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Coronavirus accelerates across Latin America, India and Russia

World News | Published:

Many governments say they have to shift their focus to saving jobs.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated across Latin America, Russia and the Indian subcontinent even as curves flattened and reopening was under way in much of Europe, Asia and the US.

Many governments say they have to shift their focus to saving jobs that are vanishing as quickly as the virus can spread. In the US and China, the world’s two largest economies, unemployment is soaring.

The US Federal Reserve chairman has estimated that up to one American in four could be jobless, while in China analysts estimate around a third of the urban workforce is unemployed.

But the virus is roaring through countries ill-equipped to handle the pandemic, which many scientists fear will cause a second global wave.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Most new Indian cases are in Bihar, where thousands returned home from jobs in the cities. For over a month, some had walked among crowds for hundreds of miles.

Latin America’s two most populous nations — Mexico and Brazil — have reported record counts of new cases and deaths almost daily this week, fuelling criticism of their presidents, who have held back from widespread shutdowns in attempts to limit economic damage.

Cases were rising and intensive care units were also swamped in Peru, Chile and Ecuador — countries lauded for imposing early and aggressive business shutdowns and quarantines.

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Brazil reported more than 20,000 deaths and 300,000 confirmed cases on Thursday night — the third worst-hit country in the world in terms of infections by official counts. Experts consider both numbers undercounts due to widespread lack of testing.

President Jair Bolsonaro has scoffed at the seriousness of the virus and actively campaigned against state governors’ attempts to limit movement and commerce.

He fired his first health minister for supporting governors. His second minister resigned after openly disagreeing with the president about chloroquine, the predecessor of the anti-malarial often touted by US President Donald Trump as a viable coronavirus treatment.

The crematorium at San Cristobal Mausoleums in Ecatepec, Mexico
The crematorium at San Cristobal Mausoleums in Ecatepec, Mexico (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

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The country is now reporting more than 400 deaths a day, and new infections have not peaked.

Russian health officials registered 150 deaths in 24 hours, for a total of 3,249.

But President Vladimir Putin said the outbreak has begun to abate, creating a positive environment for easing restrictions, as officials defended the country’s data on deaths against claims they were being under-reported.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo/AP)

“The positive dynamic is not so fast as we would like it to be, sometimes even unstable, but it does exist,” he said.

Russia ranks second after the US in the number of infections with 326,448 cases.

In an eerie echo of famous Depression-era images, US cities are authorising homeless tent encampments, including San Francisco, where about 80 tents are now neatly spaced out on a wide street near city hall as part of a “safe sleeping village” opened last week.

The area between the city’s central library and its Asian Art Museum is fenced off to outsiders, monitored around the clock and provides meals, showers, clean water and waste removal.

The Bank of Japan said it would provide the same figure in zero-interest, unsecured loans to banks for financing small and medium-size businesses.

European countries have also seen heavy job losses, but robust government safety net programmes in places like Germany and France are subsidising the wages of millions of workers and keeping them on the payroll.

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