Coronavirus deaths top 150,000 in worst-hit US, surpass 90,000 in Brazil
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Coronavirus deaths top 150,000 in worst-hit US, surpass 90,000 in Brazil

Nations around globe, even those that believed they had largely curbed the disease, are seeing a rise in cases that are damaging economies and forcing new protection measures

Chief custodian Ryan Nail cleans a desk in a classroom at the Jesse Franklin Taylor Education Center, July 29, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Chief custodian Ryan Nail cleans a desk in a classroom at the Jesse Franklin Taylor Education Center, July 29, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

WASHINGTON — The United States marked a grim milestone on Wednesday when its coronavirus deaths topped 150,000 — far exceeding the toll in any other pandemic-hit nation.

Brazil is second to the US in terms of cases and fatalities, and also reported a sobering figure as it surpassed 90,000 deaths.

Nations around the globe, even those that believed they had largely curbed the disease, are seeing a rise in cases that are damaging economies and forcing protection measures that have disrupted all aspects of life.

The sacred hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has begun with some 10,000 Muslim faithful allowed, instead of the roughly 2.5 million that attended last year.

Pilgrims were brought in small batches into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, walking along paths marked on the floor, in sharp contrast to the normal sea of humanity that swirls inside its walls.

Pilgrims circumambulating around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the centre of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, at the start of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, July 29, 2020. (STR / AFP)

Even with efforts in place to contain the virus, it has killed more than 660,000 people around the world and total infections are approaching 17 million.

No second wave

But politicians in Europe and North America — among the worst-hit regions — are still struggling to frame a coherent response.

While US President Donald Trump sought to link a spike in cases to protests in some cities, leaders in Congress conceded late on Tuesday they were still far from a deal to support the world’s leading economy.

Democrats had proposed a $3 trillion aid package and Republicans this week put forward a $1 trillion deal — but many in their own party disagree on principle with such spending.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, center, and President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, right, walk into the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 29, 2020, for a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In Europe, where several countries have slapped restrictions on travel to and from Spain, officials are ramping up a spat over the seriousness of the current outbreak.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, fresh from announcing quarantine for travelers returning from Spain, suggested the rest of Europe could be facing a second wave — despite his own country’s dismal figures.

France’s health minister hit back on Wednesday, saying his country was categorically not in a second wave.

“Clusters are emerging, we have warning signs from certain hospitals that have seen a trend of increasing admission,” Olivier Veran said, adding: “We are testing a lot more.”

Spain, one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, insists it is a safe destination and was critical of Britain’s blanket quarantine, which includes islands without significant outbreaks.

India’s office-hospital

The blizzard of alarming data continued too in east Asia, with China seeing a three-month high of 101 new virus cases on Wednesday because of a localized outbreak in the northern port city of Dalian.

Officials blamed contaminated packaging on imported seafood — similar reasons have been offered to explain previous Chinese outbreaks.

Further south, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam warned the financial hub was facing a “large-scale community outbreak” that could lead to a “collapse of our hospital system.”

From Wednesday, all residents in the densely packed city of 7.5 million must wear masks outdoors and restaurants can only serve takeaway meals, in a blow for diners during the city’s hot and humid summer.

A man eats lunch at a wet market in Hong Kong, July 29, 2020. Hong Kong has banned dining-in at restaurants completely and made it mandatory to wear masks in all public places, as the city battles its worst coronavirus outbreak to date. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

“It’s so hot outside now, 10 minutes after I start work, my shirt is all sweaty,” a construction worker told AFP as he tucked into a pork chop, admitting he missed air-conditioned restaurants.

While some labor in the heat to make a living, others have been inspired to take action for their communities.

One Indian businessman has converted his office into an 85-bed facility to provide free treatment for the poor.

Kadar Shaikh spent 20 days in a private clinic being treated for the virus last month and was horrified by the bill.

“How could poor people afford such treatment?” the property developer told AFP.

“So I decided to do something and contribute in the fight against the deadly virus.”

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