Coronavirus: Death toll in US doubles in 10 days to 50,000

Coronavirus: Worldwide infections approach 3 million mark with 190,000 deaths

A casket of a Muslim who passed away from the coronavirus is brought to a van for burial at a busy Brooklyn funeral home on the first day of Ramadan on April 24th  in New York City. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty

A casket of a Muslim who passed away from the coronavirus is brought to a van for burial at a busy Brooklyn funeral home on the first day of Ramadan on April 24th in New York City. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty

 

Coronavirus has infected more than 2.7 million people around the world, with the death toll passing 190,000.

Here are the latest updates on the pandemic from around the world:

United States

US president Donald Trump has claimed he was being sarcastic and testing the media when he raised the idea that injecting disinfectant or irradiating the body with ultraviolet light might treat coronavirus.

His comments sparked outrage among the medical community.

The US death toll from the novel coronavirus reached 50,000 on Friday, having doubled in 10 days, according to a Reuters tally.

More than 875,000 Americans have contracted the highly contagious respiratory illness, also known as Covid-19, caused by the virus, and on average about 2,000 have died every day this month, according to a Reuters tally.

The true number of cases is thought to be higher, with state public health officials cautioning that shortages of trained workers and materials have limited testing capacity.

Deaths are also likely higher, as most states only count hospital and nursing home victims and not those who died at home. About 40 per cent of the deaths have occurred in New York state, the epicenter of the US outbreak, followed by New Jersey, Michigan and Massachusetts.

One of every five New York City residents tested positive for antibodies to the coronavirus, according to preliminary results described by governor Andrew Cuomo that suggested that the virus had spread far more widely than known.

US Army service members from the 531st field hospital examine a patient’s x-ray results at the Javits New York Medical Station in New York on April 18th. Photograph: Cpl Rachel Thicklin/US Army/EPA
US Army service members from the 531st field hospital examine a patient’s x-ray results at the Javits New York Medical Station in New York on April 18th. Photograph: Cpl Rachel Thicklin/US Army/EPA

United Kingdom

Close to 20,000 people have died in hospital in the United Kingdom after testing positive for the new coronavirus, data showed on Friday, as Britain approached a milestone it had hoped never to reach.

As the death toll rose relentlessly, speculation mounted that prime minister Boris Johnson, who himself spent three nights in intensive care battling Covid-19 earlier this month, would soon get back to work after Mr Trump said he “sounded incredible” on the phone.

Whenever Mr Johnson does return, he will face the conundrum of how to come out of a lockdown that is destroying swathes of the economy, while avoiding a deadly second wave of infections.

The number of people who have died in hospital across the United Kingdom after testing positive for the coronavirus has risen to 19,506, up by 684 in a day.

Britain has the fifth-worst official death toll in the world, after the United States, Italy, Spain and France, and government scientists have said that the death rate will only start to decline quickly in another couple of weeks.

Also on Friday, Britain has agreed a trilateral deal with Ireland and France to keep freight routes open for vital goods such as food and medicines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the deal signed with Minister for Transport Shane Ross and their French counterpart Jean-Baptiste Djebbari committed the three governments to support freight operators.

Spain

Millions of Spanish children will be able to leave their homes for the first time in six weeks on Sunday, as their country takes another step towards lifting its coronavirus lockdown.

Spain’s daily coronavirus deaths fell to the lowest in more than a month on Friday, with 367 registered in the previous 24 hours, as the government prepared criteria to ease one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns from next month.

The new deaths were just a 1.7 per cent increase overall, down from 440 the previous day, and the lowest since March 21st, underlining optimism that Spain’s epidemic was past the worst.

However, with 22,524 deaths in total, it still has the world’s third-highest tally after the United States and Italy.

Cases rose over 6,700 to 219,764 from the day before, but the rise in new infections based on more specific testing was much lower, at 2,796, meaning those cured, at 3,105, surpassed new infections for the first time.

For restrictions to be lifted, there must be no more than two daily cases per 100,000 people in an area, or Covid-19 patients must occupy no more than half of ICU beds.

The government has already taken some steps to relax the lockdown, such as allowing construction workers back and letting children take walks outside from this weekend, but broader restrictions will not be eased until late May.

Anticipating more people outside, the government started capping prices of protective surgical masks at 96 cents apiece, and of disinfecting gels and solutions at 15-21 cents per millilitre depending on packaging volume.

