Covid-19 death toll rises in Spain, US | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 04, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:42 AM, April 04, 2020

Covid-19 death toll rises in Spain, US

Global deaths cross 55,000; Germany says infection rate slowing; experts predict grim economic future

The number of confirmed coronavirus deaths accelerated past 55,000 yesterday as the United States, Spain and Britain grappled with their highest tolls yet and the world economy took a massive hit.

The human scale of the pandemic has never been starker -- experts warning that more than one million cases of COVID-19 disease confirmed globally is probably only a small proportion of total infections as testing is still not widely available. Many countries are only testing cases that require hospitalisation.

The United States recorded 1,169 COVID-19 fatalities in the past 24 hours, the Johns Hopkins University tracker showed, the highest one-day death toll recorded in any country.

The United States accounts for around a quarter of confirmed cases but Europe is far from being out of danger -- Spain reported more than 900 deaths in 24 hours yesterday, for the second day running. The virus has now killed nearly 11,000 people across Spain.

While Italy still leads the world in fatalities, France, Belgium and Britain have also been hard hit. The UK government is rushing to build field hospitals after a one-day toll of 684.

The worldwide number of officially confirmed fatalities from the novel coronavirus rose to 55,132, according to a tally compiled Johns Hopkins University at :30 BST.

More than 1,041,126 declared cases have been registered in 188 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December. Of these cases, at least 221,262 are now considered recovered. Since 1900 GMT on Thursday, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Libya and the Northern Marianas have announced their first deaths.

The battle waged by public health experts across the world ebbed and flowed on Friday, with German experts saying the rate of new infections is slowing thanks to lockdown measures, but Asian city-state Singapore confirming it would close schools and workplaces to fend off a possible upsurge in cases.

"We are seeing that the spread of the virus is getting slower... it's working," said Robert Koch Institute president Lothar Wieler, stressing that restrictions on public life "need to be maintained" and it was too early to claim victory.

Wieler explained that each person who had caught the virus was now infecting only one person on average, where previously that number had been as high as seven.

The world economy has been pummelled by the virus and associated lockdowns, with more than half the population of the planet under some kind of stay-at-home order.

With airlines largely grounded, businesses closed, layoffs mounting, the economic fallout was shaping into worse than the 2008 financial crisis. Rather, comparisons were being drawn with such traumatic periods as World War Two or the 1930s Global Depression.

In the world's biggest economy, the US government has pumped in unprecedented aid, but still weekly jobless claims jumped to a record 6.6 million - double the previous week that was also a first.

Morgan Stanley predicted the US economy will shrink 5.5% this year, the steepest drop since 1946.

Things were no better in Europe, where analysts from IHS Markit warned that business activity in the 19-nation eurozone had suffered its worst crunch ever recorded, and the central bank of eurozone member Ireland saying its output could be slashed by 8.3 percent this year.

Financial ratings agency Fitch predicted both the US and eurozone economies would shrink this quarter by up to 30 percent and the Asian Development Bank warned on Friday the global economy could take a $4.1 trillion hit -- equivalent to five percent of worldwide output.

World leaders have announced huge financial aid packages to deal with the crisis and the World Bank has approved a plan to roll out $160 billion over 15 months.

While prosperous Western nations are reeling, there is concern about potentially far worse impact in nations already struggling with poverty, insecurity and weak health systems.

In India, many poor labourers were desperate after losing jobs in a three-week lockdown ordered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Food was low in slums.

"I'm very sure that he works only for the big people and not for a man like me," said former Modi supporter Ravi Prasad Gupta, a worker laid off from a pipe plant.

The virus has not spared world leaders.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel left her Berlin home for the first time in almost two weeks on Friday after she was quarantined following contact with an infected doctor, but British premier Boris Johnson was still working in isolation after testing positive.

Politically, the virus deepened fault lines in the EU, with Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte writing to European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen to demand more ambition and courage from his partners, accusing her of peddling ideas "not worthy of Europe".

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