine-country Prosur bloc had formed a commission that will have 10 days to present measures on reopening borders.

"Chile will propose that this opening will require a passport and a negative swab test for Covid-19, but it is very important that the countries have coordinated and established concrete mechanisms," Allamand told reporters after the video-conference meeting.

The Forum for the Progress and Development of South America, or Prosur, was created in 2019 to promote economic integration and political coordination in the region.

Latin America has been severely affected by the virus, with more than 260,000 deaths and almost seven million infections, forcing most countries to shut their land borders.

"The evolution of the pandemic is changing. There are countries that are making advances, while there are others experiencing setbacks," said Allamand, whose country holds the bloc's rotating presidency.

"We will have to be particularly attentive that the reopening under no circumstances generates negative effects," he added.

With international air travel restricted in most of the region, countries such as Brazil and Chile maintain skeleton international services.

The commission will be made up of officials from the foreign and interior ministries of the Prosur countries.

It will also monitor progress on various coronavirus vaccines currently being developed and the possibility of purchasing them as a bloc once they become available.

Prosur is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.