Buddhists wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus maintain social distancing during a service at the Chogyesa temple in South Korea on Friday. Photograph: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
Buddhists wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus maintain social distancing during a service at the Chogyesa temple in South Korea on Friday. Photograph: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

France

France will not reopen its restaurants, bars and cafes before June. Authorities also announced reinforced financial support for the sector amid the virus crisis.

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said the government is deferring tax payments and extending short-term unemployment to businesses that will not be allowed to reopen next month.

He said small companies with fewer than 20 employees can apply for emergency aid of up to €10,000.

Most French businesses are set to reopen on May 11th, but the schedule for restaurants, bars and cafes will not be decided before the end of May, Mr Le Maire said.

France has recorded 158,387 infections and 21,856 deaths from Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. France’s death toll is the world’s fourth highest from the pandemic.

The French public will be provided millions of washable face masks from early May, the government said on Friday amid a row over its flip-flopping on the value of masks in protecting against coronavirus infection.

Until the scheduled end of France’s lockdown period on May 11th, these masks will be sold to companies and municipalities, but from May 4th they will also be sold to the public, probably via pharmacies, supermarkets, newspaper shops and online.

The French government has been criticised by medical specialists and opposition politicians for repeatedly shifting position on whether, when and where citizens should wear masks in public to limit the contagion of the highly infections virus.

Portugal

Portugal hopes to conduct 70,000 coronavirus tests by the end of May at care homes, among whose residents around two in five of the country’s coronavirus deaths have occurred.

Around 17,000 tests have been conducted so far at some 200 homes.

The ramp-up, due to cover about 750 homes, aims to contain the spread of the outbreak there “by testing all workers and residents with symptoms”, the labour ministry said.

The Institute of Social Security estimates that around 150,000 people live in care homes across the country, so the planned tests would cover less than half of those residents.

Around 35,000 more live in unregistered homes, according to the Association of Domiciliary and Care Home Support (ALI).

Portugal has reported 22,797 coronavirus cases and 854 fatalities.

Russia

Russia on Friday reported 5,849 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, pushing its nationwide tally to 68,622.

Sixty people with the virus died overnight, pushing the death toll to 615, Russia’s official crisis response centre said.

A temporary hospital in St Petersburg with just over 1,000 beds for coronavirus patients will open in the city’s Lenexpo exhibition centre by the end of the week, RIA news agency reported late on Thursday.

St Petersburg, Russia’s second biggest city, had reported 2,700 coronavirus cases and 20 deaths as of Friday.

To help Russia’s health system cope with the outbreak, hospitals across the country, including private ones, are being asked to turn their focus on the coronavirus outbreak.

The defence ministry is also building 16 brand new hospitals across the country, including the central regions of Moscow and St Petersburg to the south and Volga river areas, as well as in Siberia and far east. The ministry expects the new hospitals to be fully ready by mid-May.

An empty Terminal 4 at Madrid-Barajas Airport. Photograph: Rodrigo Jimnez/EPA
An empty Terminal 4 at Madrid-Barajas Airport. Photograph: Rodrigo Jimnez/EPA

Sweden

Sweden warned on Friday it would shut restaurants and bars in the capital that did not comply with guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, amid signs Stockholm residents were beginning to ignore the rules.

It also reported 812 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, the highest number of new cases yet reported, bringing the total number of infections so far in the country to 17,567.

The capital has been the hardest-hit city in Sweden, accounting for more than half of Sweden’s 2,021 fatalities from Covid-19. On Friday, the country reported 131 new deaths.

Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg said there were worrying signs that as the weather got warmer, people in the capital were beginning to ignore social-distancing rules.

“I don’t want to see any full open-air restaurants in Stockholm or anywhere else. Otherwise, businesses will be closed.”

He said this would apply to bars and restaurant around the country, not just Stockholm.

Authorities in Sweden have opted against the kind of total lockdown seen across much of Europe, relying on Swedes’ sense of social responsibility with a strategy based on mostly voluntary measures to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

Primary and secondary schools are open, and while the government has banned mingling at bar counters and gatherings of more than 50 people, food and drink is still served at tables indoors and outside.

Czech Republic

The country is relaxing restrictions for foreigners who have been barred from entering the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Interior minister Jan Hamacek, who heads the government committee leading its response to the outbreak, said the citizens of European Union countries will be allowed to arrive to do business for three days, starting on Monday.

They still will have to present at the border a negative test for coronavirus that is not older than four days, Mr Hamacek said. The government has already cancelled the ban on movement across the country and the Czechs are again allowed to travel abroad.

