Coronavirus: Worldwide death toll passes 258,000

Global infections pass 3.68m as French death toll almost equals Spain's 25,817

Paramedics test Formentera ferry’s passengers before they board the boat in Ibiza on Monday. Photograph: Sergio G Canizares/EPA

Paramedics test Formentera ferry’s passengers before they board the boat in Ibiza on Monday. Photograph: Sergio G Canizares/EPA

 

More than 3.68 million people have been reported to be infected by coronavirus globally and more than 258,000 have died, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

Countries including China and South Korea have marked major milestones in taming Covid-19, even as the UK became the epicentre of Covid-19 in Europe and infections rose sharply again in Russia.

South Korea reported only three new cases of the virus, its lowest total since February 18th, and schools will be reopened in phased steps, starting with high school seniors on May 13th, but the highlight on Tuesday was the resumption of the baseball season.

In China, it has been three weeks since any new deaths have been reported in the country where the pandemic began late last year. Just one new infection was confirmed, and fewer than 400 patients are still being treated for Covid-19, health officials said.

High school students study with plastic partitions in a classroom in Wuhan, with 121 schools reopening in province on Wednesday. Photograph: STR/AFP/Gtty
High school students study with plastic partitions in a classroom in Wuhan, with 121 schools reopening in province on Wednesday. Photograph: STR/AFP/Gtty

Other places in the Asia-Pacific region have also suppressed outbreaks, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, which has had no new cases for two days. But experts say India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, has yet to see the peak of its outbreak.

Britain now has Europe’s highest official coronavirus death toll after the latest round of daily figures on Tuesday showed it overtaking Italy.

In Russia, the number of infections rose sharply again, with Moscow reporting more than 10,000 new cases for three days in a row.

At the same time, many European countries that have relaxed strict lockdowns after new infections tapered off were watching their virus numbers warily.

In the US, moves to reopen some states came even as daily new infections continue to exceed 20,000 and daily deaths were over 1,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

On Tuesday, New York state reported more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities.

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

France

The number of people who have died after contracting Covid-19 in France increased by 278 or 1.1 per cent to 25,809 on Wednesday, just eight fewer than in Spain, which saw its virus toll rise by 204 or 0.8 per cent to 25,817, official data showed.

The number of people in intensive care units fell by 283 or 8.3 per cent to 3,147 in the biggest daily fall in four straight weeks of declines, the health ministry said in a statement.

The number of people in ICUs - a key measure of a health system’s ability to deal with the pandemic - is now well below half the peak of 7,148 seen on April 8th.

The number of people in hospital with coronavirus also fell again, to 23,983 from 25,775, continuing an uninterrupted three-week fall.

But despite a strict lockdown policy put in place on March 17th, the number of new coronavirus infections in hospitals jumped by 4,183 or 3.1 per cent to 137,150 in the biggest one-day increase since April 14th.

The number of probable cases in nursing homes fell by 543 to 37,041 so that the total number of reported coronavirus cases went up by 3,640 or 2.1 per cent to 174,191.

The French government plans to lift the lockdown on May 11, but has said that this depends on the number of new infections per day dropping below 3,000.

Over the past seven days the average daily increase has been 1,110 cases per day.

Netherlands

The Netherlands will begin easing coronavirus lockdown measures next week nearly two months after they were imposed, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday.

The phasing out of the restrictions will be rolled out over the next four months. They could be curbed if the new coronavirus starts spreading more quickly, Rutte warned.

“Steps to slowly open the economy and public life will give our country the space to look forward and make plans for the future. We will do that as quickly as possible, but it is better to be safe now than sorry later.”

Face masks will be compulsory on public transport from June 1st, he said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose by 232 to 41,319 on Wednesday, with 36 new deaths, health authorities said.

The country’s death toll stands at 5,204, the National Institute for Health (RIVM) said in its daily update. The RIVM cautioned that it only reports confirmed cases, and actual numbers are higher.

