Virus: WHOs imminent recommendations, nearly 2 million deaths

The emergency committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) is scheduled to issue recommendations on Friday for the emergence of more contagious variants of the coronavirus, likely to provoke a new explosion of the pandemic that is already approaching two million victims.

The UK closes its borders on Friday at 04:00 GMT when arrivals from all countries in South America and Portugal due to a mutation discovered in Brazil and described as “worrying” by the WHO.

Portugal, for its part, has resolved to a new general containment from the same day, while France will extend a curfew on Saturday throughout its territory from 18:00 (17.00 GMT) and will require travellers wishing to enter from a country outside the European Union (EU) a negative test for Covid-19 before leaving.

The WHO emergency committee normally meets every three months, but the Director-General of the international organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus invited members on Thursday, two weeks earlier than the schedule, to address these recent developments in the virus and consider the use of vaccinations certificates and tests for international travel.

Already in the United States IT companies, including Microsoft, health institutions and NGOs have formed a coalition to develop a vaccination passport.

— Nearly 2 million deaths —

Last to date, a mutation originating in the Brazilian Amazon and which Japan announced on Sunday the discovery of which, according to WHO, could impact the immune response.

Before it, the so-called British and South African variants, particularly contagious, now extend to at least 50 and 20 countries respectively, in a world overwhelmed by a new wave of contamination that confinements, curfews and vaccination campaigns fail to stem.

The resurgence of Covid-19 does not spare China, where the disease was first reported at the end of 2019 in Wuhan (central). The country had controlled the epidemic, but on Thursday recorded its first death from the virus since May, in Hebei province.

WHO experts arrived in China Thursday to investigate the origins of the disease. The visit is ultra-sensitive for the Chinese government, which seeks to dismiss any responsibility in the pandemic that has caused at least 1,979,596 deaths worldwide, according to a count by AFP.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel argued Thursday night for tightened restrictions and called for a meeting of the authorities next week, according to a source close to her party.

Some 25,164 new cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours and 1,244 deaths, a record number.

— U.S. Contingency Plan —

In Italy, the government extended the state of emergency until 30 April. The Vatican reported that Pope Francis, 84, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 93, had been vaccinated.

In Turkey, the vaccination campaign began on Thursday with the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine, administered to healthcare workers in different regions.

Faced with an exponential increase in cases, Lebanon began a strict 11-day containment on Thursday, as some hospitals begin to run out of beds.

Tunisia has also reconfined itself, for four days, from Thursday to Sunday, facing an epidemiological situation “very dangerous”, according to health authorities.

In Brazil, the state of Amazonas (north) announced Thursday the introduction of a curfew due to the saturation of hospitals, overwhelmed by the influx of patients with Covid-19, with serious problems with oxygen supply. “Our region produces large amounts of oxygen (thanks to the forest), but today it is our people who need oxygen and solidarity,” said Governor Wilson Lima.

Faced with the shock suffered by the worlds first economy as a result of the pandemic, US President-elect Joe Biden unveiled Thursday a new $1.900 billion emergency recovery plan, supposed to lift the US out of its worst crisis since the 1930s

Cheques to families, funds to reopen schools, money to accelerate tests and vaccines, liquidity for small businesses, or even enhanced food aid: this “safeguard plan” must respond to the emergency and prevent the country, where nearly 390,000 people have been mowed by the disease, from sinking further into the crisis.