Global coronavirus cases top 100,000 as WHO chief calls for solidarity

Crossing more borders, the new coronavirus has taken an important step, infecting more than 100,000 people around the world as it delves deeper into the daily lives of millions, infecting the powerful, the unprotected poor and the vast intermediate masses.

The virus, which killed more than 3,400 people and has appeared in more than 90 countries, infiltrated more US states on Friday and even entered the corridors of the Vatican – it was announced that the pope would deliver the Sunday Mass live because of the COVID-19 trigger.

He imposed mosques in Iran and beyond to stop weekly Muslim prayers, blocked pilgrims from Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem, and upset Japan’s plans for the Olympic Torch Parade.

As financial markets retreated, the impact of the virus also affected livelihoods in the real economy.

“Who will feed their family?” asked Elias al-Arja, head of a hotel owners’ union in Bethlehem, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where tourists have been banned and the legendary Church of the Nativity has been closed.

In the White House, President Donald Trump signed an $ 8.3 billion bill to fight the coronavirus a day after Italy announced that it would double its own spending to 7.5 billion d ‘euros (8.5 billion dollars).

In Geneva, the United Nations health agency said it had received requests for 40 possible virus tests, had 20 candidate vaccines in development, and reported that numerous clinical trials of investigational drugs for the new coronavirus were under way.

“We are all in the same boat. We all have a role to play,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, calling for greater global business cooperation and solidarity with the poorest.

New cases fall in China

The news is not all bad: more than half of those who contracted the virus have now recovered. It retreats to China, where it appeared for the first time, and to neighboring South Korea.

China reported only 99 new cases on Saturday morning, the first time it has seen only a double-digit increase since January 20. He also reported 28 other deaths. Overall, China now has 22,177 patients currently on treatment, while it released 55,404. South Korea reported 174 new cases on Saturday morning.

However, the virus has continued to appear in new places, with countries like Colombia and Togo reporting their first confirmed cases.

Questions swirled about whether Iran could control its epidemic, when the number of reported infections exceeded 5,500, with 145 deaths. The state news agency IRNA announced on Saturday the death of a second lawmaker, Fatemeh Rahbar, because of the virus. Conservative MP is one of seven politicians and government officials to succumb to the new coronavirus since Iran reported its first cases in mid-February. The country has put in place checkpoints to limit movement and had firefighters sprayed 18 kilometers by the firefighters (11-mile) section of the most famous avenue in Tehran.

“It would be great if they did it every day,” said store owner Reza Razaienejad. “It shouldn’t be something unique.”

The 100,000 global infections figure is largely symbolic, but overshadows other major epidemics in recent decades, such as SARS, MERS and Ebola. The virus is still far less common than annual flu epidemics, which cause up to 5 million severe cases annually worldwide and 290,000 to 650,000 deaths per year, according to WHO.

Snowballs with an economic impact

But the economic impact of the epidemic has snowballed, with global stocks and the price of oil falling sharply again on Friday.

Travel declines and a wider economic downturn linked to the epidemic threatened to hit already struggling communities for months. In response to the drop in demand, German airline Lufthansa announced a reduction in capacity in the coming weeks by up to 50% of the pre-coronavirus epidemic levels. Slovakia has banned all flights to and from Italy.

The head of the UN food agency, the World Food Program, has warned of the risk of “utter devastation” as the effects of the outbreak spread across Africa and the Middle East. India hastened to ward off an epidemic that could overwhelm its underfunded and understaffed health system, which lacks laboratories or hospitals for its 1.3 billion inhabitants.

“We are seeing more countries affected by lower incomes, weaker health systems and this is more worrying,” said WHO chief Ghebreyesus.

Inconsistent health insurance and sick leave policies endanger the incomes of millions of workers who cannot work from home (waiters, drivers, delivery people, etc.). In the United States, the AFL-CIO Federation of Labor has urged the government to issue emergency regulations outlining the responsibilities of employers to protect workers from infectious diseases.

“Follow part of China’s play book”

The fear and repression that swept through China is now moving west as workers in Europe and the United States stay at home, authorities are vigorously cleaning up public spaces, and consumers are flocking to stores for items of current consumption.

Nation after nation, travel restrictions have been put in place, blocking visitors from hard-hit areas like China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. The senior UN official on climate change has said that his agency will not hold any physical meetings at its headquarters in Germany or elsewhere until the end of April.

French Minister of Health Olivier Véran said that children would be banned from visiting patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the country and that patients would be limited to one adult visit at a time. The Spanish authorities have announced the closure for one month of 200 centers in Madrid and the surrounding areas where the elderly go for day care and activities. In Barcelona, ​​city authorities have announced that the Barcelona marathon, which is normally held in March, will be postponed to October 25.

“The western world is now following part of China’s textbook,” said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at financial firm IG, about the reaction to the flu which, for most people, causes mild or mild symptoms. moderate such as fever and cough, but can strike the elderly or sick much harder.

Off the coast of California, the cruise ship Grand Princess remained at sea with passengers confined to their cabins, while US Vice President Mike Pence said that 21 people on the ship – almost all of the crew – had tested positive for the new coronavirus. Pence said the government plans to take the cruise ship to a “non-commercial port” where all passengers and crew will be tested.

On Friday, Thailand blocked the docking of a separate cruise ship, worried because it was carrying dozens of passengers from Italy, which with 197 deaths from the virus is the center of the epidemic in Europe.

In the United States, the number of cases has exceeded 230, distributed in 18 states. The University of Washington announced Friday that it will stop teaching and teaching students online, a move affecting some 57,000 students. Washingtonstate has at least 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19, most in the Seattle area, and has the highest number of deaths in the United States with 13.

As the number kept growing in Europe, Serbia threatened to deploy the military to keep the virus at bay, and Hungary used fear of the virus to shut its doors against migrants.

Authorities in Switzerland reported 210 new cases of the virus on Friday, up from 90 a day earlier, and the military was ready to provide support services in hospitals.

“This wave will come, it will go up, but it will be over at some point,” said Daniel Koch, head of the communicable diseases department at the country’s federal health office.

The Netherlands reported their first virus death on Friday while Serbia, Slovakia, Peru and Cameroon announced their first infections. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is set to declare a public health emergency after the country’s first case of community transmission on Saturday, while Vietnam has confirmed three new cases, bringing the number of infections to 20 nationwide.

Even Vatican City was hit, with the tiny city-state confirming its first case on Friday. The Vatican insisted that 83-year-old Pope Francis, who was sick, only has a cold.

WHO officials have warned of having “false hopes” that the virus might go away when warmer summer temperatures arrive in northern countries.

“Every day we slow the epidemic is another day when governments can prepare their health workers to detect, test, treat and treat patients,” Ghebreyesus told reporters.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)