Global deaths from COVID-19 are expected to top 100 000 per week “very soon”, from more than 93 000 reported last week, the World Health Organization’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan said on Monday.
In an epidemiological update provided to the WHO’s executive board meeting, he added that the Americas region accounted for about 47% of current deaths. In Europe, cases and deaths are stabilising but at a high level, he said.
“Currently, our epidemiological situation is dynamic and uneven. It’s further complicated by variants,” he told the board.
As bodies pile up, Germany’s eastern COVID hotspots struggle for answers
For some in Meissen, the caskets piling up in the eastern German city’s sole crematorium are a tragic reminder of what happens when the coronavirus is not taken seriously. For others it is simply nature’s way.
Meissen, along with other places across old East Germany that are generally poorer, older and more supportive of a far-right opposed to lockdown, are the worst hit by the pandemic in the country, complicating Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to bring it under control.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said manager Joerg Schaldach, whose furnaces cremated 1,400 bodies last month, double the figure from December last year. More than half had died of COVID-19 and Schaldach expects some 1,700 cremations in total this month.
“People are dying alone in hospital without a loved one holding their hand,” added Schaldach, standing in the main hall cleared of chairs used for funeral services to make way for caskets. “People get just a phone call: ‘deceased’. A farewell at the coffin is not possible, all they get is an urn.”
Like many East German regions that had a relatively mild first wave, Saxony, home to Meissen and a stronghold of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, has the second-highest 7-day incidence rate in Germany, almost double the national average of 136 per 100,000 people.
The neighbouring eastern state of Thuringia, where the AfD is also popular, is now Germany’s worst hot spot, taking over from Saxony last week.
“If the Saxony government had acted earlier, we would have had the pandemic under control. But now we are a national problem,” said Frank Richter, a lawmaker in the Saxony parliament for the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).
“The pile of bodies in Meissen is bitter medicine against ignorance.”
Detlev Spangenberg, an AfD lawmaker in the national parliament from Saxony, said the party should not be blamed.
“We’ve had a lockdown since November and the numbers are not going down. It’s nothing to do with the AfD,” he said late last week. “We are just saying that the collateral damage of lockdowns outweighs the benefits.”
COVID-19 daily deaths hit record high in Portugal, hospitals struggle to cope
Portugal’s daily death toll from the new coronavirus reached a record high of 167 on Monday, bringing the total to 9,028 deaths since the start of the pandemic, health authority DGS said.
The country of 10 million people, which has been under lockdown since last week to stem the spread of the virus, also reported a record 664 coronavirus patients in intensive care, just below the 672 maximum allocation of ICU beds out of a total of just over 1 000 in Portugal, according to health authorities.
Amid concerns over low compliance with lockdown rules, Portuguese hospitals are trying to cope with soaring contagion, with Portugal now the country with the highest rolling average of new cases over the last seven days per million inhabitants, according to ourworldindata.org website.
DGS added 6 702 new cases on Monday, bringing the cumulative tally of infections to 556 503.
“The impact is huge because the number of beds doesn’t increase, the walls are not expandable and health workers are not multiplying,” Antonio Pais de Lacerda, a doctor at Lisbon’s biggest hospital, Santa Maria, where most ICU beds are occupied by coronavirus patients, told Reuters.
Portugal, which emerged from the first wave of the pandemic with fewer infections and deaths than most European countries, has already nearly doubled the overall number of ICU beds since the start of the pandemic, when it had just 528 critical care beds and Europe’s lowest ratio per 100 000 inhabitants.
Lisbon’s streets were busier than expected on Monday morning, with authorities preparing new restrictions after warnings that people were not complying with the measures, such as the mandatory rule to work from home.
“You see a lot of people not following (the rules) during this new lockdown,” Anabela Ribeiro, 55, said as she walked out a busy train station in the heart of the capital. “Stricter measures are needed.”