Women are seen during a collective burial of coronavirus victims at the Parque Taruma cemetery in Manaus, Brazil. Reuters
The global coronavirus death toll approached 200,000 on Saturday as the United Nations launched an international push for a vaccine to defeat the pandemic.
Governments around the world are struggling to limit the economic devastation unleashed by the virus, which has infected nearly 2.8 million people and left half of humanity under some form of lockdown.
The scale of the pandemic has forced medical research on the virus to move at unprecedented speed, but effective treatments are still far away and the United Nations chief said the effort will require cooperation on a global scale.
"We face a global public enemy like no other," Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a virtual briefing on Friday, asking for international organizations, world leaders and the private sector to join hands.
"A world free of COVID-19 requires the most massive public health effort in history."
The vaccine should be safe, affordable and available to all, Guterres stressed at the meeting, which was also attended by the leaders of Germany and France.
But notably absent from the meeting were the leaders of China, where the virus first emerged late last year, and the United States, which has accused the UN's World Health Organization of not warning quickly enough about the original outbreak.
The UN chief's vaccine appeal came a day after US President Donald Trump prompted outcry and ridicule with his suggestion that disinfectants be used to treat coronavirus patients.
"Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" Trump mused during a televised briefing. "It sounds interesting to me."
As experts -- and disinfectant manufacturers -- rushed to caution against any such dangerous experiment, the president tried to walk back his comments, saying he had been speaking "sarcastically."
Lizarda Guimaraes (left) arrives for self-isolation amid coronavirus in Brasilia, Brazil, on Thursday. AP
The United States is the hardest-hit country by far in the pandemic, recording 51,017 deaths and more than 890,000 infections.
The world's biggest economy has been hammered by the pandemic, with 26 million jobs lost since the crisis began, and American leaders are under pressure to find ways to ease social distancing measures.
Despite criticism from Trump, the governor of Georgia allowed some businesses, including nail salons and bowling alleys to reopen on Friday, sparking both criticism and relief.
The mayor of the state's capital Atlanta condemned the "irresponsible" move, telling ABC News: "There is nothing essential about going to a bowling alley or giving a manicure in the middle of a pandemic."
But some in the city cherished the opportunity to re-engage with society.
"I actually had a great time," beamed Tili Banks, 41, as she and a friend left a bowling alley.
"I was just so happy to be out that I didn't even realize that I had these people's bowling shoes on when I walked outside."
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.
In the United States, the worst-hit country, the death toll stood at 47,178 with 856,209 infections. At least 77,963 patients have recovered. Italy is the next most affected country with 25,549 deaths and 189,973 confirmed infections.
COVID-19 fatalities mounted in the United States and hard-hit Western Europe countries, but fresh data on rising infections and deaths in Africa showed the virus is leaving no continent uscathed in its global march.
A total of 350,196 deaths have been reported, from 5,589,389 cases, including 173,713 in Europe from 2,057,414 infections. The United States has registered the most deaths of any country, 98,929, ahead of Britain with 37,048, Italy with 32,955, France with 28,530 and Spain with 27,117.
“I am happy to be making trips again,” he said in brief comments to reporters aboard the plane, alluding to the coronavirus pandemic which has prevented him from travelling. The Iraq trip is his first outside Italy since November 2019.
Activists demanding the restoration of the elected government of veteran democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi held more demonstrations in several towns and cities on Friday, with a crowd of thousands marching peacefully through the second city of Mandalay.
Tens of thousands have been camped outside Delhi since December, demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeal three farm laws that open up the country's agriculture markets to private companies, which the farmers say will make them vulnerable.
“We owe our achievements last year to the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core,” Li said in an hour-long speech to over 5,000 delegates gathered in the Great Hall of the People, all of them inoculated against COVID-19 with a vaccine made by China’s Sinopharm.