Global death toll crosses 217,000; US virus cases hit a million - GulfToday

Global death toll crosses 217,000; US virus cases hit a million


Photo is for illustration.

The United States reported its millionth coronavirus case as hard-hit European countries took tentative steps towards lifting lockdowns, with masks mandatory in all German shops from Wednesday.

Excitement over a move towards normality in many places was tempered by fear of new outbreaks and growing evidence of the economic devastation wreaked by the pandemic.


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The crisis has left tens of millions unemployed in the US, which has by far the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 fatalities — around a third of the global death toll of 217,000, according to an AFP tally.

Forecasts warn of the worst global recession in a century, with demand for goods gutted, and travel and tourism hammered.

British Airways became the latest airline to sound the alarm, saying it may have to cut its workforce by a third.

Workers wearing protective outfits sanitise a neighbourhood to contain the spread of Covid-19 virus in Rome, Italy. AP

In Lebanon there were more immediate signs of economic crisis, with protesters confronting soldiers in defiance of a nationwide lockdown.

"I came down to raise my voice against hunger, poverty and rising prices," Khaled, 41, told AFP, saying he had lost his job and could no longer support his three children.

Even a gradual return to everyday economic activity is "risky", warned French Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe, despite an encouraging downward trend in virus deaths.

Shops, markets and selected schools will reopen from next month in France, with masks required on public transport and work-from-home orders in place for several more weeks.

Shoppers at The Home Depot wait in line before entering. File photo/AP

From Wednesday, masks will be needed to enter shops across Germany. Face coverings were already compulsory on buses, trains and trams.

"We all need to take care that we don't end up with more infections," said Lothar Wieler, president of Berlin's Robert Koch Institute for disease control.


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Germany is being closely watched as data on infection rates showed mixed results.

'Cries of the people'

Italy, Spain and France have been the worst affected European countries, with each reporting more than 23,000 deaths.

Spain said restrictions would be slowly lifted over the next two months, while Italians will be able to exercise outdoors and visit relatives from next week -- but hugs and handshakes will not be allowed.

Medical staff members prepare their gear at Saint-Jean train station in Bordeaux, France. AFP

Other nations from Russia to Nigeria also plan to ease lockdown measures, despite warnings from experts of a second wave of contagion if restrictions are lifted too hastily.

In Nigeria's largest city Lagos, bus driver Taju Olonade told AFP the decision showed authorities had finally listened "to the cries of the people."

"For almost one month I have not earned a penny," he said. "I hope life will soon return to normal."

More than three million people worldwide are known to have caught the respiratory disease that first emerged in China in December, but the actual figure is thought to be much higher as many countries only test the most serious cases.

An excavator is seen during a collective burial that have passed away due to coronavirus in Manaus, Brazil. Reuters

US President Donald Trump has increasingly sought to blame China for the pandemic, but Beijing has pushed back fiercely.

"They have only one objective: shirk their responsibility for their own poor epidemic prevention and control measures," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday.

China's outbreak appears to be under control with no new deaths reported for 13 straight days and confirmed fatalities around 4,600 -- although much doubt has been cast on whether the numbers are accurate.

In Latin America, Brazil has emerged as a new hotspot with 5,000 deaths so far, while nine prisoners were killed in riots at a Peruvian jail after two inmates died from COVID-19.

Agence France-Presse

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