Global COVID-19 infections yesterday surpassed 5 million as the pandemic played out unevenly across the planet, with China eager to declare a victory, Europe tentatively emerging from its shell and deaths still rising in hot spots in Latin America.
The grim milestone is still only a fraction of the true number of infections from a coronavirus that has claimed more than 328,000 lives in its whirl around the globe.
While many hard-hit European nations have significantly curbed the rise of cases, Latin America has been in the grip of an infection surge. Brazil is leading the pack, logging the third-highest number of cases in the world after the US and Russia. Peru, Mexico and Chile have also seen increases in infections.
Photo: AFP / Warning: Excessive consumption of alcohol can damage your health.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is determined to project a success story over the pandemic that started in his nation late last year.
Although China has faced criticism of its initial handling of the pandemic, the nation has since brought domestic cases down to a trickle and kept deaths far lower than in the worst-hit nations, according to its official figures.
In a new sign of normalization, China yesterday opened its biggest political event of the year — the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
The gathering would be a chance for Beijing to reaffirm its narrative of beating the coronavirus, and coming to the aid of other nations with masks and other medical shipments, analysts said.
It “will likely be an occasion for Xi Jinping to declare complete victory in the ‘people’s war’ over the virus,” University of Toronto political science professor Diana Fu said.
While a full return to normal life would be pegged to the development of a treatment or vaccine, many nations are testing ways to live with the dangers in the meantime.
In Spain, which is emerging from one of the world’s toughest lockdowns, masks have been made mandatory for anyone aged six and older in public where social distancing is not possible.
In the center of Madrid yesterday almost everyone on the street was wearing a mask.
“It gives me a sense of security,” Cristina Quevedo Jorquera, a 47-year-old teacher, said of the mask requirement. “There will be contagion even with a mask, but without a mask it’s like jumping into a pool without knowing how to swim.”
Elsewhere, India said that domestic air travel would resume on Monday next week, while people in New Zealand were finally able to go back to the pub.
“I’d normally never drink beer at lunchtime, but it’s good, it feels kind of like back to normal, you know,” said Jim Hall, a 70-year-old who popped inside a pub for a midday refresher.
“We’ve done the hard yards and this is the reward,” he said between sips of stout.
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