Global confirmed coronavirus cases top two million

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases topped two million on Thursday as United States posted nearly 2,600 additional deaths from COVID-19 in 24 hours, a new record and the heaviest daily toll of any country, Johns Hopkins University said.

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A running tally from Johns Hopkins showed 2,569 victims bringing the total number of US deaths to 28,326 — higher than any other nation.

The figures came after President Donald Trump earlier in the evening said “the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases,” and he will announce Thursday the first plans for lifting coronavirus lockdowns.

According to Johns Hopkins, the number of cases in the US reached 636,350.

WHO regrets Trump funding halt as cases increase

The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday he regrets Trump’s decision to pull funding for the agency, but that now is the time for the world to unite in its fight against the new coronavirus.

Trump’s move prompted condemnation from world leaders as global coronavirus infections passed the 2 million mark.

Trump said the data suggests the nation has passed the peak of new coronavirus infections and that he will announce guidelines for reopening the economy on Thursday.

After gradually becoming more hostile toward the Geneva-based WHO, Trump accused it on Tuesday of promoting Chinese “disinformation” about the virus, saying this had probably worsened the outbreak.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference that the United States “has been a long-standing and generous friend of the WHO, and we hope it will continue to be so.”

“WHO is reviewing the impact on our work of any withdrawal of US funding and we will work with partners to fill any gaps and ensure our work continues uninterrupted,” Tedros added.

Global health campaigner and donor Bill Gates tweeted that “Halting funding for the World Health Organisation during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds … The world needs WHO now more than ever.”

But Washington showed no sign of softening its stance, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed China’s top diplomat on the need for full transparency and information sharing to fight the pandemic.

There was a sign of global unity among the Group of 20 major economies, including the United States, which agreed to suspend debt service payments for the world’s poorest countries from May 1 until the end of the year. Meeting host Saudi Arabia said this would free up more than $20 billion for them to spend on their health systems.

Money going elsewhere 

The United States contributed more than $400 million to the WHO in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget.

A senior administration official said Washington would stop a $58 million “assessed contribution” that it was due to pay for 2020.

The United States also traditionally provides several hundred million dollars a year in voluntary funding tied to specific WHO programs. “That money will be spent with other partners,” said a second senior Trump administration official.

The WHO has appealed for more than $1 billion specifically to fund operations against the pandemic.

New York City, center of the US epidemic, revised its COVID-19 death toll sharply higher to nearly 11,000 — around a third of the overall US total — to include victims presumed to have died of the disease but who were not tested.

But declines in hospitalisations and need for intensive care for coronavirus patients across New York state prompted Governor Andrew Cuomo to say on Wednesday that fears of its healthcare system becoming overwhelmed had not materialized.

Many of the hardest-hit countries have acknowledged that they are failing to register large numbers of coronavirus deaths among elderly people living in nursing homes, where testing is rare.

Data from Belgium indicated that almost half of its coronavirus-related deaths had occurred in nursing homes.

Easing the lockdown 

Spain and Italy, which have almost 40,000 coronavirus deaths between them, have begun this week to allow some non-essential businesses to reopen in the hope of reawakening locked-down economies nosediving into recession.

The WHO said the world stood at a “pivotal juncture” and countries that eased restrictions should wait at least two weeks to evaluate the impact before easing further.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday some shops in Germany could reopen next week and that schools would be allowed to open gradually from May 4, but that social distancing rules would remain in place for now.

But England’s chief medical officer said that although Britain, with almost 13,000 deaths, was probably close to the peak of its epidemic, it was too soon to think about next steps.

Some 94 percent of Americans have been under government stay-at-home orders, but a top US health official said governors of about 20 states spared the worst of the coronavirus outbreak may start reopening their economies by Trump’s May 1 target date.

Trump is forming advisory groups on how to open up the country. On Wednesday, Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg participated in White House conference calls, their firms said.

In a vivid reminder of the economic damage wrought by efforts to curb the health crisis, data showing the US economy in a deep downturn and reports of persistent crude oil oversupply and collapsing demand sent global shares falling.

The MSCI gauge of stocks around the world fell 2.4% after the International Energy Agency forecast a 29 million barrel per day dive in April oil demand to levels not seen in 25 years, and US retail sales plunged 8.7% in March.

On the bright side, 106-year-old Connie Titchen, thought to be the oldest patient in Britain to beat the coronavirus, was discharged from hospital.

“I feel very lucky that I’ve fought off this virus,” she said. “I can’t wait to see my family.”

New York City, center of the US epidemic, revised its COVID-19 death toll sharply higher to nearly 11,000 — around a third of the overall US total — to include victims presumed to have died of the disease but who were not tested.

But declines in hospitalisations and need for intensive care for coronavirus patients across New York state prompted Governor Andrew Cuomo to say on Wednesday that fears of its healthcare system becoming overwhelmed had not materialized.

Many of the hardest-hit countries have acknowledged that they are failing to register large numbers of coronavirus deaths among elderly people living in nursing homes, where testing is rare.

Data from Belgium indicated that almost half of its coronavirus-related deaths had occurred in nursing homes.

Easing the lockdown 

Spain and Italy, which have almost 40,000 coronavirus deaths between them, have begun this week to allow some non-essential businesses to reopen in the hope of reawakening locked-down economies nosediving into recession.

The WHO said the world stood at a “pivotal juncture” and countries that eased restrictions should wait at least two weeks to evaluate the impact before easing further.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday some shops in Germany could reopen next week and that schools would be allowed to open gradually from May 4, but that social distancing rules would remain in place for now.

But England’s chief medical officer said that although Britain, with almost 13,000 deaths, was probably close to the peak of its epidemic, it was too soon to think about next steps.

Some 94 percent of Americans have been under government stay-at-home orders, but a top US health official said governors of about 20 states spared the worst of the coronavirus outbreak may start reopening their economies by Trump’s May 1 target date.

Trump is forming advisory groups on how to open up the country. On Wednesday, Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg participated in White House conference calls, their firms said.

In a vivid reminder of the economic damage wrought by efforts to curb the health crisis, data showing the US economy in a deep downturn and reports of persistent crude oil oversupply and collapsing demand sent global shares falling.

The MSCI gauge of stocks around the world fell 2.4% after the International Energy Agency forecast a 29 million barrel per day dive in April oil demand to levels not seen in 25 years, and US retail sales plunged 8.7% in March.

On the bright side, 106-year-old Connie Titchen, thought to be the oldest patient in Britain to beat the coronavirus, was discharged from hospital.

“I feel very lucky that I’ve fought off this virus,” she said. “I can’t wait to see my family.”

REUTERS.

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