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Europe’s Second Wave of COVID-19 is Being Driven by Two Countries. Here’s Why

covid prague
covid prague

Employees of Czech hospital beds maker Linet check beds to be used in the Covid-19 field hospital on October 20, 2020 in the Linet factory in the village Zelevcice, 30km south-east of Prague. Credit – Michal Cizep/AFP—Getty Images

Europe is clearly in the grip of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. In the past week, countries throughout Europe—including Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, the U.K, and Ukraine—have all recorded their highest daily caseloads since the pandemic started.

But two of these stand out. As of Oct. 25, Belgium and the Czech Republic are currently reporting about 146 and 115 new daily cases per 100,000 people, respectively, according to TIME’s coronavirus tracker, which compiles data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s dramatically higher than the E.U. average of 33 per 100,000.

The Czech Republic hit a new daily record of 15,258 new infections on Oct. 23; a day later, Belgium set its own record with 17,709 new daily cases. Belgium is now the epicenter of the E.U’s second wave, with the continent’s highest per-capita case rate (besides tiny Andorra). The country also has the world’s third highest number of COVID-19-related deaths per capita after Peru and tiny San Marino.

Experts speaking to TIME say they can’t point to anything specific that has made the Czech Republic or Belgium unique among E.U. states in their handling of the pandemic, instead attributing the rise in cases to a combination of factors, and the relatively arbitrary nature by which a virus spreads through populations.

Increased testing doesn’t fully explain the rise in case numbers

Marc Van Ranst, a virologist from the University of Leuven in Belgium, says the rise in cases can be partly explained by the increase in testing in his country. The number of daily tests has increased from about two out per 1,000 people each day in September to nearly six in recent days.

Testing has also increased in the Czech Republic over the same period, from about one per 1,000 people to around 3.5.

However, that cannot entirely account for the overall rise in cases, because the positivity rate—the share of tests that come back positive—rose in Belgium from around 2% in mid-September to over 18% in late October.

In the Czech Republic, that number soared from around 4% in to nearly 30% in the same period.

Population density may be a factor

Another potential factor for the situations in Belgium and the Czech Republic is their relatively high population densities. “You have to look at Belgium as one big city,” says Ranst. “That’s why in Brussels, where the population density is particularly high, the problem is acute.” For every square kilometer of land in Belgium there are 377 people; in the Czech Republic that number is 137. Compare those to the E.U. average of 112.

Pierre Van Damme, an epidemiologist in Belgium, said the reopening of universities at the end of September, in particular, has been a driver of

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WHO’s Tedros Says Countries on ‘Dangerous Track’ in Pandemic | Top News

GENEVA (Reuters) – The world is now at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 pandemic and some countries are on a dangerous path, facing the prospect of health services collapsing under the strain, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday.

“We are at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the Northern hemisphere,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference. “The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track.”

“We urge leaders to take immediate action, to prevent further unnecessary deaths, essential health services from collapsing and schools shutting again. As I said it in February and I’m repeating it today: This is not a drill.”

Tedros said too many countries were now seeing an exponential increase in infections, “and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close or above capacity — and we’re still only in October”.

He said countries should take action to limit the spread of the virus quickly. Improving testing, tracing of contacts of those infected and isolation of those at risk of spreading the virus would enable countries to avoid mandatory lockdowns.

(Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Commentary: Tackling the Twin Crises of Childhood Hunger and COVID-19 | Best Countries

The world is experiencing an overwhelming hunger epidemic made worse by the global COVID-19 pandemic. And while hunger impacts people of all ages, it devastates our most vulnerable population: children.

According to UNICEF, nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are due to undernutrition. This global crisis is too large of a problem for any one segment of society to tackle and requires the combined efforts of government, nonprofit organizations and the business community.

For decades, governments have worked independently to tackle the challenge from abroad. Nongovernmental organizations worked on shoestring budgets to help ensure food shipments were delivered and distributed, but even their efforts were consistently disrupted due to supply chain problems, corruption and government inefficiencies.

As global leaders in nutrition at Herbalife Nutrition, we are committed to doing our part to make sure no child goes without a meal, because we know how critical it is that children receive proper nutrition. The impact of hunger on children can have consequences that last a lifetime, as food insecurity is associated with delayed development in young children, behavioral problems, risk of chronic illnesses and lower academic achievement. The situation is exacerbated by the present pandemic, as the deteriorating economy has led to greater rates of unemployment and to the shuttering of schools and school meal programs.