South Korea

Officials are to strap electronic wristbands on people who ignore home-quarantine orders in South Korea’s latest use of tracking technology to control its outbreak.

Vice health minister Kim Gang-lip said those who refuse to wear the bands after breaking quarantine will be sent to shelters where they will be asked to pay for accommodation.

Officials said about 46,300 people are under self-quarantine. The number ballooned after the government began enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad on April 1st amid worsening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.

Although quarantined individuals have been required to download a tracking app that alerts authorities if they leave their homes, some of them have been caught slipping out by leaving their phones behind.

The wristbands will communicate with the phone apps through Bluetooth and alert authorities when people leave home or attempt to remove the bands.

India

A surge in cases of the coronavirus in the central Indian state of Maharashtra has propelled the country to a record 24-hour high on the eve of Ramadan.

Health authorities said that Maharashtra recorded 778 new cases on Thursday, bringing India’s total of confirmed cases of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, to 22,930.

India’s 1,680 new cases marked its biggest single-day jump since April 19th, a day before India relaxed some restrictions for industry in a bid to help employ some of the millions of migrant workers who fled cities for their homes villages when the lockdown was announced on March 24th.

Fearing rampant spread of the disease in the city’s crowded slums, officials in India’s financial capital of Mumbai, in Maharashtra, are developing a plan to administer doses of the Trump-backed anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against Covid-19.

Hydroxychloroquine has long been used to treat malaria and anti-inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis but is not a proven treatment for Covid-19 and may cause heart rhythm problems.

Australia

Parliament will sit for three days in mid-May in a sign that the wheels of government are returning to normal despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Parliament’s schedule was scrapped in March and a scaled-down assembly has met only two days since to pass billions of dollars in emergency economic measures.

Prime minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday that Parliament will sit on May 12th to 14th to deal with usual legislative business as well as some virus-related bills.

There will be fewer politicians than usual in the Senate and House of Representative chambers due to social distancing regulations. Mr Morrison said he expects more sitting weeks will be scheduled through June.

Obstacles to politicians meeting in the national capital include a shortage of domestic flights and most states demanding interstate travellers quarantine in hotels for two weeks.

China

The country has reported no new Covid-19 deaths for the ninth straight day, and just six new cases of the virus.

Two of those were brought from overseas, with three domestic cases in Heilongjiang on the Russian border and one in the southern business hub of Guangdong.

Hospitals are still treating 915 cases, 57 listed as serious, while 999 people are being isolated and monitored as either suspected cases or for having tested positive without showing symptoms.

The country’s death toll from the global pandemic first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year remains at 4,632 among 82,804 cases.

Philippines

The Philippines’ Health Ministry on Friday reported that confirmed cases of the new coronavirus have risen to more than 7,000.

In a bulletin, the ministry recorded 211 new infections, 15 additional deaths and 40 more recoveries. It brought the total cases to 7,192, deaths to 477 and recoveries to 762.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday extended a strict lockdown in the capital Manila until May 15th to try to contain coronavirus infections, but will ease restrictions in lower-risk regions.

South Africa

South Africa’s government will begin to lift coronavirus lockdown restrictions next week due to concerns about their impact on jobs and the economy.

From May 1st, some businesses can reopen in a phased way, but most workers must continue to stay at home and public gatherings remain banned. Movement between provinces and international travel also remains severely restricted.

The mining sector is set to reopen, while shops and supermarkets can sell a wider variety of goods, including cigarettes, but alcohol remains banned. In addition, some schools will reopen, but class sizes will be dramatically reduced.

Yemen

The coronavirus ceasefire proclaimed unilaterally two weeks ago by Saudi Arabia has beenextended for a month to support endeavours to contain the pandemic in Yemen.

The extension coincides with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a traditional time of peacemaking. Eager to exit the deadlocked five-year war, the Saudis are seeking to renew United Nations-mediated peace talks.

Lebanon

Lebanon will extend a coronavirus lockdown by two weeks until May 10 but prime minister Hassan Diab said on Friday the economy would be reopened in gradual phases over the coming weeks.

Already hit by a financial crisis that led to a sovereign debt default and a fall in the value of its currency, Lebanon has ordered most businesses to close, shut Beirut airport and imposed an overnight curfew to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

New infections have largely tapered off in recent weeks. Lebanon has recorded 696 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths so far, with the ministry of health reporting eight new cases on Friday. - Agencies