World Health Assembly passes resolution to investigate global pandemic

Beyond the hot spots of Brazil and Mexico, the coronavirus is threatening to overwhelm Latin American cities large and small in an alarming sign that the pandemic may be only at the start of its destructive march through the region.

More than 90% of intensive care beds were full last week in Chile’s capital, Santiago, whose main cemetery dug 1,000 emergency graves to prepare for a wave of deaths, AP reports.

In Lima, Peru, patients took up 80% of intensive care beds as of Friday. Peru has the world’s 12th-highest number of confirmed cases, with more than 90,000.

“Were in bad shape,” said Pilar Mazzetti, head of the Peruvian governments Covid-19 task force. “This is war.”

In some cities, doctors say patients are dying because of a lack of ventilators or because they couldn’t get to a hospital fast enough. With intensive care units swamped, officials plan to move patients from capitals like Lima and Santiago to hospitals in smaller cities that aren’t as busy running the risk of spreading the disease further.

Latin American countries halted international flights and rolled out social distancing guidelines around the same time as the US and Europe, delaying the arrival of large-scale infection, said Dr. Marcos Espinal, director of communicable diseases at the Pan American Health Organization.

  • The Covid-19 crisis could push 60 million people into poverty, the head of the World Bank, David Malpass, said. Malpass said his bank had so far loaned money to about 100 countries, accounting for 70% of the world’s population.
  • The World Health Organization’s annual assembly passed a resolution on the need to investigate the global response to the pandemic. None of the WHO’s 194 member states raised objections to the resolution brought by the EU on behalf of more than 100 countries.
  • The UK reported 545 more deaths, taking its total to 35,341. The environment secretary, George Eustice, announced the latest figure at the government’s daily briefing on the epidemic. The UK remains the world’s second-worst affected country by deaths after the US.
  • Rishi Sunak, the UK’s chancellor, said the country is facing “a severe recession the likes of which we haven’t seen”. Giving evidence to the Lords economic affairs committee, he said he expects the unemployment rate to be in double figures by the end of the year.
  • Cambridge University will not hold traditional lectures in the 2020/21 academic year.There will be no “face-to-face lectures” at the University of Cambridge in the 2020/21 academic year, the institution has said. Lectures will continue virtually, while it may be possible for smaller teaching groups to take place in person if it conforms to social distancing requirements.
  • Afghanistan recorded its biggest one-day rise in infections as about half of tests done in a 24-hour period came back positive. The health ministry confirmed 581 new cases out of 1,200 tests, marking the country’s worst day of the crisis – the previous high was 414.
  • The border between Canada and the US will remain closed to non-essential travel until 21 June. The closure was set to expire this week after the two governments announced a 30-day extension of the restrictions last month.
  • Spain reported a death toll below 100 for the third consecutive day, confirming 83 deaths from coronavirus in the past 24 hours. The latest figures from the health ministry showed the majority of the latest deaths were in some of the hardest-hit areas of the country.
  • The Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, will reopen next week, authorities said. The Islamic endowment overseeing the site in Jerusalem under Jordanian custodianship had taken the unprecedented step of closing it to worshippers in March.
  • People living within a kilometre of Barcelona’s beaches will be able to return to the sand from Wednesday, as the local lockdown eases. People will be able to make “recreational use” of the Catalan capital’s beaches as long as they respect physical distancing.
  • Half a dozen people from three English Premier League football clubs tested positive for Covid-19 in the space of two days, dealing a blow to hopes of top-flight English football resuming next month.

Latin America is the worlds most unequal region, a reality that Espinal said made it difficult to balance health and economic growth, with millions facing increased poverty during quarantines, curfews and shutdowns.

Trump has signed an executive order encouraging agencies to cut regulations in the name of economic recovery.

“Agencies must continue to remove barriers to the greatest engine of economic prosperity the world has ever known: the innovation, initiative, and drive of the American people,” the order states.

Donald Trump has reignited a controversy over the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine after telling reporters he was taking the latter to protect himself against coronavirus. What do we know about these drugs?

What is hydroxychloroquine?

