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1st Jul 2022

EU tries to avoid lockdowns as global death toll reaches 1m

  • The chief of emergencies at the World Health Organization said the global coronavirus death toll could hit two million - even with an effective vaccine in place (Photo: gob.mx)

The global death toll from the novel coronavirus, which first emerged in China late last year and has swept across the world, reached the one million mark on Monday (28 September) .

The United States has the highest death toll with over 200,000 fatalities, followed by Brazil, India, Mexico and the UK - while Spain, France and Italy are also among the deadliest countries for Covid-19.

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However, the chief of emergencies at the World Health Organization, Michael Ryan, said last Friday that the global coronavirus death toll could hit two million - even with an effective vaccine in place.

"Are we prepared collectively to do what it takes to avoid that number?" he said, calling on governments to do everything to halt the surge of Covid-19 infections worldwide.

"Unless we do it all, the number [two million deaths] is not only imaginable but unfortunately and sadly, very likely," he added.

In just ten months, the coronavirus infections worldwide have passed 33 million. So far, the US, India and Brazil have had the highest number of cases, recording together more than half of the total tally worldwide.

Europe, which was hard hit by the first wave, is also seeing a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases - with Paris, Brussels and Madrid all forced to reintroduce restrictive measures to slow the number of infections.

Brussels and Paris face new rules

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire on Monday ruled out a new nationwide lockdown.

But new rules entered into force on the same day in Paris and 11 other cities in France considered at very high risk - including a ban of recreational events, a prohibition of gatherings of more than ten people in public places and private events, and a curfew on bars.

Brussels authorities announced on Sunday (27 September) that similar measures will be introduced this week due to the rising number of infections in the region - 2,199 cases were recorded last week in this region while the daily average of new cases nationwide is 1,500.

The move comes just a few days after the Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmes relaxed some restrictions at the national level.

In Madrid, the national and the regional government have not yet agreed on how to tackle the second wave of Covid-19 in the Spanish capital - where more than a third of the country's total of 735,198 cases have been recorded.

Spain's health minister Salvador Illa urged Madrid's regional authorities "to listen to science" and introduce a city-wide lockdown. But instead, only a partial lockdown has been imposed in 45 neighbourhoods, affecting more than one million people.

After having introduced several local and targeted lockdowns in the UK, the British government is mulling stricter restrictions - a move that was met with an anti-lockdown protest in London on Saturday (26 September).

Also in Europe, the Czech Republic is becoming a new hotspot, with 1,305 new cases reported on Sunday. Earlier this month, Czech prime minister Andrej Babis said that it might have been a mistake to drop mask-wearing during the summer.

Top officials self-isolating

Meanwhile, several EU commissioners are currently under self-isolation after coming into close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

EU commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, announced the decision on Monday on Twitter, saying that he will complete the required quarantine period and be tested.

Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides went into self-isolation on Sunday, just a few days after she warned member states that Europe is facing the "last chance" to prevent a return to the numbers recorded in spring.

Last week, EU new trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis went also into self-isolation, followed by the president of the European Council, Charles Michel.

"The three members of the college [of commissioners] are simply following the protocols which need to be applied as a precautionary measure in this situation," a commission spokesperson said on Monday.

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