Coronavirus accelerates across Latin America, India and Russia

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated across Latin America, Russia and the Indian subcontinent even as curves flattened and reopening was under way in much of Europe, Asia and the US.

Many governments say they have to shift their focus to saving jobs that are vanishing as quickly as the virus can spread. In the US and China, the world’s two largest economies, unemployment is soaring.

The US Federal Reserve chairman has estimated that up to one American in four could be jobless, while in China analysts estimate around a third of the urban workforce is unemployed.

But the virus is roaring through countries ill-equipped to handle the pandemic, which many scientists fear will cause a second global wave.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>(PA Graphics)</figcaption>
(PA Graphics)

India saw its biggest single-day spike since the pandemic began, and Pakistan and Russia recorded their highest death tolls.

Most new Indian cases are in Bihar, where thousands returned home from jobs in the cities. For over a month, some had walked among crowds for hundreds of miles.

Latin America’s two most populous nations — Mexico and Brazil — have reported record counts of new cases and deaths almost daily this week, fuelling criticism of their presidents, who have held back from widespread shutdowns in attempts to limit economic damage.

Cases were rising and intensive care units were also swamped in Peru, Chile and Ecuador — countries lauded for imposing early and aggressive business shutdowns and quarantines.

Brazil reported more than 20,000 deaths and 300,000 confirmed cases on Thursday night — the third worst-hit country in the world by official counts. Experts consider both numbers undercounts due to widespread lack of testing.

President Jair Bolsonaro has scoffed at the seriousness of the virus and actively campaigned against state governors’ attempts to limit movement and commerce.

He fired his first health minister for supporting governors. His second minister resigned after openly disagreeing with the president about chloroquine, the predecessor of the anti-malarial often touted by US President Donald Trump as a viable coronavirus treatment.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>The crematorium at San Cristobal Mausoleums in Ecatepec, Mexico (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)</figcaption>
The crematorium at San Cristobal Mausoleums in Ecatepec, Mexico (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador downplayed the threat for weeks as he continued to travel the country after Mexico’s first confirmed case. He insisted that Mexico was different, and its strong family bonds and work ethic would pull it through.

The country is now reporting more than 400 deaths a day, and new infections have not peaked.

Russian health officials registered 150 deaths in 24 hours, for a total of 3,249.

Many outside Russia have suggested the country is manipulating its statistics to show a comparatively low death rate. The total confirmed number of cases exceeded 326,000 on Friday.

China announced it would give local governments two trillion yuan (£230 billion) to help undo the damage from shutdowns imposed to curb the spread of the virus that first appeared in the city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has now infected at least 5.1 million people worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The Bank of Japan said it would provide the same figure in zero-interest, unsecured loans to banks for financing small and medium-size businesses.

European countries have also seen heavy job losses, but robust government safety net programmes in places like Germany and France are subsidising the wages of millions of workers and keeping them on the payroll.