As the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide looked set to pass a million within days, Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade for the first time in a century because of Brazil’s continued vulnerability in the pandemic.
The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.
Earlier in the week, death toll in the United States, which has suffered more coronavirus-related deaths than any other country, passed 200,000. The number of cases is nearing 7m.
Brazil, which has the second-worst death toll worldwide with 139,000, and the third-most cases, with 4.6m, cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event.
Rio’s authorities are yet to announce a decision about the carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to the Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it was uncertain when large public events could resume.
Brazil’s first case was confirmed on 26 February, one day after this year’s carnival ended. As the number of infections grew, the samba schools that participate in the glitzy annual parade halted preparations for the 2021 event. Thursday’s announcement removed the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the city, one of worst hit in Brazil.
In Europe, the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, the European Union warned, as governments reimpose drastic measures.
New infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”. The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.
Israel, which a week ago became the first country to re-enter a strict national lockdown, further toughened its measures on Thursday after existing restrictions failed to bring down the infection rate. The country has 212,115 cases out of a population of just under 9 million: roughly equivalent to one case per 23 people.
The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.
Other key developments include:
France set a new record for daily new cases. Health authorities reported 16,096 new confirmed cases on Thursday, a significant increase on the previous record of 13,498 and setting a fourth all-time high of daily additional infections in eight days.
The virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus had made it more lethal or changed its effects.
Victoria, Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, on Friday reported eight deaths in the past 24 hours and 14 new infections as the state looks set to ease restrictions over the weekend. The two-week average of new infections in Melbourne dropped below 26, well below the 30-50 level which the state has set as a precondition to relax its strict curbs.