–Italy reports lower rate of infection; Spain extends lockdown despite ‘stabilisation’ in death rate
–Russia shut downs Moscow as cases touch 840
–US deaths surpass 1,000 as Senate approves $2tr package
NEW YORK: The World Health Organization’s (WHO) European regional director on Thursday saw “encouraging signs” in Europe after Italy reported a lower rate of infections of coronavirus, whereas Spain extended its lockdown for another 15 days amid no let-up in cases.
WHO’s Hans Kluge told a press conference: “While the situation remains very serious, we are starting to see some encouraging signs. Italy, which has the highest number of cases in the region, has just seen a slightly lower rate of increase, though it is still too early to say that the pandemic is peaking in that country.”
He was speaking before Spain also announced a lower rise in deaths.
WHO Europe said that to date more than 220,000 cases of COVID-19 had been reported on the continent, along with 11,987 deaths.
That means that globally, roughly six out of every 10 cases and seven out of 10 deaths have been reported in Europe, with more than 400,000 confirmed infections worldwide.
As coronavirus has spread across the continent, many European countries have adopted severe measures to curb the outbreak, including imposing lockdown measures and closing businesses and borders, as well as limiting public gatherings.
According to Kluge, they will soon be able to determine the degree to which those measures have had an impact.
But Kluge also cautioned governments and citizens to be aware of the “new reality” created by the pandemic and prepare for the long-term impact. “This is not going to be a sprint, this is going to be a marathon,” Kluge said.
SPAIN REPORTS SLOWER DEATH RATE:
Spain announced a further 655 coronavirus fatalities, taking the country’s total to more than 4,000. As the increase is below the daily rise recorded on Wednesday it offers support to the government claims that the rise in deaths in Spain is stabilising. It may be noted here that Spain extended the lockdown by 15 days.
IRAN BANS INTER-CITY TRAVEL:
Iran has started an intercity travel ban, an Iranian official said in a televised news conference on Thursday, a day after Iran’s government spokesman warned the country might face a surge of cases in the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials have complained that many Iranians ignored appeals to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20. The outbreak has killed 2,234 people in Iran where there have been 29,406 reported cases of the virus so far.
“Those who have travelled for the Iranian New Year holidays should immediately return to their cities without making any stops in other cities on their way back home,” said Hossein Zolfaghari, a member of Iran’s national headquarters for fighting the coronavirus.
MOSCOW SHUT DOWN:
Moscow has announced it will close restaurants, bars, parks, and shops other than grocery stores and pharmacies. It came as Russia posted record growth for confirmed coronavirus cases for the second day in a row. Russia now has 840 cases, a rise of 182 in 24 hours. The Kremlin has halted all international air traffic, both for airlines and charter flights, excluding flights repatriating Russian citizens to the country.
US DEATHS EXCEED 1,000:
US deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have topped 1,000. Worldwide, the death toll climbed past 21,000, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University, and the US had 1,046 deaths and nearly 70,000 infections. The US Senate passed a $2.2 trillion emergency relief package marking the biggest rescue deal of its kind in US history.
China reported no new locally transmitted cases for the second day in a row. Mainland China did, however, report an increase in the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases, all of which involved travellers arriving from abroad. Almost one in five coronavirus cases in Singapore are among people who travelled from London.
INDIA ANNOUNCES STIMULUS PACKAGE:
India has announced a 1.7 trillion rupees (£18.9 billion) economic stimulus plan to millions of people affected by a nationwide lockdown. “We do not want anyone to remain hungry,” said the finance minister. He said the government aims to distribute 5 kilograms of staple foodgrains wheat or rice for each person free of cost, with a kilogram of pulses for every low-income family, helping to feed about 800 million poor people over the next three months.