WHO points Europe deaths warning as day by day infections hit new excessive

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WHO issues Europe deaths warning as daily infections hit new high

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Europe will face an increasing number of deaths from the coronavirus in the autumn months, the World Health Organization warned on Monday as the number of daily infections hit a record high worldwide.

Israel was one of the countries fighting a new spike and announced a three-week lockdown starting Friday, during which people would not be more than 500 meters from their homes.

The announcement sparked a wave of anger.

"It's unfair!" said Eti Avishai, a 64-year-old seamstress. "You haven't stopped the big synagogue gatherings, weddings, and other events, and now I can't be with my kids and grandchildren on vacation?"

The World Health Organization reported 307,930 new cases worldwide on Sunday, the highest daily number since the pandemic started in China late last year as global cases rapidly approach 29 million.

"It will be more difficult. In October and November we will see more mortality," Hans Kluge, WHO director for Europe, told AFP in an interview.

However, he stressed that the pandemic "will end at one point or another" as the 55 members of WHO Europe launched a two-day online meeting focused on their response to the virus.

Millions back to school

The recent surge has raised alarms across Europe – a Czech expert warned that his country's health system will be overwhelmed if the virus continues to spread at its current rate.

It has also resumed the debate on how best to respond to the surge in infections, with England limiting social gatherings to no more than six people as of Monday.

On the other hand, millions of school children in other affected countries returned to their classrooms for the first time in months.

Italian children were among the first in Europe to have their schools closed, and on Monday around 5.6 million returned for the first time in six months.

Although officials said thousands of additional classrooms had been set up, there were concerns about a lack of surgical masks for teachers and a lack of single-seat benches.

Some southern Italian regions have postponed their reopening because they feared they were not properly prepared.

Trump rally "ruthless"

As Europe struggles with increasing infections, other parts of the world are easing restrictions for the time being.

As a sign of a growing readiness to reopen, Saudi Arabia said it would partially lift a six-month suspension of international flights this week, and South Korea said it would relax rules in and around the capital Seoul after the cases were turned down.

The backlash against the restrictions is also being considered by beleaguered governments.

Australian police arrested dozens at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on Sunday after the crowds defied stay-at-home instructions following rallies in Germany and Poland on Saturday attended by anti-vaccine activists, conspiracy theorists and far-right activists took part.

Such rallies are relatively common in the United States, the hardest-hit nation in the world with more than 6.5 million infections and 194,000 deaths.

President Donald Trump, under the pressure of his campaign to reopen the economy in the face of disastrous numbers, has been criticized for holding large rallies over the weekend.

"Tonight, President Donald Trump is taking ruthless and selfish measures that are putting countless lives at risk here in Nevada," tweeted rival Democratic Party governor Steve Sisolak ahead of the rally on Sunday.

Trump, who used the rally to boast of his success in fighting the pandemic, called Sisolak a "political hack" and urged the crowd to "tell your governor to open up your state".

"Exhausted" health workers

There has been some good news in the UK with regulators allowing clinical trials to resume with one of the most advanced experimental vaccines.

Researchers from the AstraZeneca-Oxford University joint project, hoping to complete the tests by the end of the year, had "voluntarily suspended" the study after a British volunteer developed an unexplained disease.

A vaccine is seen as critical to the fight against the virus, but WHO Smart said the public shouldn't put all hopes on a single drug.

"I keep hearing, 'The vaccine will be the end of the pandemic'. Of course not," he explained that the end of the pandemic would come when communities learn to live with the disease.

Meanwhile, the effects of the pandemic on medical staff and strained health systems are harsh.

"I gave birth two weeks ago and when you are in the hospital you find that the nurses, the carers … do not have the means," Severine said at a rally in Brussels on Sunday for better health financing.

"They are always asked for more, always too much, they are exhausted."

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© 2020 AFP

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