Coronavirus update: Brazilians dig 100 graves in Copacabana beach to protest handling of virus

Brazilian activists have dug 100 symbolic graves in the sand at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach to protest against the country’s handling of the crisis and almost 40,000 COVID-19 victims.

Meanwhile, an otherwise healthy woman in her 20s has undergone a double lung transplant in the US after coronavirus left “holes” in hers,

This story will be updated throughout Friday.

Friday’s key moments:

Symbolic graves dug in Copacabana beach

Activists in hazmat costumes dig symbolic graves on Copacabana beach as a protest in this image taken by drone.
Brazil’s outbreak is currently the second-worst in the world behind the United States.

Brazilian activists have dug 100 graves at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach to protest against the handling of one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the disease.

The demonstration organised by the NGO Rio de Paz was a criticism of the Brazilian Government’s handling of the pandemic.

Brazil has become an epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with at least 39,680 deaths and 772,416 confirmed cases of infection, making it the world’s worst outbreak after the United States.

Diane Angelo, a resident of a Duque de Caxias, a city neighbouring Rio de Janeiro, said that she and her entire family had been infected.

“This [demonstration] is good because people have to believe, they have to understand that [COVID-19] is true, it’s not a lie as I heard others saying,” she said while watching the symbolic graves being dug together with her son Matheus.

Despite Brazil’s troubling rates of infection, some cities including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have begun easing the measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

Surgeons give woman new lungs

Xray of badly damaged lungs
A young US woman’s lungs were ravaged by COVID-19 prompting a double organ transplant.(AP: Northwestern Medicine)

US surgeons have performed a lung transplant on a young woman after she sustained significant damage to them from coronavirus.

The patient in her 20s was on a ventilator and heart-lung machine for almost two months before her operation last Friday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

She was otherwise pretty healthy but her condition rapidly deteriorated after she was hospitalised in late April to include issues with the heart, kidneys and liver, which were all beginning to fail.

Doctor wearing mask, magnifying glass and cap leans over patient
Dr Ankit Bharat said the woman’s lungs were almost fused to her chest wall.(AP: Northwestern Medicine)

The 10-hour procedure was challenging because the virus had left her lungs full of holes and almost fused to the chest wall, Dr Ankit Bharat, who performed the operation, said.

“We are anticipating that she will have a full recovery,” said Dr Rade Tomic, medical director of the hospital’s lung transplant program.

The patient was not identified but Dr Bharat said she had recently moved to Chicago from North Carolina to be with her boyfriend.

Doctors waited six weeks for her body to clear the virus before considering a transplant.

Sweden records highest tally of infections

Sweden announced its highest daily tally of coronavirus infections on Thursday, a record 1,474 new cases that authorities said was due to a long-delayed surge in testing.

The country’s tactics to contain the epidemic have come under close scrutiny since it eschewed a lockdown in favour of mainly voluntary measures.

People gather in a park in Stockholm, Sweden, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sweden has not implemented the strict physical-distancing rules other European countries have during the pandemic.(TT via AP: Anders Wiklund)

Last week, the nation’s chief epidemiologist acknowledged it could have done more.

Thursday’s figure took the total number of infections to 48,300 — though the Public Health Agency said the number of deaths was slowing.

The rise in new cases “is a direct consequence of increasing testing in the regions and catching cases with mild symptoms,” the head of microbiology at the agency, Karin Tegmark-Wisell said.

“It has been a slow upturn, but now it seems that the effect of increased testing is becoming clear.”

Facing growing criticism from the Opposition over a sluggish expansion of testing, the Government last week pledged a further 5.9 billion krona ($925million) to increase testing and widen contact tracing across the country.

Deaths in Sweden caused by the disease have gradually declined from peak levels in mid-April of about 100 per day with the seven-day rolling average hitting 37 per day at the beginning of June.

The nation reported 19 new deaths on Thursday, taking the total to 4,814 — many times higher per capita than in neighbouring Nordic countries, but lower than the worst-hit parts of Europe including Spain, Britain and Italy.

Tests hit a record 49,200 last week, up from 36,500 the previous week.

Jobless count climbs in US

About 1.5 million laid-off workers applied for US unemployment benefits last week, evidence that many Americans are still losing their jobs even with more businesses partially reopening.

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Despite this, the latest figure from the Labor Department marked the 10th straight weekly decline in applications for benefits since they peaked in mid-March when the coronavirus hit hard.

The total number of people who were already receiving unemployment aid fell slightly, a sign that some people who were laid off have been recalled to work.

Last week’s jobs report showed that employers added 2.5 million jobs in May, an unexpected increase that suggested that the job market has bottomed out.

Though the unemployment rate unexpectedly declined from 14.7 per cent, it is still high at 13.3 per cent.

And even with the May hiring gain, just one in nine jobs that were lost in March and April have returned, with nearly 21 million people officially classified as unemployed.

Africa to record steady climb in infections

Africa will have a “steady increase” in COVID-19 cases until a vaccine is developed and strong public health measures are needed in current “hotspots” in South Africa, Algeria and Cameroon, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

“Until such time as we have access to an effective vaccine, I’m afraid we’ll probably have to live with a steady increase in the region, with some hotspots having to be managed in a number of countries,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Africa regional director.

Elsewhere on the continent, calls for Tanzania to release truthful data on coronavirus have ramped up.

Girl in red mask and pink hoodie gets hair braided while mum in red vest looks on in background
The WHO has called for strong health measures in countries such as South Africa.(Reuters: Siphiwe Sibeko )

Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr John Nkengasong said “we continue to remain hopeful” that Tanzania will cooperate by sharing its COVID-19 data even as the country’s President declared victory over the pandemic.

Dr Nkengasong said “they understand exactly what is at stake” in the East African nation, which has not updated its virus data since late April.

Tanzania’s number of cases remains frozen at 509 but Opposition party leaders have asserted there are actually tens of thousands.

President John Magufuli recently declared “corona in our country has been removed by the powers of God”.

Premier League player suspended over offensive social media comment

Dele Alli will miss Tottenham’s first game back from the Premier League’s suspension after receiving a one-match ban for a racially insensitive post on social media during the coronavirus outbreak.

Alli put a video on a private Snapchat conversation in February where he joked about the virus and appeared to mock an Asian man. The post was then forwarded to a British newspaper.

The Football Association said Alli’s actions were “a misguided attempt at humour” but that the player “had not set out to be insulting or to create a racial stereotype.”

Alli was found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, the FA said, because it constituted an “aggravated breach” by having a reference to race.

The England international issued an apology but will still miss Tottenham’s game against Manchester United on June 19.

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He also was fined 50,000 pounds ($63,000) and must attend an education course.

ABC/Wires