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WHO warns Europe could see rise in daily Covid-19 deaths next month as global cases near 29 million

Israel has reimposed a national lockdown as countries battle new surges.

A closed pub in New Cross in London
A closed pub in New Cross in London
Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images

ISRAEL HAS SAID it will reimpose a national lockdown to battle a coronavirus surge, as the number of daily infections around the world reached a record high.

Britain, France, Austria and the Czech Republic also reported spikes, as global cases rapidly approached 29 million with more than 921,000 Covid-19 deaths, according to an AFP tally.

The Israel lockdown will last three weeks starting Friday, keeping people to within 500 metres of their homes. It is the first developed economy to take such drastic steps to contain a second wave of infections.

“I know these measures will exact a heavy price from all of us,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 307,930 new cases worldwide yesterday, the highest daily figure in its database since the beginning of the pandemic.

The surge has sparked concern in Europe, where Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz warned that his country was facing “the beginning of the second wave”.

The Czech Republic has also faced a surge, with one epidemiologist saying over the weekend that at the current rate, cases could overwhelm hospitals.

New restrictions are set to come into force across England today, with social gatherings limited to no more than six people.

The WHO has said it expects Europe to see a rise in the daily number of Covid-19 deaths in October and November.

“It’s going to get tougher. In October, November, we are going to see more mortality,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said.

“It’s a moment where countries don’t want to hear this bad news, and I understand,” Kluge said, stressing that he wanted to send the “positive message” that the pandemic “is going to finish, at one moment or another.”

Other parts of the world are still battling their first coronavirus waves, including some of the most populous nations such as Indonesia, where new restrictions came into effect yesterday.

‘Reckless and selfish’

Governments are being forced to balance the devastating economic cost of lockdowns with the need to contain the deadly virus.

Schools in some European nations were set to open today, with millions returning to classrooms in Italy, Greece and Romania.

And Saudi Arabia announced it would partially lift its suspension of international flights from 15 September, six months after travel curbs were imposed.

South Korea’s coronavirus restrictions will also be eased temporarily in the greater Seoul area from today after cases declined.

Many nations have seen backlash and protests against lockdowns.

In Australia yesterday, police arrested dozens at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne after crowds defied stay-at-home orders.

That rally followed demonstrations in Germany and Poland on Saturday, which were attended by anti-vaccine campaigners, conspiracy theorists and far-right activists.

Such rallies have also been organised frequently in the United States, the hardest-hit nation in the world with more than 6.5 million infections and 194,000 deaths.

President Donald Trump is under pressure over his handling of the outbreak, and was slammed for holding big rallies over the weekend, including an indoor event yesterday.

“Tonight, President Donald Trump is taking reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada,” state governor Steve Sisolak, who is from the rival Democratic Party, tweeted ahead of the rally.

“The President appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic.”

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There was some good news out of Britain, where regulators gave pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University the all-clear for clinical trials to resume on one of the most advanced experimental Covid-19 vaccines.

Researchers had “voluntarily paused” their vaccine trial after a UK volunteer developed an unexplained illness.

Even during the pause, AstraZeneca said it remained hopeful that the vaccine could still be available “by the end of this year, early next year”.

A vaccine is considered crucial to the fight against the virus, which has exhausted resources and infrastructure.

However, the WHO’s Europe director said the development of a vaccine may not bring an immediate end to the pandemic.

“I hear the whole time: ‘the vaccine is going to be the end of the pandemic’. Of course not,” Kluge said.

“We don’t even know if the vaccine is going to help all population groups. We are getting some signs now that it will help for one group and not for the other,” he said.

“And then if we have to order different vaccines, what a logistical nightmare.”

“The end of the pandemic is the moment that we as a community are going to learn how to live with this pandemic. And it depends on us and that’s a very positive message,” he said.

- © AFP 2020

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