Germany

Germany will take its biggest step yet in relaxing curbs to contain the coronavirus, as the country prepares to open restaurants and all shops as well as restart professional soccer games.

Although many lockdown measures are being gradually phased out, limits on public contact will remain for weeks or months to come, and restrictions may be reinstated locally if a hot spot emerges. Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to stick to social-distancing rules to stem the risks of a second wave of infections.

“We can say today that we have the very first phase of the pandemic behind us,” Merkel said on Wednesday after talks with leaders of Germany’s 16 states, adding that the fight against the disease is still in its early stages.

Under the plan, regional authorities will be given greater leeway to decide the pace of the moves. The approach confirms what was happening in practice already as some state leaders jumped the gun with their own plans.

Bavaria’s Markus Soeder set the tone on Tuesday, announcing that larger shops and malls can reopen from next Monday in the southern state, with restaurants following on May 25th and hotels from May 30th.

The measures include plans to allow childcare facilities and remaining stores to resume operations. Late last month, some small shops, hardware stores and car dealerships were allowed to resume trading, while this week hairdressers reopened and schools have restarted for some students.

Germany tightened criteria on when curbs would be reinstated. If there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a given region, then local restrictions would need to be implemented to prevent the disease from spreading, Merkel said.

Restaurants can welcome customers for the first time in weeks starting as soon as Saturday, but they will need to make sanitary provisions, allow for sufficient distancing between patrons and take steps to protect their staff from infection.

Similar rules will be in place for schools and other businesses, and Bundesliga soccer matches will be held beginning in the second half of May.

Germany has been more successful than other large European countries in slowing the virus’ spread. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has increased by 947 to 164,807, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday. The reported death toll rose by 165 to 6,996.

Bayern Munich players train on Wednesday. The Bundesliga can restart in the second half of May following the coronavirus stoppage, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday. Photograph: Lukas Barth-Tuttas/EPA
Bayern Munich players train on Wednesday. The Bundesliga can restart in the second half of May following the coronavirus stoppage, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday. Photograph: Lukas Barth-Tuttas/EPA

Spain

The number of daily fatalities from the coronavirus in Spain picked up on Wednesday as health authorities registered 244 deaths, up from below 200 on each of the three previous days.

The health ministry said the overall coronavirus death toll rose to 25,817 on Wednesday from 25,613 the day before. The number of diagnosed coronavirus cases rose to 220,325 from 219,329 on Tuesday, the ministry said.

The number of international visitors to Spain plunged 64.3 per cent in March from the same month a year ago as hotels and apartments emptied of guests due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Spain, which had recorded seven consecutive years of record tourist arrivals and ranks as the world’s second most popular holiday destination, received just 2 million visitors in March, the National Statistics Office said on Wednesday.

In turn, tourist spending also collapsed 64 per cent year-on-year to €2.2 billion in March, the data showed.

Tourism is one of the most important pillars of Spain’s economy, contributing around 12 per cent of economic output and millions of jobs.

After Spain declared a state of emergency on March 14th in response to the outbreak, hotels and other tourist accommodation were shut down and borders closed as the government banned non-essential travel. Airlines also cancelled flights.

Spain’s economy shrunk by 5.2 per cent, its biggest amount on record, in the first three months of 2020 and official forecasts say it could shrink as much as 9.2 per cent this year.

Holiday islands like the Balaeric Islands are desperate to reopen, even if in a reduced capacity, and hotels are lobbying government for solutions like allowing limited travel between Germany and Mallorca.

United Kingdom

Prime minister Boris Johnson said he will lay out the next steps in his UK government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak on Sunday, and some changes to the nationwide lockdown are likely to take effect the following day.

As part of its plans to exit the lockdown, the government has already said it will roll out a mass program of tracking and tracing coronavirus cases. Johnson promised testing capacity would reach 200,000 a day by the end of the month.

The prime minister told the House of Commons any changes will be made based on the latest scientific data, which will come through over the coming days. In his first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions since falling sick with Covid-19 in March, he defended his government’s performance and said the time to review decisions will come later.

