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May 2, 2020

COVID-19 worldwide toll crosses 237,000

Top Story

May 2, 2020

ISLAMABAD: More than 237,000 people have died worldwide since coronavirus surfaced in China in December, according to international media reports. More than 3,370,393 cases have now been reported in 195 countries and territories.

In the United States, which has the highest toll, 64,931 people have died. Italy is the second hardest-hit country, with 28,236 dead, followed by the United Kingdom with 27,510, Spain 24,824 and France 24,594.

The number of recovered coronavirus patients has surged past one million. At least 1,070,775 people have recovered from the pneumonia illness. Europe is the worst hit continent with 137,334 deaths.

The death rate fromcoronavirus in England is more than twice as high among people in disadvantaged areas, according to official data published Friday.

There were 55.1 deaths per 100,000 people involving coronavirus in the areas with the worst rankings for income, health, education and crime -- compared to 25.3 in the least-deprived areas, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

General mortality rates involving all causes of deaths, including COVID-19, were 88 percent higher in the most deprived areas than in the least. But when looking at the impact of deprivation on COVID-19 mortality, the rate in the most disadvantaged areas of England was 118 percent higher than in more well-off locations.

"People living in more deprived areas have experienced COVID-19 mortality rates more than double those living in less deprived areas," said Nick Stripe, ONS head of health analysis. "General mortality rates are normally higher in more deprived areas, but so far COVID-19 appears to be taking them higher still."

The ONS figures, which analysed deaths between March 1 and April 17, confirmed London was the epicentre of Britain´s outbreak. The capital had the highest mortality rate in the country, with 85.7 deaths per 100,000 people involving COVID-19.

This was more than double the next highest area, the West Midlands -- which includes the city of Birmingham -- where there were 43.2 deaths involving coronavirus per 100,000 people. The east London borough of Newham was worst hit, with 144.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, a US watchdog report warns that the coronavirus outbreak is likely to cause a health disaster in Afghanistan, which is still plagued by conflict, despite a peace deal between the Taliban and the US.

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in the report to Congress that the spread of COVID-19 has already affected Afghanistan significantly, from complicating peace efforts to forcing border closures that have disrupted commercial and humanitarian deliveries.

Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities - a weak healthcare system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict - make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months, the report, released in Washington, said.

Iran on Friday announced 63 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, saying the rate of fatalities and infections were dropping while calling on the public to remain vigilant.

The deaths recorded in the past 24 hours brought to 6,091 the overall toll from the illness in the Middle East´s hardest-hit country. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 1,006 people tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

"We have seen drops in the numbers of infections and deaths in recent days," Jahanpour said on state television. "The process of managing the disease is continuing," he added.

Jahanpour expressed hope that Iran would get close to "controlling" the outbreak with people observing health protocols. The new infections brought to 95,646 the number recorded in the Islamic republic since it announced its first cases in mid-February.

Indonesia confirmed on Friday 433 new coronavirus cases, taking the overall tally to 10,551, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said. The world´s biggest coronavirus lockdown in India will be extended for two weeks beyond May 4, the Indian government said Friday, but with some easing of restrictions -- including for alcohol.

The lockdown imposed near the end of March has caused misery for millions of workers in India´s vast informal sector and dealt a major blow to Asia´s third-biggest economy. The home ministry said in a statement that in view of "significant gains in the COVID-19 situation", areas with few or no cases would see "considerable relaxations". Air travel and passenger trains ground to a halt because of the lockdown and only the transport of "essential goods" was allowed, causing major problems as well as considerable confusion for industry and agriculture.

In particular hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers were left jobless overnight, prompting a huge exodus of people back to their home villages, many on foot, and leaving many dependent on handouts.

However the stringent restrictions have been credited with keeping confirmed cases of coronavirus to about 35,000 cases as of Friday, with 1,152 deaths. But some experts have said the vast country of 1.3 billion, home to some of the most congested cities in the world where "social distancing" is virtually impossible, is not testing enough.

In addition, there are concerns that if the virus catches hold in a big way, India´s health care system -- poorly funded by international comparison -- will be severely stretched. The government said Friday that many activities will remain prohibited nationwide including air and rail travel -- except for "select purposes" -- schools, restaurants and large gatherings such as places of worship. Restrictions are being lifted largely according to what colour an area has been assigned in a government rating system.

Meanwhile, Macau´s gaming revenue was virtually wiped out in April as casinos suffered their worst month on record owing to measures put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the tourist-dependent city.

Gross gaming revenue was $95 million last month, official data showed -- a drop of 97 percent from the $3 billion raked in during April 2019.

The former Portuguese colony shuttered all its casinos for two weeks in February as the virus burst out of central China but while they have since reopened, anti-virus measures still mean mainland visitors cannot enter the city, leaving casino tables devoid of gamblers. Singapore said it had begun moving migrant workers who had recovered from the coronavirus onto two unused cruise ships.

The vast majority of the city-state´s new infections are in sprawling dormitory complexes housing foreign workers, many of whom are labourers from South Asia.

To reduce the risk of infection in crowded dorms, many migrant workers have been moved to other sites including military barracks and vacant apartment blocks.

Australia said it will consider early easing of coronavirus restrictions next week, as the number of local cases dwindled and the economic impact of the crisis fell into painful relief.

Authorities have detected almost 7,000 COVID-19 infections, but new daily cases are now close to single figures and some parts of the country have not seen a case in more than a week.

At least 100 people in Indonesia, who participated in a religious mass gathering in March, tested positive for the virus, authorities said.

The pilgrimage organised by the Jamaah Tabligh group had been cancelled by the authorities at the last minute but thousands of participants from many countries were already on site.

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has reinforced calls for debt moratorium to help developing countries combat coronavirus pandemic that has had a devastating effect on their economies.

“The debt moratorium must be extended to all developing countries that are unable to service their debt, including several middle-income countries, followed by targeted debt relief, to prevent defaults leading to prolonged financial and economic crises,” he told a virtual news conference on Thursday.

"The International Labour Organization (ILO) reported this week that the global workforce will be hit with the equivalent of the loss of more than 300 million jobs, the UN chief said, adding that millions of children risk missing life-saving vaccines and that those officially living in poverty could rise by around 500 million, the first increase in three decades.

Underscoring the massive and urgent support needed for developing countries, he echoed his call for a worldwide relief package of at least 10 percent of the global economy’s output.