Coronavirus infections top 5 million worldwide
PARIS, May 21: Global infections from the novel coronavirus passed five million on Thursday as the pandemic played out unevenly across the planet, with China eager to declare a victory, Europe tentatively emerging from its shell and deaths still rising in hotspots in Latin America.
The grim milestone comes after known cases of COVID-19 doubled in just one month, according to AFP data collected from official sources, with the death toll now topping 328,000 worldwide.
While many hard-hit European countries have significantly turned the tide on new infections and fatalities, Latin America is in the grip of an infection surge. Brazil is leading the pack, logging the third-highest number of cases in the world after the US and Russia.
Peru, Mexico and Chile have also seen steady increases in infections, with nurses in Lima warning that the health system
is on the brink of collapse after cases and deaths tripled over the past three weeks.
"It's like a horror film," Miguel Armas, a nurse at the Hipolito Unanue hospital in the capital Lima, told AFP. "Inside it seems like a cemetery given all the bodies. Patients are dying in their chairs (or) in their wheelchairs."
In Brazil, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro continues to scorn experts' advice on curbing the contagion as he presses regional governors to end stay-at-home measures. And like US President Donald Trump, he has promoted the use of anti-malaria drugs against the virus despite studies showing they have no benefit and could have dangerous side effects.
Trump, for his part, insists the US is "Transitioning back to Greatness" as states reopen at different speeds. His optimism cut a sharp contrast with the bleak health situation in the country, which leads the world in cases and deaths.
While daily death tolls are no longer on a steady incline, the losses are still punishing with more than 1,500 additional fatalities reported in 24 hours on Wednesday, bringing to the total number in the US to more than 93,400.
On the economic front, the latest figures out of the US showed the rate of unemployment slowing -- but the total number of jobs lost since mid-March stood at an eye-watering 38.6 million. Trump, who is desperate to boost his political fortunes ahead of November elections, has also doubled down on his finger-pointing at China, who he blamed for "this mass Worldwide killing".
Beijing tells a different story, with President Xi Jinping determined to project a narrative of strength and success in reining in the outbreak that first emerged in his country late last year before wreaking havoc around the globe. -AFP