WHO warns against easing lockdown as virus toll rises

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020 00:00 |
A man wearing a face mask and a plastic bag on his head rides a bicycle on a street in Wuhan, China, yesterday. China has largely brought the coronavirus under control within its borders. Photo/AFP

Vienna, Tuesday

The number of new cases of Covid-19 is easing in some parts of Europe, including Italy and Spain, but infections are still growing in Britain and Turkey, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Tuesday.

“The overall world outbreak, 90 per cent of cases are coming from Europe and the United States. So we are certainly not seeing the peak yet,” WHO spokeswoman Dr Margaret Harris said in Geneva.

The UK recorded 778 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, bring the total toll in the country to 12,107. More than one in five deaths in England and Wales is linked to coronavirus, figures show.

There were some 1,935,646 confirmed cases of coronavirus in 185 countries, according to Johns Hopkins University tally, with 120,914 deaths at Tuesday evening.

This came as the International Monetary Fund declared that the world faces worst recession since Great Depression. 

IMF said the global economy will contract by 3 per cent this year. It said the pandemic had plunged the world into a “crisis like no other”. 

In Europe, Austria cautiously eased confinement measures Tuesday as coronavirus deaths appeared to start levelling off in several hard-hit countries, though WHO reignited warnings against lifting lockdowns too fast. Austria followed Spain in slowly reopening some sectors, while US President Donald Trump said in his country—the worst hit—numbers were “plateauing”. 

Italy also allowed some business to resume, though a nationwide lockdown remained in place. 

As countries reach different stages of the coronavirus curve, debate is raging over whether to return to normal life and possibly risk a second wave of infections.

Not all countries are ready to reopen. France extended its nationwide lockdown for another month, while India said lockdown measures for its 1.3 billion people would stay in place until May 3.

Governments are under pressure to keep their people safe while saving their economies from total collapse amid soaring unemployment rates and dire warnings of a hammering not seen since the Great Depression.

Sweeping lockdown orders have kept more than four billion people hemmed into their homes across the world as governments scramble to contain the deadly pandemic.  

But some countries showed signs of setting off the long road back to normalcy.

But World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned control measures “must be lifted slowly,” noting that the coronavirus was 10 times deadlier than the 2009 swine flu outbreak.

“Control measures can only be lifted if the right public health measures are in place, including significant capacity for contact tracing,” he said.

In Washington, Trump said US numbers could be steadying as 1,509 new daily deaths were reported—almost identical to the previous day.   

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told his citizens they must “endure a little longer” as he also extended a lockdown in key cities saying: “We must not lose the gains achieved thus far.”  -AFP

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