The top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Thursday it is uncertain whether the threat of the coronavirus sweeping the world will fade as the weather turns warmer in the Northern Hemisphere in the coming weeks.
Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that with other infections like influenza, when the weather gets warmer “the virus goes down in its ability to replicate, to spread.”
He added, “Having said that, one should not assume that we are going to be rescued by a change in the weather. You must assume that the virus will continue to do its thing. If we get some help from the weather, so be it, fine. But I don’t think we need to assume that.”
The world’s nations continue to struggle with the health and economic fallout from the coronavirus. By the latest count, more than 1.5 million people across the globe have contracted COVID-19, and more than 90,000 have died.
In the United States, the government’s Labor Department reported that another 6.6 million workers filed for unemployment compensation last week, as companies and businesses shut or limit their operations. That pushed the three-week total to nearly 17 million workers laid off, about a 10th of the country’s workforce.
In Europe, officials told people to stay at home during the Christian world’s Holy Week, normally a time for pilgrimages and vacations.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands could temporarily close its border crossings with Germany and Belgium over the Easter weekend if there is too much traffic.
In Spain, where 15,000 have died from COVID-19, officials have made extra calls on citizens to remain at home rather than heading to the countryside for centuries-old religious processions.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “cautious optimism” about curtailing the spread of coronavirus in her country but described the situation as “fragile.”
Germany has imposed shutdowns on many businesses through April 19.
“We must keep this up over Easter and the days afterward, because we could very, very quickly destroy what we have achieved,” Merkel said.
Britain said Prime Minister Boris Johnson “continues to improve” at a London hospital where he is being treated for COVID-19. He now has been moved out of the intensive care unit, where he had been receiving oxygen but was not on a ventilator.
In Uganda, four government officials were arrested over allegations of inflating prices of relief food. The presidency’s anti-corruption unit said the four, including the top accounting officer in the office of the prime minister, are accused of “rejecting lower price offers from various suppliers of maize flour and beans.”
In the Mideast, the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen for five years declared a two-week cease-fire starting Thursday in response to United Nations’ calls for peace as the world battles the coronavirus.
After making his appeal last month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reported last week that parties to conflicts in multiple countries have expressed their acceptance, including those in Cameroon, Libya, South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine.
U.N. efforts are focused not just on quieting the conflicts, but on giving humanitarian groups and governments a better chance of delivering badly needed aid and on trying to prevent the spread of the virus in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
The International Rescue Committee issued a new report calling attention to those issues. It specifically noted essential medical equipment that has been scarce in hard-hit places like the United States and parts of Europe, while “many conflict-affected and fragile countries have virtually none to begin with.”
The report says only half of Yemen’s hospitals are fully functional, while two-thirds of the country’s population does not have access to health care. It also pointed to a shortage of intensive care unit beds and ventilators in South Sudan, northern Syria and Venezuela.
Many countries have instituted lockdowns to prevent people from going to school or work, or to conduct nonessential shopping, in hopes of stopping new transmissions.
Some leaders have expressed confidence that their country has seen the worst of the outbreak already and can look toward restarting some aspects of normal life.
The Czech Republic on Thursday is allowing the reopening of hobby supply and building supply stores. The country has reported 5,000 total infections. Health Minister Adam Vojtech said Wednesday data showed it had “so far prevented the worst.”
The United States has by far the most cases in the world with about 430,000. The biggest cluster is in the state of New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday praised stay-at-home efforts as working while stressing to people, “We can’t stop now.”
More than 6,000 people have died in New York from COVID-19. The state reported a record-high 779 deaths on Wednesday.
However, Cuomo this week pointed to reductions in hospital admissions as a sign that the situation in his state could soon brighten.