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Agencies
March 20, 2020

Coronavirus death toll crosses 9,000 worldwide

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A
Agencies
March 20, 2020

PARIS/LONDON/TEHRAN: The number of novel coronavirus cases globally stood at 217,510 with 9,020 deaths, across 157 countries and territories at 1100 GMT Thursday, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources. Since 1900 GMT on Wednesday there were 236 new deaths reported and 8,015 new cases globally. The tally takes into account the fact that criteria for counting victims and coronavirus screening practices vary from country to country. China -- excluding Hong Kong and Macau -- where the outbreak emerged in late December, has to date declared 80,928 cases, including 3,245 deaths, with 69,601 people recovered. The country declared 34 new cases and eight new fatalities since Wednesday.

Outside China, there have been 5,775 deaths by 1000 GMT Thursday -- 228 new fatalities -- out of 136,590cases, of which 7,981 were new. The worst-hit nation after China is Italy with a total of 2,978 deaths (35,713 cases), Iran with 1,284 fatalities (17,361 cases), Spain with 598 deaths (13,716 cases) and France with 264 deaths (9,134 cases). Since 1700 GMT Wednesday, Pakistan, Russia, Costa Rica and Mexico confirmed their first deaths. Mauritius, Barbados, Zambia, Fiji, the Bahamas, El Salvador and Nicaragua all reported their first cases.

Meanwhile, East London and London Muslim Centre in its statement says, “In line with the most recent advice from the government, from medical professionals in our community, and after very careful consideration by our Imams in consultation with Islamic scholars and other mosques and centres, we have taken the difficult decision to suspend public access to the East London Mosque, including for all prayers and Jumma (Friday prayer). We will continue to broadcast the Azan, insha’Allah.”It further says,

Meanwhile, some 500 million people have been subject to lockdown measures around the world, according to an AFP count. From China to the Czech Republic to Venezuela, governments have told their citizens to stay indoors to try and slow the spread of the pandemic. The central Chinese province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan where the Covid-19 virus broke out late last year, have been cut off from the world since late January. Quarantine is still in force there, but restrictions on movement were eased on March 14 for the province´s more than 50 million inhabitants. One major milestone came in China which listed no new domestic infections for the first time since the outbreak first erupted. But there were fears that Asia faces a second wave of cases imported from abroad, with 34 new cases reported in China Thursday, the highest figure for two weeks. At least eight other countries have followed the Chinese province in enforcing confinement: Italy since March 10, Spain from March 14, Lebanon on March 15, the Czech Republic on March 16, France, Israel and Venezuela on March 17 and Belgium on March 18. That means 240 million people in these eight countries are obliged to stay at home. In most of these places it is possible to leave the house to buy basic necessities, access health care or go to work if staying at home is not an option.

Egypt has confined all employees in the Red Sea tourist area. Inhabitants of the Colombian capital Bogota are to go through a trial isolation exercise from March 20 to 23, which may pave the way for a full quarantine. Britain, Germany and Iran -- have urged people to limit as much as possible their movements and contacts, without going as far as enforcing confinement. These appeals from the authorities have however had limited effect.

At least six countries or territories have imposed curfews banning movements in the evening and overnight: Tunisia, Bolivia, Serbia, the US states of New Jersey and Puerto Rico, and the Philippines´ capital Manila. These territories hold more than 50 million inhabitants. India banned incoming international flights on Thursday, restricted public gatherings and blocked roads to seal Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) after the insurgency-torn region reported its first coronavirus infection. Elsewhere in densely populated South Asia, Sri Lanka postponed parliamentary elections as the coronavirus epidemic spread in an area that had been relatively unscathed compared to elsewhere in the world. New cases in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are all accelerating, with the total across the region nearing 700. Six people have died.

Confirmed cases in Afghanistan remained static at 22 on Thursday, despite what experts say is a brewing crisis in the war-torn nation, especially in Herat province bordering Iran, one of the worst affected countries. The Afghanistan´s defence minister called on Taliban to commit to a ceasefire as a way of tackling the novel coronavirus, while also vowing that security forces would respond to continued insurgent attacks. The Taliban did not immediately comment. Health officials have confirmed 22 cases of the novel coronavirus, but only about 300 people have been tested in the country of some 35 million people that neighbours Iran, where more than 1,000 people have died from the highly contagious virus.

Meanwhile, Iran is to free "around 10,000 prisoners" in an amnesty marking the Persian New Year, Nowruz, today (Friday), including half of those serving time for security offences, the judiciary said. Iran has announced 18,407 novel coronavirus infections and 1,284 deaths, the world´s highest toll apart from Italy and China. Alongside the amnesty, the judiciary announced that 85,000 prisoners had been granted two-week furloughs for the Nowruz holiday, further reducing the prison population.

Transport officials in the British capital closed dozens of London Underground stations on Thursday, as the city tries to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The move, alongside other measures to scale back public transport across London, came as the government placed 20,000 troops on standby to help in the fight against Covid-19. The official death toll in Britain from the virus reached 104 on Wednesday, with London the epicentre of the outbreak. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who on Wednesday ordered schools to close at the end of the week, had already urged people to limit social contact, work from home where possible and only make essential journeys.

The pandemic is worsening elsewhere, with Italy appearing set to overtake China. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Italy´s national lockdown would be prolonged to April 3, shattering hopes of a quick end to the crisis. The disease continued to hit high-profile figures with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Monaco´s Prince Albert II among those testing positive. With countries paralysed by the pandemic and stock markets imploding, policymakers this week unleashed a wave of measures to shore up the global economy. The European Central Bank late Wednesday announced a 750-billion-euro bond-buying scheme dubbed the "big bazooka". US President Donald Trump signed a $100 billion (Rs16 billion) emergency aid package to provide free coronavirus testing for those who need it, sick pay and paid family leave. European and US stocks staged a rebound on the stimulus news, although Asian markets took another beating. But the sense of impending doom continues to cast a pall over the world economy with airlines, car makers and others all warning of bleak times ahead. The battle is only just beginning across the rest of the world, with the shadow of the virus lengthening across Africa.

The Nigerian mega-city of Lagos announced it would shut its schools while Burkina Faso confirmed the first death in sub-Saharan Africa. Russia reported its first death and even the Pacific nation of Fiji said it had its first case. The UN warned meanwhile that as nations bring in shutdowns and travel bans, some three billion people lack even the most basic weapons to protect themselves from the virus: soap and running water. World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to "come together as one against a common enemy: an enemy against humanity".