South America is now pandemic’s centre – WHO

View of the Christ the Redeemer illuminated in green with motives for the 'Conexao Solidaria' campaign, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The campaign seeks to encourage the donation of basic products that will be destined for families in poverty and social vulnerability due to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the city of Rio de Janeiro and more than 12 states in Brazil. EPA-EFE/Marcelo Sayao ALTERNATIVE CROP

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South America has become a new centre of the pandemic, with Brazil hardest-hit, while cases are rising in some African countries that so far have a relatively low death toll, the World Health Organization has said.

“In a sense South America has become a new epicentre for the disease,” Dr Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, told a news conference, adding Brazil is “clearly the most affected”.

Ryan noted Brazilian authorities have approved broad use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. He reiterated that current clinical evidence does not support the unproven drug’s widespread use against the new disease, given its risks.

Some nine African countries had 50% rises in cases in the past week, while others have seen a decline or have stable rates, Ryan said. The low mortality rate may be due to half of the continent’s population being 18 years old or younger, he said, adding he still is worried the disease will spread on a continent with “significant gaps” in intensive care services, medical oxygen and ventilation.

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