Coronavirus death toll passes 21,000, three billion under lockdown

Agence France-Presse . Madrid, Spain | Published: 20:09, Mar 26,2020


More than three billion people around the world are living under lockdown as governments have stepped up their efforts against the coronavirus pandemic which has left more than 21,000 people dead.

As the number of confirmed cases worldwide soared past 450,000, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres warned that only a concerted global effort could stop the spread of the virus.

The number of deaths around the world from the novel coronavirus stood at 21,873, according to a tally compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT Thursday from official sources.

More than 481,300 declared cases have been registered in 182 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December 2019. At least 107,100 of these cases are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP offices from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization, likely reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are now only testing cases that require hospitalisation.

Italy, which recorded its first coronavirus death in February, has to date declared 7,503 fatalities, with 74,386 infections and 9,362 people recovered.

Like Italy, Spain also has more fatalities than China with 4,089, as well as having 56,188 infections.

China, excluding Hong Kong and Macau, has to date declared 3,287 deaths and 81,285 cases, with 74,051 recoveries. The country declared 67 new cases and six new fatalities since Wednesday.

The other worst-hit countries are Iran with 2,234 fatalities and 29,406 cases, and France with 1,331 deaths and 25,233 cases.

Since 1900 GMT Wednesday, the West Bank and Croatia announced their first deaths.

By continent, Europe has listed 258,068 cases and 14,640 deaths to date, Asia 101,004 cases and 3,642 deaths and the Middle East 35,324 cases and 2,281 deaths.

The United States and Canada together have declared 72,606 cases with 1,082 deaths, Latin America and the Caribbean 8,439 cases with 141 deaths, Africa 2,748 cases with 73 deaths and Oceania 3,111 cases with 14 deaths.

Stock markets rebounded after the US Congress moved closer to passing a $2.2 trillion relief package to prop up a teetering US economy.

In Washington, US president Donald Trump said that New York, the epicentre of the US outbreak with over 30,000 cases, likely to have a few ‘tough weeks’ ahead but he would decide soon whether unaffected parts of the country could get back to work.

‘We want to get our country going again,’ Trump said. ‘I’m not going to do anything rash or hastily.

‘By Easter we’ll have a recommendation and maybe before Easter,’ said Trump, who had been touting a strong US economy as he faces an election in November.

UN chief Guterres said the world needed to ban together to stem the pandemic.

‘COVID-19 is threatening the whole of humanity and the whole of humanity must fight back,’ Guterres said, launching an appeal for $2 billion to help the world's poor.

‘Global action and solidarity are crucial,’ he said. ‘Individual country responses are not going to be enough.’

India’s stay-at-home order for its 1.3 billion people is now the biggest, taking the total number of individuals facing restrictions on their daily lives to more than three billion.

Anxious Indians raced for supplies after the world’s second-biggest population was ordered not to leave their houses for three weeks.

Russia, which announced the death of two patients who tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, is expected to follow suit.

Russian president Vladimir Putin declared next week a public holiday and postponed a public vote on controversial constitutional reforms, urging people to follow instructions given by authorities.

In Britain, heir to the throne Prince Charles became the latest high-profile figure to be infected, though he has suffered only mild symptoms.

The G20 major economies were scheduled for Thursday to hold an emergency videoconference to discuss a global response to the crisis, as will the 27 leaders of the European Union, the outbreak’s new epicentre.

China has begun to relax its own draconian restrictions on free movement in the province of Hubei, where the outbreak began in December, after the country reported no new cases.

Crowds jammed trains and buses in the province as people took their first opportunity to travel.

Spain and Italy were joined by France and six more EU countries in urging Germany and the Netherlands to allow the issue of joint European bonds to cut borrowing costs and stabilise the eurozone economy.

The call is likely to fall on deaf ears when EU leaders talk on Thursday — with northern members wary of pooling debt with big spenders — but they will sign off on an ‘unprecedented’ recovery plan.

At La Paz University Hospital in Madrid, nurse Guillen del Barrio sounded bereft as he related what happened overnight.

‘It is really hard, we had feverish people for many hours in the waiting room,’ the 30-year-old told AFP.

‘Many of my colleagues were crying because there were people who are dying alone, without seeing their family for the last time.’

Coronavirus cases are also spreading in the Middle East, where Iran’s death toll topped 2,000, and in Africa, where Mali declared its first case and several nations announced states of emergency.

In Japan, which has postponed this year’s Olympic Games, Tokyo’s governor urged residents to stay at home this weekend, warning of a possible ‘explosion’ of the coronavirus.

Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed by Christians to house Christ’s tomb, was shut as Israel tightened movement restrictions.

The impact of the pandemic is also hitting European football, with leagues and tournaments cancelled, while the fate of the Wimbledon tennis tournament could be decided next week.

The economic damage of the virus — and the lockdowns — could also be devastating, with fears of a worldwide recession worse than the financial meltdown more than a decade ago.

But financial markets rose after US leaders reached agreement on a stimulus package worth roughly 10 per cent of the US economy, an injection Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said represented a ‘wartime level of investment.’

More than half of all US people have been told to stay at home, including residents of the largest state, California.

The United States has at least 65,700 cases and 942 people have died.

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