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May 30, 2020

Global Covid-19 toll crosses 364,000

Top Story

May 30, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Coronavirus pandemic has killed at least 364,523 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year, according to the international media reports.

The United States has recorded the most deaths of any country, with 103,953. It is followed by Britain with 38,161, Italy with 33,229, France with 28,714 and Spain with 27,121. Brazil, the epicentre in Latin America, has recorded 26,899 deaths, while Peru has passed the 4,000 mark.

India’s coronavirus death toll passed neighbouring China´s on Friday, with 175 new fatalities in 24 hours taking the total to 4,980. India, home to some of the world´s most packed cities and a creaking healthcare system, is emerging as a new hotspot with record jumps in new cases in recent days.

Infections in the country have reached 173,458, with western Maharashtra state -- home to the finance hub of Mumbai -- accounting for 36 percent of cases and 42 percent of deaths. China, where the deadly virus emerged late last year, reported no new deaths or new suspected cases on Friday, with the toll still at 4,634 and a total of 82,995 infections.

Even though the number of cases is surging, India has steadily loosened its lockdown to lessen the massive impact on the economy -- and the country´s poor who have been the hardest hit.

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic spiked again in Russia and the Americas on Friday, even as Europe´s experiment with reopening from lockdown grew bolder by the day.

Fresh restrictions in Asia also signalled that there will be a long road back to normality from the pandemic. However, signs of pre-COVID-19 life´s return continue to grow, with English and Italian football unveiling plans to join Germany in resuming to play the world´s most popular game.

Populations are learning to adjust to life with the long-term threat of infection as the virus continues its march around the globe. Russia reported a record increase of 232 coronavirus

deaths on Friday, taking it to a total of 4,374 deaths and 387,623 cases, the third-highest number of infections in the world after the United States and Brazil.

Moscow authorities meanwhile released mortality figures to dispel allegations they were under-reporting deaths to play down the scale of the crisis. Russian authorities said numbers of deaths in the capital were far lower than those in New York and London, attributing the difference to mass testing.

Moscow is due to ease its lockdown on Monday, and the Kremlin is in talks with world leaders to attend a World War II parade in late June.

The urgency was underlined by ballooning death tolls in South America, increasingly the new focus of the pandemic that first emerged in China late last year before spreading around the world.

Brazil recorded more than 1,000 fatalities and a national one-day record for infections, while Chile also logged a record daily death toll Thursday and total fatalities topped 4,000 in Peru.

Many countries that have seen success in curbing the virus are now on alert for a second wave of infections, particularly in Asia.

South Korea -- held up as a global model in how to stop the virus -- has re-imposed some social distancing rules after a series of new clusters emerged, many in the capital Seoul.

Numbers of children in Seoul schools will be cut back while museums, parks and art galleries were closed again from Friday for two weeks.

In Sri Lanka, some lockdown rules will be rolled out again from Sunday after more than 250 returnees from Kuwait were found to be infected.

As people emerge from weeks of confinement, some say the experience has not been all bad. Iran on Friday announced its highest number of new coronavirus infections in nearly two months and warned the Middle East´s deadliest outbreak was worsening in some regions.

The government has largely lifted the closures it imposed after Iran´s first cases were confirmed in February but has been watching out for any resurgence in the number of infections.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 2,819 new cases were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall total to 146,668. That figure is the highest Iran has announced for a single day since April 2.

New infections have been on a rising trajectory ever since hitting a near two-month low on May 2. Jahanpour said that the virus had claimed another 50 lives over the same period, raising the overall toll to 7,677.

So far the government has reimposed a lockdown on just one province, Khuzestan on the border with Iraq in the southwest.

The province remains "red" -- the highest level on Iran´s colour-coded risk scale. "The provinces of Khorasan Razavi, east and west Azerbaijan, Lorestan, Kurdistan, Kermanshah, Hormozgan and Mazandaran are also in a critical situation," Jahanpour said.

meanwhile, an infant has died from the coronavirus in Switzerland, its first child fatality from the pandemic, authorities said Friday.

Switzerland registered two new virus deaths in the past 24 hours, one of which was the infant, said Stefan Kuster, the new head of the country´s coronavirus crisis response.

"This was not a school-age child. It was an infant who died" in the northern canton of Argau, he told reporters.

"Children are less likely to fall ill (with COVID-19) than adults, and they are less infectuous," Kuster said, noting however that "such cases are possible."

He said the infant had been treated at a Zurich hospital, but did not say whether it had suffered from pre-existing medical conditions. According to the Swiss health ministry, the child was infected with the coronavirus "abroad", without providing further details.

According to the ATS news agency, two other school-aged children, a brother and sister, contracted the virus near Basel, forcing 70 people into isolation.

Switzerland has now registered more than 30,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 1,656 deaths.

The wealthy Alpine nation of 8.5 million people thus counts 359 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants. In the past 24 hours, 32 new cases were registered, slightly more than a week earlier, when between 10 and 20 new cases were registered each day.

The current rate nonetheless remains far below the daily average of more than 1,000 cases in March. With case numbers declining, Switzerland, like many other European countries, has since April 27 been gradually lifting restrictions put in place to halt the spread of the virus.

Most schools have reopened, as have restaurants, bars and shops, on condition that they put in place physical distancing and other protective measures. The country, which stopped short of imposing strict confinement, announced a third phase in the easing process this week, allowing events with up to 300 people as of June 6.

In addition, all leisure and entertainment venues and tourist attractions are to be permitted to reopen. The country is due to reopen borders with France, Germany and Austria on June 15. apo-nl/rjm/wai

Meanwhile, false alerts about a man shot dead at a coronavirus checkpoint, old footage of a supermarket stampede in reports of panic buying, and a 2015 video of a police raid on a brothel recirculated with a misleading claim.

A deluge of online misinformation and hoaxes during the coronavirus crisis is stoking fear and confusion across Asia, where violators of lockdown rules can face jail and hefty fines in some countries.

AFP has produced more than 150 lockdown-related misinformation reports across the region since February, when governments beyond China began introducing restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The hoaxes are created by a wide array of people with varying motives -- from those looking to discredit governments and deepen religious divides, to pranksters -- and then shared widely as fact.

In April, a hoax was shared on Facebook in the Philippines post its lockdown suggesting a motorcyclist had been shot dead for ignoring a virus checkpoint.

In fact, the footage -- which was viewed tens of thousands of times in multiple posts -- was of a police training drill.

Some users were outraged, and questioned the purportedly fatal use of force by the police, which has long been accused of human rights abuses and led President Rodrigo Duterte´s controversial war on drugs.

But others suggested the man had been "hard-headed" and was justly punished for stubbornly ignoring the checkpoint, echoing the types of sentiments from Duterte´s supporters who have cheered on the thousands of drug war deaths.

Other misinformation circulated in the Philippines has included doctored advisories about lockdown extensions and false posts about anti-government protesters flouting gathering bans.

Elsewhere in Asia, a Facebook post in Thailand included a video purporting to show panicked buyers scrambling for goods in Malaysia after it implemented a strict lockdown.

Thai Facebook users -- who viewed the video hundreds of thousands of times -- shared it with comments expressing worry there would be similar scenes in Thailand.

The clip, in fact, showed shoppers in Brazil on Black Friday, an annual day of sales, in November 2019.

"(Misinformation) has fuelled a lot of uncertainty and anxiety among people," said Yvonne Chua, an associate professor of journalism at the University of the Philippines.