The coronavirus death toll in the United States has spiked again with President Donald Trump conceding the pandemic crisis is likely to get worse, as governments across Asia and Europe battled second waves of infections.
Australia set a new daily high of 500 cases on Wednesday, likewise Hong Kong broke its record, and infections were also on the rise in Tokyo and Belgium — all four had managed to dampen down infection rates months ago.
Belgian officials urged people to take precautions to halt a “snowball effect before it provokes a new avalanche” of a virus that has now killed 615,000 people globally from almost 15 million infections.
Almost a quarter of those deaths have been in the US, the worst-hit nation after a haphazard response dominated by Trump’s repeated attempts to play down the severity of the crisis.
Almost 1,000 deaths confirmed on Tuesday, the highest daily nationwide death toll in weeks, Trump adopted a newly serious tone.
“It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” the president told reporters, although he did repeat his assertion that the disease would somehow eventually “disappear”.
In a further sign that the US is taking the virus more seriously, the government has agreed to pay almost $2 billion for 100 million doses of a potential vaccine being developed by German firm BioNTech and US giant Pfizer.
Pilots ‘chose job cuts’
The crisis has left tens of millions unemployed around the world and crippled global commerce, prompting the European Union to agree an unprecedented 750 billion euro ($858 billion) aid package for the hardest-hit member countries earlier this week.
But the airline industry continues to struggle under the weight of travel restrictions and reluctance among potential passengers to fly.
Irish carrier Ryanair said on Wednesday it would shut its base near the German business hub Frankfurt after pilots refused to take a pay cut.
The firm, which is looking to shed 3,000 staff in total, said the pilot’s union had “voted for job cuts and base closures when they could have preserved all jobs”.
The production of a vaccine is now key to ensuring a return to something close to normality — for businesses and the general public.
More than 200 candidate drugs are being developed with 23 having progressed to clinical trials.
One leading candidate is being developed in part by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, with promising results from clinical trials published on Monday.
But the firm’s chief said on Tuesday a global rollout was not imminent.
“We hope to be able to produce a vaccine by the end of the year… perhaps a little earlier if all goes well,” said Pascal Soriot.
‘Bake a giant cake’
With the sporting world just about getting back on its feet, Olympic officials conceded on Wednesday that their hopes of holding the Tokyo 2020 Games next year rested on a vaccine being developed.
“If things continue as they are now, we couldn’t” hold the Games, said local organising committee president Yoshiro Mori.
While global efforts to prevent new infections are the principal concern of policymakers, the extent and severity of the disease among poorer communities was becoming clearer.
India past the one-million infections milestone last week, but new data on Wednesday suggested a vast underestimate.
An Indian study showed almost a quarter of the population in New Delhi had contracted the virus, equating to roughly five million infections in the capital city.
Officials have registered just 125,000 confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, for those who recover from the disease, the path back to full health is not always straightforward.
In Brazil, 63-year-old Elenice da Silva had a severe infection that lasted nearly three months.
The illness left her temporarily unable to speak.
“Intensive care was awful. But now I’m feeling marvelous,” she told AFP during her recovery. “I’m going to bake a giant cake for everyone.”