COVID deaths and cases rising again globally
COVID-19 deaths and cases are on the rise again globally in a dispiriting setback that is triggering another round of restrictions and dampening hopes for an almost normal summer of fun.
The World Health Organization reported Wednesday that deaths climbed last week after nine straight weeks of decline. It recorded more than 55,000 lives lost, a 3% increase from the week before.
Cases rose 10% last week to nearly 3 million, with the highest numbers recorded in Brazil, India, Indonesia and Britain, WHO said.
The reversal has been attributed to low vaccination rates, the relaxation of mask rules and other precautions, and the swift spread of the more-contagious delta variant, which WHO said has now been identified in 111 countries and is expected to become globally dominant in the coming months.
Sarah McCool, a professor of public health at Georgia State University, said the combination amounts to a “recipe for a potential tinderbox.”
— Associated Press
South Africans take stand against rioting
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Surveying the uneasy standoff between South African soldiers and huddles of young men faced off Wednesday across the rubble-strewn street in front of Soweto’s Maponya mall, Katlego Motati shook her head sadly.
“I’m standing here against vandals and hooligans,” the 32-year-old said of the weeklong unrest and looting sparked by the imprisonment of ex-President Jacob Zuma, which has left at least 72 people dead.
She was one of scores of residents who came out to stand against the rioting that has rocked poor areas of South Africa.
“When I saw the destruction ... I was in tears, seeing how all this has panned out,” Motati said. “At the end of the day, we will be struggling because of this. Our economy is going to be really damaged.”
South African police and the army grappled to bring order Wednesday to impoverished areas in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu-Natal provinces that have been hit by rioting and theft sparked by Zuma’s imprisonment last week.
Bolsonaro may need surgery after bad hiccups
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has suffered from a 10-day bout of unshakable hiccups, was admitted Wednesday to a hospital where he was being evaluated for possible emergency surgery to clear an intestinal obstruction, his office said.
Bolsonaro, 66, was admitted to the Armed Forces Hospital in Brasilia early in the morning and was “feeling well,” according to an initial statement that said doctors were examining his persistent hiccups.
But hours later, the president’s office said Dr. Antonio Luiz Macedo, the surgeon who operated on Bolsonaro after he was stabbed in the abdomen during the 2018 presidential campaign, decided to transfer him to Sao Paulo, where he will undergo additional tests to evaluate the need for an emergency surgery.
Bolsonaro posted on his official Twitter account a photo of himself lying on a hospital bed, eyes closed, several monitoring sensors stuck to his bare torso.
The 2018 stabbing caused intestinal damage and serious internal bleeding and the president has gone through several surgeries since, some unrelated to the attack.
Italy to ban mammoth cruise ships from Venice
ROME (AP) — Declaring Venice’s waterways a “national monument,” Italy is banning mammoth cruise liners from sailing into the lagoon city, which risked being declared an imperiled world heritage site by the United Nations later this month.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the ban was urgently adopted at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday and will take effect Aug. 1. It applies to the lagoon basin near St. Mark’s Square and the Giudecca Canal, which is a major marine artery in Venice.
Franceschini said the government decided to act fast “to avoid the concrete risk” that the U.N. culture agency UNESCO would add Venice to its list of “world heritage in danger” after it begins meeting later this week in Beijing.
The Cabinet decree also “establishes an unbreakable principle, by declaring the urban waterways of St. Mark’s Basin, St. Mark’s Canal and the Giudecca Canal a national monument,” the minister added.
Before the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed international travel, cruise ships discharging thousands of day-trippers overwhelmed Venice and its delicate marine environment. Environmentalists and cultural heritage have battled for decades with business interests, since the cruise industry is a major source of revenue for the city.
The government’s decision was “awaited by UNESCO and by all those who have been to Venice and who have remained disturbed by the huge size of these ships passing through the most fragile and most beautiful place in the world,” Franceschini told reporters.
UNESCO recommended last month placing Venice on the agency’s list of World Heritage in Danger sites.
There was no immediate comment from the U.N. cultural agency.
The Italian government earlier this year had decided on a ban but without quickly setting a date for it to start.
But now, the government “decided to impose a strong acceleration” to implementing the move given the looming UNESCO review, Franceschini said in a statement.
Another impetus was the startling appearance in early June of a 92,000-ton cruise ship nosing its way down the Giudecca Canal for the first time since the pandemic’s arrival in early 2020 effectively suspended mass tourism in Venice.
The ban applies to ships weighing more than 25,000 tons or longer than 180 meters (530 feet) or with other characteristics that would make them too polluting or overwhelming for Venice’s environment.
Italian Premier Mario Draghi’s office specified that ships that don’t have any of those characteristics and thus “are considered sustainable” to the Venetian environment can continue to dock in Venice. The premier’s office noted that permitted ships generally have about 200 passengers compared to the thousands that huge cruise vessels carry.
With only a few hours of shore time in Venice, the big liners’ passengers tend to clump around classic tourist sites like St. Mark’s Square, adding to the city’s already crowded public spaces.
No cars are allowed in historic Venice, which consists of narrow alleys and many bridges linking passageways. During high tourist season, which occupies a good deal of the year in Venice, navigating as a pedestrian is a daunting challenge.
The Cabinet decree also establishes compensation mechanisms for navigation companies and others affected by the ban. Until a more suitable docking area can be established elsewhere in waters outside the heart of Venice, the government has approved creating at least four temporary docking sites near the industrial port of Marghera, located on the northwestern Adriatic Sea.