World Insights: Europe, LatAm on guard over COVID-19 surge


BEIJING, April 6 (Xinhua) — Countries in Europe and Latin America are maintaining restrictions and bolstering their vaccination campaigns to curb a new surge in COVID-19 cases.

Colombian President Ivan Duque announced on Sunday new restrictive measures for several cities where COVID-19 cases are on the rise and the occupancy of intensive care units is over 70 percent. His country on Monday reported 10,190 new COVID-19 cases and 199 more deaths over the past 24 hours.

Overwhelmed hospital capacity poses a risk in Brazil, too. The South American country on Monday reported 28,645 new COVID-19 infections and 1,319 deaths in the past 24 hours, still suffering the world’s second-worst outbreak in terms of both deaths and infections, after the United States.

Hospitals in most parts of Brazil were under severe strain from a spike in COVID-19 infections, with ICU bed occupancy exceeding 90 percent, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, the most prominent science and technology health institution in Latin America attached to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, warned last week.

Europe has been facing hospital bed shortages for some time.

In the latest monitoring report unveiled on Friday, Italy’s National Health Institute said that coronavirus patients still occupied 41 percent of all beds in the country’s intensive care units, which stood well above the critical threshold of 30 percent.

“The incidence (is) still too high and the severe burden on our health services does not allow a reduction of restrictions currently in place,” the institute wrote in its report.

Italy’s lockdown for the Easter holidays has come to an end, but the country on Monday registered 10,680 new COVID-19 cases.

Over 11.2 million people of the country’s population of 60 million have been administered vaccines by Monday, and 3.4 million have received both doses, official figures showed.

France’s coronavirus situation further worsened. Nearly 30,000 people with COVID-19 are now hospitalized after 551 new admissions were reported in the past 24 hours, the biggest one-day increase in a week. The cumulative number of infections went over 4.8 million, with 10,793 people testing positive within a day.

This weekend, France went into a one-month confinement to cope with the pandemic’s third wave. Movement is limited to a radius of 10 km from home, and inter-city travel is banned.

Schools will be closed for three to four weeks and non-essential shops are shut. Catering businesses and culture venues, forced to suspend their activities since last October, remain closed.

France has relied on a faster vaccine rollout to contain the virus’ spread. The goal of inoculating 10 million people by mid-April is likely to be met, according to Health Minister Olivier Veran.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday confirmed that non-essential shops will reopen from April 12, and people can dine outdoors in pubs and restaurants, as Britain moves to step two of its roadmap out of lockdown.

“But we can’t be complacent. We can see the waves of sickness affecting other countries, and we’ve seen how this story goes,” Johnson said at a virtual press conference. “We still don’t know how strong the vaccine shield will be. When the cases begin to rise as I’m afraid they will, which is why we are saying please get your vaccine or your second dose when your turn comes.”

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