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Europe's second wave cases higher than start of pandemic

World

The World Health Organisation’s European director has warned of “alarming rates of transmission” on the continent, with weekly case rates of more than 300,000 that are higher than during the first peak in March.

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“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region,” Hans Kluge said.

In the last two weeks, more than half of European countries recorded an increase of cases of more than 10 per cent and in seven of them even doubled.

Europe has recorded 4,893,614 cases and 226,524 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Kluge called for “regional coherence” and co-ordinated action against the situation and new peak of the pandemic.

Kluge said there is still room for action, given also that coronavirus mortality is still lower than it was in March.

He called for vigilance as autumn approaches in the northern hemisphere bringing seasonal flu, increased mortality among the elderly and the re-opening of schools for the start of the academic year.

Kluge added that there has been increasing “fatigue and resistance in the behaviour that is helpful in fighting the virus”.

He said quarantine is a “cornerstone” in tackling the pandemic and that the most conservative estimates are that it should be a period of 14 days, which includes the three to five days before and the five days after the appearance of symptoms.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced scathing opposition criticism in parliament over its handling of the pandemic and a contracting economy that has left millions jobless.

Confirmed cases jumped by 97,894 in the past 24 hours, raising India’s total past 5.1 million, 0.36 per cent of its nearly 1.4 billion people, the health ministry reported on Thursday.

It also said 1132 more people died in the past 24 hours for a total of 83,198.

India’s fatalities are the third most in the world but experts say India has undercounted the COVID-19 toll.

India’s infection numbers are expected within weeks to pass the United States, where more than 6.6 million people have been infected.

On Wednesday, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari became the second key minister after Home Minister Amit Shah to test positive.

Shah was hospitalised for a second time this week due to COVID-19.

As parliament resumed sittings after a gap of five months, Anand Sharma, Derek O’Brien and other opposition leaders criticised Modi for abruptly imposing a two-month lockdown across the country in March.

They said Modi gave no time for state governments to prepare to handle the pandemic and prevent distress to millions of migrant workers who fled their places of work to return to their village homes.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan defended the government decision and said the lockdown prevented up to 3 million additional cases and up to 78,000 deaths.

India is testing more than 1 million samples per day, a dramatic increase made possible by using a faster and cheaper but less accurate testing method.

On Wednesday, the New Delhi High Court ordered the government to increase RT-PCR tests, which look for the virus genetic code, because the antigen tests that look for viral proteins were only 60 per cent accurate.

Globally, more than 29.97 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus and 939,151​ have died.

-AAP

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