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Argentina hits 1 million cases as COVID-19 slams Latin America

USHUAIA, Argentina: At the edge of Argentina in a city known as “The End of the World,” many thought..

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USHUAIA, Argentina: At the edge of Argentina in a city known as “The End of the World,” many thought they might be spared from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sitting far from the South American nation’s bustling capital, health workers in Ushuaia were initially able to contain a small outbreak among foreigners hoping to catch boats to the Antarctic at the start of the crisis.

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But as Argentina passed 1 million virus cases on Monday, it is now smaller cities like Ushuaia that are seeing some of the most notable upticks.

READ: Amid COVID-19 pandemic, sharply increased US detention times put migrants at risk

Doctors have had to quadruple the number of beds for COVID-19 patients over the last month. At least 60 per cent of those tested recently are coming back positive for the virus.

“We were the example of the country,” said Dr Carlos Guglielmi, director of the Ushuaia Regional Hospital. “Evidently someone arrived with the coronavirus.”

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Nurse David Rosas checks a patient suffering from COVID-19 in an intensive care unit of a hospital, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, on Oct 16, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian)

Across Latin America, three other nations are expected to reach the 1 million case milestone in the coming weeks — Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The grim mark comes as Latin America continues to register some of the world’s highest daily case counts. And though some nations have seen important declines, overall there has been little relief, with cases dropping in one municipality only to escalate in another.

The trajectory is showing that the pandemic is likely to leave no corner of Latin America unscathed.

“The second wave is arriving without ever having finished the first,” said Dr Luis Jorge Hernández, a public health professor at the University of the Andes in Colombia.

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Argentina has seen cases spiral despite instituting one of the world’s longest lockdowns. Colombia’s major cities have seen a dip, but smaller areas like the department of Caldas in the coffee region are only now reaching a peak.

READ: Global COVID-19 cases surpass the 40 million milestone

Peru’s overall numbers have dropped, but officials recently reported 12 regions are spiking back up. Mexico, likewise, has seen a rise in a quarter of all states over the last week.

The result is that rather than a second virus wave like that being seen in Europe, epidemiologists anticipate a more sustained, plateau-like trend.

“Our countries are still getting out of the first wave,” said Dr Marcos Espinal, director of the Pan American Health Organization’s Department of Communicable Diseases. “A great part of the population remains exposed and community transmission continues.”

The virus’ cruel path through Latin America is a consequence of weak public health systems, social factors like poverty and poor government decisions early on that resulted in flawed or limited testing and little contact tracing. Today the region is home to half the 10 countries with the highest total cases around the globe.

Argentina initially registered low virus case numbers but now has one of the highest rates of new daily infections per capita, according to Our World in Data, a non-profit online scientific publication based at the University of Oxford. It is on par with several European countries that are experiencing a resurgence of the virus.

Dr Adolfo Rubinstein, a former Argentine health minister, said the nation depended too heavily on lockdowns as its primary means of controlling the virus, failing to purchase enough tests in the initial months of the pandemic.

Where the virus is appearing is also shifting. Initially, up to 90 per cent of the confirmed cases were in metropolitan Buenos Aires. Today, 65 per cent of Argentina’s cases are in its provinces and even faraway places like Ushuaia, authorities said.

“Now it is everywhere in the country,” Rubinstein said.

Dr Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Americas branch of the World Health Organization, warned recently that the coronavirus is appearing in places that were previously not affected, with high numbers popping up in regions like the English-speaking Caribbean.

“In many countries, the pandemic has also moved to less populated areas,” she said.

Kinesiologist Maria Luz Porra puts on a mask shield before checking patients suffering from COVID-19 in an intensive care unit of a hospital, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, on Oct 16, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian)

That can be seen not just in Argentina but in Colombia as well. The city of Manizales in a region known for its coffee farms now registers 440.98 cases per 100,000 residents, far higher than the nationwide average of 284.09 per 100,000, according to the Ministry of Health. Officials say the slower rise in cases allowed them to expand ICU capacity.

“Here we didn’t have a peak like in Europe,” Hernández said. “We had a plateau.”

READ: Europe tightens COVID-19 curbs as WHO urges countries to enforce quarantine measures

Throughout the region, testing remains a hurdle. In Peru, officials have relied heavily on antibody tests to identify cases — even though the tests are not designed to make a diagnosis because they can only Read More – Source

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Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh receive Covid-19 vaccine

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Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh have received their Covid-19 vaccinations, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said Saturday.

The inoculations were administered by a household doctor at Windsor Castle, a royal source said.
To prevent inaccuracies and further speculation, Her Majesty, who 94, decided that she would let it be known that she has had the vaccination, the source added. Her husband is 99 years old.
The couple’s son, Prince Charles, tested positive for coronavirus and went into isolation in March. The 72-year-old later said he was lucky to only experience mild symptoms, adding he’d “got away with it quite lightly.”
Meanwhile, their grandson Prince William, second-in-line to the British throne, also tested positive for coronavirus earlier this year, UK media reported, though exactly when he contracted the virus is unclear.
The UK has recorded more than 3 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 80,000 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University on Saturday.
The UK reported 1,325 coronavirus-related fatalities on Friday — its highest ever daily increase in deaths.
Health officials face a deadly start to 2021 as a new coronavirus variant, first detected in the UK, sweeps the nation.
In the capital, London’s mayor declared a “major incident” on Friday, warning that hospitals in the city were close to being overrun.
“The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control,” Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement.
“The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.
“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point,” Khan added. “If we do not take immediate action now, our [National Health Service] could be overwhelmed and more people will die.”

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Dozens killed in suspected jihadist attack in Niger

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Dozens of people were killed in an attack in Niger on Saturday, in a suspected jihadist attack.

The attack took place around 12:00 CET in the Tchomo-Bangou village in Tillabéri, a western region bordering Mali.

“The assailants surrounded the village and killed up to 50 people,” a local radio journalist said anonymously. “The wounded have been evacuated to the hospital in Ouallam.”

It came on the day provisional results for the first round of the presidential election, held on December 27, were released.

Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate for the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) and a former interior minister, is in the lead with 39.3 per cent of the votes. Bazoum has vowed to strengthen the country’s fight against Islamist groups.

The second round of the election is to be held on February 21.

Niger has been a target for jihadist attacks for years, particularly in the western and southeastern parts of the country.

On December 21, six days before the presidential poll, seven soldiers were killed in Tillabéri. In May 2020, twenty people, including children, were also killed in two of the region’s villages.

Read from source: https://www.euronews.com/2021/01/03/dozens-killed-in-suspected-jihadist-attack-in-niger

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Niger votes in presidential and legislative elections

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People in Niger began voting in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Mohamed Bazoum, the right-hand man of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou is the favourite to win.

The sixty-year-old former interior minister is aiming for outright victory in the first round — something that no candidate has done before.

He’s focussing on security and education.

Over 7 million people are eligible to vote. But some voters, like Gambina Moumouni, simply want a president they can trust.

“We pray to Allah to choose us the president who has the most mercy for the people, a president who will not betray the country and who will not betray the trust of the people, that is our wish. It is also our wish that Allah may help to make the poor, the peasants, the (cattle) breeders happy.

Thirty candidates are standing including two former presidents and two former prime ministers, but according to seasoned observers in the region, the poll is arousing little enthusiasm among the population.

Niger is the world’s poorest according to the UN’s Human Development Index and also one of those hardest hit by climate change.

Read from source: https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/27/niger-votes-in-presidential-and-legislative-elections

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