The coronavirus pandemic has now claimed more than 400,000 lives, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. More than a quarter of these were in the U.S., according to the NBC News’ tally.
The grisly toll was reached after tens of thousands of people around the world defied COVID-19 lockdown restrictions to protest against the death of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died under the knee of a former Minnesota police officer last month. More protests are planned for Sunday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned about the dangers of such protests on Friday. He told told Washington D.C. radio station WTOP that he was “very concerned” about large crowds congregating in geographic areas where there is active infection transmission.
He added that it was the “perfect setup” for further spread of the virus.
“It’s a delicate balance, because the reasons for demonstrating are valid, and yet, the demonstration itself puts one at an additional risk,” Fauci said.
The only thing public health officials could do was to keep warning people to be careful, while urging them to wear a face mask and keep it on at all times, he added.
His comments were echoed by Britain’s Health Minister, Matt Hancock, on Sunday. He said the protests against Floyd’s death in the U.K. were “undoubtedly a risk” for coronavirus spread. With more than 40,000 deaths, the U.K. has suffered more deaths than any other country apart from the U.S.
Hancock was speaking after anti-racism protesters briefly clashed with mounted police in central London on Saturday after thousands had gathered to protest. There were also demonstrations in France, Australia, South Korea and Japan, as well as a number of other countries around the world.
Elsewhere, fears continued to mount over the growing number of cases in Latin America, particularly Brazil, where almost 673,000 cases have been recorded and over 36,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Brazil has removed months of data on its COVID-19 epidemic from public view, as President Jair Bolsonaro defended delays and changes to official record-keeping of the world’s second-largest coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reported Sunday.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the dangers of the pandemic, replaced medical experts in the Health Ministry with military officials and argued against state lockdowns to fight the virus.
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Meanwhile, China released a white paper on the county’s response to COVID-19 pandemic, reiterating the official party line that Chinese officials released information about the novel virus in a timely and transparent manner.
President Donald Trump’s administration has accused China of cover-ups and lack of transparency regarding the pandemic, which originated in the city of Wuhan.
However, the 84-page white paper called accusation that China concealed epidemic information and death figures “baseless,” reiterating Beijing’s official position.
Eric Baculinao, Leou Chen and Reuters contributed.