Battle drags as world marks pandemic anniversary

THE HAGUE: The world on Thursday marked one year since the coronavirus threat was declared a pandemic, with vaccinations offering hope but much of humanity still enduring highly restricted lives and no clear path back to normality.

The enormity of the continuing global challenge was reflected in a stark warning by the International Council of Nurses that an exodus is looming of healthcare workers traumatised by the pandemic.

“They reach a point where they´ve given everything they can,” ICN chief executive Howard Catton told reporters.

While restrictions are easing in many parts of the world, hotspots persist such as Brazil, which on Wednesday reported a record 2,286 deaths in a single day as more contagious new variants fuel a surge there.

“It took a long time for the politicians to act… We are paying for it, the poor people,” said Adilson Menezes, 40, outside a hospital in Brazil´s biggest city Sao Paulo, where all non-essential businesses are closed to help fight the virus.

On the economic front, the US Congress passed one of its biggest stimulus efforts ever — a $1.9 trillion package that President Joe Biden said would give struggling American families a “fighting chance”.

Since first emerging in China at the end of 2019, the coronavirus has killed more than 2.6 million people and forced unprecedented curbs on movement that eviscerated economies.

The World Health Organization officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11 last year as infection numbers were beginning to explode across Asia and Europe.

About 4,600 deaths had been officially recorded around the world at the time.

But with the United States only just starting to feel the direct impacts of the pandemic, then-president Donald Trump played down the threat.

“The virus will not have a chance against us,” Trump told the nation.

Under his chaotic leadership, the United States would become the hardest-hit nation: the American death toll today stands at more than 528,000.