Coronavirus: Britain’s death toll up 539 to 30,615 as European fatalities pass 150,000

World round-up: China declares whole country low risk; UN warns of ‘multiple famines’

Mortuary workers in London: The Covid-19 death toll is now above 30,000 in the UK. Photograph: EPA

Mortuary workers in London: The Covid-19 death toll is now above 30,000 in the UK. Photograph: EPA


The number of people who have died after contracting Covid-19 in Europe has surpassed 150,000, with most in the UK, Italy, Spain and France, a tally of official figures by the AFP news agency showed.

More than 3.75 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel

coronavirus globally and 263,831 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

The United Nations has warned that the global pandemic could cause “multiple famines”, as it appealed for a further $4.7bn (€3.7bn) in funding to help more than 50 vulnerable countries in its global humanitarian response plan.


Britain’s Covid-19 death toll has risen by 539 to 30,615, according to figures announced on Thursday by foreign minister Dominic Raab.

The figures, collated by government agency Public Health England and equivalents in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, comprise deaths in all settings following positive coronavirus tests and cover the period up to Wednesday.

Another dataset published by Britain’s Office for National Statistics published on Tuesday showed a higher toll. This included deaths where coronavirus is mentioned on the death certificate, and the data is only published weekly.

The UK’s coronavirus lockdown is likely to begin to be eased from Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson said, as he promised to announce details to the nation this weekend.

“We will want, if we possibly can, to get going with some of these measures on Monday,” Mr Johnson told parliament. He said he will set out the next phase of the coronavirus strategy in a public statement on Sunday because it would be a “good thing” if people knew what to expect before the changes came into operation the next day. As part of its plans to exit the lockdown, the government has already said it will roll out a mass programme of tracking and tracing coronavirus cases.


China’s government has declared the whole country is low risk as the number of coronavirus cases fall to nearly zero. The country’s National Health Administration reported just two new coronavirus cases, both of them brought from overseas, and said 295 people remained in hospital with Covid-19. In addition, there have been no deaths reported from the virus for more than three weeks. Authorities shut an emergency field hospital in the region after the closing of the land border and strict social distancing measures appeared to have decreased new cases to zero. In total,

China has reported 4,633 deaths among 82,885 cases of the virus that is believed to have originated in the central industrial city of Wuhan late last year before spreading worldwide.


France said on Wednesday it was drawing up a contingency plan to reimpose restrictions if there is a spike in cases after next Monday, when it begins lifting one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, imposed on March 17th. “If the virus begins to circulate again intensively, we need to give ourselves the means locally to act immediately,” Jean Castex, the “Monsieur Deconfinement” charged with organising France’s lockdown exit, told senators on Wednesday. People’s adherence to physical distancing and washing hands was “key to the success of the fight against the pandemic”.


In Germany, Angela Merkel announced steps agreed with 16 federal state leaders to push ahead with lifting restrictions, with all students to return to school this month, all remaining shops to reopen, and top-flight football to resume. But wary of a second wave of cases, Dr Merkel confirmed plans for an “emergency brake” that would oblige municipalities to return to lockdown if there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within a seven-week period.


Spain’s coronavirus daily death toll fell on Thursday to 213 down from 244 the day before, the health ministry reported. The overall number of coronavirus deaths rose to 26,070, up from 25,857 on Wednesday. The number of diagnosed cases of coronavirus in the country rose to 221,447 from 220,325 the previous day. On Wednesday, prime minister Pedro Sanchez said abruptly ending nearly eight weeks of lockdown would be “absolutely wrong, a total, unforgivable error,” as he secured parliamentary approval to re-extend the country’s state of emergency to May 24th, following days of bitter rowing and frantic negotiations.


Italy reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases in four days on Wednesday, as prime minister Giuseppe Conte battles tensions within his coalition over a new stimulus package for the country’s paralyzed economy. Deaths in Italy climbed by 369 on Wednesday, while the daily tally of new infections also rose by 1,444.


The Danish government health agency SSI said it was “highly likely” that the epidemic would “die out on its own” in the short term, even as normal life starts to resume, but warned that the level of immunity in the population was low and there was “a considerable risk that a second wave of the epidemic will come later”.


Slovakia, which locked down harder and earlier than many of its neighbours, reopened restaurant terraces, hotels, shops outside large malls and other businesses on Wednesday thanks to better than expected progress. Small shops reopened on April 22nd. The government also gave the green light for religious services and weddings to take place with limited numbers of guests, after tests showed 11 consecutive days of single-digit growth in new infections.


Belgium’s prime minister, Sophie Wilmes, said households could welcome up to four people into their home for repeat visits from this weekend, as long as they are the same four. Guests must keep to the approved 1.5-metre distance and meetings should if possible take place outdoors, she said.


