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No evidence yet recovered Covid patients cannot be reinfected – WHO

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The World Health Organization has said that there was currently “no evidence” that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second coronavirus infection.

In a statement, the United Nations heath agency warned against issuing “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to people who have been infected, saying the practice may actually increase the risk of spread as they may ignore standard advice.

Chile said last week it would begin handing out “health passports” to people deemed to have recovered from the illness.

Once screened to determine if they have developed antibodies to make them immune to the virus, they could immediately rejoin the workforce.

The United Nations launched an international push for a vaccine to defeat the pandemic as the global coronavirus death toll approaches 200,000.

The virus has claimed at least 197,303 lives since its outbreak in China in December, according to a tally from AFP at midday today.

More than 2,821,030 cases have been registered in 193 countries and territories. Of these cases, the United States has the highest number of deaths with 51,949 out of 905,333 cases. Italy is in second place with 25,969 deaths out of 192,994 cases, followed by Spain (22,902 deaths and 223,759 cases), France (22,245 deaths and 159,828 cases) and Britain with 19,506 fatalities and 143,464 cases.

China – excluding Hong Kong and Macau – has to date declared 4,632 deaths and 82,816 cases, just 12 more since Friday.

Europe has a total of 120,140 deaths and 1,344,172 cases. The United States and Canada have 54,278 deaths and 948,872 cases, Asia has 7,830 deaths and 193,796 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean have 7,416 deaths and 149,539 cases, the Middle East has 6,204 deaths and 147,530 cases, Africa has 1,330 deaths and 29,138 cases and Oceania has 105 deaths and 7,991 cases.

The scale of the pandemic has forced medical research on the virus to move at unprecedented speed, but effective treatments are still far away and the United Nations chief said the effort will require cooperation on a global scale.

“We face a global public enemy like no other,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a virtual briefing yesterday, asking for international organisations, world leaders and the private sector to join hands.

“A world free of Covid-19 requires the most massive public health effort in history.”

The vaccine should be safe, affordable and available to all, Mr Guterres stressed at the meeting, which was also attended by the leaders of Germany and France.

But notably absent from the meeting were the leaders of China, where the virus first emerged late last year, and the United States, which has accused the WHO of not warning quickly enough about the original outbreak.

The UN chief’s vaccine appeal came a day after US President Donald Trump prompted outcry and ridicule with his suggestion that disinfectants be used to treat coronavirus patients.

“Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” Mr Trump mused during a televised briefing. “It sounds interesting to me.”

s experts – and disinfectant manufacturers – rushed to caution against any such dangerous experiment, the president tried to walk back his comments, saying he had been speaking “sarcastically.”

The United States is the hardest-hit country by far in the pandemic, recording 51,017 deaths and more than 890,000 infections.

The world’s biggest economy has been hammered by the pandemic, with 26 million jobs lost since the crisis began, and American leaders are under pressure to find ways to ease social distancing measures.

Despite criticism from Mr Trump, the governor of Georgia allowed some businesses, including nail salons and bowling alleys to reopen yesterday, sparking both criticism and relief.

Global Covid-19 deaths have climbed past 195,000, according to an AFP tally, but new reported cases appear to have levelled off at about 80,000 a day.

The daily death toll in Western countries seems to be falling, a sign hopeful epidemiologists had been looking for, but the WHO has warned that other nations are still in the early stages of the fight.

The unprecedented situation has left the world staring at its worst downturn since the Great Depression, and put immense pressure on world leaders to balance public health concerns and economic needs.

Some countries – including parts of Europe – have started loosening restrictions, with Belgium becoming the latest to announce an easing of its lockdown yesterday.

Mecca’s Grand Mosque deserted

Across the Muslim world, hundreds of millions of faithful opened the Ramadan holy month under stay-at-home conditions, facing unprecedented bans on prayers in mosques and on the traditional large gatherings of families and friends to break the daily fast.

In the Islamic holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the Grand Mosque, usually packed with tens of thousands of people during Ramadan, was deserted as religious authorities suspended the year-round Umrah pilgrimage.

“We are used to seeing the holy mosque crowded with people during the day, night, all the time… I feel pain deep inside,” said Ali Mulla, the muezzin who gives the call to prayer at the Grand Mosque.

Despite the coronavirus threat, clerics and conservatives in some countries including Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia – the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation – have pushed back and refused to stop gatherings in mosques.

Sri Lanka announced the lifting of a nationwide curfew after more than five weeks under lockdown despite the number of new coronavirus infections spiking in the past two days.

Police said the curfew will be lifted on Monday but travel restrictions would remain in place in four coastal regions, including the capital Colombo, which accounts for the bulk of the country’s 420 Covid-19 cases.

An entire navy camp was placed under quarantine yesterday after 60 sailors tested positive for the virus, making the base the biggest cluster of infections on the South Asian island.

Peru’s interior minister resigned days after officials said more than 1,000 police officers had been infected with the deadly coronavirus.

Carlos Moran, who is the second minister to quit since the country went into lockdown on 16 March, was replaced by General Gaston Rodriguez of the Peruvian National Police, the presidential office said.

Mr Moran’s reason for quitting has not been officially released.

Out of a total 140,000 police officers, there have been roughly 1,300 confirmed infections and hospitalisations for the virus, officials said this week.

Virus cases on docked Japan cruise ship near 150 

Almost a quarter of the 623 crew members on a cruise ship docked in western Japan have tested positive for the coronavirus, an official said.

The Italy-flagged Costa Atlantica has no passengers aboard and arrived in the southern port of Nagasaki for repairs in January.

Its operator first notified local authorities of suspected virus infections last weekend.

All crew members have now been tested with another 57 testing positive today, raising the number of cases to 148, a local official told reporters.

Some crew have been isolated in cabins but many also have to move around to maintain basic functions, the vessel’s operator has told Japanese officials.

From RTE News.