Medical staffs prepare a patient infected with Covid-19 on a stretcher for an evacuation by helicopter to an hospital outside Paris region on Friday. AFP
Worldwide, confirmed infections surged past 1 million and deaths topped 54,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Jobs numbers released in the US showed the virus dealt a swift end to the nation’s 50-year-low unemployment rate, with employers reporting hundreds of thousands of job cuts in March.
The true picture, though, is far worse, because the government figures do not include the last two weeks, when nearly 10 million thrown-out-of-work Americans applied for unemployment benefits.
Experts say both numbers are seriously undercounted because of the lack of testing, mild cases that were missed and governments that are underplaying the extent of the crisis.
Europe’s three worst-hit countries — Italy, Spain and France — surpassed 30,000 dead, or over half of the global toll. From those countries, the view remained almost unrelentingly grim, a frightening portent for places like New York, the epicenter of the US outbreak, where bodies are being loaded by forklift into refrigerated trucks outside overwhelmed hospitals.
Spain overtook Italy for the first time on Friday for the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, but the overnight death toll fell from the previous day, providing a small glimmer of hope.
With a total 117,710 confirmed cases, Spain is now second in the number of infections only to the United States, which has a population some seven times larger. Spain’s total death toll now stands at 10,935, second only to Italy, with 13,915 fatalities.
On a happier note, Friday marked the first time in more than a week that the number of deaths fell from the previous day, to 932 fatalities from 950.
“The increase in the number of cases today is 7%, which confirms the reduction trend we’ve been observing,” said Maria Jose Rallo, the deputy head of health emergency. That is down from a 20% increase one week ago.
A resident is removed from the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in San Antonio. AP
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has imposed one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, leaving only employees in essential sectors such as health free to travel to and from work. Restaurants, bars and shops are shuttered, and social gatherings are banned.
Shortages of critical equipment led to fierce competition among buyers from Europe, the US and elsewhere. A regional leader in Paris described the scramble to find masks a “worldwide treasure hunt.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that New York could run out of ventilators in six days.
With more than 245,000 people infected in the US and the death toll topping 6,000, sobering preparations were underway. The Federal Emergency Management Agency asked the Pentagon for 100,000 more body bags.
In Florida, hundreds of passengers on a cruise ship where four people died were finally being allowed to disembark after a days-long standoff. More than a dozen critically ill patients were taken to hospitals, while people healthy enough to travel were taken to the airport for chartered flights home.
One Spanish hospital turned its library into an intensive care unit. In France, space was set aside for bodies in a vast food market. The French prime minister said he is “fighting hour by hour” to ward off shortages of essential drugs used to keep COVID-19 patients alive.
Philippe Montravers, an anesthesiologist in Paris, said medics are preparing to fall back on older drugs such as the opiates fetanyl and morphine that had fallen out of favor, because newer painkillers are in short supply.
Elsewhere in Europe, officials began talking tentatively about how to lift lockdowns that have staved off the total collapse of strained health systems but also battered economies.
French nationals queue to enter Sydney's international airport to be repatriated back to France. AFP
More than 250,000 European Union citizens are still trying to get home, as the number of people stranded by the coronavirus outbreak remains high even after the EU has repatriated some 350,000 people, its top diplomat said on Friday.
More than 8.53 million people have been reported infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 453,834 have died, a Reuters tally showed as of 1326 GMT on Friday.
The health ministry said 4,313 people who tested positive for the virus in hospital had died as of 1600 GMT Friday while there were 41,903 confirmed cases as of 0800 GMT Saturday, up 3,735.
The global death toll from the virus surged past 106,000 on Saturday, with the United States quickly becoming the epicentre of the pandemic that first emerged in China late last year.
Like millions of other Britons, the prime minister will be able to have a trim and a tipple on Saturday, when the country takes its biggest step yet out of coronavirus lockdown with the reopening in England of restaurants, pubs and hairdressers, along with secular and sacred venues including cinemas and church.
The shooting took place around 5 pm (2100 GMT) outside a theater in the state capital of Richmond, where students from a local high school were celebrating their graduation, Richmond interim police chief Rick Edwards told reporters.
At least seven people have been missing after waters from the destroyed Nova Kakhovka dam flooded nearby areas, Russia's TASS news agency cited the Moscow-installed mayor of the city of Nova Kakhovka as saying on Wednesday.
Blinken's trip, his second to Saudi Arabia since becoming America's top diplomat, comes after the kingdom under Prince Mohammed has been more willing to disregard the US in striking its own decisions.
The State Department said its diplomats have not had access to Khadija Shah, the founder of the luxury fashion brand Elan, who was produced before an anti-terrorism court following protests over the May 9 arrest of ousted prime minister Imran Khan.