International Covid-19 news: WHO says pandemic ‘not close to being over’, Nigeria eases restrictions

Six months since the start of the new coronavirus outbreak, the pandemic is “not even close to being over”, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday, AFP reports. 

Reaching the half-year milestone just as the death toll surpassed 500 000 and the number of confirmed infections topped 10 million, the WHO said it was a moment to recommit to the fight to save lives.

“Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world – and our lives – would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing.

“We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over.

“We will need even greater stores of resilience, patience, humility and generosity in the months ahead.

“We have already lost so much – but we cannot lose hope.”

Tedros also said that the pandemic had brought out the best and worst humanity, citing acts of kindness and solidarity, but also misinformation and the politicisation of the virus.

In an atmosphere of global political division and fractures on a national level, “the worst is yet to come. I’m sorry to say that,” he said.

“With this kind of environment and condition, we fear the worst.”

Nigeria to ease Covid-19 restrictions to allow students to travel 

Nigeria on Monday said it was allowing children to go back to school to take exams and permitting cross-country travel despite fears over mounting coronavirus infections, AFP reports.

The head of the presidential task force, Sani Aliyu, gave the go-ahead for the “safe re-opening of schools to allow students in graduating classes (to) resume in-person in preparation for examinations”.

A ban on travel between different regions of the country would also be lifted from the start of July, Aliyu said.

The latest moves come as Africa’s most populous nation continues to register a stready rise in new cases, with 24 567 infections and 565 deaths recorded so far.

“For every detected case, there is a high possibility that up to five have not submitted to testing and therefore not detected,” Aliyu said.

“We have observed with growing concern the non-compliances with these measures designed to prevent transmission and protect vulnerable segments of the population.”

A raft of measures including restrictions on public gatherings, the mandatory wearing of facemasks and the closure of international borders remains in place.

Adherence to restrictions has been mixed in the country of some 200 million people and there has already been widespread cross-country movement.

The coronavirus has so far spread more slowly in Africa than on other continents but experts believe the peak is still ahead as governments increasingly ease restrictions.

US Republicans split from Trump on mask issue

Republican lawmakers in the US are making a public push for face coverings, splitting with mask-averse US President Donald Trump on the issue, as Covid-19 cases surge in some Republican-leaning states, Reuters reports. 

The top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, said on Monday every American has a responsibility to follow recommendations to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“They should wear a mask,” McCarthy told CNBC after his home state of California began to roll back efforts to reopen the economy. “If you cannot social distance, you need to be wearing a mask and you need to be respectful to one another.”

Republican Senator Rick Scott of South Carolina, where cases are spiking, posted a similar message on Twitter.

“I am encouraging everyone to WEAR YOUR MASKS!” he said.

Throughout the country, resistance to public health measures has taken on a partisan tinge. A Reuters/Ipsos survey conducted in May found that just one-third of Republicans were “very concerned” about the virus, compared to nearly half of Democrats. Trump eschews wearing a mask in public, while his Democratic opponent in November, Joe Biden, generally wears one.

While a number Republican politicians have donned masks themselves, some have shied away from insisting Americans cover their faces in public, saying it was a matter of personal choice.

That began to change as coronavirus cases nationwide soar to record levels day after day, prompting Republican-led states like Texas and Florida to re-impose restrictions, such as closing recently reopened bars.

Vice President Mike Pence encouraged Americans to wear masks during a visit to Texas on Sunday.

Broadway may only reopen next year

New York’s iconic Broadway theater district will stay closed through the end of the year, its trade association said Monday, due to the unpredictability of the coronavirus pandemic, AFP reports. 

The Broadway League did not set a date for performances to resume, but is offering refunds and exchanges for tickets purchased for all shows through 3 January 2021.

The association said plans to safely re-open New York’s most bankable tourist attraction were being developed, including on screening and testing showgoers, along with cleaning and sanitizing protocols.

The Broadway League projected that performances could resume in early 2021 “over a series of rolling dates” to end its longest shutdown in history.