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Virus Cases Up Sharply in Africa, India07/11 10:25


   JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South Africa's confirmed coronavirus cases have doubled 
in just two weeks to a quarter-million, and India on Saturday saw its biggest 
daily spike as its infections passed 800,000. The surging cases are raising 
sharp concerns about unequal treatment in the pandemic, as the wealthy hoard 
medical equipment and use private hospitals and the poor crowd into overwhelmed 
public facilities.

   Globally more than 12.5 million people have been infected by the virus and 
over 560,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 
Experts say the pandemic's true toll is much higher due to testing shortages, 
poor data collection in some nations and other issues.

   Some of the worst-affected countries are among the world's most unequal. 
South Africa leads them all on that measure, with the pandemic exposing the gap 
in care.

   In Johannesburg, the epicenter of South Africa's outbreak, badly needed 
oxygen concentrators that help COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe 
are hard to find as private businesses and individuals are buying them up, a 
public health specialist volunteering at a field hospital, Lynne Wilkinson, 
told The Associated Press.

   Meanwhile, South Africa's public hospitals are short on medical oxygen --- 
and they are now seeing a higher proportion of deaths than private ones, the 
National Institute for Communicable Diseases says.

   South Africa now has more than 250,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, 
including more than 3,800 deaths. To complicate matters, the country's troubled 
power utility has announced new electricity cuts in the dead of winter as a 
cold front brings freezing weather. Many of the country's urban poor live in 
shacks of scrap metal and wood.

   And in Kenya, some have been outraged by a local newspaper report that says 
several governors have installed intensive care unit equipment in their homes. 
The country lost its first doctor to COVID-19 this week.

   "The welfare, occupational safety & health of frontline workers is a 
non-negotiable minimum!!" the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and 
Dentists Union tweeted after her death. On Saturday, the union and other 
medical groups urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to implement a promised 
compensation package to ease the "anxiety and fear that has now gripped health 
care workers."

   More than 8,000 health workers across Africa have been infected, half of 
them in South Africa. The continent of 1.3 billion has the world's lowest 
levels of health staffing and more than 550,000 cases, and the pandemic is 
reaching "full speed," the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

   Many parts of the world are facing fresh waves of infections as they try to 
reopen their economies.

   In India, which reported a new daily high of 27,114 cases on Saturday, 
nearly a dozen states have imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas. Cases 
jumped from 600,000 to more than 800,000 in nine days. People are packing 
India's public hospitals as many are unable to afford private ones that 
generally uphold higher standards of care.

   Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged top officials to improve infection 
testing and tracking, especially in states with high positivity rates.

   Officials on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa said dozens of U.S. 
Marines have been infected at two bases there in what is feared to be a massive 
outbreak. The officials said the U.S. military asked that the exact figure not 
be released.

   "We now have strong doubts that the U.S. military has taken adequate disease 
prevention measures," Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters.

   In Australia, the beleaguered state of Victoria reported 216 new cases in 
the past 24 hours, down from the record 288 the previous day. It hopes a new 
six-week lockdown in Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city with a 
population of 5 million, will curb the spread.

   "We cannot pretend that doing anything other than following the rules will 
get us to the other side of this," said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews.

   In Latin America, where inequality is sharp and Brazil and Peru are among 
the world's top five most badly hit countries, the COVID-19 pandemic is 
sweeping through the continent's leadership, with two more presidents and 
powerful officials testing positive in the past week.

   Yet developing countries are not the only ones overwhelmed. Confirmed 
COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have hit 3 million, with over 130,000 deaths --- the 
worst outbreak by far in the world. The surge has led to equipment shortages as 
well as long lines at testing sites.

   Texas is among the U.S. states setting records for infections and deaths 
almost daily after embarking on one of America's fastest reopenings. Republican 
Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday extended a statewide disaster as the state surpassed 
10,000 hospitalized patients for the first time.

   "Things will get worse," Abbott told Lubbock television station KLBK. "The 
worst is yet to come as we work our way through that massive increase in people 
testing positive."

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