Mexico has passed the UK as the country with the world’s third highest coronavirus death toll.
Health officials there reported 688 new fatalities on Friday, pushing the total to 46,688. The grim milestone eclipses the 46,119 so far recorded in the United Kingdom, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
It places Mexico behind only Brazil and the United States, which have suffered more than 91,000 and 152,000 deaths respectively, and cements Latin America’s status as one of the pandemic’s epicentres.
Cases in the region have doubled to more than 4.7 million over the past month.
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Colombia, where lockdowns are planned through the end of August, passed the 10,000 death benchmark on Friday, tallying 10,105 fatalities. The Andean country is expected to reach 300,000 total cases over the weekend.
While Britain appears to have put the brakes on the virus, the pandemic shows few signs of slowing in Mexico, which has been trying to restart the economy since late May.
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Rosa Maria del Angel, head of Infectomics and Molecular Pathogenesis at Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute, said: ‘We’re opening when we’re not yet ready to open.’
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who angered some health advocates by refusing to wear a mask in public, said on Friday that Independence Day celebrations in the capital’s massive Zocalo Square are set to go ahead.
The ceremony on September 16 celebrates a historic call to revolt known as ‘El Grito’ will be ‘socially distanced’, Lopez Obrador told his daily morning press conference.
He said that when ‘faced with adversity, with epidemics, with floods, earthquakes, bad governments, we always go out’ to celebrate, adding: ‘Now we’re going to continue going out.’
The president has chastised news outlets for reporting Mexico’s rise up the ranks of the global death tally, saying the toll per capita is a fairer representation.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said on Friday the capital would remain at the second-highest alert phase for reopening economic and social activities, after last week warning of a possible surge in cases by October.
The city could still return to tougher measures, she told reporters, adding: ‘Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.’
Elsewhere, China reported a more than 50% drop in new cases in a possible sign that its latest major outbreak in the northwest region of Xinjiang may be abating.
However, infections continue to surge in Hong Kong with more than 100 new cases on Saturday prompting officials to reimpose restrictions on eating out and mandate the wearing of masks.
In South Korea, the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect linked to more than 5,200 of the country’s 14,336 confirmed cases was arrested on charges of hiding members and failing to disclose gatherings.
Officials in Vietnam said a third person has died of coronavirus complications at a hospital in Danang. Security there has been tightened and checkpoints set up to prevent people entering or leaving amid fears thousands of visitors who came for summer vacation may have spread the virus to Hanoi and elsewhere.
India recorded its steepest spike of 57,118 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking its coronavirus caseload close to 1.7 million, with July alone accounting for nearly 1.1 million infections.
The global pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of this year’s Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, with as few as 1,000 pilgrims already residing in Saudi Arabia taking part, down from 2.5 million last year.
In the US, the imminent arrival of Hurricane Isaias forced the closure of some outdoor testing sites even as Florida reached a new daily high in deaths.
The debate over school reopenings also continues to rage on as the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases Dr Anthony Fauci dismissed a tweet by President Donald Trump attributing the huge number of cases to increased testing.
He said the scale of the outbreak is the result of multiple factors, including some states opening back up too quickly and failing to adhere to federal guidelines.
Deaths in the States rose by more than 25,000 in July.
On Friday, the head of the World Health Organisation predicted the effects of the pandemic will be felt for ‘decades to come’.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: ‘Most of the world’s people remain susceptible to this virus, even in areas that have experienced severe outbreaks.
‘Although vaccine development is happening at record speed, we must learn to live with this virus and we must fight it with the tools that we have.’
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