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Saudi Arabia limits Hajj pilgrims, virus hits US bars and strip clubs & other Covid news

As the Covid-19 pandemic shows no signs of letting up, ThePrint highlights the most important stories on the crisis from across the globe.

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New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate several countries across the world — the latest count is 92,02,633 cases and more than 4,74,670 deaths.

This year’s Hajj in Saudi Arabia will not be populated by millions as the kingdom announces restricted entry of “very limited number”. Meanwhile, in the US, churches and strip clubs emerge as Covid clusters, while a new study in southwest China reveals that asymptomatic carriers may shed the coronavirus for longer than others.

ThePrint brings you the most important global stories on the coronavirus pandemic and why they matter.

Saudi Arabia drastically limits Hajj pilgrimage to prevent viral spread

Saudi Arabia has announced that this year, it will put a strict cap on the number of pilgrims who will be allowed to visit for Hajj. Owing to the coronavirus pandemic and the need to maintain social distancing, “very limited numbers” would be welcome, a report in the New York Times notes.

This is the first time since the founding of the kingdom in 1932 that such restrictions were being put in place, a move that could prove “a further financial blow to a kingdom already grappling with low oil prices and an economic slowdown caused by the lockdowns aimed at preventing contagion.” The Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages earn the country “about $12 billion per year”, says the report.

However, the official statement did not specify what the target number of pilgrims would be, nor did it mention any precautionary measures being undertaken.

Bars, strip clubs & churches: US virus outbreaks enter unwieldy phase

As stay-at-home and isolation orders are gradually lifted across the United States, coronavirus clusters — that were till now centred in “nursing homes, prisons and meatpacking plants” — have shifted to churches and strip clubs and everything in between, reports the New York Times.

Reflecting the unpredictability of coronavirus, the newly emerging clusters “vary in size from a handful of cases to hundreds and have cropped up in large cities as well as small towns.” Rebecca Christofferson, an infectious-disease expert at Louisiana State University, said that “reopening along with fatigue over social distancing for many Americans were creating new sorts of virus clusters,” notes the report.

The report adds that the disease is now ravaging areas that earlier remained largely unaffected. “It echoes an earlier stage of the virus,” as people step out to shop, dine and more.

Asymptomatic patients may shed virus for longer than others, study says

According to a peer-reviewed paper in Nature Medicine by researchers from Chongqing Medical University, “ the median duration of viral shedding among the 37 asymptomatic patients in the Chongqing study was 19 days”, which is five days longer than those with mild symptoms.

A South China Morning Post report notes that the researchers maintain the need for further study and underline the fact that shedding the virus into the environment need not necessarily lead to infection.

Another difference in the symptomatic and asymptomatic patients was their antibody levels, with the latter having just “15 per cent of the level found in those with symptoms,” says the report. It added that 40 per cent of asymptomatic patients lost their antibodies before they were even discharged from the hospital.

For Brazil’s poor, the pandemic is far from over

Brazil’s public hospitals are crushed and with them, its poor, as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the country with over one million cases and more than 48,000 deaths. A report in Foreign Policy notes how “The health system collapsed in parts of the country in April and May, and some cities in the poorer north opened up mass graves to bury the dead.”

Calling the government’s response “sluggish and chaotic” with a vacancy in the position of the country’s health minister, the report details the inequality with which people are dying of the virus. “An analysis of official data showed confirmed COVID-19 patients in Maré’s favelas are dying at a rate that’s three times higher than in Rio’s wealthy Leblon district.”

People still think it’s a death sentence. Well, for me, it almost was

In the Washington Post, Eunice Erika Nderitu, a working mother of three from Nairobi, details her account of getting infected with coronavirus with severe symptoms and how she was on the brink of death.

A requirement for being admitted to an ICU at Jocham Hospital, a private facility in Mombasa, is being tested positive for coronavirus. But for Nderitu, results took five days by when her condition was critical, notes the article. Recounting how people react to the pandemic she wrote, “Even the doctors seemed scared about the idea of covid. Even though I had the telltale symptoms, they were like, “It’s pneumonia.”

Once her test results came in, an ambulance was sent to her home, but they refused to come up to her apartment, notes the article. “They didn’t even come upstairs into my building. They made me walk down, and I wasn’t even able to breathe, to talk, I could only communicate with gestures. And they made me walk. That’s the last thing I remember,” she wrote.

What else we are reading:

Covid-19 has changed everything from crime to policy. Legal systems must keep up: The Guardian

Fugaku, world’s fastest supercomputer, searches for coronavirus treatment: The Guardian

Carmakers in Southeast Asia are reluctant to hit the accelerator: Nikkei Asian Review

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