As the head of the World Health organization warns of a “new and dangerous ” phase for the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa is dealing with thousands of new cases of infection.
The country has reported nearly 4,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus as it continues to loosen lockdown measures under economic pressure.
Casinos, beauty salons and sit-down restaurant service are among the latest permitted activities as President Cyril Ramaphosa this week warned citizens that the fight against the coronavirus is a personal responsibility.
South Africa once had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. It now makes up about 30 per cent of the cases on the African continent, or more than 87,000.
Africa’s 54 countries have more than 286,000 virus cases overall, but a shortage of testing materials means the real number of infections is unknown.
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On Friday, WHO director-genneral Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic that began in China late last year is “accelerating” and that more than 150,000 cases were reported on Thursday — the highest single-day number so far.
He said nearly half of the newly reported cases were from the Americas, with significant numbers from South Asia and the Middle East.
The coronavirus has sickened more than 8.6 million people worldwide and killed at least 460,256, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
WATCH | WHO sees pandemic picking up speed:
Brazil’s government says the country has surpassed more than a million confirmed coronavirus cases. Internationally, that is second only to the United States.
The country’s health ministry reported Friday that the total of cases had risen to 1,032,913, up more than 50,000 from the previous day. The ministry says the sharp increase was due to corrections from previous days.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro still downplays the risks of the virus after nearly 50,000 fatalities in three months. He says the impact of social isolation on Brazil’s economy can be more deadly.
Specialists believe that the actual number of cases could be up to seven times higher, with the coronavirus now heading into under-equipped smaller cities inland, where there are fewer health professionals.
Indonesia reported 1,226 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, taking its total number of cases to 45,029.
Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said there were 56 more deaths reported, with total fatalities now at 2,429, the highest coronavirus death toll in East Asia outside of China.
What’s happening in Canada
WATCH | Canada surpasses 100,000 COVID-19 cases:
As of 7 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had 100,629 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, with 63,003 of the cases considered recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial information, regional health data and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,396.
Quebec accounts for more than 54,500 cases, and there are more than 33,000 recorded cases in Ontario.
All regions of Ontario except for Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex entered Stage 2 of the province’s phased reopening plan on Friday.
The second stage includes restaurant patios, hair salons and swimming pools. Child-care centres across Ontario can also reopen.
Quebec’s finance minister says the pandemic has hit the province hard. Eric Girard delivered an economic update Friday, showing a return to multibillion-dollar deficits.
Just three months ago, he delivered a balanced budget, thanks to a stronger economy and better employment numbers than Quebec had seen in a generation.
Now, gone is his $1.9-billion surplus, spent on measures to keep the economy and private businesses afloat.
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The United States accounts for over 2.2 million cases, with more than 118,000 deaths.
Abroad, COVID-19 infections have been reported at the U.S Embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul, including diplomats, contractors and locally employed staff, the U.S. State Department says.
The department did not say how many people were affected. An official at the embassy said as many as 20 people were infected, the majority of whom are Nepalese Gurkhas, who provide embassy security.
Afghanistan has 28,424 confirmed coronavirus cases. International aid organizations monitoring the pandemic’s spread in the country say the numbers are much higher because of a lack of testing capabilities as well as access to testing. They also fear the highly contagious disease has spread throughout the country with the return of nearly 300,000 Afghans from Iran, the hardest-hit country in the region. Iran has recorded more than 200,000 cases and 9,392 deaths.
Few of the Afghans who returned from Iran were tested before they fanned out across the country to their homes.
Pope Francis welcomed doctors and nurses from Italy’s coronavirus-ravaged region of Lombardy to the Vatican on Saturday to thank them for their selfless work and “heroic” sacrifice.
During the audience, Francis took a dig at some conservative priests who chafed at the lockdown measures, calling their complaints over church closures “adolescent.”
Lombardy was the hardest-hit region in the one-time European epicentre of the pandemic. The region in northern Italy has counted more than 92,000 of Italy’s 232,000 official infections and half of the country’s 34,500 dead.
Francis noted that some of those dead were the doctors and nurses themselves, and said Italy would remember them with “prayer and gratitude.” More than 40 nurses and 160 doctors died during the outbreak nationwide, and nearly 30,000 health care personnel were infected.
Francis said Lombardy’s medics and nurses became literal “angels” helping the sick recover or accompanying them to their death, given their family members were prevented from visiting them in the hospital.
The encounter was only the second time Francis has welcomed a group into the Vatican for an audience since the Vatican locked down in early March along with the rest of Italy to try to contain the virus. The first was a small encounter May 20 with a group of athletes who are raising money for hospitals in two hard-hit Lombardy cities, Brescia and Bergamo.
In China, officials reported 22 new cases in Beijing on Saturday, along with five others elsewhere in the country. There were no new deaths, and 308 people remained hospitalized for treatment.
South Korea recorded 67 new cases, the largest 24-hour increase in about three weeks. Most of them came from the densely populated Seoul area, where about half of the country’s 51 million people reside. Many cases have been linked to exposure in nightlife outlets.
Singaporeans can now wine and dine at restaurants, work out at the gym and get together with no more than five people after most lockdown restrictions were lifted on Friday.
The city-state has one of the highest infection rates in Asia with 41,473 confirmed cases, mostly linked to foreign workers’ dorms. The government says the infections have declined, with no new large clusters emerging.
Cases outside the dorms were also stable despite a partial economic reopening two weeks ago.
Malls, gyms, massage parlours, parks and other public spaces reopened Friday, with strict physical distancing and health and safety rules. Minor prohibitions remain, including on contact sports and mass religious congregations.
Entertainment venues such as cinemas, karaoke rooms and bars are still shut, while big events including trade fairs and concerts are banned.