A woman arrives by ambulance to Wyckoff Hospital in New York. Bryan R. Smith/AFP
China lifted a travel ban on Tuesday on residents of Wuhan, where the coronavirus pandemic began last year, and reported no new deaths, but the situation remained grim elsewhere as Britain and New York State recorded their highest number of fatalities yet.
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in intensive care, meanwhile, after being admitted to a London hospital on Monday evening, 10 days after being diagnosed with the virus.
His spokesman said the 55-year-old Conservative leader was in stable condition and "good spirits." He was receiving "standard oxygen treatment" and has not required a ventilator.
The shocking hospitalisation of a major world leader underscored the global reach of COVID-19, which has put more than four billion people -- over half of the planet -- on some form of lockdown, upended societies and battered economies worldwide.
Amid warnings that worse is yet to come, death tolls mounted in a crisis that has now claimed more than 80,000 lives out of nearly 1.4 million confirmed cases around the world.
While other major cities around the world remained locked down, thousands of people rushed to leave Wuhan after the Chinese authorities lifted a more than two-month ban on travel from the city in Hubei Province.
"Wuhan people have paid a big price," a 21-year-old man surnamed Yao said at the Wuchang train station.
"Now that the lockdown has been lifted, I think we're all pretty happy," said Yao, who was heading back to his restaurant job in Shanghai.
Flights also resumed at Wuhan's international airport and roadblocks were removed around the city.
The National Health Commission said on Tuesday that no new deaths had been logged in the preceding 24 hours, the first fatality-free day since China began publishing figures in January.
China's official tally is some 81,000 overall infections and more than 3,300 deaths but there are suspicions Beijing has under-reported the real numbers.
'Eye of the storm'
Britain reported 786 new deaths and New York state saw 731 in 24 hours, after Spain, France and Italy all recorded new surges in fatalities.
New research showed Britain's toll on a steeper trajectory than other nations and predicted as many as 66,000 deaths by July, far more than in Italy, which has the highest fatalities to date — 17,127.
Paris on Tuesday banned daytime jogging to keep people from bending anti-coronavirus lockdown rules as France breached 10,000 deaths.
But there were glimmers of hope in the statistics.
Spain said its downward trend in new infections and deaths was continuing and increases in fatalities on Monday and Tuesday were the result of weekend deaths being tallied.
Eduardo Fernandez, a 39-year-old nurse at Madrid's Infanta Sofia Hospital, said there had been fewer admissions in recent days.
"But we remain much above our usual capacity," he cautioned.
"I don't know if my colleagues who are in the eye of the storm are able to see (the decrease) because the work pressure is very high."
Iran's parliament convened for the first time since late February as the country reported a drop in new infections for the seventh straight day.
China and other Asian nations have raised alarm over a possible second wave of infections, and Beijing only started gradually easing restrictions in Wuhan in recent weeks.
Esper's comments come at a time when some US officials have blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday Washington had evidence the disease emerged from a Chinese lab, which Beijing strongly denies.
The daily number of new coronavirus infections in France stayed above 20,000 on average for the fourth straight day on Tuesday, while hospitalisations reached an eight-week high of 27,041.
With billions of people around the world still suffering from the fallout of the crisis, a worldwide race for a vaccine is underway, with nine companies already in late-stage Phase 3 trials.
With a total of 75,011 deaths from 909,673 infections, Europe is the hardest-hit continent in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed at least 109,133 people worldwide. Europe's most affected country is Italy with 19,468 deaths, followed by Spain with 16,972, France with 13,832 and Britain with 9,875.
"This year also marks the 55th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE).
During the meeting, they reviewed the ties between the two friendly countries across various domains and ways of enhancing them to achieve their common interests.
The impoverished Central Asian country with ties to Russia and China has seen three presidents resign over political crises fuelled by corruption, nepotism and disputed votes since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.