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US has most coronavirus cases in the world

World News | Published:

The US, Italy and China account for almost half of the world’s coronavirus infections.

The US has seen coronavirus infections surge to the highest level in the world as its capital Washington DC reported more cases.

Italy, another of the world’s hardest-hit countries, has closed most of its industry, while masses of Indian day labourers received food rations after a lockdown put them out of work.

The US passed China with more than 85,000 cases, and Italy also exceeded 80,000, with the three countries accounting for almost half of the world’s infections from the virus.

Most of China’s patients have recovered, while places where the virus arrived later are now dealing with overwhelmed hospitals and supply shortages and are rushing to convert public spaces for treating the sick.

Washington DC confirmed 36 new cases on Thursday, raising its total to 267.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

Police have blocked off streets and bridges to prevent crowds arriving to see Washington’s blooming cherry blossom trees.

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The stay-at-home order for India’s 1.3 billion people threw out of work the backbone of the nation’s economy – rickshaw drivers, fruit sellers, cleaners and others who buy food from whatever they can earn in a day.

The Indian government announced a 1.7 trillion rupee (£18 billion) economic stimulus package to deliver monthly rations to 800 million people. In some places, people received rice rations from police, and aid groups are working to expand their reach.

Virus testing in Burma
A man is checked his body temperature at the entrance to a railway station in Yangon, Burma (AP)

In China, where the virus was first believed to have jumped from wild animals to humans, the National Health Commission reported 55 new cases, including 54 it said were imported infections in recent arrivals from overseas.

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Again there were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the provincial capital where coronavirus emerged in December. China is barring most foreigners from entering as it tries to curb imported cases.

The economic damage of the pandemic is growing. Italy has closed down most of its industry, and a record-breaking 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in a single week.

Companies in Europe are laying off workers at the fastest pace since 2009, according to surveys of business managers, and the US is bleeding jobs as well, with numbers applying for unemployment benefits last week – 3.28 million – nearly five times the previous record, set in 1982.

Wall Street rallied for the third straight day after an unprecedented 2.2 trillion dollar (£1.8 trillion) economic rescue package to help businesses, hospitals and ordinary Americans pull through the crisis won passage in the Senate. The rescue plan, expected to be voted on in Congress on Friday, would dispense cheques of 1,200 dollars (£1,000) per adult and 500 dollars (£417) per child.

New York state’s death toll jumped by 100 in one day, pushing the number to 385. Governor Andrew Cuomo added that the number will increase as critically ill patients who have been on ventilators for several days succumb. Mr Cuomo said: “That is a situation where people just deteriorate over time.”

South Africa, with the most industrialised economy in Africa, began a three-week lockdown on Friday. The country is already in recession, with an unemployment rate of 29%.

Saudi Arabia is locking down the capital Riyadh and Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, in addition to a nationwide curfew. In the United Arab Emirates, authorities announced an overnight weekend lockdown and used drones to tell people to stay home.

The leaders of the G20 major industrialised nations met in a video summit and vowed to work together to confront the crisis but made no specific commitments.

In Brazil, the country’s governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses, dismissing his argument that the “cure” of widespread shutdowns is worse than the disease.

As of Thursday, the country had more than 2,500 cases and 59 deaths.

In Singapore, penalties are being issued for people who refuse to adhere to social distancing in the latest bid to curb the virus.

Anyone not maintaining a distance of one metre from another person in a public place such as a shopping centre can be jailed for up to six months or fined up to 10,000 Singapore dollars (£5,800), or both.

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