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June 4, 2020

Global corona cases pass 6.5m

Top Story

June 4, 2020

ISLAMABAD: According to international media reports, at least 6,522,142 people are known to have been infected from COVID-19, while at least 384,919 are confirmed to have died since the outbreak began.

The figures are likely to significantly underestimate the scale of the pandemic due to differing testing and recording regimes, as well as suspected underreporting.

The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, according to a British wire service tally of official data sources that highlighted the country’s place as one of the worst hit in the world.

New data from Scotland brought the toll to 50,059, a dire milestone for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he tries to ease the stringent coronavirus lockdown.

The figure is the highest in Europe and puts the UK behind only the much larger United States in a pandemic.

Such a large death toll has prompted criticism of Johnson, who opposition parties say was too slow to impose a lockdown or protect the elderly in nursing homes or to build a test and trace system.

The government says that while it may have made some mistakes, it is grappling with the biggest public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak and that it has ensured the health service was not overwhelmed. The new reported tally comprises fatalities where COVID-19 was mentioned on death certificates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland up to May 22, and up to May 31 in Scotland. Unlike the daily death toll published by the government, the death certificate figures include suspected cases. The tally also incorporates deaths that took place in English hospitals after May 23, and in Wales and Northern Ireland. The death toll surpasses even some projections by the government’s own scientific advisers. In March, Britain’s chief scientific adviser said keeping deaths below 20,000 would be a “good outcome”. In April, media reports said the government’s worst-case scenario was 50,000 deaths. Italy reopened to travellers from Europe on Wednesday, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown, but few arrivals dimmed hopes of reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.

Gondolas are ready to punt along Venice´s canals, lovers can act out "Romeo and Juliet" on Verona´s famed balcony, and gladiator fans have the chance to pose for selfies at Rome´s Colosseum.

But there were fears many foreign tourists are being put off coming to a country still shaking off a vicious pandemic.

"We hoped to see some movement from today, but have no foreign tourists booked in for this week or next," said Alessandra Conti, a receptionist at the Albergo del Senato hotel which overlooks the Pantheon in Rome.

"We´ve got a few reservations from mid-June... (but) are still getting lots of cancellations for this summer".

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,600 deaths -- the third highest toll in the world.

It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its infection numbers drop off dramatically. With the country facing its deepest recession since World War II, it needs foreign tourists to return, and quickly. But it is still reporting hundreds of new cases a day, particularly in the northern Lombardy region, and experts warn the government may be moving too quickly in permitting travel between regions and abroad.

Infectious diseases expert Massimo Galli said it would have been better to wait until July to reopen the borders.

The virus "smoulders under the ashes, and when it finds the ideal conditions, it explodes. Even more so if we lower our guard," he said Wednesday.

More than 600 nurses worldwide are known to have died from COVID-19, which has infected an estimated 450,000 healthcare workers, the International Council of Nurses said on Wednesday.

The death toll among nurses more than doubled in the past month from 260 on May 6, according to its figures, which are based on data from more than 30 countries.

“In the last two months, we have seen the number of deaths of nurses as a result of coronavirus around the world rise from 100 to now in excess of 600 and we think worldwide the number of healthcare workers who could be infected by the virus is around 450,000,” Howard Catton, chief executive officer of the Geneva-based ICN, said.

“These are numbers that keep going up,” he said.

The pandemic’s true cost among health professionals was not known, the association said, renewing its appeal for greater protection for them and systematic collection of reliable data.

On average, 7 percent of all cases of COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are among healthcare workers, which means that nurses and other staff are at great personal risk “and so are the patients they care for”, it said.

Infection rates among healthcare workers vary greatly between countries, with fewer than 1 percent in Singapore and more than 30 percent in Ireland, it said. Spain and Germany have recorded low numbers of fatalities among healthcare workers despite large outbreaks, it added.

Meanwhile, the European Commission classified the new coronavirus as a mid-level threat to workers, drawing criticism from socialist lawmakers because the move will allow less stringent workplace safety measures than if the virus was deemed a high risk.

The decision has wide economic and health implications as it could affect companies’ costs in restarting business activity and have an impact on workers’ safety.

The Commission, the EU’s executive arm, classified the new coronavirus as a level-3 hazard on a four-step risk list on which level 4 is the highest.

Under EU rules, a level-3 virus “can cause severe human disease and present a serious hazard to workers; it may present a risk of spreading to the community, but there is usually effective prophylaxis or treatment available”.

Level-4 biological agents pose a “high risk” of infection with no prophylaxis or treatment available.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said several criteria are used to classify biological hazards and none of them has more weight than others.

Meanwhile, South Korea on Wednesday reported 49 new cases of COVID-19, continuing a weekslong resurgence of the virus as the government defended its decision to reopen schools despite health risks.

The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on brought national totals to 11,590 cases and 273 deaths. All but one of the new cases were reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where hundreds of infections have been linked to entertainment venues, church gatherings and a massive e-commerce warehouse.

Mayors and governors in the greater capital area have shut thousands of nightclubs, hostess bars, karaoke rooms, churches and wedding halls to slow the spread of the virus.