The World Health Organisation has expressed concern about the rising number of new coronavirus cases in poor countries, even as many rich countries have begun emerging from lockdown.
The global health body said on Wednesday that 106,000 new cases of infections of the coronavirus had been recorded in the past 24 hours, the most in a single day since the outbreak began.
“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.
“We are very concerned about rising cases in low and middle income countries.” Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies program, said: “We will soon reach the tragic milestone of 5 million cases”.
Many countries around the world are loosening their coronavirus restrictions but people are discovering that what a return to normal looks like varies widely. In Spain, it’s a new government order to wear masks outside even as some businesses reopen.
In Italy, where good food is an essential part of life, once-packed restaurants and cafes are facing a huge financial hit as they reopen with strict social distancing rules after a 10-week shutdown. Experts warn that as many as one- third of the country’s restaurants and bars could go out of business, up to 300,000 jobs in the sector could vanish and losses could reach 30 billion euros ($A49 billion) this year.
The head of the Dutch hospitality industry welcomed a decision to allow bars and restaurants to reopen on June 1 but warned about the impact of mandatory social distancing rules.
“The restrictions are unfortunately unworkable” for many businesses, said Rober Willemsen of Royal Hospitality Netherlands, adding that more government support is needed to ensure the survival of many bars and restaurants. Education, in many places, is facing radical changes.
Cambridge became the first university in Britain to cancel all face-to-face lectures for the upcoming school year, saying they will be held virtually and streamed online until the summer of 2021.
In the US, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana will bring students back to campus but redesigned its calendar to start the semester early in August and end before Thanksgiving, along with ordering masks, testing and contact tracing.
In South Korea, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors had their temperatures checked and used hand sanitisers as they returned on Wednesday, many for the first time since late last year. Students and teachers were required to wear masks and some schools installed plastic partitions around desks.
France is limiting spaces in its primary schools, giving priority to the children of essential workers and those in need. Some younger students even go on alternating days while high schools remain closed.
While infection rates have been falling in Asia and much of Europe, the pandemic is still spiking in Latin America.
Brazil this week became the world’s third worst-hit country with more than 250,000 confirmed cases despite limited testing.
In Lima, the capital of Peru, coronavirus patients are filling up the city’s intensive care beds.
More than 4.9 million people worldwide have been confirmed infected by the virus, and more than 320,000 deaths have been recorded, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Russia and Brazil are now behind only the United States in the number of reported infections, and cases are also spiking in India, South Africa and Mexico.
The pandemic is expected to cause a decline in human development for the first time since it started being measured, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said Wednesday.
The UN created the global human development index in 1990 to gauge the world’s education, health and living standards.
It has increased globally every year over the past 30 years, despite crises such as the global financial meltdown of 2007-09.
“COVID-19, with its triple hit to health, education, and income, may change this trend,” UNDP head Achim Steiner said as the body released a study Wednesday.
The UNDP estimates in the document that global per capita income is expected to fall four per cent in 2020 because of the coronavirus.
It notes that school closures and disparities in distance learning will widen education gaps between rich and poor countries.
The agency said it estimates that 86 per cent of elementary school-age children in poorer nations are not receiving education currently, compared to just 20 per cent in richer ones.