RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – The global death toll from the coronavirus topped 375,000 yesterday as the disease continued to tear through Latin America, but in Europe the return to normality gathered pace with the French heading back to their beloved cafes and restaurants.
Healthcare systems across Latin America risk being overwhelmed by the illness, the World Health Organisation said, as fatalities from the disease in hard-hit Brazil neared 30,000.
The warning from the global health body came as a sister United Nations (UN) agency issued new guidelines for pandemic-hit airlines that reveal what flying might look like when passenger planes take to the skies again in earnest.
The march of the illness across the Americas comes as other parts of the world return to relative normality after weeks of restrictions on daily life that have wrecked economies and left millions jobless.
Schools, swimming pools, and tourist sites have begun to open again in Europe as the continent continues easing lockdowns despite the threat of a second wave of infections. The pandemic has now infected at least 6.2 million since erupting in China in late 2019.
Four of the 10 countries with the greatest number of new coronavirus infections on Monday were in Latin America, WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.
Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico are suffering the highest daily increases, but numbers are also on the rise in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Haiti.
The region has logged one million cases and recorded more than 50,000 deaths, with Brazil accounting for more than half of those cases and close to 60 per cent of the fatalities.
The mayor of Rio de Janeiro said that the popular tourist city started gradually easing lockdown measures yesterday, beginning with the re-opening of places of worship, and water sports.
Mexico began re-opening on Monday, reactivating the automotive industry, mining and construction even as the country recorded more than 10,000 virus deaths.
Ryan warned that the region faces a tough battle in the weeks ahead.
“I don’t believe we have reached the peak in that transmission and, at this point, I cannot predict when we will,” he said.