WHO warns 2 million virus deaths doable, Australia urges vaccine-sharing

WHO warns 2 million virus deaths possible, Australia urges vaccine-sharing

Coronavirus. Credit: European Centers for Disease Control

Coronavirus deaths could more than double to two million without collective action against the pandemic, the World Health Organization warned as the Australian prime minister urged every nation developing a vaccine to share it with the world.

The number of cases worldwide has surged to over 32 million, with deaths approaching one million, the global economy devastated, and major cultural and sporting events disrupted.

Despite the pandemic showing no signs of slowing, Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga struck defiantly on Friday, saying his country was determined to hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

"One million is a terrible number and we need to think about it before we think about a second million," WHO Emergency Director Michael Ryan told reporters Friday when asked what the death toll might be .

"Are we ready together to do whatever we can to avoid this number?

"If we don't take these measures … yes, we will look at that number and unfortunately much higher."

The pandemic has spurred global efforts to develop a vaccine to fight COVID-19, as well as efforts to spread it fairly and widely.

"Whoever finds the vaccine must share it … This is a global responsibility and a moral responsibility," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday in a message to the virtual United Nations General Assembly.

"Some may see short-term benefits or even gains, but I assure you … humanity will have very long memories and be very, very strict judges."

Vows of the Olympics in Japan

Without a vaccine or effective treatment, social distancing and bans are among the few ways governments can contain the spread of the virus, making large gatherings like spectator sports and music concerts very risky.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, postponed by a year, were the biggest casualties of its kind, and Japan's new leader promised to hold it in 2021.

"In the summer of next year, Japan is determined to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo to prove that humanity has overcome the pandemic," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the United Nations General Assembly in a video message.

However, given the ongoing global spikes, there are concerns about whether the event will continue to be possible next year if the pandemic is not under control.

In another example of the effects of the virus, the Brazilian authorities, which have the second highest death toll in the world, have postponed the Rio de Janeiro Carnival indefinitely.

And only 1,000 fans per day are allowed at the French Open. The organizers of one of the largest tennis events in the world say it means "millions of euros in smoke".

"Today I get zero euros"

The WHO warning came when the United States, the world's hardest-hit nation, crossed seven million cases – more than a fifth of the world's total, despite making up just four percent of the world's population.

Many European nations are now struggling with new waves of infection.

Spain extended a lockdown in and around the capital Madrid to one million people from Monday.

In the UK, authorities announced restrictions that now affect a quarter of the population, while two supermarket chains said they would ration purchases of certain goods to curb panic buying.

Moscow, meanwhile, ordered vulnerable residents of the Russian capital to avoid infection by staying at home, while Israel tightened its lockdown by preventing people from taking flights out of the country.

France reported record numbers – daily cases surged above 16,000 for the first time on Thursday. But measures by authorities to contain the virus are not popular with many because of their painful economic burden.

The bar and restaurant owners of Marseille gathered in front of the city's commercial court to demonstrate against forced closings from Sunday evening.

"Today I get zero euros, zero euros," said Sam, a night club manager.

"I have to pay rent because I'm not lucky enough to be a landlord."

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© 2020 AFP

WHO warns of 2 million possible virus deaths, Australia urges vaccine sharing (2020, September 26)
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