As the European Union partially reopens its borders, the WHO warns: “The worst is yet to come”


The European Union, where the Covid-19 pandemic is receding, has reopened its borders to 15 countries, but for WHO the global outlook remains bleak and “the worst is yet to come”.

After days of negotiations, the EU countries decided on Tuesday to open their borders on July 1 to nationals of 15 countries whose epidemiological situation is considered satisfactory, which notably excludes the United States.

Developed by the ambassadors of the European Union countries on Friday, the list of visitors admitted to the EU and the Schengen area, which will be revised every two weeks, includes Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia , Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

It also includes China, but only on condition that it admits visitors from the EU to its soil, which is currently only the case on a limited basis.

The Union has set several criteria for a country to be admitted, including a rate of new Covid-19 cases close to or below 16 per 100,000 inhabitants (EU average) over the last 14 days.

This positive development in Europe should not, however, create any illusions: globally the pandemic, which has just crossed two symbolic thresholds – more than half a million dead and ten million cases – “is far from over” and “accelerates” even, warned Monday the World Health Organization (WHO).

“A divided world”

“We all want all of this to end. We all want to get on with our lives. But the harsh reality is that it is far from over,” warned Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The virus continues to wreak havoc in South America, the United States and seems to be restarting in China, and in a “divided world” and faced with “a lack of national unity and global solidarity (…) the worst is coming, “he warned.

WHO will send a team “next week” to China, where this coronavirus appeared in December, to determine its origin and better understand it.

According to a count made by AFP 505,652 deaths and 10.3 million cases were officially recorded Monday evening.

The number of deaths worldwide has doubled in just under two months (250,000 on May 5) and an additional 50,000 deaths have been recorded in the past ten days.

In the United Kingdom, the government announced Monday evening the reconfiguration of Leicester and its agglomeration, more than 600,000 inhabitants, due to an outbreak of cases in this city in the center of England, the first to be imposed local restrictions.

The shock was severe for the city, which was preparing like the rest of England to reopen pubs, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressing salons on Saturday. Instead, non-essential stores had to lower their curtains on Tuesday and most schools will close on Thursday.

New deal

Will Horspool, a 35-year-old resident of the city, was impatient to return to a semblance of normalcy this weekend. “I wanted to drink a beer in a local pub”. Alas, he had to cancel and plans to go to a cafe in a nearby town, spared the new measures. “It is against freedoms,” he said.

In Britain, where the disease has killed 43,575 people and whose GDP is expected to shrink by more than 10% this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised an “infrastructure revolution” inspired by the American “New Deal” to revive a economy hit hard by the pandemic.

“It sounds like a New Deal (…) because that is what the times demanded: a strong and determined government that puts its protective arms around the people in times of crisis,” he said in reference to the so-called “New Deal” policy of Franklin D. Roosevelt which had made it possible to revive the American economy through demand and state intervention after the Great Depression of the 1930s.

It will inject five billion pounds (5.4 billion euros) into infrastructure projects summarized by the slogan “Build, build, build”.

The United States is the country most affected, both in number of deaths (126,141) and cases (2,590,582). Although the number of daily deaths decreased slightly in June compared to the previous month, the contagion is increasing in 30 of the 50 states, particularly in the largest and most populous (California, Texas, Florida).

“Build, build, build”

Closed since March, the famous Broadway theaters in New York will not reopen until January 2021.

Cradle of the pandemic in Wuhan, in the center of the country, China believed to have finished with the virus but it reappeared in mid-June in Beijing, to the point that the authorities closed schools and placed in confinement several thousand of people.

Beijing has given the green light to use a vaccine designed by a military research institute and the pharmaceutical company CanSinoBIO on soldiers from the country.

Scientists from Chinese universities on Monday published a study in a US scientific journal describing a strain of swine flu virus found in China, which has the characteristics capable of causing a future pandemic.

The viruses are called G4 and are genetically descended from the H1N1 strain, which caused a pandemic in 2009: they “possess all the essential traits showing high adaptability for infecting humans”, write the authors.

The pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on industry giants and airlines. The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is expected to announce Tuesday afternoon a plan to cut jobs in the order of 15,000 jobs, while the company Air France is expected to cut more than 7,500 jobs by the end of 2022.

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