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World Roundup: Experts to WHO: Virus airborne

  • Experts to WHO: Virus airborne
  • Bubonic plague: China on alert
Scientists are calling on the World Health Organization to revise recommendations regarding the novel coronavirus, saying there is evidence that the disease is airborne, the New York Times reported Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

The WHO has said the coronavirus disease spreads primarily from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled  

when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks.

But 239 scientists from 32 countries, in an open letter to the agency, which the researchers plan to publish in a scientific journal next week, outlined the evidence showing smaller particles could infect people, the New York Times said.

Whether carried by large droplets that zoom through the air after a sneeze, or by much smaller exhaled droplets that may glide the length of a room, the coronavirus is borne through the air and can infect people when inhaled, the scientists said.

Bubonic plague case

Authorities in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia are on high alert after a suspected case of bubonic plague, the disease that caused the Black Death pandemic, was reported Sunday.

The case was discovered in the city of Bayannur, northwest of the Chinese capital of Beijing, according to state-run Xinhua news agency. A hospital alerted municipal authorities of the patient's case on Saturday.

By Sunday, local authorities had issued a citywide Level 3 warning for plague prevention, the second-lowest in a four-level system. The warning will stay in place until the end of the year.

Victoria sealed off

Australia will effectively seal off the state of Victoria from the rest of the country, authorities said Monday, announcing unprecedented measures to tackle a worrying surge in coronavirus cases.

For the first time since the epidemic began, the border between Australia's two most populous states—Victoria and New South Wales—will be closed overnight Tuesday, officials from both states said.

Home to more than 6.6 million people, Victoria announced a record 127 new cases Monday as the virus spread through Melbourne—including a cluster in several densely populated apartment blocks.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews described the decision to close off the state as "the smart call, the right call at this time, given the significant challenges we face  in containing this virus."

US hospitals overwhelmed

Officials at the epicenter of the worsening coronavirus crisis in the United States warned Sunday (Monday in Manila) their hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed by the upsurge.

The US has struggled to respond to the devastation wrought by the virus, with its national death toll rising to near 130,000 out of 2.8 million confirmed cases, and many states hit by increasing infections after lockdowns were eased.

Hospital beds are full in parts of Texas, while calls for fresh stay-at-home orders are growing.

The US' annual July 4 holiday weekend was overshadowed by growing evidence that its fractured response has exacted a heavy price across the south and west after previous hotspots such as New York emerged from the worst of the virus.

India 3rd hardest hit

India announced Monday it had nearly 700,000 coronavirus cases, taking it past Russia to become the third-hardest-hit nation in the global pandemic.

The health ministry said 697,358 cases had now been recorded, a rise of 24,000 in 24 hours, while Russia has just over 681,000. 

India has registered 19,963 deaths from the virus, a much lower number than many other badly hit countries. 

First Fiji case

Fiji's 78-day run without coronavirus is over, with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama confirming Monday a 66-year-old man tested positive after returning from India.

It is the 19th case in the small South Pacific island nation, and more are now expected.

"We've confirmed a border case of COVID-19 among a returning citizen while he was securely in the confines of government-funded quarantine," Bainimarama said.

All arrivals to Fiji have to undergo 14 days of quarantine. "We don't expect this to be Fiji’s last border quarantine case."

Britain's aid

Britain will spend nearly $2 billion to help theaters, art galleries and other cultural institutions survive the coronavirus crisis, the government has said.

The British arts and culture sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, with live performances still off the cards for now and venues facing an uncertain future under ongoing social distancing measures.

"The money, which represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture, will provide a lifeline to vital cultural and heritage organizations across the country hit hard by the pandemic," said a government statement released Sunday.

The nation's arts and culture sector employ 700,000 people, according to the government statement. 

Topics: World Health Organization , novel coronavirus , Black Death pandemic
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