COVID-19 outbreaks surge in Central, South America

Countries in Central and South America are the most intense COVID-19 transmission zones, driven by complex factors such as crowded urban settings, and concerns are rising about the pandemic's impact on the treatment of noncommunicable diseases, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said today.

The global total today climbed to 6,229,408 cases, and at least 373,973 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

Cases still climbing in Latin America

At a media briefing today, Mike Ryan, MD, who heads the WHO's health emergencies program, said over the past 24 hours, 5 of the 10 countries reporting the highest numbers of new cases are in the Americas: Brazil, the United States, Peru, Chile, and Mexico.

Countries seeing the biggest increases include Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Haiti, Mexico, Argentina, and Bolivia. Though not all the countries are reporting exponential spread, progressive increases have left health officials working hard to understand the scale of the outbreaks and are putting country health systems under pressure.

COVID-19 levels haven't reached their peak in Central and South American countries, which are in different situations with complex challenges, with some facing the challenge with a science-based whole-of-government approach, while some are struggling. "They need our support. They need our solidarity," Ryan said.

Elsewhere, some countries in South Asia and Africa are still facing difficult outbreaks, but their situations are stable, he added.

Guidance on noncommunicable disease, mass gathering

In another development today, the WHO recently surveyed countries to gauge the impact of the pandemic on the delivery of noncommunicable disease medical services. Of 155 countries that responded, more than half reported partial or complete disruption of care for people with hypertension and half reported disruptions of care of diabetes and its complications. For cancer cases, 42% of countries report disruptions, and for cardiovascular emergencies, 31% report disruptions.

At today's media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said the pandemic has forced countries to make difficult choices about suspending some health services. To help maintain essential health services, the WHO today issued guidance on best practices for maintaining essential health services.

Also today, as countries begin easing their restrictions and mulling resuming mass gatherings such as soccer competitions, car racing, and religious events, the WHO today issued updated guidance to help countries assess their risk and decide how to proceed. At today's briefing, Tedros said during the pandemic, officials have seen that mass gatherings could act as super-spreading events. "While we all want sporting events to restart, we want to make sure that it is done as safely as possible," he said.

Brazil infections top 500,000

Brazil's COVID-19 cases recently topped 500,000, and yesterday the country reported nearly 30,000 new cases; the county now has nearly 30,000 deaths, the fourth highest in the world.

Though Brazil's state governments have been grappling with the virus, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to downplay the threat.

Over the weekend, media reports said the United States sent Brazil 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug Bolsonaro has touted, though there is no evidence that the treatment is useful for COVID-19, and some reports say that it can cause cardiac complications in some patients. Some countries have paused clinical trials to assess reports of the drug's side effects.

India reports record cases

In India, health officials reported a record high daily total of 8,392 cases, CNN reported. Maharashtra, which includes the cities Mumbai, Pune, and Nagpur, is the country's hardest-hit state. India has now passed France's total and has the world's seventh-highest number of cases.  According to a separate CNN report, New Delhi will close its borders next week to slow the spread of the virus.

As in several European countries, June 1 marked the easing of lockdowns in Moscow, Russia's main hot spot, Reuters reported. After a 9-week stay-at-home order, people are allowed to leave their homes, and some shops are reopening. The country is still reporting thousands of cases a day, but health officials say the country's outbreak has stabilized.

In another Russian development, the country is allowing the antiviral drug favipiravir to be used to treat COVID-19, and patients are set to start receiving it next week, Reuters reported. A health official said the company that produces the drug will make enough to treat 60,000 people a month. So far, clinical trials haven't shown clear evidence that it or other existing antivirals are useful for treating COVID-19.

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