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May 18, 2020

COVID-19 worldwide toll crosses 314,000

Top Story

May 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The coronavirus has killed 314,604 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year, according to international media reports.

There have been at least 4,770,892 officially recorded cases in 196 countries and territories. The United States has recorded the most deaths at 90,332. It is followed by Britain with 34,636, Italy with 31,908, Spain with 27,650, and France with 27,625.

The growth of new cases in Russia is stabilising, a top health official said, as the daily tally fell under 10,000 for the third time this week.

German football champions Bayern Munich played their first match in more than two months on Sunday as coronavirus restrictions ease in parts of Europe, but the devastating pandemic remains on the march elsewhere with deaths soaring in Brazil.

The reopenings in some of the hardest-hit countries such as Italy provided much-needed relief. But the number of COVID-19 fatalities soared past 15,000 in Brazil with 230,000 infections, making it the country with the fourth-highest number of cases, a grim reminder of the scale of the crisis.

And in the United States -- the worst-hit country -- former President Barack Obama launched a scathing attack on the way the crisis has been handled, saying a lot of American leaders "aren´t even pretending to be in charge".

In Russia, which has the world´s second highest number of infections, the top health official claimed Sunday the country had "halted the growth" of the virus, just a day after reporting its deadliest day.

There were happier scenes in Europe, with excited swimmers diving into the waters off newly reopened beaches in France, Greece and Italy, while Britons enjoyed the sun in parks after lockdown measures eased.

Italy, for a long stretch the world´s worst-hit country, announced that European Union tourists would be allowed to visit from June 3, and a 14-day mandatory quarantine would be scrapped. Former president Barack Obama on Saturday took a swipe at the response to the pandemic, telling graduates at a virtual college commencement ceremony that many leaders today "aren´t even pretending to be in charge" -- a remark widely regarded as a rare rebuke of his successor.

"Doing what feels good, what´s convenient, what´s easy -- that´s how little kids think," he later told high school students. Someone whose handling of the pandemic has been more praised is New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern -- however even she is not exempt from coronavirus measures.

She was denied entry to a cafe over the weekend as it had reached its customer limit. "I have to take responsibility for this, I didn´t get organised and book anywhere," her fiancee Clarke Gayford tweeted.

Iran said it had recorded nearly 7,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, warning of infection clusters in new regions after it partially eased lockdown measures. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the COVID-19 illness had claimed a further 51 lives over 24 hours into Sunday.

The ministry raised the overall death toll to 6,988 since Iran announced its first fatalities in the Shiite pilgrimage city of Qom in February. Jahanpour warned that cases were rising "in the province of Lorestan, and to some extent in Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan".

"Khuzestan province is still in a critical situation," he added. The southwestern province has become Iran´s new coronavirus focal point, with the most critical "red" ranking on the country´s colour-coded risk scale.

India extended its coronavirus lockdown to the end of May on Sunday as it reported its biggest single-day jump in cases, but said some sectors would be permitted to open up as its economy takes a hammering.

The lockdown affecting 1.3 billion people -- the world´s largest -- has been in force since late March and has been devastating for India´s poor, with millions of migrant workers losing their jobs.

"Lockdown measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 will continue for a period of up to (May 31)," the Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

Schools, places of worship, shopping malls, cinemas and gyms must remain closed, the ministry said, adding bans on large gatherings for religious and sporting events would also be extended.

City metro train services and domestic and international air travel will also remain suspended, it said. Restaurants will now be allowed to operate their kitchens for takeaway services while sports complexes and stadiums are permitted to host events, but without spectators.

Mainland China reported five new confirmed COVID-19 cases for May 16, down from eight the previous day, the National Health Commission (NHC) said in a statement on Sunday.

Two of the five confirmed cases were so-called imported infections, while three were locally transmitted in the northeastern Chinese city of Jilin.

The number of confirmed cases in the mainland now stands at 82,947 and the death toll at 4,634. China does not include people who have been tested and found to be asymptomatic carriers in its tally of confirmed cases.

The three domestically-transmitted cases are related to a district in Jilin city called Fengman, which has been classified by Chinese officials as a high-risk area for COVID-19.

Heightened disease control measures in the district include allowing only one person from a family to go out and purchase daily necessities each day, according to the district’s official post on WeChat.

Residents were advised not to leave the city and any who do need to leave must provide a negative test result taken within the previous 48 hours.

Jilin is the second largest city of Jilin province, which borders North Korea and Russia. It temporarily suspended passenger train services last Wednesday.

Fengman district said in a Wechat post on Sunday that it will tighten the lockdown by closing stores including department stores, house appliance stores and furniture stores but will keep supermarkets open to maintain supply to residents.

The number of China’s new asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus fell to 12 from 13, the NHC said.

Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser said on Saturday that the danger of a second wave of infections is looming large.

Fighting one of the highest infection rates in the world, Qatar has made it mandatory for people to wear facemasks in public or be ready to face a three-year imprisonment sentence.

More than 30,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country -- 1.1 percent of the 2.75 million population -- although just 15 people have died.

Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican had higher per-capita infection rates, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Violators of Qatar’s new rules will face up to three years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000. Drivers alone in their vehicles are exempt from the requirement, but several expats said that police were stopping cars at checkpoints to warn them of the new rules before they came into force.

Egypt has announced a lengthening of its night-time curfew and other measures to prevent large gatherings during Eidul Fitr holidays.

"All shops, malls, restaurants, entertainment facilities, beaches and public parks will be closed for six days from May 24-29," said Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli. Public transport will be halted and the nationwide curfew in force from 5 pm during that period, he told a Cairo press conference.

The World Health Organisation has warned that as many as 190,000 Africans could die from the coronavirus in the first year of the pandemic, and countless more from other diseases as the continent’s limited medical resources are stretched even further.

But across West Africa, countries are finding it increasingly difficult to keep mosques closed during Ramazan even as confirmed virus cases mount and testing remains limited. The holy month is already a time of heightened spiritual devotion for Muslims, and many say prayer is now more important than ever.

Last week Niger and Senegal allowed mass prayers to resume, and Liberia reopened its houses of worship Sunday. In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, several states recently signalled the reopening of mosques even as the number of confirmed cases nationwide exceeded 5,000.

The warnings about resuming public gatherings are being made worldwide — but the stakes are particularly high in West Africa, where countries with fewer hospitals and ventilators have been prioritising disease prevention as a public health strategy. As elsewhere, though, decisions here are starting to reflect an acknowledgement that the coronavirus crisis might last longer than some restrictions can be tolerated.

Meanwhile, numerous Greek Orthodox worshippers went to mass for the first time in two months on Sunday, some receiving communion, as churches followed Greece´s easing of the coronavirus lockdown regulations.

As part of the gradual deconfinement started on May 4, churches were permitted to reopen their doors from May 17, so long as they respected a series of measures, in particular social distancing.

A 57-year-old hospital worker with underlying diabetes and high blood pressure is the first death of a patient suffering from the virus in Madagascar, coming nearly two months after COVID-19 was first detected in the country.