LONDON: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in central London yesterday to make make a statement to MPs in Parliament on the COVID-19 pandemic. The British government will announce fresh steps to try and stop a coronavirus surge in England, while the United States was on the verge of 200,000 Covid-19 deaths. - AFP

LONDON: The British government will announce fresh steps today to try and stop a coronavirus surge in England, while the United States was on the verge of 200,000 Covid-19 deaths. The pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down -- more than 31.2 million infections have been detected worldwide, with 964,000 deaths -- and nations are scrambling to contain new outbreaks. The ramped-up response in Britain follows warnings that the country could see up to 50,000 cases a day by mid-October, and a month later exceed 200 deaths every day.

France and Spain are battling similar surges. "If we don't do enough, the virus will take off and at the moment that is the path that we are clearly on," said Chris Whitty, the British government's chief medical officer. "And if we do not change course, then we are going to find ourselves in a very difficult problem."

Under new rules to come into force on Thursday, English pubs, bars and other hospitality venues will be required to close at 10 pm. Food and drink outlets will also be restricted to table service only. Many nations in Europe were easing restrictions after largely overcoming initial outbreaks, but the resurgence of the virus has forced them to tighten curbs again.

In the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Andrej Babis admitted Monday that the government had loosened restrictions too quickly. "Even I got carried away by the coming summer and the general mood," he said. "That was a mistake I don't want to make again."

'Lies and incompetence'
The number of deaths in the United States was close to 200,000 yesterday, with infections in the worst-hit nation in the world approaching seven million.
Overall, the US accounts for four percent of the world's population and 20 percent of its coronavirus deaths. President Donald Trump has faced intense criticism of his handling of the crisis ahead of the November election.

"Due to Donald Trump's lies and incompetence in the past six months, (we) have seen one of the gravest losses of American life in history," his Democratic rival Joe Biden charged on Monday. "With this crisis, a real crisis, a crisis that required serious presidential leadership, he just wasn't up to it. He froze. He failed to act. He panicked. And America has paid the worst price of any nation in the world."
Trump insisted Monday that the United States was "rounding the corner with or without a vaccine".

But US Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell will warn Tuesday in testimony before a Congressional committee that a full recovery in the world's biggest economy "is likely to come only when people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities", according to prepared remarks.

'I'll never return'
A vaccine is considered crucial to ending the pandemic -- with multiple development efforts underway around the world -- but there are concerns that the poorest nations may not be able to access it. More than 60 wealthy nations -- but not China and the United States -- have joined a programmed backed by the World Health Organization to facilitate poor countries' access to vaccines, according to a list published Monday.

Until one is available, the options for treatment available to the less privileged are limited. In Mexico, where more than 73,000 people have died, many are choosing to stay at home when they fall ill instead of seeking treatment at creaking public hospitals. Jessica Castillo in Hidalgo state said she suffered for a week at home, and even had suicidal thoughts. "I felt that the air I was breathing wasn't entering my lungs," said 43-year-old pastry chef, whose coronavirus recovery took more than a month. "But I said: 'If I go to hospital, I'll never return'." - AFP