Manila (AFP)

Millions of Filipinos returned to containment on Tuesday in the face of a worsening of the Covid-19 epidemic, the progression of which seems inexorable, especially in South America and the Caribbean, where the number of cases now exceeds five million.

More than 27 million people, or about a quarter of the population of the Philippines, are again forced to stay at home, after the cry of alarm from medical associations, who warned that the country was losing the battle against Covid-19.

Since the beginning of June, when most of the country was out of containment, infections have quintupled, surpassing the 100,000 case mark.

- Stuck in Manila -

"We have no more money. We cannot leave the airport because we have no family here," laments Ruel Damaso, a 36-year-old construction worker who would like to return home to Zamboanga, in the south of the country.

"We weren't up to the task. Nobody expected that," admitted President Rodrigo Duterte.

And he's not the only leader to worry. In Geneva, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned of the risks of a very long epidemic and especially without a miracle solution.

"There is no panacea and there may never be," he warned Monday during a video conference.

"Clinical trials give us hope. This does not necessarily mean that we will have a vaccine" effective, especially over time, he said.

- Vaccine race -

The race for vaccines is still going strong. Russia said it was able on Monday to produce "several million" doses from the start of next year.

But other experts warn against the duration of this extraordinary pandemic, which has already devastated the economies of the planet, and recommend that the tests be drastically developed.

"We are so attached to high-end and expensive tests that we do not test anyone," said Michael Mina, professor of epidemiology at Harvard, who has been campaigning for weeks for what he called poor quality tests, but very economical and available to everyone.

"Maybe we just need a null test. If it is cheap enough to be used frequently, then it will maybe detect 85% of infectious people, instead of less. 5% ", underlines this expert.

The Covid-19 epidemic also continues to abuse the world's health systems or reveal their weaknesses, as in Brazil where the coronavirus has highlighted the lack of funding and mismanagement.

The South American giant, with nearly 95,000 dead, is the most affected country in Latin America, a continent where the pandemic continues to progress. South America and the Caribbean exceeded the threshold of five million contaminations on Monday.

In the United States, the country most affected by the epidemic, more than 46,000 new cases have still been recorded in 24 hours, bringing the number of contaminations in the world's leading power to 4.7 million. More than 18 million people around the world have been infected with the coronavirus since its appearance in China.

- Restrictions in Australia -

Concern is also growing in Oceania where multiple restrictions have been put in place in Australia, in the face of the progression of the disease. From midnight Wednesday, all non-essential businesses will be closed in Melbourne, as well as administrations, a measure in addition to the night curfew imposed since Sunday evening on residents of the city.

The pandemic also continues to weigh heavily on economies, especially the tourism sector. Norway on Monday announced restrictions on cruises along its coasts after dozens of cases of the new coronavirus appeared on board a ship of the Hurtigruten company, which apologized and admitted its "mistakes".

The cruise line Carnival Cruise Line, which had planned to resume operations this week after several months of suspension due to the pandemic, has finally had to postpone its first trips for lack of green light from Italy.

And in the United States, the aid plan is slow to arrive, leaving the unemployed and businesses in the dark.

Nearly a hundred bosses of American multinationals like Walmart, Microsoft or Merck, as well as professional federations, nevertheless sent a letter to American parliamentarians on Monday.

They predict "a wave of permanent closures" if nothing is done by early September and "a domino effect on destroyed jobs".

The world of sport is trying to resume a normal life. Professional tennis thus experienced its very first exchanges, after a five-month hiatus, at the WTA tournament in Palermo, Sicily.

A modest tournament, it remains nonetheless symbolic: no ball had resounded on the professional circuits since March 8.

© 2020 AFP