Russia reported more than 10,000 new cases for a fourth day in a row, bringing its tally to 165,929. The number of new Covid-19 cases surged by 10,559 over the past 24 hours, bringing the countrywide tally to 165,929, the country’s coronavirus crisis response centre has announced. It is the fourth consecutive day that cases have risen by more than 10,000. The crisis response centre also reported 86 new coronavirus deaths, meaning the death toll in Russia has reached 1,537. Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said restrictions would remain in place beyond the current May 11th deadline but companies involved in industry and construction would go back to work. The European commission has said Europe will experience a recession this year of a depth unmatched since the Great Depression. The bloc’s economy is forecast to contract by 7.5 per cent in 2020 and grow by around 6 per cent in 2021.

Baltic states

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others’ citizens from May 15th, creating a Baltic “travel bubble” within the EU.


President Donald Trump has again suggested the US may need to accept the reality of more deaths in order to start reopening the economy, as governments around the world continued to ease out of lockdown restrictions. After backtracking on earlier indications that he would wind up the White House coronavirus taskforce, Mr Trump spelled out a potentially brutal approach to kickstarting the world’s biggest economy. “We have to be warriors,” Mr Trump told Fox News when asked if Americans should expect additional deaths as the country looks to reopen. “We can’t keep our country closed down for years.” The president added: “Hopefully that won’t be the case, but it could very well be the case.” By Thursday morning the number of cases in the US stood at more than 1.2 million and 73,431 deaths, with infections still on the rise in some states.


The Coronavirus cases in India rose past 50,000, the health ministry said on Thursday, with the pace of new infections showing no signs of abating despite a strict weeks-long lockdown in the world’s second-most populous country. India added 3,561 cases, taking its total 52,952 - behind over 82,000 in China where the virus originated - while the death toll rose by 89 to 1,783, still low compared with the United States, United Kingdom and Italy. Officials attributed the low toll to the government’s move to impose a stay-at-home order on the nation’s 1.3 billion people early in the cycle, but noted a spurt in cases from the densely packed economic centres of Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad. Infectious diseases experts have also expressed concern that official data in India is not capturing the full extent of the crisis. The infection numbers in India fall far short of the United States, which has 1.2 million cases and is nearing 75,000 deaths despite a much smaller population.


New coronavirus infections in Iran have risen sharply since the country relaxed its restrictions on movement. Tehran on Wednesday reported 1,680 new infections, nearly double the figure four days ago and the highest daily figure since April 11th when it allowed a phased return to work amid fears of economic collapse. A ban on travel between cities and business at shopping malls has since also been lifted. “We are witnessing a rising trend in the past three or four days,” said a health ministry spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, blaming “our behaviour, especially in the past two weeks. A part of society has apparently had a change of attitude.” Iran has reported more than 100,000 Covid-19 cases and nearly 6,500 deaths.

New Zealand

Hairdressers, bars and competitive sport could be back on the agenda for New Zealanders from next week as the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the country was “halfway down Everest” in its fight against Covid-19. Ms Ardern and her cabinet will make a decision on downgrading the country’s alert level from three to two on Monday, and by Wednesday, life could begin to look much more normal - and fun - for millions of cooped-up Kiwis. The relaxation of restrictions, which would allow gatherings of up to 100 people, both indoors and outdoors, was greeted with jubilation across the country.


The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has passed 50,000 and deaths have passed 2,000, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Africa now has 51,698 confirmed cases, but the widespread shortage of testing materials means the real number is unknown. All but one of Africa’s 54 countries, Lesotho, have confirmed cases. Africa’s healthcare systemsAfrican nations are facing a surge of Covid-19 cases with less than one intensive care bed and one ventilator per 100,000 people, a Reuters survey has found. Even in a best-case scenario, the continent could need at least 10 times the numbers it has now as the outbreak peaks, an analysis of researchers’ projections showed.

South America

Brazil, one of the world’s emerging coronavirus hot spots, registered a record number of cases and deaths on Wednesday, prompting the health minister to flag the possibility of strict lockdowns in particularly hard-hit areas. The nation registered 10,503 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, well above the previous record of 7,288 cases on April 30th, according to health ministry data. Brazil also registered 615 deaths, up from the previous record of 600 on Tuesday. There are over 100,000 completed coronavirus tests that still have not been registered in the national database, health ministry subsecretary Wanderson Oliveira warned, meaning case numbers could rise steeply in the coming days. Overall, Brazil has registered 125,218 cases and 8,536 deaths due to the virus. As part of Brazil’s bid to combat the coronavirus outbreak, officials said they were attempting to dramatically ramp up testing capacity from the current 2,700 tests per day.

Colombia declared a second state of emergency to support sectors of the economy that will remain shut down for an extended period. Mexico reported 1,609 new cases and 197 additional fatalities. At least 47 residents and three workers have been infected at a retirement home in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. Confirmed cases in Peru have now exceeded 50,000 with in excess of 1,400 deaths. Ciro Maguia, an infectious disease specialist and vice-dean of Peru’s College of Physicians, said the “worst stage” of the outbreak was still ahead. “I calculate that we should enter the peak of cases in mid-May,” he said.

El Salvador will from Thursday temporarily suspend public transport and the measure would remain in place for 15 days. Total cases in Panama reached 7,731 on Wednesday, a rise of 208 from the previous day, and deaths climbed by eight to 218.– Reuters, Guardian, PA, Bloomberg