The number of coronavirus cases worldwide topped six million Sunday, with Brazil registering another record surge in daily infections as divisions deepened on how to deal with the pandemic.
READ: Brazil virus death toll hits 28,834, surpassing hard-hit France
Latin American countries are bracing for difficult weeks ahead as the disease spreads rapidly across the region, even as much of the world exits lockdowns that have wrecked economies and stripped millions of their jobs.
In Brazil—the epicenter of South America’s outbreak with nearly 500,000 confirmed cases, lagging only behind the United States—disagreement among leaders over lockdown measures has hampered efforts to slow the virus as the number of fatalities in the country nears 30,000.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who fears the economic fallout from stay-at-home measures will be worse than the virus, has berated governors and mayors for imposing what he calls “the tyranny of total quarantine.”
Pope: End poverty pandemic
“Everything will be different” after the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said, calling for a fairer society and action to “end the pandemic of poverty in the world.”
Speaking in Spanish in a video message to mark the feast of Pentecost, the pontiff said there was a duty to build a new reality, particularly for the poorest.
READ: Pope ‘begging for alms’ a solidarity call
“Once we emerge from this pandemic, we will not be able to keep doing what we were doing, and as we were doing it. No, everything will be different. From the great trials of humanity—among them this pandemic—one emerges better or worse. You don’t emerge the same.”
“I ask this of you: how do you want to come out of it? Better or worse?” said the 83-year-old Argentinian.
“We are one humanity. We know it, we knew it, but this pandemic that we are living through has made us experience it in a much more dramatic way. All the suffering will be of no use if we do not build together a more just, more equitable, more Christian society, not in name but in reality.”
WHO funding cut hit
As the global death toll from the pandemic surpassed 368,000, US President Donald Trump’s decision to permanently cut funding to the World Health Organization has been broadly criticized.
The number of confirmed cases worldwide is more than six million, according to an AFP tally.
“Now is the time for enhanced cooperation and common solutions,” the European Union said in a statement, adding: “Actions that weaken international results must be avoided.” AFP
Trump initially suspended funding to the WHO last month, accusing it of not doing enough to curb the early spread of the virus and being too lenient with China, where COVID-19 emerged late last year.
On Friday he moved to make that decision permanent in a major blow to the agency. The US is the WHO’s biggest contributor, supplying $400 million last year.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the “disappointing” decision was a setback for global health, while Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to attend an in-person G7 summit that Trump had suggested he would host.
Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet medical journal, said it was “madness and terrifying both at the same time.”
As the virus progresses at different speeds around the globe, there has been pressure in many countries to lift crippling lockdowns, despite experts’ warnings of a possible second wave of infections.
In Britain, which is set to begin lifting its lockdown on Monday, senior advisors to the government warned that it was moving too quickly.
“COVID-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England,” tweeted Jeremy Farrar, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
India said Saturday it would begin relaxing the world’s biggest lockdown in stages from early June, even as it marked another record daily rise in infections.
With infection numbers falling in many of Europe’s most affected countries, the push to restart economies was gaining steam.
Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa reopened on Saturday, while in Paris, parks and the famed Galeries Lafayette department store flung open their doors.
Across the Atlantic, the US capital Washington resumed outdoor dining, while on the West Coast, restaurants and hair salons in Los Angeles reopened.
New York City, the worst-hit American city with about 21,500 coronavirus deaths, is on track to begin reopening the week of June 8.