The world has almost come to a standstill as global novel coronavirus cases crossed 2 million and over 131,000 people have died due to the deadly Covid-19.
The first death due to the novel coronavirus came in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on January 9. It took 83 days for the first 50,000 deaths to be recorded and just eight more for the toll to climb to 100,000. The toll has been accelerating at a daily rate of between 6-10 per cent over the past week.
Some countries, including the US, Italy, France, Spain and Britain are reporting that more than 10 per cent of all confirmed cases have been fatal.
Meanwhile, nations around the world reacted with alarm to news that US President Donald Trump put a halt to American payments to the World Health Organization, pending a review of its warnings about the coronavirus and China.
The European Union said Trump has “no reason” to freeze WHO funding at this critical stage and called for measures to promote unity instead of division. Meanwhile, a senior Russian official said Trump’s freeze on funding for the WHO is a selfish response to the global pandemic.
The head of the World Health Organization lamented the US decision to halt funding for the UN agency, promising a review of its decisions while sidestepping Donald Trump’s complaints about its alleged mismanagement, cover-up and missteps.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was on the defensive after Trump announced a halt to US funding that has totalled nearly a half-billion dollars annually in recent years. Trump claimed the WHO had parroted Chinese assurances about how the virus is spread, failed to obtain virus samples from China, and made a “disastrous decision” to oppose travel restrictions as the outbreak spread.
Here are few developments from across the world:
Trump to announce guidelines for reopening economy
US President Donald Trump said that data suggested the county had passed the peak on new infections with coronavirus, and said he would announce “new guidelines” for reopening the economy at a news conference on Thursday.
“It is clear that our aggressive strategy is working. The battle continues but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases. These encouraging developments have put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines for states on reopening the country,” Trump added.
Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York residents will be required to wear face coverings when they are out in public and coming in close contact with other people.
The new outbreak-fighting mandate will require a mask or face covering on busy streets, subways, buses or any situation where people cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing. The promised executive order from Cuomo echoes recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The order takes effect Friday, the governor said, and either a mask or a cloth covering such as a bandanna will work.
Germany sets out plan for cautious first steps to restart public life
Germany plans to let smaller shops reopen next week after a weeks-long coronavirus shutdown and to start reopening schools in early May, but Europe’s biggest economy is keeping strict social distancing rules in place for now.
After much-anticipated talks Wednesday with Germany’s 16 state governors, Chancellor Angela Merkel set out a plan for the first steps of a cautious restart of public life – following neighbouring Austria and Denmark and other countries in launching a slow loosening of restrictions. Germany has confirmed more than 130,000 coronavirus infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
New infections in Germany have slowed in recent weeks, but Angela Merkel cautioned that the country has achieved only “a fragile intermediate success” so far and doesn’t have “much room for maneuver.”
Angela Merkel said a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public and an obligation to keep at a 1.5-meter (five-foot) distance from others, which has been in place since March 23, will remain in place beyond Sunday when it was previously set to expire.
Nonessential shops, which have also have been closed for nearly four weeks, will be allowed to start reopening, with hygiene precautions, if they are up to 800 square meters (8,600 square feet) in area. So will auto showrooms, bike shops and bookshops, irrespective of their size.
Merkel said the decisions apply to the period from Monday through May 3, and officials will review the situation again on April 30.
Coronavirus deaths nearly double reported figures: Iran Parliament
The death toll in Iran from the coronavirus pandemic is likely nearly double the officially reported figures, due to undercounting and because not everyone with breathing problems has been tested for the virus, a parliament report said.
Iranian health officials offered no comment on the report, which represents the highest-level charge yet from within the Islamic Republic’s government of its figures being questionable, something long suspected by international experts.
Iran on Wednesday put the death toll at 4,777, out of 76,389 confirmed cases of the virus – still making it the Mideast’s worst outbreak by far.
UK coronavirus death toll rises to 12,868
Britain’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic rose to 12,868, a daily increase of 761, as the government announced new plans to modify its guidance to allow close relatives to say goodbye to their sick relatives in care homes across the country.
The latest official figures also reveal that 98,476 people have tested positive for the virus, of 313,769 who have been tested across the country.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government will introduce new procedures to “limit the risk of infection” and allow people to say goodbye to loved ones “wherever possible” during the daily Downing Street briefing.
Pakistan’s coronavirus cases cross 6,300; death toll 111
The number of coronavirus patients in Pakistan rose to 6,383, with 395 new confirmed cases and 11 deaths during the last 24 hours.
As Pakistan’s coronavirus cases rose to more than 6,300, a top minister said it is a “difficult situation” for the government which is fighting a war at different fronts including Covid-19, poverty, hunger and a weak economy.
“This is a difficult situation,” Planning Minister Asad Umar said while addressing a news conference along with PM’s aide on health Dr Zafar Mirza and adviser on national security Moeed Yusuf following a meeting of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) here.
“It is important to find a balance between slowing the spread of the virus and ensuring lower-income people don’t have to go hungry,” he said, adding that the country was “passing through a difficult situation.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan extended the lockdown till April 30 but allowed several industries to open up.
France urges top powers to endorse UN coronavirus cease-fire call
French President Emmanuel Macron said he hopes that “in the coming days” the five permanent members of the UN Security Council can discuss and endorse UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a cease-fire to all conflicts in the world in order to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Macron, who has been pushing for more international cooperation in fighting the virus, said in an interview with French radio RFI broadcast that he is only waiting for agreement from Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold the 5-country video conference.
Over 17,000 people have now died in France from Covid-19, a top health official said on Wednesday, but the total number currently hospitalised has fallen for the first time since the epidemic began.