17 Jun 2020

Covid-19 international developments

9:17 am on 17 June 2020

Chile's government is extending a state of catastrophe in place since mid-March by 90 days as cases of coronavirus in the South American nation have surged.

A worker checks the temperature of a customer, outside a supermarket in Valparaiso, Chile, on 12 June 2020.

A worker checks the temperature of a customer outside a supermarket in Valparaiso, Chile, on 12 June 2020. Photo: AFP or licensors

The pace of new infections increased dramatically in May and June, averaging over 5000 daily in recent weeks.

The onslaught has filled critical care wards and prompted authorities to declare a full lockdown in the capital Santiago, a city of more than $6 million.

The state of catastrophe, extended by presidential decree, gives the government extraordinary powers to restrict freedom of movement and assure food supply and basic services. Quarantine measures are routinely enforced by soldiers in Santiago.

South America has become the new epicenter of the global coronavirus crisis, with Peru, Brazil and Chile particularly hard hit.

Chile has recorded nearly 180,000 infections and more than 3300 people have died, according to a Reuters tally.

US medicine safety authority revokes emergency use of hydroxychloroquine

The US Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency use authorisation for hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, the drug championed by US President Donald Trump to stave off the coronavirus.

Based on new evidence, the FDA said it was no longer reasonable to believe that oral formulations of hydroxychloroquine and the related drug chloroquine may be effective in treating the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The move comes after several studies of the decades-old malaria drug suggested it was not effective.

The drug's anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties suggested it might help treat Covid-19, and the FDA authorized its emergency use in March at the height of a pandemic for which there were no approved treatments.

While it did appear to neutralise the virus in laboratory experiments, hydroxychloroquine, which is also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, has failed to prove its worth in human Covid-19 trials, thus far.

India to reimpose lockdown in Chennai

Officials in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu have announced a fresh lockdown in the capital Chennai and some neighbouring areas as they struggle to contain the coronavirus.

During the 12-day lockdown, starting on Friday, only essential shops and services will be allowed to operate.

Tamil Nadu is one of India's worst hit states with more than 44,000 officially confirmed cases.

New Delhi is fast running out of hospital beds amid a surge in coronavirus cases and is struggling to contain the pandemic, after critics said it did too little to prepare and reopened shopping malls and temples too soon.

The reopenings were decided nationally, but the state of Maharashtra where Mumbai is located, for example, kept restrictions in place to contain the outbreak.

Following harsh words from the Supreme Court, India's federal government said it would provide 500 railway coaches to be converted into Covid-19 care centres for the capital.

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford  celebrates.

Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford Photo: PHOTOSPORT

UK footballer Marcus Rashford steps up campaign for free children's meals

Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford has stepped up his campaign for the government to fund free meals for struggling children through the summer school lockdown, support he himself had to rely on as a boy.

The 22-year-old soccer star has taken a prominent role during the pandemic to raise awareness and funds for those families who are "existing on a knife's edge" and struggling to feed their children.

In an emotional open letter to MPs drawing on his own experiences of relying on free school meals and food banks growing up, Rashford said his story is "all too familiar for families in England".

Campaigners have threatened to bring legal action against the government for not extending the food voucher scheme into the summer holidays.

In other international developments:

Europe is moving slowly toward something resembling normality this week. The continent has been hard-hit by the virus, with more than 182,000 Covid-19-related deaths.

Border checks were dropped for most Europeans entering Germany and France on Monday, with Spain set to follow from next week.

In Italy, where nearly 32,000 people have died of the coronavirus, restaurants, bars, shops and hairdressers are now allowed to operate.

In Spain, groups of ten people are allowed to meet provided they wear masks and observe social distancing.

In Greece, the Acropolis reopened to visitors, and pastry shops and cafes are trading in Portugal, albeit at reduced capacity.

The Danish government is to hand out cash to its citizens to help stimulate the economy.

The Oscars movie awards ceremony has been postponed until April from February due to the coronavirus epidemic. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said the ceremony will take place on 25 April, 2021.

- Reuters / BBC

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