Coronavirus world news today: World close to a million virus infections; deaths double in US
The US Department of Defence is reportedly working to provide up to 100,000 body bags for use by civilian authorities in the coming weeks. The White House has previously said deaths could reach 240,000.
The novel coronavirus infections across the world are nearing one million mark, prompting the World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to voice deep concern about the approaching milestone. COVID-19 cases are now being reported from 205 countries and territories.
“As we enter the fourth month since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic I’m deeply concerned about the rapid escalation and global spread of infection,” Tedros told a virtual news conference in Geneva where the UN health organization is based.
“Over the past five weeks, we have witnessed a near exponential growth in the number of new cases, reaching almost every country.
“The number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week. In the next few days we will reach one million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths,” Tedros added.
So far, the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 47,000 people and infected over 900,000 worldwide.
Tedros said that his agency, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed debt relief to help developing countries cope with the pandemic's social and economic consequences.
China, where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged in December, reported dwindling new infections on Wednesday and for the first time disclosed the number of asymptomatic cases, which could complicate how trends in the outbreak are read.
Its latest figures excluded 130 new sufferers of the highly contagious disease who do not show symptoms, its statistics showed.
NUMBER OF DEATHS DOUBLE IN US
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening warned of “difficult days” for the country, saying: “We are going to have a couple of weeks, starting pretty much now, but especially a few days from now, that are going to be horrific.”
Four new states imposed sweeping stay-at-home directives in response to the pandemic, putting over 80% of Americans under lockdown as the number of deaths in the US nearly doubled in three days.
The rapid growth in the number of infections has overwhelmed hospitals in many cities.
The governors of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Nevada each instituted the strict policies on a day when the death toll from COVID-19 shot up by 925 to more than 5,000 nationwide, with over 200,000 confirmed cases.
Trump said he saw no need for the federal government to issue a nationwide decree, with 39 states and the District of Columbia now requiring residents to stay home except for essential outings to the doctor or grocery store.
White House medical experts have forecast that even if Americans hunker down in their homes to slow the spread of COVID-19, some 100,000 to 240,000 people could die from the respiratory disease.
A Pentagon official has told Reuters that the US Department of Defence was working to provide up to 100,000 body bags for use by civilian authorities in the coming weeks.
New York state remained the epicentre of the outbreak, accounting for more than a third of the US deaths.
Trump again questioned China’s reported numbers on the virus: “The numbers seem to be a little bit on the light side – and I am being nice when I say that – relative to what we witnessed and what was reported.”
The comments came after a senior Republican lawmaker cast doubt on Beijing's data and Bloomberg News said a classified US intelligence report had concluded that China had under-reported the total cases and deaths it had suffered.
The US has, meanwhile, agreed to buy from Russia ventilators, medical supplies and other personal protection equipment needed to treat patients infected with COVID-19.
SITUATION IN EUROPE
In Europe, the three worst-affected countries -- Italy (110,000), Spain (104,000) and Germany (78,000) – represent just under a third of the confirmed cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University figures. This combined death toll makes up 44% of fatalities worldwide.
The UK has seen its biggest daily rise in coronavirus deaths – 563 -- in what Prime Minister Boris Johnson called a "sad, sad day". The death toll has now reached 2,352 with over 29,000 positive cases.
France became the fourth country to pass the 4,000 coronavirus deaths threshold on Wednesday, after Italy, Spain and the US, as the government scrambled to stay ahead of the curve regarding ventilator-equipped beds that are quickly filling up. French health authorities reported 509 new deaths from the disease, taking the total to 4,032.
In Russia, the official tally of confirmed cases is 2,777, with 24 deaths, although some doctors in the country have questioned the accuracy of official data. President Vladimir Putin is taking precautions to protect himself, as Moscow launched a smartphone app designed to track people who have been ordered to stay home.
The confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil have risen by 1,119 to 6,836 and the death toll by 39 to 240. Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro discussed cooperation between the two countries in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as Brazil's Health Minister warned that infection rates and lack of medical supplies were a big concern.
Criticism has grown over Bolsonaro's handling of the crisis. The right-wing populist has attacked state governors for lockdowns that are causing job losses, played down the threat of what he calls "a little flu".
ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
Australia has, meanwhile, reported around 5,200 infections and 25 deaths, with daily increases in new cases dropping to single digits from between 25% and 30% two weeks ago. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday the country's testing rate was now more than 1,000 tests per 100,000 people, or 1% of the population.
South Korea is grappling with a steady rise in new infections. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 89 new cases on Thursday, taking the national tally to 9,976. Over 160 have died due to the virus. The official two-week campaign period for South Korea’s upcoming election has begun - and candidates are working to find new ways to connect with voters as the country continues to battle Covid-19.
In Japan, facing calls to declare a coronavirus state of emergency, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was flamed on social media for instead offering people free cloth masks, pointing to growing frustration for some over his handling of the crisis. Coronavirus infections are on the rise in Japan - with some 2,500 confirmed cases as of Thursday morning and 70 deaths.
Singapore suffered its fourth coronavirus-related death on Thursday, a day after the city-state reported a record number of new cases that took its total infections to 1,000.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has urged police to kill those violating virus lockdown measures. The Philippines has recorded 96 coronavirus deaths and 2,311 confirmed cases, all but three in the past three weeks, with infections now being reported in the hundreds every day.
India scoured mosques to trace people who attended a Muslim gathering in New Delhi that later emerged as a hotspot. Over 40 people have died due to the virus.
Sri Lanka has reported over 140 cases, with three deaths. In Pakistan, there are concerns of local transmission in Pakistan as cases surge beyond 2,000, with over 25 deaths.
In Bangladesh, a leaked UN memo warning that two million could die in the country has been rejected by officials, who say various measures are in place to curb the spread of the virus. The country saw its sixth Covid-19 death on Wednesday as cases rose to 54.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
Iran, the coronavirus hotbed in the Middle East – has so far reported over 3,000 deaths and over 47,000 positive cases. The country's President Hassan Rouhani said the US had missed an opportunity to lift sanctions on his country, though he said the penalties had not hampered Tehran's fight against the virus.
Egypt has ramped up efforts to fight the coronavirus, ordering manufacturers to channel medical protective equipment to public hospitals.