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Slowing the coronavirus is speeding the spread of other diseases

As poor countries around the world struggle to beat back the coronavirus, they are unintentionally contributing to fresh explosions of illness and death from other diseases — ones that are readily prevented by vaccines.

This spring, after the World Health Organization and UNICEF warned that the pandemic could spread swiftly when children gathered for shots, many countries suspended their inoculation programs. Even in countries that tried to keep them going, cargo flights with vaccine supplies were halted by the pandemic and health workers diverted to fight it.

Now, diphtheria is appearing in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

Cholera is in South Sudan, Cameroon, Mozambique, Yemen, and Bangladesh.

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A mutated strain of poliovirus has been reported in more than 30 countries.

And measles is flaring around the globe, including in Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Nigeria, and Uzbekistan.

Of 29 countries that have suspended measles campaigns because of the pandemic, 18 are reporting outbreaks. An additional 13 countries are considering postponement. According to the Measles and Rubella Initiative, 178 million people are at risk of missing measles shots in 2020.

The risk now is “an epidemic in a few months’ time that will kill more children than COVID,” said Chibuzo Okonta, president of Doctors Without Borders in West and Central Africa.

As the pandemic lingers, the WHO and other international public health groups are now urging countries to carefully resume vaccination while contending with the coronavirus.

At stake is the future of a hard-fought, 20-year collaboration that has prevented 35 million deaths in 98 countries from vaccine-preventable diseases, and reduced mortality from them in children by 44 percent, according to a 2019 study by the Vaccine Impact Modeling Consortium, a group of public health scholars.

“Immunization is one of the most powerful and fundamental disease prevention tools in the history of public health,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, in a statement. “Disruption to immunization programs from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.”

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New York Times

Europe opens many borders but not to Americans, Asians

BERLIN — Europe is taking a big step toward a new normality as many countries open borders to fellow Europeans after three months of coronavirus lockdowns — but even though Europeans love their summer vacations, it’s not clear how many are ready to travel again.

Tourists from the United States, Asia, Latin America, and the Mideast will just have to wait, for now.

The European Union home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, told member nations last week that they “should open up as soon as possible’’ and suggested Monday was a good date.

Many countries are doing just that, allowing travel from the EU, Britain, and the rest of Europe’s usually passport-free Schengen travel area, which includes non-EU countries like Switzerland.

Europe’s reopening won’t be a repeat of the chaotic free-for-all in March when panicked, uncoordinated border closures caused traffic jams that stretched for miles. Still, it’s a complicated, shifting patchwork of different rules. And although tourist regions are desperately counting on them, a lot of Europeans may decide to stay close to home this summer.

That’s something tourism-dependent Mediterranean countries such as Greece are keen to avoid. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged Saturday that “a lot will depend on whether people feel comfortable to travel and whether we can project Greece as a safe destination.”

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Greece has emphasized its handling of its outbreak, which saw only 183 deaths. Overall, Europe has seen more than 182,000 virus-linked deaths this year, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that also shows Europe has had 2.04 million of the world’s 7.8 million infections.

Associated Press

Spike in deaths in Darfur points to virus’s spread

CAIRO — In the sprawling camps for the displaced of Darfur, the war-scarred western region of Sudan, officials say the elderly are falling sick and dying at astonishing rates.

In North Darfur’s provincial capital of El Fasher, some say they scroll through a dozen death announcements each day: another old friend, relative, community leader lost with dizzying speed.

Doctors in the region’s few functioning hospitals report an influx of patients with symptoms like a lost sense of taste, breathing troubles, and fevers. The official causes of their untimely deaths remain “unknown.”

Humanitarian workers and medical personnel believe the coronavirus is spreading unchecked and untracked through Sudan’s most marginalized territory, where medical facilities are few and far between and where years of conflict have left some 1.6 million people crammed into camps.

Nationwide, Sudan has reported 6,879 coronavirus infections and 433 deaths, according to the Health Ministry. Of those, 193 cases and 54 fatalities have been confirmed across Darfur — a figure specialists believe is a vast undercount.

Associated Press

China, S. Korea, Egypt report rise in cases as curbs ease

BEIJING — China reported its highest daily total of new coronavirus cases in two months on Sunday and infections in South Korea rose, showing how the disease can come back as curbs on business and travel are lifted.

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Elsewhere, governments including Egypt, Ukraine, and North Macedonia have reported their highest single-day totals of new infections since Friday.

The world is seeing more than 100,000 newly confirmed cases every day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

China had 57 new confirmed cases in the 24 hours through midnight Saturday, the National Health Commission reported. That was the highest since mid-April and included 36 in the capital, Beijing, a city of 20 million people.

Associated Press

In Peru, thousands of faces at Mass — none now alive

LIMA — Archbishop Carlos Castillo on Sunday looked out over a cathedral full of faces — none of them now alive.

The cleric had his church filled with more than 5,000 portraits of those who have died in the pandemic that is burning across Peru and South America as a whole, using his broadcast homily to criticize a health system he said “is based on egotism and on business and not on mercy and solidarity with the people.”

COVID-19 has taken at least 6,400 lives in the nation of some 32 million people — a toll second only to that of Brazil within South America

Hundreds of them have died without receiving help from the health system, and many families have faced financial ruin due to the cost of trying to care for the ill. The nation as a whole faces a projected economic contraction of 12 percent this year, and Castillo called for solidarity with the poor.

“An even harder moment is coming,’’ he said. “It would be terrible if in the times to come we have thousands of these photos — but dead of hunger.”

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Church workers spent days filling the pews with images of coronavirus victims, and when the 84 pews were filled, the archbishop ordered thousands of photos more attached to the base of the columns that rise to the arched ceiling.

There were images of doctors, police, firemen, and street sweepers, even an infant. Some hugged their grandchildren. A woman danced with her son.

Associated Press