Covid-19 wrap: Global deaths top 385 000, Senegal eases curfew and Armenia hospitals overwhelmed

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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Coronavirus toll at 11:00 GMT Thursday

Paris – The novel coronavirus has killed at least 385 869 people since the outbreak first emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 11:00 (GMT) on Thursday.

At least 6 522 050 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 2 820 000 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organisation (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries are testing only symptomatic cases or the most serious ones.

The United States is the worst-hit country with 107 175 deaths from 1 851 520 cases. At least 479 258 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Britain with 39 728 deaths from 279 856 cases, Italy with 33 601 deaths from 233 836 cases, Brazil with 32 548 deaths and 584 016 cases and France with 29 021 deaths and 188 674 cases.

 - AFP


Senegal to ease virus curfew after angry protests

Dakar – Senegal said on Thursday it would ease an anti-coronavirus curfew and lift restrictions on inter-city travel following two nights of protests that were marked by violence.

Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye said the start of the 21:00 to 05:00 curfew would be pushed back by two hours, to 23:00.

"From today, transport restrictions across the country are being lifted, with the curfew being maintained from 23:00 to 05:00," he said on state television.

"Gatherings in public or private places, restaurants, gyms, casinos will also benefit from these relaxation measures," he said.

More than 70 people were arrested on Wednesday after demonstrations, focused on the curfew, broke out in several cities.

 - AFPs


Armenia hospitals overwhelmed as virus cases surge

Yerevan – Hospitals in Armenia can no longer cope with the number of coronavirus patients, the country's prime minister warned on Thursday.

Nikol Pashinyan, who has himself tested positive, said there could be as many as 20 000 people infected but showing no symptoms in the country, which has so far registered 11 221 cases and 176 deaths.

The health ministry said an additional 68 patients who tested positive for the virus had died from other illnesses.

Last week, health officials warned that intensive care beds would soon be reserved for patients with the best chance of survival.

"I have got bad news," Pashinyan said in a video statement on his Facebook page. "The epidemiological situation is worsening and medical facilities cannot timely hospitalise all the coronavirus patients who need (medical treatment)."

 - AFP


Cameroon government under fire as virus tally rises

Yaounde – Cameroon's government faces mounting accusations that foot-dragging and incompetence have helped coronavirus gain a deadly grip.

In less than three months, the official case tally has risen to nearly 6 600, including 200 deaths – the third-highest number of infections of any country south of the Sahara.

Cameroon on 5 March became the first central African country to register a case of the virus – a 58-year-old French national who had arrived in the capital Yaounde in February.

But it was not until two weeks later that the authorities set down restrictions for the country's 25 million people.

The opposition has repeatedly criticised what it says is the government's failure to take the threat of Covid-19 seriously, as many other African countries imposed radical containment measures early on.

 - AFP


Amphetamine use soars in locked down Finland - study

Helsinki – Finns may be known for their love of vodka and beer, but growing numbers in the Nordic nation appear to have turned to amphetamines to cope with the coronavirus lockdown, health officials said on Thursday.

Regular analysis of wastewater in the capital, Helsinki, showed a 15% rise in use of such stimulants since the government told people to stay at home in mid-March.

Although researchers could not directly link the spike in drug use to the lockdown, "the fact remains that amphetamine use has been higher than ever before, at least in the Helsinki metropolitan area", said Teemu Gunnar, head of forensic toxicology at the National Institute for Health and Welfare.

Amphetamines can be used to treat medical conditions such as ADHD, but is also taken recreationally, sometimes under the name "speed". Use of amphetamines in the country of 5.5 million people has tripled since 2013, according to wastewater studies, Gunnar said.

 - AFP


US pandemic layoffs pass 42m with 1.87m new weekly claims

Washington – The ranks of US workers laid off at least temporarily by the coronavirus pandemic exceeded 42 million, with 1.87 million new jobless benefit claims filed last week, the Labor Department said.

The number of new claims filed in the week ended 30 May were slightly worse than expected but 249 000 less than the week prior, indicating the unprecedented layoffs were slowing.

"This and other indicators suggest not that the job market is improving but that it's getting bad less quickly," tweeted Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank, noting this week's claims were 2.7 times higher than the previous one-week record.

The insured unemployment rate indicating the number of people actually receiving benefits ticked up half a point to 14.8% the week ended 23 May, with 21.5 million people receiving benefits.

 - AFP


Robot dog hounds Thai shoppers to keep hands virus-free

Bangkok – A scurrying robot dog named K9 dispenses hand sanitiser to curious children and wary shoppers – one of the more unexpected measures Thai malls are taking as the kingdom relaxes virus restrictions.

The hi-tech hound is controlled using 5G, a technology promising super-fast internet speeds with immediate reaction times that is still in the initial stages of rollout in Thailand.

Mimicking an excited puppy, K9 roams around the popular Central World mall in downtown Bangkok, drawing the attention of delighted children eager to get gel from a bottle attached to its back.

"It's convenient for people to wash their hands, just like a preventive measure... especially in this Covid-19 situation," said Petra Saktidejbhanubandh, a marketing officer for mobile operator Advanced Info Services (AIS).

 - AFP


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