| Covid-19 wrap | More than 560 000 deaths worldwide, Vietnam sends virus-free UK pilot home

  • The global pandemic has claimed more than 560 000 lives since it started.
  • Panama hospitals are on the brink of collapse, while Indian cricket stadium to be used as a quarantine centre.
  • A British pilot is set to return home after recovering from the virus in Vietnam, a country that has kept its Covid-19 death tally to zero.

More than 560,000 deaths

The pandemic has killed at least 560,425 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year.

The United States is the hardest-hit country with 134,097 deaths. It is followed by Brazil with 70,398, Britain with 44,650, Italy with 34,938 and Mexico with 34,191 fatalities.

Bill Gates calls for Covid-19 meds to go to people who need them

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates called for Covid-19 drugs and an eventual vaccine to be made available to countries and people that need them most, not to the “highest bidder,” saying relying on market forces would prolong the deadly pandemic.

“If we just let drugs and vaccines go to the highest bidder, instead of to the people and the places where they are most needed, we’ll have a longer, more unjust, deadlier pandemic,” Gates, a founder of Microsoft, said in a video released on Saturday during a virtual Covid-19 conference organized by the International AIDS Society.

With hundreds of vaccine projects under way and governments in Europe and the United States investing billions of dollars in research, trials and manufacturing, there is concern that richer nations could scoop up promising medicines against the new coronavirus, leaving developing countries empty-handed.

Hard times in Iran

Iran says it cannot afford to shut down its sanctions-hit economy despite battling the deadliest Covid-19 outbreak in the Middle East, with record-high death tolls and rising infections.

The country must continue “economic, social and cultural activities while observing health protocols”, says President Hassan Rouhani during a televised virus taskforce meeting.

Panama hospitals on brink of collapse

Hospitals in Panama are on the brink of collapse as coronavirus cases spike in the Central American country worst hit by the pandemic, where doctors are already exhausted.

With a population of four million, Panama has gone from 200 cases a day to 1,100 over the last few weeks.

“Our daily number of infected patients has been increasing in a sustained way to the point of passing 1,000 cases,” David Villalobos, head of the intensive care unit at the Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital in Panama City, said.

“There are no hospitals that could sustain such a number,” he said.

The sharp increase has forced authorities to adapt existing hospitals and look for new spaces, like convention centers, to boost a health system with a range of problems including long waiting lists.

Prisoners go free

The US state of California, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, will release up to 8,000 more prisoners to reduce the spread of the virus in its crowded jails.

The inmates could be eligible for early release by the end of August — joining 10,000 prisoners already freed in similar initiatives since the start of the crisis, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says.

Cricket ground quarantine

Kolkata’s legendary Eden Gardens 80,000 capacity cricket stadium is to be used as a quarantine centre for Indian police who have the virus. Nearly 550 have tested positive and two have died. The beds will be put in galleries around the seating and not on the pitch.

The stadium is also used by the Kolkata Knight Riders Indian Premier League side but this year’s tournament has been repeatedly postponed because of the pandemic.

India’s nationwide coronavirus toll rose Saturday to 820,916 cases with 22,193 deaths.

WHO says airborne Covid-19 transmission a concern but droplets appear dominant

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the Covid-19 pandemic at the WHO, said on Friday that airborne transmission of the new coronavirus had always been a concern but that droplets appeared to be the most common infection route.

“Aerosol transmission is one of the modes of transmission that we have been concerned about since the beginning, particularly in healthcare settings … where we know these droplets can be aerosolised – which means can stay in the air longer,” she told an online briefing from Geneva.

Virus-free UK pilot, symbol of Vietnam’s pandemic success, to return home

Vietnam’s most seriously ill Covid-19 patient, a British pilot who at one point seemed close to death, left hospital on Saturday on his way home after a dramatic recovery that attracted national attention.

The case of Stephen Cameron, a pilot for national carrier Vietnam Airlines, became a sensation in Vietnam, where a combination of targeted testing and an aggressive quarantine programme has kept its coronavirus tally to an impressively low 370 cases, and zero deaths.

– Additional reporting by Reuters

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