As New Zealand looks to life after lockdown and Australia’s efforts to tackle coronavirus also appear to be working, there’s concern that new hotspots have broken out in India and China.
Now the World Health Organisation chief Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned:
Trust us… The worst is yet ahead of us.’’
He added during a press conference from Geneva on Tuesday morning: “Let’s prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand.”
WHO did not specify why experts believe the world has not reached the peak of the virus that by Tuesday morning had infected millions and killed 168,906 people.
Dr Tedros and others, however, have previously pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed.
WHO also said that early results from global sero-epidemiologic surveys – which monitor levels of immunity within a community – suggest that a relatively small percentage of the population may have been infected.
WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19 Maria van Kerkhove urged vigilance, saying a large proportion of the population who hadn’t been infected remained susceptible.
“So that means that the virus can take off again,” she said.
“And so we need to ensure that the measures that are put in place (to transition out of lockdown) are done carefully.”
It comes as some nations start to slightly ease tough lockdown restrictions as countries register a decline in virus cases.
So far 71 Australians have died, with 4200 of the 6619 who have caught the coronavirus have now recovered.
But the WHO’s advice points to a need not to celebrate a win – just yet.
China hits back
Meanwhile, China has reacted to questions from the Morrison government over its handling of virus information.
The ABC reports that China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Australian Foreign Minister Payne’s remarks “are not based on facts”.
“China is seriously concerned about and firmly opposed to this,” he reportedly said.
“Any doubt about China’s transparency is not only inconsistent with the facts, but also disrespectful of the tremendous efforts and sacrifices of the Chinese people.”
The comments were in response to Senator Payne saying her concerns over “transparency” had reached “high point”, as she backed calls for an investigation into China and WHO.
Good signs, but concerns for nursing homes
Queensland and Western Australia had no new cases on Monday, while South Australia has reported a third consecutive day with no new infections.
NSW health authorities are turning their focus to stopping the spread of COVID-19 cases linked to a western Sydney nursing home, where 41 people have become infected.
Newmarch House is home to about 100 people, with 27 residents and 14 staff infected with coronavirus as of Sunday night and strict isolation protocols in place.
But with just six new cases reported in NSW on Monday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has expressed her satisfaction with the low rate of infection across the community.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in NSW on Monday was 2963, with 22 people in intensive care.
Randwick City Council has reopened its beaches – stretching from Clovelly to Yarra Bay – for those exercising on the sand or in the water so long as they obey social-distancing measures.
In Victoria, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said residents had helped prevent a major disaster.
“Without the physical distancing measures that have been in place … we would have gotten to 58,000 infections per day at the peak,” Professor Sutton said on Monday.
“In terms of deaths, it would have gotten to 650 deaths per day at the peak. So not dissimilar to what’s being seen across Europe at the moment in a number of countries.”
Just one new case of coronavirus was confirmed in Victoria on Monday, but Professor Sutton said if restrictions were lifted now the infectious rate could top 8420 cases in three weeks.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the national cabinet of state and federal leaders will discuss on Tuesday some of the prerequisites for relaxing any of the rules in place.
Mr Andrews argued the decreased infectious rate was an indication the strategy to suppress the virus is working.
Overseas, easing of lockdowns sees case numbers rise
India recorded its biggest single-day spike in new cases as the government eased its strict lockdown to allow some manufacturing and agricultural activity to resume.
An additional 1553 cases were reported over 24 hours, raising the national total past 17,000.
At least 543 people have died from COVID-19 and epidemiologists forecast the peak may not be reached before June.
In Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra and home to Asia’s largest slum, city authorities were planning to administer hydroxycloroquine to thousands of slum dwellers over 14 days to gauge if the drug helped to slow the spread of the disease in a place where social distancing norms cannot be achieved.
China’s health authority is now aiming for a stronger and more rigorous testing regime to ensure new cases do not escape detection, whether in travellers arriving from abroad or from other parts of the country.
The origin of the outbreak reported 12 new confirmed cases on April 19, the lowest since March 13.
The new cases have been driven by an influx of Chinese nationals coming home from abroad, particularly in Heilongjiang, which has experienced a surge in citizens returning from Russia.
New Zealand has started to relax its strict lockdown, to allow some business activity to resume, having reduced infection rates to almost zero.
Pressure is mounting in the US to also reopen the economy, although some state leaders say inadequate federal action, like a lack of testing supplies, is hindering their response to the illness.
The death toll in the US, the worst-hit country by far, was more than 40,000 with more than 750,000 confirmed infections.