Coronavirus world news: Cases top 2 milion; G20 delays poor nations’ debt payments
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has increased coronavirus pandemic funding to $250 million; G20 nations have agreed to suspend debt payments owed to them by some of the world's poorest countries.
The novel coronavirus cases across the globe have surpassed the two million mark amid widespread condemnation of US President Donald Trump for halting funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) over its response to the outbreak. The United States is the world's worst-affected country and its coronavirus death toll has topped 30,000.
The fatalities in the US have doubled in just a week and set a record single-day increase on Wednesday -- for the second day in a row. New US cases have been rising by about 25,000 a day, down from a peak of 35,000.
New York City, centre of the US epidemic, revised its COVID-19 death toll sharply higher to nearly 11,000 - around a third of the overall US total - to include victims presumed to have died of the disease but who were not tested.
But declines in hospitalizations and need for intensive care for coronavirus patients across New York state prompted Governor Andrew Cuomo to say on Wednesday that fears of its healthcare system becoming overwhelmed had not materialized.
Trump said the data suggests the nation has passed the peak of new coronavirus infections and that he will announce guidelines for reopening the economy on Thursday.
Many of the hardest-hit countries have acknowledged that they are failing to register large numbers of coronavirus deaths among elderly people living in nursing homes, where testing is rare.
Data from Belgium indicated that almost half of its coronavirus-related deaths had occurred in nursing homes.
WHO REACTION TO TRUMP'S MOVE
Reacting to the funding halt, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said he regrets Trump's decision, but that now is the time for the world to unite in its fight against the new coronavirus.
After gradually becoming more hostile towards the Geneva-based WHO, Trump accused it of promoting Chinese "disinformation" about the virus, saying this had probably worsened the outbreak.
Ghebreyesus told a news conference that the United States "has been a long-standing and generous friend of the WHO, and we hope it will continue to be so."
"WHO is reviewing the impact on our work of any withdrawal of US funding and we will work with partners to fill any gaps and ensure our work continues uninterrupted," Tedros added.
The ???????? has been a longstanding & generous friend to @WHO & we hope it will continue to be so. We regret the decision of @realDonaldTrump to order a halt in funding to WHO.— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) April 15, 2020
Together, we can improve the health of many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. #COVID19
GATES FOUNDATION INCREASES PANDEMIC FUNDS
Global health campaigner and donor Bill Gates tweeted that "Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds ... The world needs WHO now more than ever."
The Gates Foundation is the second largest donor to the WHO behind the United States.
Announcing an extra $150 million of funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help speed the development of treatments, vaccines and public health measures to tackle the new coronavirus outbreak, Melinda Gates said the WHO was "exactly the organization that can deal with this pandemic".
The $150 million of extra funding adds to an initial $100 million from the Gates Foundation designed to kick-start scientific and public health projects.
"De-funding the WHO makes absolutely no sense during a pandemic. We need a global coordinated response," said Melinda, who co-chairs the foundation with the billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
But Washington showed no sign of softening its stance, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed China's top diplomat on the need for full transparency and information sharing to fight the pandemic.
G20 DELAYS POOR NATIONS’ DEBT PAYMENTS
There was a sign of global unity among the Group of 20 major economies, including the US, which agreed to suspend debt service payments for the world's poorest countries from May 1 until the end of the year.
Meeting host Saudi Arabia said this would free up more than $20 billion for them to spend on their health systems.
In all, 77 countries are due to benefit from the agreement.
The G20 has also called for private lenders to take similar steps for debts owed to them by the poorest countries. However, the G20 suggested this could be done on a voluntary basis.
MONEY GOING ELSEWHERE
The US contributed more than $400 million to the WHO in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget.
A senior administration official said Washington would stop a $58 million "assessed contribution" that it was due to pay for 2020.
The US also traditionally provides several hundred million dollars a year in voluntary funding tied to specific WHO programs. "That money will be spent with other partners," said a second senior Trump administration official.
EASING THE LOCKDOWN
Spain and Italy, which have almost 40,000 coronavirus deaths between them, have begun this week to allow some non-essential businesses to reopen in the hope of reawakening locked-down economies nosediving into recession.
The WHO said the world stood at a "pivotal juncture" and countries that eased restrictions should wait at least two weeks to evaluate the impact before easing further.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday some shops in Germany could reopen next week and that schools would be allowed to open gradually from May 4, but that social distancing rules would remain in place for now.
But England's chief medical officer said that although Britain, with almost 13,000 deaths, was probably close to the peak of its epidemic, it was too soon to think about next steps.
Some 94 per cent of Americans have been under government stay-at-home orders, but a top US health official said governors of about 20 states spared the worst of the coronavirus outbreak may start reopening their economies by Trump's May 1 target date.
Trump is forming advisory groups on how to open up the country. On Wednesday, Amazon.com Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg participated in White House conference calls, their firms said.