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India virus cases cross 5 million in ‘worse than sci-fi’ pandemic

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People wait in a queue to provide their nasal swab samples to test for Covid-19 in Prayagraj, India, on September 5, 2020. © Rajesh Kumar Singh, AP Photo

Coronavirus infections in India soared past five million on Wednesday, as a WHO envoy warned the pandemic was “still at the beginning”.

Global cases are rapidly approaching 30 million, with more than 935,000 known Covid-19 deaths, the global economy devastated and nations struggling to contain outbreaks.

India, home to 1.3 billion people, has reported some of the highest daily case jumps in the world recently, as a World Health Organization special envoy described the global pandemic situation as “horrible” and “grotesque”.

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“It’s much worse than any of the science fiction about pandemics,” David Nabarro told British MPs on Tuesday.

“This is really serious — we’re not even in the middle of it yet. We’re still at the beginning of it.”

The spread of the virus has accelerated in some of the most populous parts of the world such as India, where the latest million infections were detected over just 11 days.

And some experts have warned that the total number of cases could be far higher in the vast nation, which has been easing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns recently despite the surge to help its reeling economy.

“People have lost their fear or are too tired (of) being cautious. They want to be out and earn a living right now,” Jayant Surana, a New Delhi-based entrepreneur, told AFP.

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“Everything has now been left to god’s will.”

– Trump vaccine claim –

The United States remains the worst-hit nation in the world in terms of both infections and deaths, and President Donald Trump is under intense pressure over his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The Republican leader said Tuesday that a vaccine may be available within a month — an acceleration of even his own optimistic predictions.

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“We’re within weeks of getting it, you know — could be three weeks, four weeks,” Trump said during a town hall event broadcast on ABC News.

But experts are worried that world-renowned American institutions responsible for overseeing the approval and distribution of vaccines have become increasingly compromised by political pressure, and corners may be cut to get one ready before the presidential election in November.

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There was also a bullish claim earlier this week from China, where the virus first emerged late last year, with an official telling state media that a China-developed vaccine could be ready for the public as early as November.

Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn said Tuesday the country aims to reach herd immunity through a voluntary coronavirus vaccine expected to be widely available by mid-2021.

– ‘We cannot bear this’ –

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Many European countries had started to ease their restrictions after largely bringing outbreaks under control, but are faced with worrying spikes in infections again.

Denmark on Tuesday announced new restrictions, including shorter hours for bars and restaurants, new face mask requirements, and reduced crowds at football matches.

Referring to Europe, WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan warned it was time to “stop looking for unicorns” and take hard decisions to protect the most vulnerable with a potentially deadly winter approaching.

That came as airlines ramped up pressure on the European Union to coordinate virus measures, demanding an end to quarantine “chaos” and access to reliable and quick testing.

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Airlines have been hit especially hard by the pandemic as travel was severely restricted to control the virus. The UN said Tuesday the pandemic cost the global tourism sector $460 billion in the first six months of 2020.

“We cannot bear this,” lamented winemaker Dahmane Hamamouche.

If the crisis “carries on for more than another month or two, we won’t be able to hold out… we’re already finding it difficult to pay salaries.”


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Health care group sponsoring South Dakota indoor country music festival that doesn’t require masks: report

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On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that South Dakota is poised to hold an indoor country music festival that won't require face masks and has not yet confirmed whether they will require social distancing — and it's being sponsored by a local nonprofit health care organization.

"Sanford Health of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is presenting the Oct. 24 event in conjunction with the state’s governor, Kristi Noem," reported Michael Daly. "She endorsed the Sturgis motorcycle rally last month, where nearly half a million people gathered, largely without masks or social distancing, for 10 days before returning home, which a report by a team of economists with the Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies at San Diego State University estimates to have resulted in more than 260,000 COVID-19 cases. She will now be hosting the annual Governor’s Pheasant Hunt, which this year will include a musical event."

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‘Apocalyptic’: Epidemiologists warn CNN that America is headed for a ‘very grim’ COVID-19 fall

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Two top epidemiologists on Monday warned that the United States is headed for what one described as an "apocalyptic fall" due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During an appearance on CNN, Dr. Peter Hotez, the co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, pointed to surging COVID-19 cases in several European countries and recent spikes in cases in the United States to project that the pandemic is taking a very deadly turn for the worse.

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Trump-loving former Republican official who hated face masks dies from COVID-19

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Former Nashville Council Member Tony Tenpenny, a Trump-loving Republican who posted anti-face mask memes on Facebook, has died from complications resulting from being infected from COVID-19.

The Tennessean reports that Tenpenny "was hospitalized for more than a month at one of the St. Thomas hospitals and was placed on a ventilator earlier in September" before he died over the weekend.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper expressed his condolences after hearing of Tenpenny's passing.

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