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COVID-19: WHO warns of 'lengthy' pandemic as cases rise

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Workers at the crematorium at Xilotepec Cemetery in Xochimilco, Mexico City
Workers at the crematorium at Xilotepec Cemetery in Xochimilco, Mexico City   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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The coronavirus pandemic is likely to be "lengthy", the World Health Organization (WHO) warned, as countries around the world struggle to contain the spread of the virus.

On Sunday a state of disaster was declared in the Australian state of Victoria, amid sweeping measures to try to get the outbreak under control.

In Europe over the weekend France and Poland were among a number of countries to report a surge in coronavirus cases.

And across Latin America and the Caribbean the virus has now killed more than 200,000 people, with nearly three-quarters of them in Brazil and Mexico.

The WHO on Saturday "highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this COVID-19 pandemic" after its emergency committee met on Friday to evaluate the crisis six months after it rang the global alarm on January 30.

The group also warned of the risk of "response fatigue" given the socio-economic pressures on countries.

"WHO continues to assess the global risk level of COVID-19 to be very high," said its latest statement.

"The committee highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this COVID-19 pandemic, noting the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts.

Australia

From Sunday night an evening curfew will be implemented across Melbourne, after a state of disaster proclamation gave police greater power to enforce measures.

671 new coronavirus cases had been detected in the city since Saturday, including seven deaths. It comes among a steadily increasing toll in both deaths and infections over the past six weeks in Victoria.

Melbourne residents will only be allowed to shop and exercise within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of their homes. All students across the state will return to home-based learning and child care centers will be closed.

The deaths in Victoria took the national toll to 208.

France

France on Friday confirmed 1,346 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours. It's the third day in a row where cases have topped 1,300.

Meanwhile, from Saturday, travellers entering France from 16 countries where the coronavirus is circulating widely now must undergo virus tests upon arrival at French airports and ports.

French prime minister Jean Castex announced last month that the tests would be required as of 1 August for passengers France is allowing in from a list of approved countries, unless they present proof of a negative test done within 72 hours of their departure.

Those who test positive in France must quarantine for 14 days.

Mexico

Mexico now has the third highest death toll from coronavirus in the world, after it reported 688 new deaths, overtaking the UK’s count.

On Friday Mexican health authorities reported a new national record for COVID-19 infections, with 8,458 new cases recorded in 24 hours

This brings to 424,637 the total number of infections recorded since the virus appeared in the country.

Only Brazil (92,475) and the United States (153,314) currently have a bigger death toll from the virus, according to a Johns Hopkins University toll.

The surge of cases and deaths in Mexico comes amid similar surges in other parts of the world.

South Africa

South Africa on Saturday surpassed 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, representing more than 50% of all reported coronavirus infections in Africa’s 54 countries.

That put the country fifth behind the United States, Brazil, Russia and India in total cases, though its population of 58 million is much smaller than theirs.

India

India’s coronavirus caseload crossed 1.75 million with another spike of 54,735 in the past 24 hours.

The new cases are down from 57,118 on Saturday. The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported 853 deaths for a total of 37,364.

Randeep Guleria, a top government expert, said that New Delhi and Mumbai may have crossed their peak levels with declining trends.

On Saturday India’s Civil Aviation Ministry delayed resumption of international flights by another month until August 31. But it will continue to allow several international carriers from the United States, Europe and the Middle East to operate special flights to evacuate stranded nationals.

Lockdown remains in places across all containment zones, while subways, cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, bars, theaters, auditoriums and other social gathering places will remain closed until the end of the month.

Japan

A state of emergency has been declared for the Japanese tourist region of Okinawa following an "explosive spread" of the coronavirus, according to the authorities, and the population is being asked to confine themselves for two weeks.

"We are witnessing an explosive spread of infection. We are declaring a state of emergency" until 15 August, the region's governor, Denny Tamaki, told reporters on Friday, adding that hospitals were overwhelmed by this outbreak of contamination.

The leader urged residents to avoid non-essential exits.The measures taken in Japan are not as restrictive as those in Europe, but are nevertheless widely respected by the population.

Most of the coronavirus cases detected in this southern island of the archipelago have been detected in American military bases.

Okinawa's decision comes as Tokyo has asked restaurants, bars and karaoke bars to close at 10 pm from August 3 until the end of the month, after the publication of record daily numbers of new infections.

Japan has had about 35,200 infections and just over 1,000 deaths since the first case was detected in January. The number of infections has increased since the end of the state of emergency in May.

Elsewhere, Colombia’s death toll surpassed 10,000 on Friday, according to the Ministry of Health. And in the United States, the world’s worst affected country, there were 1,442 deaths in the last 24 hours reported on Friday, the fourth consecutive day the country has recorded more than 1,200 deaths in one day.