Hydroxychloroquine, which Trump says he has been taking for about two weeks, was developed as an antimalarial but it is also used to treat conditions like lupus, an anti-immune disease, and arthritis, where it can help combat inflammation. It has been licensed for use in the US since the mid 1950s and is listed by the World Health Organization as an “essential” medicine.

What’s the state of the current evidence?

In May, the British Medical Journal reported on a randomised (although still problematic) clinical trial in China that found little evidence hydroxychloroquine worked, with serious adverse events noted in two patients.

A second study reported in the BMJ last week on a French trial also concluded that hydroxychloroquine does not significantly reduce admission to intensive care or improve survival rates in patients hospitalised with pneumonia owing to Covid-19. Overall, 89% of those who received hydroxychloroquine survived after 21 days, compared with 91% in the control group.

The US Food and Drug Administration in a safety alert issued on 24 April warned that it had received reports that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine could have serious side-effects and that the drugs should be taken only under the close supervision of a doctor in a hospital setting or a clinical trial.

What are the risks in taking hydroxychloroquine?

There are several side-effects. The most serious is that it can interfere with the rhythm of the heart. Other side-effects include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, skin rash or itching or hair loss. Research published by the Mayo Clinic has suggested that “off-label” repurposing of drugs such as hydroxychloroquine could lead to “drug-induced sudden cardiac death”.

Although Trump’s official physician has said he was in “very good health” at his last official checkup, the president is 73 and his recorded weight would put him in a BMI category of “clinically obese”. 

In the US, Donald Trump has claimed that scientists carried out a study of the effects of hydroxychloroquine, the results of which suggested he is wrong to tout it, because they oppose him politically.

The study of hundreds of patients at US veterans health administration medical centers showed that those who took hydroxychloroquine had a 27.8% death rate, while those who did not had an 11.4% death rate. Trump said:

Cambridge University will not hold traditional lectures

There will be no “face-to-face lectures” at the University of Cambridge in the 2020/21 academic year, the institution has said.

Lectures will continue virtually, while it may be possible for smaller teaching groups to take place in person if it conforms to social distancing requirements. A spokesman for the university said:

The university is constantly adapting to changing advice as it emerges during this pandemic.

Given that it is likely that social distancing will continue to be required, the university has decided there will be no face-to-face lectures during the next academic year.

Lectures will continue to be made available online and it may be possible to host smaller teaching groups in person, as long as this conforms to social distancing requirements.

This decision has been taken now to facilitate planning but, as ever, will be reviewed should there be changes to official advice on coronavirus.

15:39 EDT

Officials in the Bolivian city of Trinidad are to give out free doses of the anti-parasite drug ivermectin in a bid to combat the epidemic. Authorities will go house-to-house to pass out about 350,000 doses of the drug in an area that has seen 581 confirmed cases and 41 deaths.

The Ministry of Health said it can be used under proper medical protocol, while noting the lack of evidence for it as a treatment for Covid-19. The health minister Marcelo Navajas told local media:

It is a product that does not have scientific validation in the treatment of the coronavirus. It does serve to treat parasitic diseases and other types of diseases. Therefore, we ask our medical colleagues who are going to use this product to do so with informed consent.

15:34 EDT

McDonald’s has been accused of endangering employees and their families by failing to adopt government safety guidance during the pandemic.

Five workers in Chicago have filed a class action lawsuit against the chain, saying it failed to provide adequate hand sanitiser, gloves and masks. They also allege that McDonald’s has not been notifying staff when an employee became infected.

McDonald’s said the allegations were inaccurate and that safety, including wellness checks and protective gear, was a top priority.

15:10 EDT

The Trump administration is poised to extend non-essential travel restrictions at the land borders with Canada and Mexico, the acting US Department of Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf has indicated.

We really have to see what is the health care situation like in Mexico and Canada, how are their cases, have they hit their curve?

What we don’t want to do is try to open up parts of our economy and have a lot of folks coming across the border that we haven’t seen in the past 50 or 60 days.

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau had already said his country and the US have agreed to extend the ban at their shared border by another 30 days, after reports earlier in the day suggested such a move was likely.

World Health Assembly passes resolution to investigate global pandemic World Health Assembly passes resolution to investigate global pandemic Reviewed by Anson Moore on May 19, 2020 Rating: 5

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