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Millions threatened by a famine driven by the coronavirus

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Issue 2713
The virus is having a knock on effect on those already living in poverty
The virus is having a knock on effect on those already living in poverty

The World Health Organisation recorded a record number of global cases on Sunday.

And it isn’t only the virus that threatens people’s lives—it’s the poverty and famine that go with it.

More people could die through lack of food than from Covid-19, the Oxfam charity said last week.

A million more people are closer to famine in Afghanistan, up from 2.5 million last September to 3.5 million in May.

Oxfam also identified a rise in extreme hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Sahel, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

More people face poverty because family members who used to work abroad and send money home now can’t do so.

Money sent back from Yemeni workers abroad fell by 80 percent in the first four months of the year. And closing supply routes has led to food shortages.

“The knock-on impacts of Covid‑19 are far more widespread than the virus itself,” Oxfam said.

The first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Idlib, the last ­rebel-held province in Syria, last week. A doctor working at Bab al‑Hawa hospital tested ­positive. The hospital has now been closed.

Other health workers, and patients, are likely to have also been infected. Of Idlib’s three million inhabitants, 1.1 million live in tents and makeshift accommodation.

The number of daily new cases in South Africa is up from around 1,000 in mid-May to 8,800 on 8 July. 

People in poorer areas are finding it impossible to follow advice on social distancing. “I wear a mask but we are so crowded here,” explained Lucy Ndlovu from Alexandra, a township in Johannesburg.

“I have to travel in taxies and we do our best but we are all pushed in.”

Head of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention John Nkevgasong said that the ­pandemic was “gaining ­momentum” across the continent.

Virus cases in Africa rose by nearly a quarter in the first week of July. By 9 July Africa had 512,039 confirmed cases, with 11,915 deaths.

The African Development Bank estimates that the economic fallout of the pandemic could push nearly 50 million Africans into extreme poverty.

It said up to 30 million jobs would go this year due to the crisis, with the biggest rise in poverty in Nigeria.

And in Sudan, lockdown measures have sparked rising food prices.

Millions will die not due to the virus but because they are denied access to the basics of life. The ­pandemic has sharply exposed the deep inequality of the system we live in. We need to get rid of it.

Cases spread in Australia

Thousands of people in Australia have been asked to self-isolate for two weeks after a spate of new virus cases.

Four cases linked to Sydney’s Crossroads Hotel were confirmed on Sunday. 

Authorities have advised anyone who visited between 

3 and 10 July to self-isolate.

The cluster is separate to the serious outbreak in Victoria, where a second wave of the virus appears to be underway.

The state announced another 273 cases on Sunday—another single-day high. It brought the number of active cases in Victoria to 1,474.

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said the outbreaks and wider testing meant child‑to-child transmission “had become more apparent”.

Yet students in some years were still expected to take part in face to face lessons this week.

Greek protests vow to defy law

Tens of thousands of people marched in cities across Greece against the right wing government’s attack on the right to protest.

The new law means people can be prosecuted for attending unauthorised demonstrations. Protesters have to give advance notice of planned marches. 

Cops can refuse permission for a protest if “there is a serious threat to disturb the socio‑economic life of a particular area.”

Protesters can face up to two years in prison, and organisers made personally liable to pay for “damage” caused during demonstrations.

It’s a sign that Greece’s New Democracy government wants to be able to clamp down on resistance during the coming economic crisis.

Health workers, doctors and hospitality workers have already struck and protested during the coronavirus outbreak.

People protested against the law in 40 cities across Greece, including around 10,000 in Athens. Riot cops attacked the demonstration in the capital with clubs and teargas.

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