Ministers are trying to find a route out of the lockdown without triggering a second spike of infections that could overwhelm healthcare systems. Though officials say the UK is past the peak of infections, the government has faced criticism after the country’s death toll rose to the highest in Europe on Tuesday to 32,313.

Indian police officers try to enforce social distancing as people queue for a liquor shop in New Delhi. Photograph: EPA/STR
Indian police officers try to enforce social distancing as people queue for a liquor shop in New Delhi. Photograph: EPA/STR

Africa

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has shot up 42 per cent, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said. The number of cases is expected to surpass 50,000 on Wednesday, and the number of deaths could top 2,000. All but one of Africa’s 54 countries, Lesotho, have reported virus cases.

The World Health Organisation has warned that Africa could become the next epicentre of the pandemic. Severe shortages of testing kits mean the number of actual cases across the continent is unknown.

In Somalia, aid groups are warning that the number of virus cases is far higher than the 835 reported. The country has one of the world’s weakest health systems.

Twelve African nations now have more than 1,000 confirmed cases.

India

There has been a total of 3,900 infection cases and 195 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking India’s total to more than 46,000 cases and 1,500 dead.

The health ministry said the spike was due to late reporting of information by several state governments.

A vegetable and fruit market in Chennai has been linked to more than 300 cases. In Tripura, a state in India’s north-east, which shares a border with Bangladesh, a total of 27 new cases were reported, of which 13 were linked to the Border Security Force.

Meanwhile, authorities in the capital are imposing a special tax of 70 per cent on liquor purchases to dissuade huge gatherings a day after thirsty drinkers formed long queues at stores across the country. The new tax on retail liquor purchases in New Delhi is called the “special corona fee”.

On Monday, after some lockdown restrictions were eased, thousands turned up at liquor stores without following social distancing guidelines. This led the authorities to shut many of the shops. In some places, officers had to resort to baton charges to disperse crowds.

Czech Republic

A comprehensive study to determine undetected infections in the population has revealed a low number of Covid-19 cases.

Health minister Adam Vojtech said 26,549 people were tested across the country, including the capital, with 107 previously undetected positive tests.

The study was conducted in different parts of the Czech Republic where the epidemic was at different stages on people aged 18-89. In the capital of Prague and the second largest city of Brno, children also were included.

The samples included volunteers as well as selected groups such as those suffering from chronic diseases.

Australia

The country recorded 26 new coronavirus cases overnight mainly due to clusters at a Sydney nursing home and a Melbourne abattoir.

Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said the daily increase was larger than usual for recent weeks, but he is confident health authorities are quickly getting on top of the clusters at Newmarch House in Sydney and Cedar Meats in Melbourne.

The death toll at the nursing home has reached 16. There have been 49 infections linked to the abattoir, but no fatalities.

The Australian government plans to announce on Friday a relaxation of lockdown rules to get more people back to work.

New Zealand

The leaders of Australia and New Zealand say they are committed to resuming travel between the two countries as soon as they can do so safely.

The announcement came after New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern took the unusual step of joining Australian counterpart Scott Morrison and his National Cabinet for a discussion by video link.

Mr Morrison said he had been talking to Ms Ardern for several weeks about creating a safe travel zone between the countries. Both countries have had success in suppressing their outbreaks.

New Zealand reported no new cases on Tuesday for the second consecutive day, while Australia reported 25 new cases.

China

Disneyland in Shanghai will reopen on May 11th under “enhanced health and safety measures”, the company said.

Only limited attendance will be allowed initially, and visitors will need to book tickets and make reservations in advance. Social distancing will be maintained in lines for amenities, in restaurants, on rides and other facilities, and sanitisation and disinfection will be boosted, the company said in a news release.

With warmer weather and new virus cases and deaths falling to near-zero, China has been steadily reopening parks, museums and tourist sites such as the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. - Agencies

News Digests

Stay on top of the latest newsSIGN UP HERE