This year will add as many as 132 million more people to the world’s food insecure population. In the United States, families with children – often woman-headed, single-parent households – are most likely to miss rent payments, lack funds for food and face unemployment. Food banks are struggling to fill the void and the demand far outstrips the supply.

Across the globe, children often get their meals at school because they do not have access to sufficient food at their homes. The World Food Program says 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, which significantly impacts their ability to learn. Meals and snacks from schools are estimated to satisfy as much as two-thirds of children’s daily nutritional needs.

This is our reality. But we don’t need to accept it. We can’t accept it.

With the number of hungry children growing each day, companies, nonprofits and governments must rise to meet this incredible challenge. Solutions are critical, and include the need to promote access and behaviors for sustainable healthy diets and addressing how to adapt global food systems to meet these needs. At Herbalife, we work with nonprofits globally to support critical programs that bridge the vast and growing food divide and raise awareness for how companies and consumers can help provide children and families access to the healthy food they need to thrive.

Through these partnerships, Nutrition for Zero Hunger has made nearly 700,000 nutritious meals available to children and families, delivered more than 500,000 servings of donated products and 3,500 pounds of food to families in need, helped provide close to 48,000 women with breastfeeding and nutrition education, and supplied 40,0000 children with essential

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health

Several European countries report daily record highs in coronavirus cases

Multiple European countries experienced record daily highs in new coronavirus cases this week as the pandemic surges again around the world.

France reported 30,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic hit, and nearly 200 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, according to the The Associated Press.

Cases began to rapidly increase in September, and have spiked in recent weeks.

Italy, an initial hotpot when the pandemic began, saw a new record daily high of 7,332 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. The previous record was set on March 21, when 6,557 cases were recorded over a 24-hour period, according to CNN.

Italy has seen a consecutive increase in cases for the past 10 weeks.

In Germany, 6,638 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, surpassing a previous record of 6,294 new cases recorded on March 28, The Robert Koch Institute confirmed Thursday morning.

The Czech Republic reported a record-high of new daily cases on Friday of 9,721, according to the country’s health ministry, as cases have seen a non-stop upward trend over the past two months.

Several affected countries are enforcing stricter lockdown measures in the wake of Europe’s COVID-19 surge, hoping to prevent future spikes.

The cases come as Europe and the U.S. head into the fall and winter seasons, which public health experts have warned could cause an increase in coronavirus cases as people move inside to get away from colder weather. Experts have also warned that this winter could be particularly deadly due to both the impending flu season and the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Australia prioritizes air service to 3 countries

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister said on Thursday his government was giving priority to reopening air services to Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had discussed reopening air routes with the leaders of all three countries.

He described Japan and South Korea as “two countries that have done particularly well” in dealing with the pandemic.

“There are a number of countries we’re looking at to see what we can do probably next year. We’re not going to rush into this,” Morrison said.


The three Asian countries “are my current priorities in how we would pursue that,” he added.

Australia will allow travelers from neighboring New Zealand to arrive without hotel quarantine from Friday. New Zealand has eradicated community transmission of COVID-19.

But New Zealand will continue to insist travelers from Australia quarantine for two weeks on arrival.

Australia reported only 12 new cases of community transmission of the virus on Thursday. Australia’s most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, reported six each.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— French President Macron sets curfew, restores state of emergency

— Spain 1st European Union nation to reach 900,000 virus cases

— World Bank OKs $12B for coronavirus vaccines, tests

— Russian President Vladimir Putin announces regulatory approval for a second coronavirus vaccine after early-stage studies.

— Scientists say among 21 developed countries at start of the coronavirus pandemic, those with early lockdowns, solid national health systems avoided more deaths.

— Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is back in Italy after testing positive for the coronavirus in Portugal.

— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 110 new cases of the coronavirus as a hospital in Busan emerged as the country’s latest cluster of infections.

The numbers released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Thursday brought the national caseload to 24,988, including 439 deaths.

Half of the new cases were reported from Busan, a southern port city where at least 54 infections were tied to a hospital for the elderly.

More than 40 cases were reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where health workers have struggled to track infections tied to various places and groups, including hospitals, churches, schools and workers.

The steady rise in infections is a cause of concern in a country that has just lowered it social distancing measures, allowing high-risk venues like nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and spectators to return to professional sports.

Health officials are planning to test 160,000 employees at hospitals, nursing homes and welfare centers for senior citizens in Seoul and nearby areas in part of efforts to prevent outbreaks at these facilities.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico reported Wednesday that a total of 1,744 health-care workers have died so far of COVID-19, and another 164 are suspected to have died of it but their test results are still pending.

The number

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