Trump Says US Will Quit World Health Organization

A former director general of WHO, an American, says he is “very disappointed” by the decision.

Doctors try, unsuccessfully, to save the life of a patient in the coronavirus unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston on Monday. Hospitalizations due to Covid-19 in Texas have more than doubled in the past two weeks. (AP photo/David J. Phillip)

LONDON (AP) — In the midst of the worst worldwide pandemic in a century, President Donald Trump has notified the World Health Organization that the United States is withdrawing from the United Nations-sponsored agency.

In response, a former senior director at the WHO predicted that other countries, particularly Germany, would likely to step in to fill any void left by the United States.

At a Wednesday morning briefing, Dr. David Heymann, a former assistant WHO director-general and an American, said he was “very disappointed” at the U.S. decision to leave the agency.

He said the United States has been behind incredibly important activities at WHO, noting it was the U.S. and its Cold War enemy Russia that spearheaded the global initiative to eradicate smallpox.

Heymann said, however, that WHO will get on with its work. He said Germany has become an important partner in global health recently and other countries are stepping up as well.

“As much as it would be terrible if the U.S. leaves WHO and leaves (with) that expertise it has provided throughout the years, the WHO would continue to function,” Heymann said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had been scheduled to appear at the briefing, but pulled out moments before it began.

Here are recent updates about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Africa has confirmed than half a million confirmed coronavirus cases. The continentwide exceeded 508,000 after South Africa recorded another day of more than 10,000 confirmed cases as a new global hot spot.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz says he is going into quarantine due to concerns he was recently exposed to a Covid-19 carrier.

Gantz, who also serves as alternative prime minister, said he feels well and is isolating out of a sense of responsibility. He said he will work remotely until he receives his coronavirus test result and an epidemiological investigation is concluded.

The announcement comes as Israel is coping with a fresh wave of infections. The government this week reimposed new restrictions on the public to quell contagion. Gatherings have been limited and reception halls, restaurants, bars, theaters, fitness centers and pools have been ordered to shut down again.

Just weeks ago, Israel appeared to have contained its initial outbreak after imposing strict measures early on during a first wave of infections. But after reporting just a handful of new cases a day in early May, it has experienced a steady uptick in cases after easing restrictions. Now Israel is reporting upward of 1,000 new cases a day, higher than its peak during the previous wave.

Serbian police officers disperse protesters of a newly announced lockdown in Belgrade on Wednesday. (AP photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In Belgrade, Serbia, police say 23 people have been arrested and scores of police officers and demonstrators injured in clashes that erupted over the return of lockdown measures against the coronavirus.

Police director Vladimir Rebic told state RTS television that police are working to identify more people who took part in the rioting in central Belgrade that left 43 police officers and 17 demonstrators injured.

Thousands of people came out in the streets Tuesday evening after autocratic President Aleksandar Vucic announced that a curfew will be imposed for the entire weekend in Belgrade. Serbia on Tuesday reported the highest single-day death toll of 13 and 299 new Covid-19 cases.

Clashes erupted after some supporters of right-wing groups stormed the parliament. Police responded with tear gas.

Vucic has described the virus situation in Belgrade as “alarming,” saying hospitals in Belgrade are full. But many in Serbia blame the right-wing strongman for lifting the previous lockdown measures so he would cement his grip on power after parliamentary elections. He has denied those claims.

Rebic said “hooligans” threw rocks, bottles and other objects at police and set on fire five police vehicles. Videos from the scene showed police beating up some of the demonstrators and arresting them.

In Mumbai, one of India’s worst-hit cities, authorities are allowing people to get tested for Covid-19 without a doctor’s prescription.

Other major Indian cities still require a prescription, even though low testing rates have been a concern in the country that has registered the third most cases in the world, after the United States and Brazil.

“We want to test as many people as possible,” said Iqbal Singh Chahal, a senior administrative official in Mumbai.

More than 5,000 people have died of the virus in Mumbai, a western coastal city, India’s financial capital and home to the Bollywood film industry.

India has started to improve its testing rates though it needs to do more as its outbreak surges. A country of 1.3 billion people, India has been conducting a little less than 7,400 tests per million population.

More than 200,000 samples are being tested every day now, compared to just a few hundred when the exercise had begun in March, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s top medical research body.

India reported 482 new deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the toll to 20,642. It also recorded 22,752 new infections, increasing the total to 742,417.

Pakistan’s daily infection rate dropped below 3,000 for the second straight day, though medical experts caution it may be due to less testing.

Barely 21,000 tests for the coronavirus are carried out each day, compared to a peak of nearly 33,000. Still, some medical professionals, particularly in the eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province where nearly 60% of the country’s 220 million people live, are suggesting the virus may have peaked in June.

Pakistan’s prime minister has mandated masks, but enforcement and use are erratic and social distancing is limited. The government has implemented lockdowns on at least 800 markets, businesses and residential areas where hot spots of the infection have emerged.

As of Wednesday, Pakistan has recorded 237,489 infections with 2,980 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours among 21,951 tests conducted: a positive test rate of 13.5%. So far 4,922 people have died of the virus, with 80 deaths recorded in the past 24 hours.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has resisted complete lockdowns, saying they would hit the poorest hardest. The poverty rate in Pakistan has climbed from around 30% to 40%, according to economists.

In Canberra, Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a shutdown of Australia’s second-largest city is necessary and promised continuing financial support for businesses that fear they won’t survive a second lockdown.

The Victoria state government said Melbourne and part of its surrounding areas will lock down for six weeks from Wednesday night because the rate of coronavirus spread is unsustainable. The state reported another 134 coronavirus cases.

Morrison said the federal government’s medical advice concurred the move was necessary but he hoped the time frame could be shorter.

Australia’s seven other states and territories will continue to relax pandemic restrictions, the prime minister said.

“Let’s remember that seven states and territories around the country remain in a very strong position when it comes to our response to Covid-19,” Morrison said. “That’s what we’re seeking to continue to protect.”

Breaches of infection controls at Melbourne hotels where international travelers are required to isolate for 14 days have been blamed for much of the disease spread. Morrison said he wanted to reduce the numbers of exemptions from Australia’s travel ban because of the strain of hotel quarantines.

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