US health expert warns virus still has ‘a long way to run’
A public health expert says the new coronavirus still “has a long way to run” despite President Donald Trump’s claim last week that it will go away without a vaccine.
Dr. Tom Inglesby says it’s likely that only a small portion of the United States has been infected, “so most of us are still susceptible to this virus.” Inglesby is the director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
He says the nation does not have sufficient testing or tracing the contacts of people who do test positive for what he described as a “really nasty virus.” Inglesby says the danger is that as businesses reopen and Americans start to resume normal activities “with increased social interaction, we will again see increased transmission and rising number of cases.”
Reacting to Trump’s assertion that the virus simply will disappear, Inglesby says, “No, this virus isn’t going to go away. Hopefully, over time, we’ll learn to live with it and we’ll be able to reduce the risk of transmission. But it’s going to stay as a background problem in the country and around the world until we have a vaccine.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday said the jobless numbers in the United States “are probably going to get worse before they get better,” but the bigger risk to the country is keeping businesses closed rather than states allowing some to reopen.
Mnuchin spoke as most states are beginning to loosen their restrictions on businesses after extended shutdowns designed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. He said that if re-openings are not allowed, it would have permanent economic damage to the American public.
Another 3.2 million U.S. workers applied for jobless benefits last week, bringing the total over the past seven weeks to 33.5 million.
Mnuchin says that increased testing and the prospect of better treatments will give businesses and workers the confidence to reopen in a careful way. He says, “you are going to have a very, very bad second quarter. And then I think you’re going to see a bounce-back from a low standpoint.”
Meanwhile, new clusters of coronavirus infections overseas are igniting concerns about a second wave even as calls grow in some countries to relax restrictions even further.
In Germany, where thousands have protested remaining restrictions, health officials say the number of people each confirmed coronavirus patient infects rose above 1 again, reflecting a renewed increase in cases. The number must be below 1 for outbreaks to decline.
Health officials worldwide are watching to see just how much infection rates rise in a second wave as nations and states emerge from varying degrees of lockdown.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a modest easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown Sunday and outlined his government’s road map for further lifting restrictions in the coming months.
In a televised address to the nation, Johnson said people in Britain who can’t work from home, such as those in construction or manufacturing jobs, “should be actively encouraged to go to work” this week.
He said that starting Wednesday, a restriction limiting outdoor exercise to once a day will be lifted and that people will be able to take “unlimited amounts.”
The prime minister, who spent a week in the hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19, stressed that social distancing guidelines still will have to be observed and said it would be “madness” to allow a second spike in infections.
Johnson also laid out a “conditional plan” for relaxing other lockdown restrictions in the coming months, including the possible return to school for some younger children on June 1. He said he hoped some of the hospitality industry can reopen a month later.
China reported 14 new cases Sunday, its first double-digit rise in 10 days. Eleven of 12 domestic infections were in the northeastern province of Jilin, which prompted authorities to raise the threat level in one of its counties, Shulan, to high risk, just days after downgrading all regions to low risk.
Authorities said the Shulan outbreak originated with a 45-year-old woman who had no recent travel or exposure history but spread it to her husband, her three sisters and other family members. Train services in the county were being suspended.
“Epidemic control and prevention is a serious and complicated matter, and local authorities should never be overly optimistic, war-weary or off-guard,” said Jilin Communist Party secretary Bayin Chaolu.
South Korea reported 34 more cases as new infections linked to nightclubs threaten the country’s hard-won gains against the virus. It was the first time that South Korea’s daily infections were above 30 in about a month.
The head of Egypt’s Doctors’ Union has called for a full lockdown across the country to help fight the pandemic. It comes amid a spike in infections in the Arab World’s most populous country.
Dr. Hussein Khairy told local media Sunday that he sent a letter to Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly last week urging for the proposed lockdown to last for two weeks or until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
He argued that the lockdown would deal a “swift and massive blow” to the virus and “flatten” the curve of infections.
Egypt has halted international air travel and shuttered schools, universities, mosques, churches and archaeological sites, including the famed Giza pyramids. A curfew is in place from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The partial lockdown is to continue until the end of Ramadan.
The country of 100 million people has experienced a surge in infections in the past couple of days.
A nun waits for Pope Francis to deliver his blessing Sunday from his window overlooking an empty St. Peter’s Square. The pope is calling on leaders of European Union nations to work together on the social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
People practice social distancing while paddle boarding Sunday in Humber Bay on Lake Ontario in Toronto.