Iran passes grim milestone of 40,000 deaths from coronavirus

Iran on Thursday passed the grim milestone of 40,000 coronavirus deaths, with the latest 10,000 added in less than a month, as the country struggles to contain its most widespread wave of infection yet.

The Iranian health ministry announced 457 new fatalities on Thursday, along with 117,517 new infections, pushing the total case count past 726,000, although officials have warned that’s a significant undercount.

The death toll has soared in recent weeks, shattering records in the nation that for months has suffered the worst outbreak in the Middle East.

Nearly half of Iran’s coronavirus deaths are recorded in the capital of Tehran, according to health officials, where medical workers have warned that the health system may soon be overwhelmed and demanded a strict month-long lockdown in all provincial capitals to slow the virus’ spread.

But the government has resisted shutting down the country, desperate to salvage an economy cratered by unprecedented American sanctions that effectively bar Iran from selling its oil internationally. The Trump administration reimposed sanctions in 2018 after withdrawing from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Earlier this week, authorities ordered a month-long nightly business curfew in Tehran and 30 other major cities and towns, asking nonessential shops to keep their workers home. Still, enforcement in the sprawling metropolis remains a challenge.

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Coronavirus cases surge past 40 million infections worldwide

Concerning coronavirus trend? US sees big spike in new cases

Fox News correspondent Jonathan Serrie has the latest from Atlanta on ‘Special Report’

LONDON – The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases throughout the world has surpassed 40 million, but experts say that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true impact of the pandemic.

The milestone was hit Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University, which collates reports from around the world.

The actual worldwide tally of COVID-19 cases is likely to be far higher, as testing has been variable, many people have had no symptoms and some governments have concealed the true number of cases. To date, more than 1.1 million confirmed virus deaths have been reported, although experts also believe that number is an undercount.

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The U.S., India, and Brazil are reporting by far the highest numbers of cases — 8.1 million, 7.5 million, and 5.2 million respectively — although the global increase in recent weeks has been driven by a surge in Europe, which has seen more than 240,000 confirmed virus deaths in the pandemic so far.

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Last week, the World Health Organization said Europe had reported a record weekly high of nearly 700,000 cases and said the region was responsible for about a third of cases globally. Britain, France, Russia and Spain account for about half of all new cases in the region, and countries like Belgium and the Czech Republic are facing more intense outbreaks now than they did in the spring.

WHO said the new measures being taken across Europe are “absolutely essential” in stopping COVID-19 from overwhelming its hospitals. Those include new requirements on mask-wearing in Italy and Switzerland, closing schools in Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic, closing restaurants and bars in Belgium, implementing a 9 p.m. curfew in France and having targeted limited lockdowns in parts of the U.K.

The agency said several European cities could soon see their intensive care units overwhelmed and warned that governments and citizens should take all necessary measures to slow the spread of the virus, including bolstering testing and contact tracing, wearing face masks, and following social distancing measures.

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WHO has previously estimated about 1 in 10 of the world's population — about 780 million people — have been infected with COVID-19, more than 20 times the official number of cases. That suggests the vast majority of the world's population is still susceptible to the virus.

Some researchers have argued that allowing COVID-19 to spread in populations that are not obviously vulnerable will help build up herd immunity and is a more realistic way to stop the pandemic instead of the restrictive lockdowns that have proved economically devastating.

A man walks past anti-lockdown graffiti in Manchester, England, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 as the row over Greater Manchester region’s coronavirus status continues. Britain’s government says discussions about implementing stricter restrictions in Greater Manchester must be completed Monday because the public health threat caused by rising COVID-19 infections is serious and getting worse. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

But WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned against the belief that herd immunity might be a viable strategy to pursue, saying this kind of protection needs to be achieved by vaccination, not by deliberately exposing people to a potentially fatal disease.

“Allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run free is simply unethical,” Tedros said last week.

The U.N. health agency said it hopes there might be enough data to determine if any of the COVID-19 vaccines now being tested are effective by the end of the year. But it warned that first-generation vaccines are unlikely to provide complete protection and that it could take at least two years to bring the pandemic under control.

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