Global Covid-19 cases surge past 1 million

Healthcare workers wheel the bodies of deceased people from the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center...
Healthcare workers wheel the bodies of deceased people from the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Photo: Reuters
Global coronavirus cases have topped 1 million as the pandemic explodes in the United States and the death toll continues to climb in Italy and Spain, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The virus has killed over 51,000 globally with the largest number of deaths in Italy, followed by Spain and the United States.

The first 100,000 cases were reported in around 55 days and the first 500,000 in 76 days. Cases doubled to 1 million within the past eight days.

Total cases reported by Thursday grew 10% from a day earlier, the first time the rate has hit double digits since the virus took hold outside China.

There are 117 countries and territories that have reported over 100 cases, 50 with outbreaks of over 1,000 and seven that have reported 50,000 or more Covid-19 cases, mainly in Europe.

The global fatality rate is now over 5% of all reported cases, with countries including the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain reporting a spike in fatalities over recent days.

Around 22% of total cases have been reported by the United States, while Italy and Spain have each reported 11% of global cases. China, where the virus emerged in December, has reported 8% of total cases globally as the epicenter of the pandemic moved to Europe and the United States.

Europe together accounts for over half of cases and more than 70% of deaths linked to the virus, as countries in Southern Europe with higher older age demographics have been hit particularly hard.

Death toll surges in France

A coronavirus infected patient from France is transferred from an ambulance aircraft to an...
A coronavirus infected patient from France is transferred from an ambulance aircraft to an ambulance car at the airport in Dresden, Germany. Photo: Reuters
The coronavirus death count in France surged to nearly 5,400 people on Thursday after the health ministry began including nursing home fatalities in its data.

Jerome Salomon, head of the health authority, said the pandemic had by Thursday claimed the lives of 4,503 patients in hospitals, up 12% on the previous day's 4,032. A provisional tally showed the coronavirus had killed a further 884 people in nursing homes and other care facilities, he added.

This makes for a total of 5,387 lives lost to coronavirus in France - an increase of 1,355 over Wednesday's cumulative total - although data has not yet been collected from all of the country's 7,400 nursing homes.

"We are in France confronting an exceptional epidemic with an unprecedented impact on public health," Salomon told a news conference.

More than two thirds of all the known nursing home deaths have been registered in the Grand Est region, which abuts the border with Germany.

It was the first region in France to be overwhelmed by a wave of infections that has rapidly moved west to engulf greater Paris, where hospitals are desperately trying to add intensive care beds to cope with the influx of critically ill patients.

The care sector has called for blanket testing for all staff, with the virus often entering these homes through employees. More than 1 million people live in France's care homes.

"We have to limit the impact on old people as we know that they are the most fragile," said Romain Gizolme, head of an association for the care of the elderly.

New York as US 'microcosm': Body count mounts, medical supplies dwindle

The coronavirus pandemic's mounting death toll besieged New York City morgues and hospitals struggled to treat thousands of infected patients on Thursday with a dwindling supply of ventilators and protective equipment.

Funeral homes and cemetery directors described a surge in demand not seen in decades as cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, surpassed 50,000 in the city, with nearly 1,400 dead.

"In many ways New York state is a microcosm of the United States and that's why I think it is going to be illustrative to the rest of the nation as to what is going to happen," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The human costs were further underscored by new evidence of the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic, with more than 90% of Americans ordered to ride out the crisis at home.

The US government reported that a record 6.6 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week, double the previous all-time high set a week earlier.

"It takes your breath away," said Justin Hoogendoorn, head of fixed income strategy and analytics at Piper Sandler in Chicago. "Obviously the immediate reaction to something like that is going to be fear."

Texas became the 40th state to issue a stay-at-home order on Thursday to help contain the spread of the virus.

As if 10 million Americans losing their jobs in two weeks were not enough, the US death toll soared by 950 on Wednesday, marking the third day in a row of record increases. Another 800 deaths reported so far on Thursday increased the national toll to more than 5,600 dead, according to a Reuters tally of official data.

Confirmed US cases surpassed 235,000 on Thursday, double that of Italy, the country with the second most cases. The White House task force on the pandemic estimates 100,000 to 240,000 people could be killed even if lockdown orders are respected.

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