International Covid-19 news: Virus hits the young harder in Brazil, No kissing allowed at Sri Lankan weddings

2020-05-22 19:58
(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

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More young people are dying of Covid-19 in Brazil than other countries, a trend driven partly by demographics - the overall population is younger - but also by poverty and the need to work, AFP reports.

The South American giant of 210 million people is the latest flashpoint in the coronavirus pandemic, rapidly rising to third this week on the list of countries with the most infections.

With more than 310 000 cases, it lags behind only the US and Russia.

Brazil's death toll meanwhile surged past 20 000 Thursday.

A closer look at the data raises questions about the widely held idea that Covid-19 is mainly dangerous for the elderly.

Of Brazil's victims, 69% were aged 60 or older, compared with 95% in Spain and Italy, according to official statistics.

The disparity is partly driven by the age of the overall populace: Just 13.6% of Brazil's population is 60 or older, compared to 25% in Spain and 28% in Italy.

But demographics do not tell the whole story.

"Since Brazil has a younger population, it's normal for the number of cases to be higher among under-60s. But it's also because young adults are observing stay-at-home measures less," said Mauro Sanchez, an epidemiologist at the University of Brasilia.

"Young (Brazilians) aren't responding to the virus differently. It's because they're more exposed," he told AFP.

"What's perverse is that a lot of the people who are exposing themselves to the virus are doing it because they don't have a choice."

The phenomenon has become more pronounced as the pandemic progresses here.

In early April, 19% of Covid-19 deaths in Brazil were among under-60s. This week, that figure rose to 31%.

Studies based on cell phone location data indicate Brazilians are observing stay-at-home measures less and less.

Some experts pin the blame for that on disjointed government policies: Stay-at-home measures are decided at the state and local level, but at the federal level, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro regularly rails against them.

Bolsonaro, who has famously compared the coronavirus to a "little flu," says business closures are needlessly hurting the economy, which is facing a deep recession this year.

He has urged Brazilians to get back to work.

Oil and gas sites hit by coronavirus in Russia and Kazakhstan

AFP reports that coronavirus outbreaks have swept through several oil, gas and mining sites in Russia and Kazakhstan, where major international firms from Total to Chevron and local giants like Gazprom are operating.

Thousands have been infected at several sites and at least two have died, as operators scramble to contain the disease's deadly spread.

Workers live in crowded conditions, ideal for the spread of the virus, and many of the sites are remote -- some reachable only by air.

Here is what we know about the outbreaks at several of the sites, the region's new virus hotbeds.

Two of the sites with major outbreaks are run by Russia's second largest natural gas company, Novatek.

Belokamenka in the Arctic Murmansk region is a construction site where more than 10,000 workers are building a shipyard for LNG production facilities.

Russian authorities say 2 259 coronavirus cases have been identified there, while the entire Murmansk region has only 575 other cases.

Seven people have died in the region, including a woman who was working at the construction site.

On the Yamal Peninsula in the Siberian Arctic, 1 335 out of 1 989 confirmed cases have been people infected at numerous oil and gas extraction sites, according to authorities.

The Chayanda gas deposit in Yakutia is operated by state-owned gas giant Gazprom. After nearly 10 000 people working there were tested, about a third turned out to be infected, officials said in early May.

A giant mine owned by Russia's largest gold producer, Polyus, is also badly hit by the virus. One worker has died from the illness and almost 1 200 cases have been confirmed.

In Russia's neighbour Kazakhstan, nearly a thousand cases out of the national total of 7 957 have been at the country's main oilfield Tengiz.

You can now say 'I do' in Sri Lanka - but no kissing the bride

Sri Lanka lifted a ban on Friday on wedding receptions as part of an easing of coronavirus restrictions, but grooms may not kiss the bride - at least in public, reports AFP. 

The country's well-heeled usually hold wedding celebrations with thousands of guests, and the festivities can last for days with much eating, drinking, dancing and singing.

But under the new guidelines there should be no more than 100 guests, all of whom must stay a metre apart and wear masks - including the happy couple.

"Guests should not be allowed to kiss, hug or shake hands," said the latest health ministry rules seen by AFP. "Greeting each other should be done without any touching."

Sri Lanka imposed a nationwide curfew on 20 March that ruled out gatherings of any sort, but the restrictions have been eased in many districts that are not considered high-risk.

Sri Lanka has reported 1 055 virus infections with nine deaths. 

Video game industry sees a boom in the US

Spending on video games in the US jumped to a new April record as locked-down consumers sought refuge in play, AFP reports.

A total of $1.5 billion was spent on video game hardware, software, accessories and game cards, eclipsing a previous April high of $1.2 billion spent in the US in 2008, according to NPD analyst Mat Piscatella.

April was the first full month of tight restrictions on people's movements in the US to prevent the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus.

Sales of video game software alone climbed 55% to $662 million, a new record high for the month, according to NPD.

Final Fantasy VII: Remake was the top-selling game during the month, setting a new sales record for the blockbuster vide game franchise, Piscatella's analysis showed.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare continued to be a hot seller, being the second most purchased title during April, followed by Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Animal Crossing has been the best-selling game for Nintendo Switch consoles during the past year, according to NPD.

US spending on video game hardware more than doubled to $420 million, the highest April total since 2008 and despite the fact that new PlayStation and Xbox consoles are due for release later this year.

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