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One million cases and 50,000 deaths in "next few days"


The head of the World Health Organisation has voiced deep concern about “the rapid escalation and global spread” of the coronavirus that has reached 205 countries and territories.


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“In the past five weeks there has been a near-exponential growth in the number of new cases and the number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths worldwide.”

China, where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged in December, reported dwindling new infections on Wednesday and for the first time disclosed the number of asymptomatic cases, which could complicate how trends in the outbreak are read.

Its latest figures excluded 130 new sufferers of the highly contagious disease who do not show symptoms, its statistics showed.

Asked about the distinction, Dr. Maria ver Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist who was part of an international team who went to China in February, said WHO’s definition included laboratory-confirmed cases “regardless of the development of symptoms”.

“From data that we have seen from China in particular, we know that individuals who are identified, who are listed as asymptomatic, about 75 per cent of those actually go on to develop symptoms,” she said, describing them as having been in a “pre-symptomatic phase”.

The new coronavirus causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

The outbreak continues to be driven by people who show signs of disease including fever and cough, but it is important for the WHO to capture that “full spectrum of illness”, she added.

In the United States, people braced for what President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday could be “one of the roughest two or three weeks we’ve ever had in our country”.

The White House projected 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the US before the crisis is over, and Vice President Mike Pence said models for the outbreak show the country on a trajectory akin to  Italy’s.

Italy’s death toll climbed by 727 to 13,155 overnight – a smaller increase than on the previous day and the lowest daily tally since March 26.

However, the number of new cases on Wednesday rose more sharply than on Tuesday, growing by 4782 against a previous 4053, bringing total infections since the outbreak came to light on February 21 to 110,574.

In Lombardy, the epicentre of the outbreak, the daily tallies of deaths and cases were both up compared with those of the day before, reversing the recent trend.

Of those originally infected country-wide, 16,847 had fully recovered on Wednesday, compared to 15,729 the day before.

There were 4035 people in intensive care, up from a previous 4023.

The number of cases of coronavirus in Spain has surpassed 100,000 while the number of fatalities reported overnight reached a new record, the country’s health ministry says.

The number of cases rose to 102,136 on Wednesday up from 94,417 on Tuesday, while fatalities rose to 9053, from 8189 on Tuesday.

The daily death toll reached a record 864, though the increase was lower in percentage terms than during the previous days.

French health authorities reported 509 new deaths taking the total to 4032, making the country the fourth to pass the 4000-fatalities threshold after Italy, Spain and the United States.

After speeding up the previous two days, the rate of increase of deaths decelerated on Wednesday in France, which is now in its third week of lockdown to try to slow the spread of the virus.

The daily government tally still only accounts for those dying in hospital but authorities say they will very soon be able to compile data on deaths in retirement homes, which is likely to result in a big increase in registered fatalities.

The number of cases had risen to 56,989, a rise of 9.0 per cent, versus +17 per cent on Tuesday.

More than 6017 people were in a serious condition needing life support, up 8.0 per cent compared with Tuesday.

French police and gendarmes have handed out 359,000 fines to people caught violating the country’s strict coronavirus lockdown.

Security forces have carried out 5.8 million checks since the lockdown came into effect on March 17.

Under the French rules, anyone out in public has to carry a signed declaration stating the reason they left their home, which can be for essential shopping, work, medical appointments or limited exercise.

Britain’s deaths linked to the coronavirus have continued to soar, with a new daily record 563 deaths reported, taking the country’s total deaths to 2352.

The health ministry said on Wednesday the total number of confirmed infections rose to nearly 30,000 from 153,000 people tested but government experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of people are probably infected.

Health experts continued to question Britain’s low rate of testing compared with most other European countries, after cabinet minister Michael Gove said on Tuesday that the government “must go further and faster” in its testing program.

Gove said the shortage of a chemical reagent was one factor behind the slow increase in testing.

London is days away from unveiling a 4000-bed temporary hospital built in a  convention centre.

Singapore’s Health Ministry has confirmed 74 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, representing the biggest one-day increase since the outbreak began.

The city-state’s total caseload has now reached 1000.

Of the newly-confirmed diagnoses, 54 were described by the ministry as “local”.

The resurgence in cases with no recent overseas travel history reverses a trend of “imported” cases – mostly home-bound Singaporeans.

-with AAP

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