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In Brazil, Covid increasingly hitting the young

22-year-old COVID-19 patient was first person in Sao Paulo to die waiting for an ICU bed
Leading the morning medical meeting at an intensive care unit in Sao Paulo

(Asian News Hub) – Leading the morning medical meeting at an intensive care unit in Sao Paulo, Jaques Sztajnbok reviews his COVID-19 patients.

Two, aged 56 and 53, are on ventilators. A third is breathing on his own, but writhing in agony. He is 26 years old.

There are fewer wrinkles and less gray hair among patients in Brazil’s intensive care units as the country reels from a surge in COVID-19 that is increasingly hitting people under 60.

“We’re seeing a high prevalence of younger patients, with no pre-existing conditions, hospitalized with very severe cases,” Sztajnbok, head of intensive care at Emilio Ribas Hospital, told AFP.

“The same trend is being reported at ICUs across Brazil.”

Brazil variant

In Brazil, like most of the world, severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 were mainly among the elderly during the first wave of the novel coronavirus last year.

Now, the country is dealing with a devastating resurgence of the virus, blamed partly on the emergence of a new strain known as “P1” or the “Brazil variant.”

The recent surge has pushed hospitals across Brazil close to the breaking point, as the country’s death toll has soared to 285,000 – second only to the United States.

This time, the demographic profile of the victims is increasingly young.

Before the trend emerged last December, the 30- to 59-year-old age group represented 20 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Brazil. In about three months, that figure increased to 27 percent, according to health ministry data.

Meanwhile, the share of the death toll for over-60s fell from 78 percent to 71 percent. “Half the (Covid-19) patients hospitalized in our nursing wards are under 60,” said Luiz Carlos Pereira Junior, the director of Emilio Ribas.

A year ago, at the start of the first wave in Brazil, that figure was 35 percent, he said.

Living dangerously

Health experts say part of the issue is that young people are following social distancing and masking recommendations less than the elderly.

In a country whose president, far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro, has railed against stay-at-home measures and face masks, many people have continued with life as usual despite the pandemic, especially the young.

It is common to see packed subways and buses, streets crowded with mask-less pedestrians and police raids to break up illegal parties and clandestine bars.

“Last year, I think the fear of an unknown disease had such an impact on people that they listened to experts’ recommendations. But they aren’t anymore,” said Sztajnbok.

“Young people have lost their fear.”

Vaccine effect

Even as the young expose themselves more to the virus, the elderly are starting to benefit from the protection of vaccines.

“Some states have already finished vaccinating over-75s,” said epidemiologist Walter Ramalho of the University of Brasilia.

“And the elderly generally stay home more than the young,” he told news site Poder 360.

Public health institute Fiocruz warned this week that the country of 212 million people is facing “the worst health care and hospital collapse” in its history.

Having to hospitalize more young people only adds to the pressure.

The average stay in intensive care has nearly doubled, from 15 to 28 days, according to Graccho Alvim, head of the Private Hospital Association of Rio de Janeiro.

“That’s because we’re receiving a lot of young patients, and they resist the disease better than the elderly,” Alvim told newspaper Globo.

In what some called a troubling warning sign, a 22-year-old COVID-19 patient on Thursday became the first person in Sao Paulo to die while waiting in line for an ICU bed.


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US asks Pakistan, India to work towards stable relationship

(Asian News Hub) – Just before the all-important visit of Secretary of State Antony Blinken to India and other destinations of South Asia and the Middle East, the US has issued a statement, encouraging arch-rivals India and Pakistan to work for a more stable relationship.

Blinken is scheduled to visit India and other countries between July 26-29 in what is being said is an important tour in reference to the developing situation and increasing Afghan Taliban control in Afghanistan.

As per Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Affairs Dean Thompson, Blinken would be discussing different options for what he called a “negotiated settlement” in Afghanistan.

Blinken is going to be landing in New Delhi on July 28 and is scheduled to meet External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As per details, India’s role in Afghanistan and relations with Pakistan is going to be on Blinken’s agenda during his visit to India.

“We strongly believe that India and Pakistan’s issues are ones for them to work out between themselves. Washington would continue to encourage better ties between South Asia’s two nuclear-armed neighbours,” said Thompson.

“We are pleased to see that ceasefire that went into place earlier this year has remained intact, and we certainly always encourage them to continue their efforts to find ways to build a more stable relationship going forward,” he added.

The US played an important role in engaging both Pakistan and India to come down to an agreement and abide by the 2003 ceasefire after backdoor meeting between top military leadership of both countries in the Middle East.

On the other hand, the US seems to have keen interest in engaging India in seeing its increased role in Afghanistan, especially after the withdrawal of all foreign forces.

“We expect that all the countries in the region have a shared interest in a stable and secure Afghanistan going forward. We will certainly be talking to our Indian partners about how we can work together to realise that goal, to find ways to bring the partners together, and continue to pursue a negotiated settlement to the longstanding war,” said Thompson.

Interestingly, Blinken’s visit does not include a visit to Islamabad. However, the Biden administration has invited Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Faiz Hameed to Washington during next week for talks with the American counterparts.


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Over two million people died of drowning in last decade: WHO

(Asian News Hub) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that more than 2 million died due to drowning in the last decade, a number which exceeded fatalities caused by maternal conditions or protein-energy malnutrition.

Ahead of the first World Drowning Prevention Day to be marked on July 25, the WHO, in a statement released on Friday, said at least 236,000 people drown every year, and drowning is among the 10 leading causes of death for children and youth aged one to 24 years.

More than 90 per cent of drowning deaths occur in rivers, lakes, wells and domestic water storage vessels in low- and middle-income countries.

Half of all drowning deaths are in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, according to the WHO.

Rates of drowning deaths per 100 000 population are highest, however, in the Western Pacific region followed by the African region.

“Anyone can drown, no one should,” noted Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization (WHO).

“I welcome the opportunity of this first World Drowning Prevention Day to increase attention and hasten action by governments and their partners to avert the pain and suffering caused by drowning, a largely preventable killer.”

World Drowning Prevention Day was called for by member states through adoption in April 2021 of UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/75/273, which also invited the WHO to coordinate drowning prevention actions.

To mark World Drowning Prevention Day, WHO and partners will host a virtual event on July 28, entitled “Global, national and local reflections on World Drowning Prevention Day 2021”.


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Pakistan deploys Army at Afghan border amid deteriorating situation in Afghanistan

(Asian News Hub) – Amid the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan due to US drawdown, Pakistan’s regular army has been deployed at the border areas with the neighbouring country as a security measure.

“Now regular army troops are manning the border after replacing the paramilitary forces,” the Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was quoted by the Dawn.

There are two key border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan; at Chaman in Balochistan and Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In recent weeks, large-scale violence has been on the rise as the Taliban stepped up its offensive since the start of US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and preventing the Afghan forces from carrying out military operations against them.

The decision to deploy the army was made amid the uncertain situation in the war-torn country.

“Paramilitary troops including the Frontier Constabulary, Levies, Rangers are deployed at the borders to deal with regular issues including illegal border crossing, smuggling etc,” the Interior Minister said. “However, the current volatile situation (in Afghanistan) demands that regular military troops be deployed along the border.”

Afghanistan is witnessing clashes between the government and the Taliban who have seized significant territories throughout the country and launched an offensive against big cities.

The growing Taliban offensive has created a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan which is leading to a refugee problem. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government announced that it will no longer welcome Afghan refugees.

The ties between the two sides have further deteriorated since the daughter of the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan was briefly kidnapped on her way home in Islamabad on July 16. Thereafter, Kabul recalled its ambassador from Islamabad, demanding punishment for those responsible.


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